- Nebraska-based construction and engineering firm Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. has been recommended for a $1.4 billion contract to design and build a 7.8-mile extension of the Seattle-area Federal Way Link light-rail system from Kent, Washington, to Federal Way, Washington. The System Expansion Committee of the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit) made the recommendation for consideration during a May 23 board vote.
- While two other companies submitted proposals, the committee chose Kiewit based on the technical evaluation and the price score equation of its proposal, according to Sound Transit documents. “Scored criteria included outreach efforts and commitments to small businesses; technical approach to design and construction, organization and management; and schedule and risk,” according to the Kent Reporter. “Additional criteria included financial capacity and capability to perform the work.”
- Kiewit came in about $300 million below the Sound Transit estimate and within the board's baseline budget. In addition to the guideway, Kiewit will design and build three light-rail stations and parking garages. Construction is expected to start in early 2020 and be completed in 2024.
The total cost of the Federal Way Link Extension is an estimated $3.1 billion, which will come mostly from voter-approved sales taxes, vehicle tab fees and property taxes. Last month, the agency applied for a $790 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration to help fund the extension.
Fiscal concerns are top of mind for large public transit projects like this one. In its documents supporting the Kiewit proposal, Sound Transit committee members cautioned that "a one-month delay could affect the critical path of the project schedule and potentially affect revenue service."
If the project remains under budget, it will buck recent trends of similar light-rail lines that have far exceeded cost and time estimates. Construction of the nearly $6 billion, 16-mile Purple Line in Maryland is facing a $300 million cost overrun and the roughly $2 billion Southwest Light Rail extension in Minneapolis had trouble early on after state Republicans tried to kill the project and contractors’ bids came in higher than original projections. GoTriangle’s $3.3 billion Orange-Durham light-rail line in North Carolina was scrapped last month due to financial and logistical challenges as well as tenuous relationships with critical partners such as Duke University.