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'Superconsultant' picked for Metrorail

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http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/local/10316912.htm

Posted on Thu, Dec. 02, 2004

TRANSPORTATION

'Superconsultant' picked for Metrorail

A team of engineering firms was recommended for a coveted pact to help Miami-Dade Transit try to win billions of dollars in federal funds and build as many as three new Metrorail lines.

BY LARRY LEBOWITZ

[email protected]

One of the nation's largest engineering firms Wednesday emerged victorious in the fight to become Miami-Dade County's Metrorail expansion ''superconsultant'' in a deal that could be worth up to $84 million over the next seven years.

A county selection committee Wednesday recommended a team of 15 firms headed by Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas to help Miami-Dade Transit make the first substantive additions to the underperforming rail system since it opened two decades ago.

Before they could win the package, however, Parsons Brinckerhoff executives had to assure committee members that high-profile problems they had suffered with public jobs in Boston, St. Louis and Los Angeles were isolated, complicated situations -- and that no one who worked on those projects would wind up working in Miami-Dade.

COMMISSION VOTE

If the county commission agrees to the panel's choice, Parsons Brinkerhoff will provide Transit with additional staff to help engineer, design, inspect, acquire rights-of-way, mitigate environmental damage along the proposed new rail corridors and try to persuade federal bureaucrats to pony up billions of matching dollars to pay for the program.

The proposed Metrorail expansion -- and the consulting contract -- is made possible by the passage in 2002 of a half-cent sales tax for mass transit.

''Our team can help you tremendously in safeguarding the public trust,'' William Anido, Parsons Brinckerhoff's leading executive in Miami, said minutes before his firm was picked.

County Manager George Burgess will now negotiate the contract terms and bring them to the county commission for consideration by late spring.

ISSUE FOR ALVAREZ

The decision comes at a time when new Mayor Carlos Alvarez says his highest priority is taking power over contract awards away from the county commission.

Surface Transportation Manager Carlos Bonzon says he worked with the Inspector General's Office to keep overt lobbying out of the process.

Bonzon tried to structure the transit contract to assure that Miami-Dade maintains complete control over the consultants and avoids a repeat of the lobbying and minority set-aside controversies that have dogged a similarly large contract with Dade Aviation Consultants at the airport.

The eventual selection of Parsons Brinckerhoff -- and its team members, including DMJM/Harris, Spillis Candela, PBS&J and EAC Consulting -- was virtually uncontested.

Three other teams originally competed for the contract. Two teams were eliminated by county staff at the outset, for failing to comply with the extensive proposal requirements, minority hiring thresholds and background checks.

The only other serious competitor, the second team of 22 firms headed by the similarly named but unrelated Parsons Transportation Group and engineering giant URS, bowed out Nov. 14 after both firms landed other lucrative Metrorail contracts.

Parsons Transportation will be lead designer on the proposed $1 billion North Corridor that would run up Northwest 27th Avenue from Martin Luther King station to the Broward line near Pro Player Stadium.

URS landed the same role for the already funded $260 million Metrorail spur that will be built from Earlington Heights station to the Miami Intermodal Center under construction near the airport.

SOME CONTROVERSIES

Parsons Brinckerhoff has a solid local reputation, but has run into serious, well-documented controversies with the $14.6 billion Big Dig project in Boston, two transit projects in Los Angeles and a rail expansion in St. Louis that led to dueling lawsuits.

Anido and Parsons Brinckerhoff President William D. Smith thoroughly defended the firm's reputation, giving the selection committee a detailed explanation of their version of exactly what went wrong in all three communities.

Bonzon and Miami-Dade Transit Director Roosevelt Bradley said they were satisfied.

''I have no problem recommending this firm to take us into the future,'' Bradley said.

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I can't wait to see a new and expanded Metrorail system. Hopefully, they will also remodel some of the older stations. They really need a touch-up.

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