Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sumitomo Won’t Sue, Prefers the Waiting Game; Desperate Rail Opponents Toss In Kitchen Sink

The last time Honolulu published a request for proposals for a grade-separated transit system, five companies responded. Only one of the four losers sued in circuit court in 1991 when the decision didn’t go its way.

This time there were only three responders, which may have had something to do with consolidation in the industry. Ansaldo of Italy won the new competition but now is facing an allegation that it wasn’t a fully licensed contractor in time to submit a qualified bid.

After losing bidder Bombardier failed in both of its appeals, first to the city and then to the state’s Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, it filed a lawsuit to overturn its disqualification by the city. Sumitomo filed similar appeals that also were denied.

Observers have been expecting the company to take its complaint to court, too, but Sumitomo has announced it’ll take a pass.

Now the speculation is on why Sumitomo is stepping aside with more than a billion dollars in contracts at stake. Pacific Business News reporter Curtis Lum suggests the company wants to stay on the city’s good side, just in case Ansaldo is disqualified and Bombardier loses its lawsuit.

The company said as much in a press release that quotes Vice President Gino Antoniello:

“As much as we still strongly disagree with the rulings that have been made so far, we felt it was time to step back and let the City go it course. As we stated from the beginning of our protest, it has never been our intention to hurt this project or stand in the way of it being built.
“As the only qualified offeror, (Sumitomo’s) decision not to appeal should in no way be interpreted as loss of interest. To the contrary, (Sumitomo) will remain ready to fulfill its commitments should the City not be able to proceed with Ansaldo due to any problems that might prevent them from fulfilling their offer.”

Still Complaining
The potential delay in resolving Bombardier’s and Ansaldo’s issues undoubtedly pleases the plaintiffs on a lawsuit that aims to stop the rail project in its tracks. They were at it again yesterday – this time alleging conflicts of interest and impropriety in the award of a contract to PB Americas, Inc. to provide general engineering and other services for the rail project.

Anti-rail leader Cliff Slater also complained about the cost of moving the route near the Honolulu airport one block mauka near Lagoon Drive to avoid going through an FAA-designated control zone. According to the Star-Advertiser (subscription), Slater said using the project’s contingency fund to cover the $29 million increase in costs “is no comfort.” The paper quotes him: “When the issue was raised, I didn’t hear anybody question who was paying for it.”

Funny, we don’t remember Slater complaining about it when the issue was raised either, which makes this look like just another desperate diversionary gambit by Slater and the Gang of Four in their campaign to reverse the community’s long-standing support for rail.

Mayor Peter Carlyle rejected the complainers’ allegations.

“It is incorrect and inflammatory to label the increase as ‘negligence’ or a ‘mistake’ when the purpose of the preliminary engineering phase was to identify this type of issue,” he said in a statement.

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