Saturday, February 24, 2018
Business

Tampa International Airport orders do-over on bids for big project

TAMPA — The biggest project in decades at Tampa International Airport hasn't started construction yet and already has hit its first snag.

The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority is redoing the bidding process for the first phase of construction for the new $2.5 billion master plan because of confusion about the airport's minority contracting rules.

"It will delay the project," said airport spokeswoman Janet Zink. "But it's a big undertaking that's significant for the airport and the entire region. It's important to get it right."

The airport started the time period for receiving proposals on April 5. But when airport staff saw there were problems, they ended up pulling the plug on the process three months later on July 16.

The winning bid was supposed to be selected Aug. 1. But now the winner won't be picked until the end of the year, delaying for a few months a project set to be finished in 2017.

The first phase has a projected cost of $736 million. It calls for the airport to build a consolidated rental car facility and an automated people mover to link it to the main terminal. That first phase will clear room for the main terminal to be expanded in the next two phases, set for completion by 2028.

Eight firms had put in bids. The fact that there were two different parts to that first construction phase led to some of the confusion. The other part of the confusion concerned airport rules requiring the bidders to parcel out some of the work to minority-owned firms: Were those requirements for each half of the project, or for the entire project?

Some of the airport's documentation was unclear. Some of the firms called the airport for guidance, but not all did. When the bids were submitted, airport staff realized the confusion. The rules call for minority business participation in the construction of each separate part of the project. "In the interest of being fair to everybody," Zink said, "we decided to start over so we can clarify what we were asking for."

The airport's requirements for the participation of minority-owned firms varies by project, and is determined in advance by a study of the available firms that could handle the work.

Jamal Thalji can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3404.

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