Contractors hit SF with $15M in claims over late Van Ness bus project

Contractors in charge of Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit construction have filed two claims amounting to $15 million against San Francisco over delays to the project that, they allege, are The City’s fault.

The claims were revealed at a hearing in which the Board of Supervisors took transportation staffers to task, following a report in the San Francisco Examiner on Monday that the Van Ness Avenue project was running two years late.

SEE RELATED: Two-mile-long Van Ness bus lane project faces two-year delay

“What I’m really pissed off about today is we’re reading this in the newspaper, and you’re not coming to us,” Supervisor Mark Farrell told transportation staffers at the San Francisco County Transportation Authority board meeting Tuesday morning.

Farrell said he and Supervisor Aaron Peskin heard from a number of angry constituents demanding answers — and said he was “shocked” transit staff did not “proactively” contact him about the delays.

The Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit project will one day ferry thousands of Muni riders across one of The City’s most-trafficked north-south corridors by crafting boarding islands and transit-only lanes to help buses run like trains. But that vaunted-day has recently been pushed back six months, according to SFCTA documents, which puts the project at two years late when coupled with other recent delays.

The most recent setback was due to difficulties in finding contractors for sewer and stormwater work, said Peter Gabancho, project manager of Van Ness BRT.

The sewer work was originally estimated to cost $19 million, Gabacho said. However, the only bid received was from Ranger Pipelines for $39 million, he said.

Walsh Construction, which led the bidding process in a unique contractor-led management structure, negotiated that bid down to $30 million, but the time lost during that process is partly responsible for the six-month delay, Gabancho said. Subsequently, Walsh Construction filed two claims with The City, one for $11 million, and another for $4 million.

“They feel The City is responsible for the lack of competitiveness in the bids,” Gabancho told the board.
Peskin, however, balked at Walsh Construction’s claims.

They claimed “there’s a tough bidding environment and the City of San Francisco ‘failed to tell them that,’” Peskin said, “which is the most absurd claim I’ve ever seen.”

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