Wave streetcar system not yet dead as low bidder works to drop price

might not sputter to a halt just yet.

Bids to design and build the controversial downtown rail loop for the second time, seemingly sealing the proposed system’s fate. But the low bidder is working to reduce his bid to an acceptable figure, the team’s lawyer revealed Monday at a special workshop on the issue.

Doing so would strip the city of the legal power to back out of the project and to recover some of the millions already invested.

The city and Broward County can legally withdraw from the long-planned Wave rail project if the contract price exceeds $142.5 million. Lawyer George Platt said his client, Prince Contracting/Delta Railroad Construction, is refiguring its $144.7 million bid to reduce it. He urged city leaders to be patient.

“From our perspective, this process is not over,” Platt told commissioners Monday at a Wave workshop. “This process is in utero. It’s happening. It hasn’t been finished yet.”

The Wave, a 2.8-mile loop proposed for downtown Fort Lauderdale, is a project of the state Department of Transportation, with financial contributions from the federal government, the county, the city and the Downtown Development Authority.

The city workshop Monday allowed commissioners to publicly discuss options in advance of a Tuesday City Commission meeting, where a vote to withdraw support for The Wave is expected.

Acting City Attorney Alain Boileau said Monday that if the low bid drops to $142.5 million, the city would have a hard time getting its money back, and may have to breach contracts to withdraw from participation.

Also, the project could go on without the city’s cooperation, he noted.

According to City Auditor John Herbst, the city has contributed $33 million. If the city is able to legally back out, it has a “reasonable likelihood” of recovering $20 million.

Mayor Dean Trantalis and commissioners Ben Sorensen and Steve Glassman commissioners Robert McKinzie and Heather Moraitis do.

Trantalis said the project was envisioned as “and isn’t a critical piece of any regional transportation network. He had said he’d like to see federal grants used for a different transit project, one without overhead electrical wires and embedded rails.

But in an April 27 letter, Federal Transit Administration regional administrator Yvette Taylor warned: “Any impression that federal funds associated with the Wave streetcar project could be used for a different project in the Ft Lauderdale area is incorrect.”

Lowell Clary, a financial consultant and former state transportation official, said the fully funded project is “like a child ready to be delivered.” Walking away from it — and from millions in federal grants — would render Fort Lauderdale an untrustworthy partner, he said. Plus, he noted, the city itself has invested millions over at least 14 years.

“Do you invest money and get nothing,” Clary asked commissioners, “or do you invest money and get a project?”

“Well,” the mayor replied, “I think we invested money and got an education.”

The Tuesday meeting starts at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 100 N. Andrews Ave. Or watch online at fortlauderdale.gov. The state’s committee to review the bids meets May 3.

Brittany Wallman can be reached at or. Find her on Twitter .