By HOWARD FINE
After years of legal squabbling, officials with the $2 billion Alameda Corridor project say they expect to have agreements later this month with Compton and Lynwood, two of the six cities along the proposed 19-mile route.
If the agreements are reached, that would bring five of the six corridor cities on board the massive rail project, leaving Vernon as the sole holdout.
“This will be a major milestone for us,” said Jeffrey Kellogg, a Long Beach city councilman who also chairs the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority, the agency responsible for building the project. “With these agreements, we can finally say that the Alameda Corridor is going to happen.”
The Alameda Corridor is designed to speed cargo from the ports of L.A. and Long Beach to the railyards and distribution centers near downtown. Progress on the project has been delayed by a series of lawsuits filed by the small cities along the corridor route. They feared that construction of the project would wreak havoc with local traffic patterns.
Meanwhile, six engineering and design teams are preparing to submit bids for the single largest corridor contract a 10-mile-long, 33-foot-deep trench of below-grade rail tracks valued at between $500 million and $700 million. The bid deadline is July 1, with the contract award going out around Sept. 1, according to ACTA General Manager Gill Hicks.
Construction on this main segment of the corridor is set to start in mid-1999, with completion in the year 2001.
The six lead bidders are: Bechtel Infrastructure Corp.; a joint bid from Kiewit Pacific Corp. and Granite Construction Corp.; Odebrecht Contractors of California; Morrison-Knudsen Corp.; Tutor-Saliba Corp.; and Fluor Daniel Inc.
Kellogg said he expected the bids to come in toward the lower end of the range because the agency was conservative in estimating costs. The final contract will include a penalty of $100,000 a day for finishing past deadline.
There are still several hurdles to overcome before construction can begin including the city of Vernon, which has expressed concern about the impacts of the corridor construction on traffic going through the city.
“We are not at all opposed to the concept of the Alameda Corridor,” said Michael Gagan, a lobbyist with the L.A. firm of Rose & Kindel who represents Vernon on Alameda Corridor matters. “The key concern is how to make the construction palatable to the city’s businesses so that they don’t lose revenues or go out of business.”
Similar concerns had been expressed by several other cities along the corridor route; in each case, the corridor authority has proposed monetary settlements to help defray the impacts. Huntington Park agreed to settle for $2 million payable over the next three years, while South Gate recently approved a $3 million settlement. Carson has agreed to a $1.5 million settlement.
The differences in the dollar values of the settlements reflect the degree of impact the construction is expected to have on each city, Hicks said. Vernon poses some of the most difficult challenges because of the number of railroad tracks crossing the city that would have to be consolidated, he said.
Even after Vernon signs on, the Alameda Corridor authority still must secure construction permits from each of the cities, including Los Angeles. Each of the agreements includes an expedited permit process, which Hicks said should cut down on the time involved in securing the proper approvals.
Kellogg and Hicks downplayed the potential impact of the fiscal problems of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on the Alameda Corridor project. The MTA has pledged $340 million to the Alameda Corridor.
“We have been assured that the agreement is enforceable,” Kellogg said.
In the event that the MTA does not come up with the full amount, Kellogg said the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority would likely raise the estimated $800 million it needs through bonds from Wall Street this fall.