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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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