Airport transit center to be scaled back

Bob Hope Airport officials on Monday said they would have to scale down a planned transit center after construction bids came in 40% to 60% higher than the projected $112-million price tag.

Airport officials blamed high steel costs and a “fear factor” among contractors — concerns the project could not be built as planned — as the main reasons why bids came in between $47 million and $69 million above what had been anticipated.

“This wasn’t the outcome we were looking for,” Executive Director Dan Feger told members of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority Monday.

To reduce costs, Feger proposed eliminating the top floor of what was to be a four-story facility, redesigning a steel-truss ceiling and making other changes to scale down the center, which is intended to centralize rental car, taxi, bus and train connections under one roof.

The high bids caught airport officials off guard.

“I’m not 100% convinced we should move forward with this in this economy,” said Don Brown, a commissioner representing Burbank.

But Feger said a project revamp would allow the airport to get the job done on budget.

“This go-forward strategy will reduce costs dramatically,” he said.

The commission took no action Monday. Airport staffers are now working on a revised budget and design.

Feger said the changes would add four and six months to the project, estimating the time needed for a redesign, seeking new approvals from the city and sending the project back out to bid. The airport originally had hoped to start work later this year and complete it in about 12 months.

Feger cited several reasons for the unexpectedly high bids. As designed, the center would require 15,000 tons of high-strength steel that meets the most stringent earthquake safety standards.

The special steel costs roughly $3,800 a ton, up to $1,200 more than steel used in most construction, he said. The discrepancy accounts for between $12 million and $18 million in additional material costs. And since the project includes a “buy American” provision that bars contractors from purchasing steel fabricated in other countries, contractors were constrained in trying to get a competitive steel price, Feger said.

Contractors also mentioned a “fear factor” that the project could not be built as designed or on the envisioned 12-month schedule, and that they would face increased liability if something went wrong, Feger added.

“They didn’t have confidence [that] terms were absolutely nailed down so they could go forward without risk,” said Feger, attributing another $15 million to $20 million in the higher bids to that uncertainty.

The intermodal transit center would replace the airport’s current rental car facilities, which are too close to a runway, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Rental cars must also be taken off premises to be washed and refueled, resulting in approximately 700,000 trips on city streets each year.

[Editor's note: This story has been updated from an earlier version]


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