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Friday, October 16, 2009

Bids on Conn. commuter-rail yard lower than expected

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The low bidder to build the first phase of the New Haven rail yard submitted a $125 million bid to do the job, well below the $291 million the state expected to budget to complete the facility, according to the state Department of Transportation, The Connecticut Post reports.


O&G Industries of Torrington, Conn., submitted the low bid of $124.8 million to complete the 293,000 square-foot "change-out" maintenance shop adjacent to New Haven's Union Station, the initial phase of an overhaul of the facility into a central repair hub for the state's fleet of new M-8 rail cars.

In a statement, Gov. M. Jodi Rell said she was pleased with the unexpectedly low estimate for the work, and touted the additional economic boost the related construction jobs will provide state businesses once the project is under way.

The increased cost was attributed to an inaccurate initial estimate and the rising cost of construction. An audit ordered by Rell and performed by Hill International recommended design changes and eliminating some of the project to cut its cost to about $850 million.

The bid is under review, a process that can take two months, with the DOT planning to start construction this winter, DOT spokesman Judd Everhart said. Falling prices for major construction materials like asphalt, steel and sand contributed to the lower bid, Everhart said.

Everhart said the low bid could allow the DOT to reassess whether it can speed up the project, but that it was too early to know if the lower price could factor into a DOT decision whether to expand the work or when and if it will perform some of the work targeted for elimination by the audit.

"We will consider other potential options for doing other rail yard work sooner because of the lower-than-expected bid," Everhart said. "We will be working with the governor and the legislature on whether the scope of the rail yard project should be altered in any way, but again, it's too early to speculate."

State Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, vice chairman of the legislature's transportation committee, said the low offers demonstrate the difficult economy. The state should consider completing the rail yard project on an accelerated schedule if the current market conditions provide a cheaper price, he said.

The second- and third-lowest bidders for the project were Fusco-Manafort Joint Venture of New Haven and Walsh Construction Co. of Sharon, Mass., who submitted nearly identical bids of $147.1 million, while Shanska-Ecco Joint Venture of Whitestone, N.Y., submitted a $152.4-million bid.

The remaining fifth and sixth bidders were Cianbro-Grey Joint Ventures of Pittsfield, Maine, who offered a $160.5 million estimate, and Railroad-Shiavone Joint Venture, who came in at $172.9 million.

Marjorie Anders, a spokeswoman for Metro-North Railroad, said that the railroad has also saved millions on favorable bids coming from builders competing in a tight economy.

Low bidders on recent contracts to upgrade the Tarrytown and Courtland stations made offers millions below the estimated cost of the projects, she said.

"It's fabulous that Connecticut will perhaps be able to use that money on other much needed capital projects," Anders said. "A couple of years ago we were getting bids so high we had to postpone a couple of projects, but this trend is positive because we have limited resources and so many needs."

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