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Construction manager chosen for NCTD's $351.5 million rail project

North County Transit District's rail project connecting Oceanside to Escondido, slated to open in December of 2005, has passed another milestone. The 22-mile passenger line, which will provide service every 30 minutes when completed, now has a consultant construction management firm on board.

Simon Wong Engineering of San Diego was chosen over eight other firms vying for the contract. Awarding the contract for consultant construction management is viewed as a significant step toward implementation of the rail project. The work scope of the proposed construction management contract is divided into three distinct phases: pre-construction, construction and post construction.

Consultant construction management services are typically required on large public works projects because of the impracticality of maintaining a relatively large number of specialized experts within a transit agency. The CCM process began in October 2001, when NCTD issued a Request for Proposal, or RFP, for construction management services. In response, a total of nine proposals were received from qualified firms. A panel of knowledgeable individuals was then assembled to evaluate and rank the various proposals based on the criteria detailed in the RFP. The criteria included:

* Project understanding

* Proposer's experience

* Key staff experience

* Proposer's project work plan

* Proposer's cost control

Upon completion of the review, the four top-rated firms were notified they had been selected as finalists and were invited to make a formal presentation regarding their proposed services. At the conclusion of the presentations, the panelists, including two outside experts, ranked the four firms. The Simon Wong Engineering team was rated the No. 1 firm by four of the panelists and placed No. 2 by the fifth panelist. In addition, the Simon Wong Engineering team was judged to be well-balanced with a highly experienced mix of qualified firms and personnel.

The project itself was first identified by the San Diego Association of Governments in the late 1980s as being worthy of funding to relieve congestion in the Highway 78 corridor. Highway 78 between Oceanside and Escondido is already severely congested in several places. The highway carries more than 100,000 trips per day and is projected to carry 150,000 trips per day by 2020 (even with rail service).

In addition, North County's population is expected to increase 74 percent by 2015. The California Department of Transportation has no plans to widen the Highway 78 corridor due to environmental constraints and high land acquisition costs.

In 1987, San Diego voters passed TransNet legislation earmarking local sales taxes for funding the future passenger rail solution. The rail line would use existing railroad right of way. In 1990, the Final Environmental Impact Report for the project was certified and in September 2001 NCTD's Board approved the final design plans for the project.

The Oceanside-Escondido Rail Project will convert a 22-mile lightly used freight rail corridor into a Diesel Multiple Unit passenger rail system. The existing right-of-way is roughly parallel to State Highway 78 and connects the cities of Oceanside, Vista, San Marcos and Escondido with surrounding unincorporated areas of San Diego County.

The project includes the construction of 15 stations, as well as 1.7 miles of new track into California State University at San Marcos. NCTD will operate four two-car trains, each with a seating capacity of 150 (75 per car). Once implemented, the new system will accommodate a maximum of 68 passenger trains per day. Ridership is projected to be over 12,000 per day in 2005 with 19,000 estimated riders in 2020.

The rail project will encourage continued economic development of the corridor by providing existing businesses easy access and allowing new transit-oriented development around stations. In addition, links will be available to rail connections via the Coaster, Amtrak and Metrolink at Oceanside Transit Center. Connections to NCTD bus service will be available at all stations with major transfer points at the Escondido, Palomar College, California State University at San Marcos, Vista and Oceanside Transit Centers.

In terms of project funding developments, the most significant ongoing effort is securing a formal commitment from the federal government through the Federal Transit Administration. This lengthy and complex process will soon yield a Full Funding Grant Agreement. NCTD received confirmation that the project is the only proposed project in the United States that is rated "highly recommended." The grant agreement totals $152.1 million in Section 5309 New Starts monies and is expected to be finalized later this summer.

Other funding currently secured includes $80 million from the California Transportation Commission in State Traffic Congestion Relief Funds. This is in addition to $29.1 million in Regional State Transportation Improvement Program funding and Proposition 108 (Passenger Rail and Clean Air Bond Act of 1990) funds; $90.3 million has been secured in local STIP and TransNet funds.

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