DOT valued expertise over price in Hartford rail competition
Connecticut rejected the lowest of five bidders for the contract to operate train service on the new Hartford Line, instead picking the overall top scorer in a ranking system that valued expertise and experience over price, according to scoring sheets released Thursday by the Department of Transportation.
A joint venture of TransitAmerica Services and Alternate Concepts, which was named Monday as the system operator, bid $41.7 million to launch and operate the system for five years. Its price was $10 million more than the lowest of five bidders, but nearly $4 million cheaper than the runner-up in overall scoring, Amtrak.
Five DOT employees with backgrounds ranging from finance to transit operations scored the presentations of the five competitors, awarding a series of numeric scores on technical criteria that counted for 60 percent of the overall score. The other 40 percent was based on pricing submitted in sealed bids not opened until the technical assessments were complete.
“We didn’t want the other evaluations to be swayed by price,” said Richard Andreski, the public transit chief and one of the five judges.
|Average Score||High Score||Low Score||Price|
|Keolis Rail||41.8||45.9||33.0||$47.8 million|
|First Transit||41.3||53.5||31.0||$31.7 million|
The bidders were judged on factors such as mobilization, which is the process of ramping up a new rail line, the expertise of the management team that would oversee the Hartford Line, and the experience of the companies and their employees in launching and operating a new rail service.
“The split between pricing and technical assessment was a judgment call. While price is important, we didn’t want it to be the primary factor,” Andreski said. “You end up getting what you pay for.”
While Amtrak is the better-known brand, TransAmerica Services is the largest private operator of passenger rail.
The DOT released the scoring sheets at the close of business Thursday after a review by lawyers, and Andreski answered questions about them in a telephone interview Thursday evening. CT Mirror requested them Monday afternoon after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and DOT officials announced the winner of the selection process at a train station in Walingford.
The names of the judges were redacted from the documents, but Andreski acknowledged he was one of the five. Three of the five judges gave their top scores to TASI/ACI, as the joint venture is known in DOT documents. The other two judges ranked it second.
TASI/ACI had a winning average score of 54.1 to 51.5 for Amtrak, which was ranked first by one judge, second by three and third by one. First Transit, primarily a bus company, was judged first by one judge. The other bidders were Keolis Rail Services and Bombardier.
Andreski said six companies cleared a pre-qualification process, but only five submitted bids.
The new service will launch in May after the completion of improvements, including double-tracking on concrete railroad ties capable of withstanding speeds of up to 110 miles per hour, faster than Metro-North commuter service. Stations on the line will be roughly five miles apart, compared to as little as a mile on portions of Metro-North’s New Haven line.
Amtrak owns most of the 62-mile route from Springfield through Hartford to New Haven, where riders can transfer to Metro-North service into New York City. Amtrak will continue to operate a half-dozen trips on the line daily.
When the Hartford Line opens, there will be 17 round trips on weekdays between Hartford and New Haven and a dozen between Hartford and Springfield, including Amtrak service. The new rail line will operate with a deep federal subsidy for three years.
Diesel-powered trains will run on the Hartford Line, which is not electrified.
The state and federal governments have spent $477 million of a $623 million budget on the project’s infrastructure, including double-tracking from New Haven to Hartford to Windsor, plus improvements to train stations. Overall, $432.1 million will be paid by the state; $190.1 million by the federal government.
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