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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Only one company bid to manage Hawaii rail project

By Sean Hao
Advertiser Staff Writer

A $36.7 million contract for Honolulu's planned train project failed to garner any competition.

Under the five-year deal, Scottsdale, Ariz.-based InfraConsult LLC will provide project management oversight on the $5.3 billion project a role the company has played since March 2007.

The latest contract is the third-largest deal to date on the transit project following a $483 million contract awarded to Kiewit Pacific in October and an $86 million contract awarded to Parsons Brinckerhoff in August 2007.

Terms of the InfraConsult contract were negotiated directly between city and company officials after no other bidders sought the contract, according to documents obtained last week through a Freedom of Information request by The Advertiser.

City transportation Director Wayne Yoshioka said Honolulu complied with state laws meant to ensure that the cost of the InfraConsult contract was fair and reasonable.

The solicitation for the professional services contract was posted on a city Web site on Aug. 12, and it was publicized in three newspaper ads on Aug. 21, 23 and 24. An ad also was placed on Aug. 31 in the industry trade publication Passenger Transport. InfraConsult was the only company to submit a proposal by a Sept. 11 deadline, and a contract with the firm was signed on Nov. 19.

It is possible that no other companies thought they could compete with InfraConsult, Yoshioka said. "I'm guessing that the other guys figured that these guys were so familiar with it that it would be hard for them to take the role," he said.

InfraConsult won its initial contract in 2007 after only one other firm bid to provide project oversight services. Under terms of its latest deal, InfraConsult will help the city manage the planned project and oversee other contractors, including Kiewit and Parsons Brinckerhoff. That's the same role the firm had already been providing under an $11.5 million contract awarded to InfraConsult in March 2007.

InfraConsult was formed in summer 2006 by three former Parsons Brinckerhoff executives. Two previously had worked on Honolulu transit projects.

Parsons Brinckerhoff is a New York-based engineering firm active in Hawai'i since the 1960s. It had a major role in designing the H-3 Freeway.

Perceptions of contract favoritism between the city, Parsons Brinckerhoff and InfraConsult were partially behind a probe of rail contracts conducted last year by the city auditor. That audit found that contracts awarded to Parsons Brinckerhoff and InfraConsult complied with procurement laws.

The audit also said the city needs to improve the way it documents commuter rail contract awards to improve transparency and public confidence in the project.