RTA votes to extend consultant contracts by $880,000

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

Detroit — The board of the Regional Transit Authority of Southeastern Michigan voted Thursday to extend contracts for two consultant planning teams for $880,000 as it meets to devise a new master plan following the defeat in 2016 of a millage to expand service.

One of the firms, WSP, which was granted an original contract for a little more than $2.2 million, will receive $200,000.

The other firm, HNTB Corp., had an original contract for $1.9 million.. They will receive $680,000.

A third contractor, AECOM, has a contract for $2.3 million. The RTA recommended retaining their current budget.

“All contracts were competitively bidded,” said Carmine Palombo, deputy director of SEMCOG, who is on loan to the RTA, without pay, until a permanent CEO is hired. Interim CEO Tiffany Gunter resigned effective Jan. 2, to accept a new job.

A memo to the Finance and Budget Committee dated Jan. 25from Palombo states that funding for the contracts comes from $8.1 million in planning grants awarded in 2013 from the Federal Transit Administration and MDOT.

The original contracts were to expire in June, but they will continue through the end of the calendar year, according to Palumbo.

Regional leaders have been meeting to devise a new master plan after the RTA narrowly lost a vote in 2016 on a $4.6 billion millage to expand transit service across Metro Detroit. The goal is to place a new master plan on the November ballot. But no consensus has been reached by the leaders, who include Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel. Washtenaw County also has had a representative at the meetings, according to Jim Martinez, a spokesman for Evans.

“This is based on the anticipation of going forward,” said Palombo, referring to the contract extensions. “These are the funds we need to go from a conceptual plan to a ballot initiative in November.

He added, “The money is encumbered. It is not a blank check.”

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