Metra to delay Englewood Flyover project
BY TINA SFONDELES Transportation reporter firstname.lastname@example.org May 3, 2012 3:40PM
U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush led a protest march outside Metra offices on west Jackson Thursday, demanding Metra rebid the Englewood Flyover project because of a lack of minority hiring. (from left) Rush and U.S. Rep. Danny Davis march together. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times.
Updated: May 3, 2012 6:17PM
Metra on Thursday said it’s behind schedule on the Englewood Flyover rail project and will ask the state for a one-year extension, delaying the award of what has become a controversial construction bid.
The move comes a week after U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush threatened to stop Metra “in its tracks” unless more African-American firms got work from the railroad construction project, the Sun-Times reported last week.
Rush stood alongside clergy, construction workers and community activists on Thursday, marching for an hour and demanding that Metra rebid its contract.
But the transit agency said the delay is unrelated to Rush’s allegations. The agency is simply behind schedule on the massive project, a spokesman said.
The one-year extension will extend the funding agency agreements, but that doesn’t mean additional companies can make a bid.
There is an apparent low bidder for the project. That firm plans to award slightly more than 25 percent of its work to Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) firms, officials said. But Rush last week said he learned none of the major bidders included African Americans, except for a security contract worth about $110,000.
In a statement, Metra outlined its DBE efforts, which included holding seven events in Englewood and spending nearly $300,000 on outreach in the community.
Metra also teamed with the state Department of Transportation to include an apprenticeship program that could provide additional job opportunities for Englewood residents.
The delay will push the project back to a fall 2014 completion date.
The board won’t consider the award of the construction contract until the transit agency’s June meeting.
“Metra will work with [whoever is] the successful bidder to identify opportunities that meet or exceed the DBE goals of this project,” Metra said in a statement.
Still, Rush said he’d show up with supporters at next week’s board meeting to demand fairness. In a statement, Rush said the delay won’t “distract us or divert us” from demanding the contract be rebid.
“We are committed to bringing ‘street heat’ for as long as it takes to get the contract re-bid,” Rush said. “We are sick and tired of construction contracts in our communities that bring us all the dust, all the dirt, all the delay but none of the dough.”