Politics & Government

Sound Transit accepts lowest rail bid after all

Sound Transit has reversed its decision to skip over a contractor's low bid, announcing Thursday it will award Mid-Mountain Contractors a key project to help extend commuter rail from Tacoma to Lakewood.

The move means the transit agency will forgive a paperwork error and save $800,000 on the contract for the so-called D to M Street project in Tacoma’s Dome District, as well as avoid potential litigation from the Kirkland-based firm.

“MidMountain was prepared to exercise all of its options, but thankfully, it was not necessary to do that,” said Bob Marconi, a Seattle attorney who represented MidMountain in its bid appeal .

The move also means Sound Transit had to rescind a recommendation to award the project to PCL Construction Services, the second-lowest bidder.

“They are not planning to pursue litigation,” said Kimberly Reason, a transit agency spokeswoman.

A district manager for PCL did not return a telephone call seeking comment .

Sound Transit’s board of directors formally awarded the contract Thursday, two weeks after agency head Joni Earl reversed the recommendation to go with PCL.

The change of course came after Mid-Mountain retained Marconi, enlisted politicians and hired a Seattle public-relations company to help make its case: that taxpayers stood to lose a lot of money over a minor paperwork error.

MidMountain’s $40.8 million bid to build a railroad bridge over Pacific Avenue was the lowest among seven submitted in June, but Sound Transit disqualified the bid after PCL protested that MidMountain had turned in a supplemental form late. Transit officials planned to recommend PCL’s $41.6 million bid to the board.

MidMountain appealed, claiming the document had been properly prepared but accidentally left out of the envelope and turned in 20 minutes late.

Sound Transit rejected that protest, spurring Marconi to appeal to Earl.

“Our primary consideration was that the integrity of the bidding process remained intact,” Reason said. “We initially felt the best way to ensure that was to award the contract to PCL.”

But, after reviewing case law, transit attorneys agreed with MidMountain’s reasoning, she said.

The first phase of the project, which is expected to close part of Pacific between 25th and 26th streets for 10 months, is expected to begin in late September.