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Metro recommends $927-million contract for downtown L.A. rail project

Public TransportationRailway TransportationLA MetroStaples Center

A nearly $1-billion contract to build a downtown subway that would close one of the most frustrating gaps in Los Angeles County's rail network should go to two companies with experience in local rail construction, according to a Metro report published Tuesday.

The recommendation comes even though the firms were not the lowest bidders.

In the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority analysis, staff members recommended awarding a $927-million joint contract to Skanska USA and Traylor Bros., two firms now building other regional rail projects. 

The Downtown Regional Connector is a 1.9-mile, $1.46-billion underground link between rail lines that skirt opposite ends of L.A.'s downtown, one near Union Station and the other near Staples Center. When the project debuts, scheduled for 2020, passengers will be able to travel across the county on one train, eliminating two transfers and $3 a trip in extra fares.

The Skanska-Traylor proposal was $39 million higher than another bid the agency considered. But Skanska-Traylor's plan to finish construction 115 days early and its willingness to absorb the cost of any delays caused by Metro or subcontractors justified the higher price, agency staff members wrote.  

The project's total cost has risen from $1.39 billion, leaving the authority about $60.5 million short, according to the report. To close the gap, the agency hopes to pull $10.5 million from money set aside for rail cars and rail yards and $50 million from other revenue.

Metro directors are slated to vote on the contract and the budget reallocations at their April 24 meeting. Another lucrative contract, for the $2.8-billion Westside subway extension to La Cienega Boulevard, will be awarded over the summer. 

The report highlighted one possible snag in the downtown connector's ambitious schedule: Metro is still waiting for the Los Angeles Police Commission to approve permits for construction work during nighttime, holidays, peak hours and weekends. Without the waivers, the cost of the project could rise by 15%, to about $1.68 billion, and open a year late.

A pedestrian bridge linking a planned station at 2nd and Hope streets to the cultural attractions of Grand Avenue, including The Broad Museum and the Walt Disney Concert Hall, will not be built unless community leaders can find the money, staff members wrote in the report.

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laura.nelson@latimes.com

Twitter: @laura_nelson

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