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County set to award $23 million contract for airport expansion

  • 6/8/2013: A5:
    PC: A Horizon Airlines flight from Portland touches down at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport, in Santa Rosa, on Thursday, June 6, 2013. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

A Berkeley-based firm that led the Highway 101 widening work from Santa Rosa to Windsor is set to be awarded a $22.7 million contract to extend runways and make other upgrades at the Sonoma County airport.

O.C. Jones and Sons was the overall low bidder among six companies competing for the long-planned work at Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport. The Board of Supervisors is set to approve a contract with the firm Tuesday.

The $53.8 million project will lengthen runways and is intended to attract more flights to the airport. That would help boost tourism and business travel to a transportation hub seen as an economic engine for the area.

The runway work has been held up for about a year in a federal approval process that officials hope will wrap up in July. That green light, and sign off by state and federal regulators, would clear the way for construction to start in mid-August, said Jon Stout, the airport manager.

"It's exciting to be here discussing real, physical work instead of the paper process," Stout said.

The bid by O.C. Jones was $4.5 million above a cost estimate prepared by an engineering firm the county hired to design the runway project.

The 22 percent discrepancy, which the county described as significant, was driven by strict environmental constraints on the work, costs for special equipment and materials and a tight timeline with daily and seasonal construction windows, the county reported.

Funding from the Federal Aviation Administration is set to cover 90 percent of the cost. The county would cover the remainder, using a $5 million Caltrans loan to be repaid through passenger facility charges on airline tickets. The contract award is contingent on the disbursement of federal money for the project.

O.C. Jones was the lead contractor on the $82 million project that added a third lane to both directions of Highway 101 between Santa Rosa and Windsor. The work was completed in 2010.

In 2011, following a combined state-county investigation of its work, the firm agreed to pay $315,000 to settle alleged violations of the Clean Water Act. Authorities said on multiple occasions in 2009 that that the contractor failed to prevent storm water runoff into several creeks along the freeway.

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