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Arena to be built a half at a time

The other day I took a look at the proposals given to city officials by the top two companies vying for the job as construction manager.
That would be Mortenson Construction of Minnesota, which teamed with Hampton Enterprises of Lincoln, and Turner Construction of New York, whose partner was Sampson Construction of Lincoln.
For shorthand, let’s call them Mortenson and Turner.
I had asked to see these proposals months ago when they were first submitted — and was denied access by the city — so when they finally became public documents I figured I’d better check them out.
Most of the proposals are devoted to resume-bragging, but among the interesting nuggets:
• Mortenson anticipates beginning construction in September 2011 and says construction will take two years.
• Mortenson plans to split the fees with Hampton 80-20, versus 50-50 for Turner and Sampson.
• Mortenson wisely pointed out its experience with rail line interfaces, use of the construction-manager at risk method and downtown and brownfield development.
• A big Mortenson selling point was its recent experience building Target Field for the Minnesota Twins — the promenade deck and part of seating was built over a BNSF main line that skirts the west edge of the stadium, carrying up to 14 trains a day. More than 2,650 feet of rail was relocated. And they built the main concourse on the west edge above two rail lines (a BNSF rail line and commuter train). Even more sticky than Lincoln’s plans.
• Jeffrey Applebaum, whose company was a consultant to the Minnesota Twins on the project, wrote a letter saying the Target Field site was “extremely small” and hemmed in on all sides by rail lines, highways and parking ramps. He said the greatest challenge was dealing with BNSF — Mortenson had to honor “elaborate processes and procedures” established in complex agreements with BN.
• Ed Hunter, project manager for the Minnesota Ballpark Authority (the state agency that owns Target Field), wrote a letter saying BN dictated there be no delays in train movements and that a single violation could shut down all construction within the railroad right-of-way.
• Mortenson promised to maximize local participation in business and labor and “right size” bid packages to allow smaller local contractors to get more work.
• A major deciding factor in the mayor’s decision to pick Mortenson was that they proposed a fee of 1.95 percent of the $130 million arena cost and $235,187 a month. Turner proposed a 2.15 percent fee plus $412,000 a month. With lump sum payments, that works out to $8.17 million for Mortenson and $14.45 million for Turner. There were differences, however, in the costs expected to be picked up by subcontractors.
• One thing I learned after looking at the proposals is that the arena will be built one half (roughly) at a time. Mortenson will build about half the arena on the west side of the two Amtrak lines west of the post office, because it will take awhile longer to move those tracks. Then when they are moved, they’ll build the other half. Interesting.
• Turner said the project could be built in 18 months if not for that Amtrak line — but removal of those passenger rail lines won’t be done until September 2012 so that part of the arena can’t be done until then.
Amtrak is also part of a delay in closing on the rest of the BNSF land. Arena coordinator Dan Marvin said there is a dispute over whom Amtrak should lease the new platform from. They now lease from BNSF, which proposed a lease agreement similar to others, for $1 a year. But Amtrak wants to lease from the city. Marvin said he thinks the issue is close to being worked out.

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