Without any discussion, the Santa Monica City Council unanimously approved the activation of Phase Two of a Design-Build Contract with Morley Construction Company for the construction of a maintenance building and site improvements for Big Blue Bus, the city bus company.

The City Council approved a ‘guaranteed maximum price’ (GMP) not to exceed $57,711,124 plus a ten percent contingency for the construction of the building and site improvements.

‘That was a quick expenditure of $57 million,’ Mayor Richard Bloom joked after the item was unanimously approved by council.

‘Don’t you wish you made it as quickly as that?’ Katz laughed.

The Design-Build Contract had two phases.

In May last year, the City Council authorized the execution of Phase One (the pre-construction period) of the agreement with Morley.

In Phase One, Morley completed design work necessary to develop a guaranteed maximum price that was to be presented as the Phase Two action for council consideration, said Miriam Mulder, architect for the city.

With the approval of the guaranteed maximum price by the council, Phase Two, the construction phase, can begin, said Craig Perkins, director of Environmental and Public Works Management for the city. It is expected to commence in August.

‘It’s always good to actually get to the construction phase,’ Perkins said. ‘It has taken a long time to get to this point, and it’s very nice to actually be doing something concrete, no pun intended, to build the project.

‘It’s one thing to talk about something; it’s another thing to start doing it. It’s been a long time since we’ve been in the pre-construction phase. Now to actually be building something is exciting.’

In Phase Two, in addition to the new 65,000-square-foot maintenance facility, which will front Seventh Street and have 21 repair bays, offices and what Mulder says is ‘essentially a highly technical building for the state-of-the-art alternative fuel buses that we have,’ a new underground storm water runoff mitigation system will also be installed.

‘This hasn’t been touched really since the ’80s,’ Mulder said. ‘It’s time to do something about it.’

Additionally, the old one-story building at 612 Colorado Ave. that used to house transportation-related functions will also be torn down, Dawson said.

The old maintenance building that Mulder says is ‘falling apart’ and outdated – unable to accommodate a lot of the new bus technology – will be demolished and the parking area will be repaved, restriped and get new lighting.

‘We’ll be able to reconfigure the lot to hold a lot more buses than we currently have and this will let us expand our service and provide better services on the streets,’ said Dan Dawson, customer relations manager for the Big Blue Bus.

Mulder agreed.

‘It’s just a much more efficient layout of the site,’ she said.

Currently, the Big Blue Bus has about 210 buses. All use liquefied natural gas and are ‘smart’ buses that use an advanced fleet management system.

‘They have computers that talk to satellites that talk to our dispatch office that talk to our maintenance facility,’ Dawson said. ‘There’s this constant computer connection.’

The Big Blue Bus has also been named the ‘best transit system in the nation’ four times by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

‘For us to maintain that level of quality, we have to be on the cutting edge of technology to offer the best service possible, and to offer that service, we have to have that facility,’ Dawson said.

The construction of the campus expansion, expected to begin in August, is scheduled to be completed in January 2010.

‘Because we’re doing this project on an operating facility, it has to take this long for everything to run smoothly,’ Perkins said.

Perkins says that, not only is the city trying to provide a great facility for the buses and staff, but it is also incorporating ‘green’ design approaches into the project, including storm water runoff control systems and recycling of demolition and construction materials.

‘It’s a good project, and we hope to achieve a LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] silver rating,’ Perkins said. ‘They [Big Blue Bus] really need this new maintenance facility to replace a very old, obsolete facility they’re currently using.’

Originally, the city had hoped that the project could address the maintenance facility as well as the administrative offices, Perkins said.

‘And last year, we had to go to council and modify the project because of increased costs and not enough funding to do more than the one part of it [the maintenance facility],’ Perkins said. ‘We can’t do anything with the administrative offices right now because of a lack of funding.’

But Perkins, Dawson and Mulder are still excited about the maintenance building and site improvements that should begin by August.

‘The Big Blue Bus has waited a really long time for this,’ Mulder said. ‘I’m happy that they’re finally going to be able to get their new maintenance facility because we all want the Big Blue Bus to be able to function really well.’