Bidder Tries to Blow Up Tri-Rail Locomotive Deal
MotivePower seeks court injunction to halt $100 million award to Brookville
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A jilted Tri-Rail bidder has gone to court to halt the award of a $100 million locomotive contract on Friday.
The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, which oversees the three-county commuter line, is scheduled to announce the winner of the nine-figure contract at its board meeting Friday.
But one of the finalists, MotivePower Inc., filed a petition for injunctive relief with Broward County Circuit Court on Wednesday.
The Boise, Idaho-based train manufacturer alleged that the bidding process was skewed in favor of its competitor, Brookville Equipment Corp. Both SFRTA and the Brookville, Pa., locomotive maker are named as defendants in MPI's petition.
Controversy has dogged the bidding process for 10 new locomotives and an option for 13 more. MPI's last-minute legal gambit could derail, or at least delay, SFRTA's expected $109.98 million award to Brookville.
SFRTA spokeswoman Bonnie Arnold said the agency's board meeting was still scheduled for Friday and that the contract remained on the agenda, but she could not say with certainty that action would be taken Friday.
"I just don't know," she said, declining to comment on the pending legal action.
SFRTA executive director Joe Giulietti was not immediately available for comment.
In its 15-page court filing, MPI said it would be "irreparably harmed if the defendants are permitted to execute the contract while this case is pending."
MPI alleged that SFRTA "violated established Florida law governing the letting of public contracts in essentially rewriting a material bidding requirement of its own invitation to bid after bids were received and opened, and then allowed Brookville to materially alter its bid after the bidding deadline, all to MotivePower's detriment."
MotivePower argued, among other things, that Brookville's bid contained "many defects" and that SFRTA "disregarded 'service-proven' requirements."
MPI's legal challenge comes in the wake of a flurry of letters from state legislators and the Florida Chamber of Commerce to SFRTA expressing concern about the agency's bidding process. Several chided the agency for allegedly failing to consider long-term "lifecycle" costs, which might favor Brookville's competitors.
Citing safety issues and prevailing industry practices, SFRTA defended its vetting procedures and announced last October that it was prepared to award the contract to Brookville.
SFRTA has denied any allegations of favoritism, saying it gave interested parties "almost four months to raise any questions or concerns regarding procurement."
Sean Stafford, who represented a third bidder, GE Transportation, called the prolonged bidding controversy and the impending legal showdown "a colossal mess."
The Tri-Rail commuter line -- which serves Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties -- runs annual, multimillion-dollar deficits. The state subsidized Tri-Rail with $34.6 million last year while passenger revenues covered only $10.4 million of the $64 million annual operating budget.
Read an earlier article on the bidding controversy here.
Contact Kenric Ward at email@example.com or at (772) 801-5341.