Over the last few weeks, South Florida has seen criticism regarding the process used by the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA) to award a contract to operate and maintain the South Florida Tri-Rail commuter rail system to Herzog Transit Services, Inc.
As your elected representative, I made it my personal mission to delve into the details surrounding the process and draw my own conclusion on the integrity of the process. What I found was that the attacks on the process are not consistent with the facts surrounding this issue and do not divulge the entire story.
SFRTA initiated a competitive process for a contractor to provide operations and maintenance services for the Tri-Rail system. SFRTA’s instructions to proposers were very clear that conditioned proposals – a proposal that takes exceptions or makes assumptions relative to the technical or commercial terms of the solicitation – were not acceptable and SFRTA reserved the right to reject such proposals.
In response to the solicitation, six bidders submitted proposals, and five of those six contained the very technical or pricing conditions that were specifically not permitted. As such, this made the real costs of their proposals virtually impossible to determine. Only one bidder, Herzog Transit Services, followed the rules and did not condition their bid. In fact, their bid of $511 million, which is lower than the independent engineer’s estimate of $530 million, is the only credible number that can be used for comparison purposes. I feel strongly that SFRTA got it right, and that the integrity of the process was maintained.
Herzog Transit Services, a well-known company with a strong track record, were SFRTA’s operations and maintenance contractor from 1994 to 2007 and know the project. Further, Herzog Transit Services, which is nationally recognized and the largest private passenger rail operations and maintenance service provider in the United States,
— Moves more than 32 million passengers per year;
— Operates 164,000 trains a year;
— Dispatches more than 179,000 trains a year;
— Maintains 280 rail vehicle units; and,
— Maintains 334 miles of track
Herzog Transit Services currently has nine active contracts in the United States providing similar services to those required by SFRTA, with a customer satisfaction rating in the high 90th percentile for its contracted services – a significant improvement over what Tri-Rail riders are seeing today.
The reality is that no other bid contemplates the full and complete cost of running the system, no other bid includes the fundamental cost components that will keep the trains running on time, and no other bid ensures that thousands of Tri-Rail passengers will get to and from work or their other destinations every day, as Herzog Transit Services did.
Unfortunately, other bidders are trying to “muddy the water” using half-truths and fuzzy math; however, after looking at the details surrounding this instance, I have full confidence that SFRTA acted with due diligence and correctly awarded the bid.
State Sen. Frank Artiles represents Senate District 40, which includes part of Miami-Dade County.