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Airport's bid process called 'chaotic'

Estimates for new transit center dogged by last-minute changes, use of exotic materials.

June 10, 2011|By Bill Kisliuk, bill.kisliuk@latimes.com

Bob Hope Airport officials missed by millions when they estimated the costs of a proposed four-story transportation hub because of unrealistic expectations, last-minute design changes and unaddressed inflation concerns, according to contractors who sought the job.

General contractors who qualified to bid for the airport’s Regional Intermodal Transportation Center said uncertain costs for 15,000 tons of extra-strength steel and a flurry of last-minute design alterations prompted them to either walk away or submit bids 40% to 60% above what the airport had hoped for. Bids came in $47 million to $75 million above the projected $112 million price tag for construction of a one-stop hub for train, taxi, bus and rental car travelers.

“We dropped out because there were a lot of changes that came in toward the end, and a lot of questions we asked that never got answered,” said one representative for a contractor who declined to be identified to protect his company’s future prospects. “Contractors weigh risk, and the risk was greater than we wanted to deal with.”

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Others said the airport simply miscalculated.

“From a design perspective, I don’t see anything they did wrong,” said Steven Riggs, executive director of project development for Santa Ana-based Bayley Construction, which also withdrew from the bidding process. “I think the only thing they did is, they were too optimistic about what the marketplace is like.”

The airport turned to Anil Verma Associates as chief architect and gkkworks/STV Construction Management as project managers. Officials hoped to issue between $90 million and $100 million in bonds and start construction this summer while interest rates are low and contractors are hungry for work. Airport officials estimated that construction would take about a year.

Plans called for the center to be located in an airport parking lot near Hollywood Way and Empire Avenue, not far from the airport Metrolink station. It is slated to house seven rental car offices and fleets, and a bus and taxi station. It will be linked, via a walkway, to airport terminals.

Contractors said high costs were driven in part by the extensive use of specially reinforced steel to ensure a high level of earthquake safety, and the need for galvanized rebar and a water-impermeable layer of material on floors where rental car companies would wash vehicles.

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