About 300 people crowded into the Honolulu Country Club in Salt Lake on Monday to network in advance of a bidding process for $1 billion in Honolulu rail contracts. The first bids are expected as early as this month.

Men in aloha and polo shirts who represented more than 100 companies milled around rail-related exhibits and schmoozed with top management of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, the quasi-city agency that will be awarding the contracts.

It was HART’s second “Industry Day” and one of the aims was to help outside companies with industry expertise pair up with companies that have local knowledge and connections.

Skanska, a Swedish company with a stock market value of $8 billion, has already joined forces with both Hawaiian Dredging Company and PCL, a Canadian general contracting company.

Officials from Southland Contracting of Texas held court in a booth showcasing their expertise in underground tunneling. The company has already made inroads into the Hawaii market with a city contract to help build a $175 million gravity sewer tunnel that stretches from Kaneohe to Kailua.

Meanwhile, employees of Nordic PCL Construction touted their “long history as a kamaaina contractor in Hawaii.”

The most valuable contract is a $745 million design-and-build deal for the second leg of the rail guideway, stretching from the airport to Ala Moana Center. The project includes construction of about nine miles of elevated viaduct and supporting structures.

The guideway will run down the middle of existing roadways including Kamehameha Highway, Ualena Street, Dillingham Boulevard, Nimitz Highway, Halekauwila Street, Queen Street and Kona Street.

Many of the roads will be widened on the makai side to accommodate the rail system and electrical lines will be buried underground.

HART plans to put the contract out for bids in July. Brennon Morioka, HART’s deputy executive director, told attendees that it is one of the largest construction contracts in Hawaii’s history, if not the largest.

The company to beat is Kiewit, a huge construction company based in Nebraska that won three of the first five rail contracts worth about $1 billion. Kiweit was awarded contracts for the first two guideway segments that will run from East Kapolei to Aloha Stadium. Those contracts are worth $854 combined.

Kiewit also previously partnered with Albert C. Kobayashi Inc. to win a $195 million contract for the Waipahu maintenance and storage facility where trains will be housed.

Among the remaining contracts, one is for $150 million to build the West Oahu, Farrington Highway and Kamehameha Highway Stations. It is supposed to go out for bids this month.

A $63 million contract to build stations at the airport is slated for bidding in November. A $125 million contract for the Dillingham and Kakaako stations is scheduled for bids in August 2015. And a $10 million contract to build a park-and-ride station at the University of Hawaii’s West Oahu campus is expected to move in March 2016.

HART is currently in the process of reviewing bids for a $173 million design-and-build contract for the Pearl Highlands parking structure and ramps, which is expected to serve as a major hub for rail riders.

About half of the contracts for the $5.2 billion rail project have already been awarded. This second round will largely complete the rail procurement process for the 20-mile railway that will include 21 station stops.

The segment from East Kapolei to Aloha Stadium is supposed to be functional by 2017, with the full line to Ala Moana Center operational two years later.

The trains are supposed to run from 4 a.m. to midnight, every six minutes at peak travel times and every 11 minutes during off-peak hours.

Among the more customer-oriented details revealed at Industry Day: bikes and surfboards will be allowed on trains and there will be free Wi-Fi on the trains and platforms.

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