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Front Page » Top Stories » Bids Nearly Double Budget For Rentalcar Hub

Bids Nearly Double Budget For Rentalcar Hub

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Written by on September 21, 2006

By Charlotte Libov
The lowest bid to build a rental-car hub near Miami International Airport is for $399.9 million, almost double the $217.6 million budgeted, but the Florida Department of Transportation remains committed to the project, a spokesman said.

"We’ll evaluate and analyze the bids, but we remain committed to the goal and to the need," said Dick Kane, a department spokesman. He said a further downscaling might be part of the discussion though specific talk would be "premature."

Ric Katz, a project spokesman, said part of the discussion might focus on where to find additional funds. "I believe the program is secure," Mr. Katz said. "There may be some shuffling around of funds, but it is way too early to consider any prospect of reducing the program. That possibility would be way in the future — if at all."

Still, he acknowledged, state officials are disappointed that bids were so high. "The lowest bid is still substantially above what we were talking about," Mr. Katz said. "We estimated the project to be in the $230 million to $250 million" range.

Two bids were opened this month. Turner Construction Co. bid $399.9 million and Odebrecht Construction $470.1 million, Mr. Katz said.

Mr. Katz said the state has 60 days to award the contract but he expects a quicker decision. "We really want to go ahead with our schedule, which is to begin construction in 2007."

The car-rental hub is the first component in the $1.3 billion Miami Intermodal Center, which is to link all forms of ground transportation near Miami International Airport. To meet a 2011 target for the intermodal center to be opened, the rental-car hub’s construction must stay on schedule, officials have said.

Mr. Katz declined to say where funds might come from to close the $182 million gap. "The first step is to analyze the bids," he said. "We have to take time to make sure that the bids were for what we were asking for, and then we’ll need to make a decision."

The car-rental facility will be on property bounded by Northwest 25th Street, 39th Avenue and 42nd Avenue (LeJeune Road). In January, the facility, which was two years behind schedule, was downscaled to 6,800 spaces from 9,500 because fewer car-rental companies than expected were interested in setting up there due to a decline in air traffic after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Of 22 companies that expressed early interest, only 16 remained interested, state officials said.

Although the major part of the hub has yet to rise, foundations are in, Mr. Katz said. That work was done by Turner. Officials there could not be reached, but David Peebles, Odebrecht’s business development director here, said project bidding over budget "is not uncommon in today’s market" because construction costs mount as projects are delayed.

"They’ve been in suspension for two to three years, and, in the meantime, costs have gone up dramatically," Mr. Peebles said.

Nonetheless, Mr. Katz said, state officials remain determined to build the facility. "The bottom line is that we are many millions above our estimate. However, the one thing I can tell you is that the rental-car center will be built."