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Urban Train Picks Up Pace*

Work on first phase of mass transit system continues toward a September 2003 completion date


September 13, 2001
Copyright © 2001 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Contrary to the generalized perception that work on the Urban Train has slowed down during the past few months, the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTPW) and the different contractors involved in the project have been working hard toward achieving a September 2003 completion date.

"We are working in several fronts at the same time, including solving non-conforming reports, creating an integrated master schedule, negotiating outstanding claims with contractors, bringing up to speed the work on several stations that were behind schedule, and unfreezing $165 million in federal funds among other things," DTPW Secretary Jose Izquierdo told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS.

Engineering work to reinforce 44 defective columns began last month, at an estimated cost of $500,000, for which contractor Nesco is picking up the tab. Eleven of these columns are in the area of Las Lomas station, 22 at the San Francisco station on De Diego Avenue, and 11 on the Villa Nevarez area near the Cupey station.

Reinforcement work—done by certified American Welding Society technicians—involves welding certain sections of each column’s rebar, to make them more earthquake & hurricane resistant. With the repairs, the columns will exceed federal construction code standards.

Each one of the 44 columns in question will have its own individual record on file and must undergo a six-step inspection and certification process, explained Izquierdo. Work on the columns—which will not affect the rest of the project—will take eight weeks.

Urban Train quality control personnel detected deficiencies in the columns in October 1998. The Federal Transportation Authority (FTA) then issued a non-conforming report, which was added to the projects’ non-conforming report list.

"The defective columns were one of 110 non-conforming reports issued by the FTA, of which 108 have been taken care of," said Izquierdo. "We are already working on the two remaining reports, and we hope to complete them as soon as possible."

Once work on the non-conforming reports is completed, Izquierdo is confident the FTA will release the $165 million in federal funds frozen until project deficiencies were resolved.

The FTA allocated the funds for use on the first phase of the Urban Train, which encompasses 16 stations on 10.68 miles of track from Bayamon to Santurce. As of July of this year, cost of the mass transit system amounted to $1.3 billion of the estimated $1.8 billion total cost by its completion date.

"Another front we have been working is contractors’ compliance," said Izquierdo. "New Urban Train Project Director Ricardo Alvarez is fine tuning the processes of compliance, investment, and project execution, because we have to keep it updated, otherwise we could fall behind and the September 2003 completion date could slip out of our hands."

According to Izquierdo, negotiations with three of the seven Urban Train contractors are going well, as Siemens has been integrated into the individual negotiations with the remaining contractors. Negotiations with Nesco—in charge of the Hato Rey section—were completed, although have not been given final approval. This is expected any day now, he said.

Thanks to the negotiations with contractors, DTPW was able to provide a preliminary master schedule to the FTA, one of the conditions set by the federal agency in order to unfreeze the federal funds assigned to the project.

Four of the contracts—one from ICA and three from Redondo/Entrecanales—were renegotiated last year by the past administration. As part of the negotiations, Redondo was removed from the contracts, leaving Entrecanales (now Nesco).

"With KKZ (Kewit Kelly Zachary) and Siemens, negotiations have advanced tremendously," said Izquierdo. "KKZ’ case is more complicated because it involves the Rio Piedras (underground) section, while Siemens, although more simple, involves a larger contract."

Siemens’ contract not only involves the Guaynabo section of the project, but also maintenance, installation of the railway track, the project’s electrical system, and its controls. The German company will operate the system for five years

This month, Siemens started laying 1,640 feet (500 meters) of track beyond the Guaynabo section, between Jardines de Caparra and Torrimar stations.

"For us, this is a significant step, because it’s the first time track is being laid beyond Guaynabo and a step closer in completing the first phase of the Urban Train," said Izquierdo, adding that with this new section of track, Siemens will connect three stations together—Jardines de Caparra, Torrimar, and Martinez Nadal.

Once track has been installed up to the Rio Bayamon station, crews will move towards the Medical Center and Villa Nevarez stations, and continue until the entire route to Santurce is completed, Izquierdo indicated, adding that construction of the train’s route is 99% completed.

Once track is installed up to the Rio Bayamon station by November, 17% of the railway will be completed. This section of track is expected to be operational during the first months of next year.

"Having this track in place will allow us to install the electronic systems and perform tests," said Izquierdo. "We are in the process of moving the train’s control systems to the maintenance center. Previously they were controlled individually from each car."

Construction work on train stations are showing progress as well, Izquierdo said, adding that three stations—Medical Center, Rio Bayamon, and Las Lomas—were nonexistent a few months ago and have come to life in the last few weeks. Hato Rey stations are still behind, but work on them continues.

Work around the 16 stations, including construction of green and shaded areas and city’s redevelopment, will go out for bids before Dec. 31, for which DTPW has budgeted $100 million.

Tests on Urban Train cars started this month at Siemens’ testing facilities in Pueblo, Colo. DTPW and Siemens are splitting the cost, amounting to $800,000.

Tests were supposed to be performed on the island, but since work on the rail system was behind schedule, it was decided to perform the tests on the mainland to save time, explained the DTPW Secretary.

In Colorado, train cars are subjected to a 4,000-mile operational test involving general vehicle running tests as well as tests on instrumentation, propulsion, braking, thermal capacity, auxiliary AC power supply, parking brake, and ride quality.

*CARIBBEAN BUSINESS goes to press on Mondays, therefore the articles in this edition do not reflect the terrible events occurring in New York City and Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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