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Airport commissioners rethinking pricey transit center

Airport commissioners call for more information after seeing new transit center cost estimates.

July 26, 2011|By Mark Kellam, mark.kellam@latimes.com

Bob Hope Airport commissioners tabled a $1.5-million contract to design a new scaled-back transit center on Monday after requesting more information from administrators on project financing and how some of the budget numbers were reached.

Airport officials were forced to go back to the drawing board last month after construction bids came in between $47 million and $69 million above the center’s projected $112-million price tag. The bids surprised officials, who blamed high steel costs and a “fear factor” among contractors that the project could not be built as planned.

The transit center, to be built near Hollywood Way and Empire Avenue, will house rental car, taxi and bus operations and will link the airport to the nearby Metro train station. Officials scaled the project down to bring it within the project’s total $130-million budget, rearranging the plan to reduce engineering and construction costs.

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But on Monday, the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority put the brakes on a proposed $1.5-million contract with design firm Pierce, Goodwin, Alexander & Linville, of Houston, to draw up the revised plans after Commissioner Frank Logan, of Pasadena, raised questions about the new cost calculations and said he was concerned the authority is rushing into the project.

Logan asked how some of the revised figures were calculated. For example, the size of the transit center was reduced by 20% to approximately 41,200 sq. ft., but the cost was slashed by more than 95%, from $11.4 million to $233,460.

Airport Executive Director Dan Feger said the transit center was moved from the third floor to ground level, dramatically reducing engineering and construction costs.

Logan also asked why the parking structure doubled in size, but not in cost. The original price was $11.5 million, but in the new concept, the price tag only went up by $1.5 million.

Other design changes include the elimination of the fourth floor of the car rental facility, use of a flat roof instead of a more complex steel-trussed roof, and replacing the lower portion of the parking structure’s steel columns with concrete.

The high cost of heavy steel was the main driver of the higher-than-expected bids, officials said. The revised plans reduce the amount of steel from 16,000 tons to 6,400 tons.

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