City Awarding Rail Contracts without Federal Funding Secured

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BY HONOLULUTRAFFIC.COM – First, if you did not catch the Star Advertiser’s news today, please read it. You would think from that the City was just about to begin construction of the rail line. Nothing could be further from the truth. This morning one of our members called worried that construction was about to start. When I told her that no money had been appropriated by Congress for construction, she asked, “Is the newspaper lying?” We told her, “No, they are just not telling you all the truth.”

Second, two days ago in response to a FOIA request, we received the February 2011 Progress Report from the FTA’s Project Management Oversight Contractor. In the narrative they make it clear that, “�Utility relocation and guideway construction are anticipated to begin in late 2011 and early 2012, respectively.� You would never guess from the City’s latest PR efforts that they are at least a year away from being able to construct anything, and six months away from even moving some utilities around.


Third, in going with the low bidder they obviously did not check on the bidder’s background, judging from the Civil Beat report today. Here are just four paragraphs from their report:

“After complaints AnsaldoBreda was more than three years late delivering train cars, a $300 million contract between the company and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority fell apart in October 2009. The company had already delivered too-heavy cars, which required the Los Angeles transit agency to reinforce some bridges. Ansaldo blamed the transportation authority for a botched order.”

“Officials in Washington, D.C., have also complained about train cars manufactured by AnsaldoBreda’s predecessor, Breda Costruzioni Ferroviarie. In 2005, the Washington Post reported the city’s Metro had to spend $382 million to overhaul its fleet of so-called Breda cars, which needed new brakes, propulsion and other improvements.

“Earlier this month, the mayor of Hornell, N.Y., reportedly complained about AnsaldoBreda’s delays, which resulted in furloughs for workers, according to the Buffalo News. In 2009, the Copenhagen (Denmark) Post reported delays and operational problems with Ansaldo Breda cars.”

“Honolulu rail spokeswoman Jeanne Mariana Belding told Civil Beat there is a clear distinction between AnsaldoBreda and AnsaldoHonolulu, which is handling core systems for the city’s $5.5 billion project. In the contracting world, that distinction is actually a big deal,” Belding said. “In this case, the contract was awarded to AnsaldoHonolulu, which is a joint venture of AnsaldoSTS and AnsaldoBreda. It’s just not the same company.”


Fourth, the City keeps talking about the low bids from the City’s estimates as though the bid will not include change orders. Since the Mayor does not have much experience with construction, we would like him to understand that the winning bidder is always the guy that finds holes in the contract that will allow future change orders, when the other guys didn’t. You do not make money on the bid, you make it on the change orders.

It is really a shame that Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle, who built up a great reputation as a straightshooter, should blow it in just months in a way that voters will not forget.