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Expo board awards light rail contract, satisfied that questions about firms in joint venture are not serious

February 3, 2011 |  5:51 pm

Builders of the Expo light rail project on Thursday awarded a major construction contract to a joint venture that was called into question last month after an initial performance review uncovered worker safety issues, cost overruns and a federal investigation into hiring practices.

The board of the Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority gave the contract to the Skanska/Rados venture, which involves Skanska USA Civil West, a subsidiary of Skanska USA, and Steve P. Rados Inc., based in Santa Ana.

Expo officials said that a later in-depth evaluation by the inspector general’s office of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority did not discover any problems serious enough to impair construction of the rail project’s $1.5 billion second phase from Culver City to Santa Monica. Board members discussed the evaluation in closed session before the vote.

Questions were raised about the Skanska/Rados joint venture in January when a preliminary review found problems involving either the parent company or its northeastern subsidiary, Skanska USA Civil Northeast.

In New York, authorities are looking into whether the subsidiary used front companies to evade requirements that it hire a certain number of subcontractors owned by women, minorities or businesses that have been officially designated as disadvantaged.

The other matters involved the construction of a water filtration plant that more than doubled in price from $1.3 billion to $2.8 billion, the death of a worker for a subcontractor that resulted in occupational health and safety charges, and news accounts indicating that Skanska contributed to a secret blacklist that targeted union officials in the United Kingdom.

The initial review did not find anything questionable about Rados' past performance on contracts.

-- Dan Weikel