Construction delayed on BWI observation lounge

March 24, 1994|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Sun Staff Writer

A glass-enclosed aircraft observation lounge planned for Baltimore-Washington International Airport has been delayed at the departure gate because bids on the project came in 50 percent to 75 percent higher than a contract engineer estimated it would cost.

"The prices were higher than what we wanted and what we could afford," said Joe Nessel, director of capital programs for the Maryland Aviation Administration.

Construction on the 12,300-square-foot lounge was to have started in February, but the aviation administration asked for a second set of bids. Those were opened March 11, and although they were nearly as high as the first set, they included options that would reduce the price.

Mr. Nessel said the administration is reviewing the bids and would ask the state Board of Public Works to approve approve one of them in mid-April. Construction could begin in late April or early May and be completed by the end of December, he said.

The lounge would give visitors an eagle's-eye view of three of the airport's four main runways. It is to be built above the passenger lounge on the terminal's upper level, between Piers B and C.

The design features the nose gear and front end of a Boeing 747 jetliner, poised as if about to land on a floor with inset lights to simulate a runway. Interactive educational displays, a cafe, a children's play area and a gift shop are also planned.

Greiner Inc., the Timonium engineering firm that helped design the lounge, estimated it would cost $4.4 million, he said. The bids from 10 companies, which were opened in February, ranged from $6.6 million to $7.8 million.

Mr. Nessel said Greiner's estimate did not fully account for expenses related to work that must be done inside a public building that will be in use throughout the construction period, and where other construction work will be in progress.

In March, the aviation administration again put the project out for bid, using a revised estimate of $5.8 million.

This time, bidders were asked to say how much they would drop their price for each of 17 potential alterations that could reduce the cost of the job.

Those options include altering the lounge's glass ceiling and changing the metal ceiling framework. Each of these moves could save hundreds of thousands of dollars, Mr. Nessel said.

The bids ranged from $6.6 million to $7 million, but did not include the cost reductions for the alterations being considered.

Mr. Nessel said officials should be able to fashion a package that meets the project's budget of $6.3 million by selecting some combination of the cost-cutting options.

Bidders proposed price reductions of as much as $775,000 for changes to the glass ceiling and as much as $670,000 for alterations to the metal ceiling framework.

Mr. Nessel said none of the changes would alter the basic design of the lounge.

BWI does not have an observation area, but the old Friendship Airport had an open-air observation deck on top of the terminal building.

Federal security regulations now forbid an open observation deck, said Adrienne Walker-Pittman, airport spokeswoman.

The observation lounge is the most expensive component of a planned $16.3 million renovation of the airport's terminal building.

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