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Originally published March 8, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 8, 2007 at 2:02 AM

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It's back to drawing board: Sea-Tac rail stop gets 1 bid

Just one company bid to build Sound Transit's landmark light-rail stop at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, at a price $43.5 million higher than expected...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Just one company bid to build Sound Transit's landmark light-rail stop at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, at a price $43.5 million higher than expected.

That means light-rail director Ahmad Fazel will have to negotiate a cheaper price, rebid the work or make the glass-lined station less elaborate.

In a bid opened this week, Mowat Construction offered to do the job for $95.3 million, far more than the $51.8 million expected by Sound Transit's engineers and consultants. The project budget contains only $58 million for the station — not much wiggle room.

Sound Transit has no intention of awarding a $95 million deal, Fazel said.

He attributed the gap mainly to a shortage of contractors in a hot construction market.

Another contractor, PCL, considered the job "appealing" but couldn't put a bid package together within the two months available, said David Hrynyk, PCL's project director for Sound Transit's predominantly aerial light-rail segment in neighboring Tukwila.

A third firm, Balfour Beatty, similarly had many other projects to choose from and a shortage of people to put together the bid, Fazel said.

When private jobs are plentiful, firms prefer those to public projects, which generally have more requirements, such as small-business hiring goals and community-outreach rules, said Jerry Dinndorf, district manager for Associated General Contractors.

"Just look around town, and you can see everyone's pretty busy," Dinndorf said.

Another issue is the design, which includes triangular glass panels, an elevated boarding area and a skybridge over International Boulevard — "a little more challenging than some of the stations we have," Fazel said. But the nearby Tukwila Station has many similarities and didn't scare contractors away.

Contractor shortages are occurring nationwide. Three years ago, in a looser market, light-rail bids were mostly below estimates in the Seattle-to-Tukwila corridor. Rising steel costs, contaminated soils and other obstacles have consumed some of the savings.

Sound Transit's next step is to meet with Mowat to understand the numbers and determine what costs are reasonable, Fazel said.

He said that if the problem is solved in the next month or so, Sound Transit could break ground in August and keep on schedule to reach the airport by December 2009.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631.

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