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Miami Officials Hope Turbulence Is Easing
Buffeted by revisions, overruns and delays, airport officials revamp plans and push ahead
By Deb Wood
Miami Airport’s South Terminal is set to open this summer after some delays.
High bids, design revisions and escalating construction costs have added $1 billion to Miami International Airport’s $5.2-billion capital improvement program and pushed back scheduled completion of new terminals. But with revisions and a new infusion of money, officials hope the worst is over.

The Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners on March 22 approved an additional $772 million for MIA’s 3.4-million-sq-ft, 49-gate North Terminal project. The mile-long terminal now has a $2.85-billion price tag.

Last year, the Miami-Dade Aviation Dept. was set to let five contracts on a three-quarter-mile-long stretch between concourses B and D. But Miami-based MCM Corp. submitted the only bids for completion of the terminal shell and for finishes. The two bids came in about $300 million over the estimate of $90 million for the two contracts.

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  • Officials repackaged the shell and finish contracts into 13 packages, and bids have come in much closer to estimates. Concourse A will close to allow 70% of work to proceed landside, rather than on the aircraft-operating area, avoiding the need for increased security clearances. John W. Cosper, deputy director of capital improvements for the Miami-Dade Aviation Dept., expects the changes will shave up to $200 million overall and speed work by two years. That work should begin this fall.

    The aviation department redesigned the remodeling of the front areas, decreasing the scope of work to $120 million. It expects to put a contract out for bid in May. “The [North Terminal] is the most complex terminal expansion that has ever been undertaken. We are spending $2.6 billion on a remodel and expansion of an existing terminal, handling 70 percent of the traffic at MIA and doing it with minimal interference with the airline operations,” says Cosper.

    American Airlines originally managed the North Terminal project. Its construction manager, a joint venture of Turner Construction Co. and Austin Commercial, broke ground in 2001, expecting to finish in 2004. Delays led Miami-Dade County to step in and assume control. In July 2005, it awarded Parsons-Odebrecht Joint Venture (POJV), with Parsons Corp., Pasadena, Calif., and Odebrecht USA, Coral Gables, Fla., a $542-million, four-year contract to complete 10 North Terminal projects. During the past six months, the team has tackled work between Concourses D and C as part of the plan to create a single linear concourse.

    “That work is going very well,” Cosper says. “They are one month ahead of schedule, and work quality is excellent.” However, the county is renegotiating with Parsons-Odebrecht. The contract scope has increased from the original $542 million. “The contract as originally negotiated anticipated a lower construction cost,” Cosper says. “There was a lot of sharing of risk. At this point, we’re putting some of the risk back on POJV.”

    To help fund the expansion program through its scheduled 2010 completion, the aviation authority proposed an $800-million budget increase to the Board of County Commissioners last month. Aviation director Jose Abreu notes that overall structural concrete and reinforcing steel costs have doubled, and structural steel costs have jumped 65% since 2001.

    Baggage system revisions pushed back the $1.1-billion, 1.5-million-sq-ft South Terminal opening a few months to this summer. A change order will add $49 million to the project, tackled by POJV. “The changes were made at the airlines’ request,” says Cosper. “It had to do with access to the back side of the counters.”

    POJV divided Concourse H at the South Terminal into 30 segments and brought in local contractors.  “We took a piece of the work and set aside things for small contractors—things that were not on the critical path—to allow them to perform well, and it really paid off,” says Gilberto Neves, Odebrecht’s chief executive officer.

    Cosper anticipates two more bid packages for the North Terminal this year: a $24-million, 70,000-sq-ft Regional Commuter Facility with two gates and parking for 22 planes, and an Early Baggage Storage Facility.

    Challenges still lie ahead. The Florida Dept. of Transportation plans a Miami Intermodal Center (MIC), with a consolidated rental-car facility connecting to terminals via a $287-million, 1.25-mile people-mover system. But MIA’s committee recommended rejecting design-build-operate-maintain bids submitted for the people mover by Slattery Skanska Inc., Whitestone N.Y.; Bombardier-PCL LLC, a joint venture of Canadian firms Bombardier and PCL; and POJV.

    “All three firms were found nonresponsive,” says Margaret Moss, senior procurement officer for MIA. “If [negotiation with POJV] is not successful, [we will] move forward with the other firms.”

    Bids for the rental-car center came in about $100 million over the $325 million available last fall, says MIC spokesman Ric Katz. FDOT is negotiating with low bidder Turner Construction, which has a CM at-risk contract for foundation work, to reduce costs. But the county placed a temporary hold on the project due to conflicts over rental-car space allocations. Katz expects Turner could be back on site within 90 days once the hold is lifted.


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