Sabo bridge report prompts changes to Southwest light rail contract

After a review of the recent Sabo Bridge failure report, the Metropolitan Council announced Friday it is reconsidering the engineering contract for the proposed Southwest light rail, which would link downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie.

The council plans to introduce a recommendation to the council’s transportation committee meeting on Monday to cancel the existing contract on SWLRT, for which San Francisco-based URS Corp. was the front runner. Instead they’ll propose two contracts for engineering on the line, and a third contract for an independent peer review of the engineering.

Met Council officials say the two firms that bid on the original contract, URS and AECOM, would be considered equally for the new contracts with any other bidding firms. A single firm would be eligible to bid on both sections of the light rail line.

The Met Council’s Mark Fuhrmann, program director for light rail projects, says opening the project to multiple firms and adding an independent review will ensure safety along the 15-mile LRT line. He says the Sabo Bridge report will make the SWLRT a stronger transit project.

“What it did was really strongly show the benefit and the importance of having an independent set of eyes take a look at the technical design documents before construction so that all of those engineering details can be critically reviewed, and if necessary adjusted, before projects go to construction.”

Fuhrmann says the additional contracts would likely increase the cost of engineering by a few million dollars and delay the project but “there will be some opportunities down the line to do some activities concurrently that we had perhaps previously assumed we’d do sequentially so we hope there is some opportunity to recover these months down the line in future years as we advance the project forward.”

If the transportation committee approves these recommendations Monday, they’ll go before the full council Wednesday. If approved, the council would issue new request for proposals in August and award the project in early January, 2013. Construction could begin in 2015, with the line opening to the public in 2018.

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