- The Orange County Transportation Authority this week announced that it awarded Walsh Construction a $220.5 million contract for the authority's $407 million streetcar project. Funding for the Santa Ana-area initiative will come from the county's Measure M half-cent tax initiative, but federal money could cover up to half the cost if the Federal Transit Administration approves a full-funding grant.
- Walsh, according to the authority, beat out three other companies to win the contract, although its bid was almost 56% above the authority's $141.6 million estimate. Work on the 4.1-mile modern streetcar line will include the installation of embedded track, overhead electrical power, stop shelter canopies, bridges and a maintenance and storage facility. The project also includes 10 streetcar stops in each direction with 16 14-inch-high platforms.
- According to the authority's transit committee report, AECOM Energy & Construction was the low bidder with a nearly $196 million bid, but was classified as nonresponsive for failure to meet the federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise participation requirement. The committee also determined that the joint venture of Stacy and Witbeck/Herzog Contracting Corp., which submitted the third-lowest bid ($221.5 million), was non-responsive for the same reason. Flatiron West submitted a $241.9 million bid.
Streetcar projects provide even more opportunities for contractors experienced with building light rail systems since they often have many of the same characteristics like the construction of stations, tracks, associated infrastructure and sometimes the relocation or addition of electric and other utilities.
Logistically, streetcar projects could pose more of a challenge, though, because they are often located in dense urban cores, forcing contractors to navigate the traffic flow of pedestrians and automobiles during while minimizing noise and other disruptions to streets.
In Seattle, a streetcar expansion project that was been halted by Mayor Jenny Durkan after costs began to rise has left business owners dealing indefinitely with construction-related sales impacts. A new analysis during the project's downtime revealed that it will cost about $100 million more than original estimates, decreasing the chances that the project will be completed at all.
But, still, cities are eager to build modern streetcars, according to Progressive Railroading, in order to create neighborhoods that will draw millennials and businesses in the hopes of sparking thriving communities. But the real drive for more streetcar construction might have come from a 2014 change in federal funding criteria that made these projects eligible for taxpayer financing through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) and Capital Investment Grant programs. As long as the federal government is willing to fund these projects, the opportunities should remain available for contractors specializing in this niche.