Cloudy future for the Rickenbacker RFP as Cava hints at either dropping or tweaking the procurement.

Bearcut Bridge

Hoping to satisfy the county’s long-term goals for Rickenbacker Causeway improvements while keeping everyone — especially those on Key Biscayne — satisfied with the process is becoming an arduous task for Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, who Friday hinted at either dropping or tweaking the procurement.

In a letter Friday addressed to Chairman Jose “Pepe” Diaz and fellow members of the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners, she said results from a recent comprehensive Value for Money (VIM) Assessment, which she had voluntarily commissioned, shows that a “more integrated delivery model” would deliver the best “value for money.”

And, only one of the four models that were evaluated “minimizes the County’s financial risks and financial obligations,” she wrote.

“Since advertisement of the RFP, there have been many important questions and concerns raised about the unsolicited proposal process as well as the project,” Levine Cava said in her letter.

“We know there are significant limitations with the procurement process regarding public engagement and communications,” she added, noting that the County has made its best effort in obtaining sufficient public feedback.

Among the points she brought up was to “allow time to confirm federal funding availability,” meaning funds from the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Bill that President Joe Biden signed this week could possibly go toward Rickenbacker bridges and roadways.

At stake is an estimated $496.7 million privatization project known as the “Plan Z Consortium” that calls, in part, for: replacement of Bear Cut Bridge; wider, safer bicycle and pedestrian lanes; an observation tower; and, controlling tolls and some concessions over the next 40 years; all while keeping traffic flow in mind.

Bidding for that unsolicited Request for Proposal (RFP) has been extended twice, now to March 1, after numerous concerns were raised about the process — which the Board approved back on July 8 — and a “Cone of Silence” that restricts communication.

Village of Key Biscayne officials, including Mayor Mike Davey and attorney Chad Friedman, said during Tuesday night’s Council meeting they are continuing to explore avenues to get the RFP rescinded. Council member Ignacio Segurola, who said all along he finds the solicitation process “suspicious,” started the conversation, hoping the Village could hire an attorney to file a lawsuit to stop the progress of the RFP.

Mayor Levine Cava said that, as a result of the VIM findings, the County has two strategic procurement options to further ensure “value for money” for the public:

1. Cancel the procurement and restart the procurement later.

First, allow time to confirm federal funding availability, further develop the project, engage stakeholders, and complete the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process.

Second, issue a solicitation — recommend use of an RFQ (Request For Quote) to pre-qualify proposers, then issue (an) RFP to require more detailed proposals with a committed price.

2. Continue this procurement with adjustments.

Add a pre-qualification phase to increase market interest.

Extend both the RFP and Interim Agreement phases to allow time to confirm federal funding availability, further develop the project, stakeholders engagement, and complete the NEPA process.

The Value For Money assessment report indicated one model stood out among the four officials evaluated: the P3 or Design-Build-Finance-Operate-Maintain (DBFOM) delivery model that integrates design, construction, maintenance, financing, and operation into a single contract, “whereby the project entity is compensated through tolls, with rates set by the project entity in accordance with rate-setting policies in the contract to be adopted by the Board (and potentially federally funded milestone payments).”

Levine Cava will be hosting a virtual public meeting Dec. 6 (time and virtual links to be announced) to allow further feedback from the community and stakeholders, such as the Village of Key Biscayne.

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