The $2 billion plan to extend the no. 7 subway line has received only one bid for what is likely the project's biggest contract, a factor that could weaken the state's ability to leverage a low-cost final agreement.
The group that submitted the bid for the tunneling was a venture including one of the most active builders in the city, Skanska USA, which has received hundreds of millions in city and state contracts in recent years. Skanska's projects in the region include the PATH hub at ground zero, construction of the Croton Water Filtration Plant, a contract worth more than $1 billion, and work on the Delaware Aqueduct water tunnel.
"It's not ideal to only have one," the executive director of the New York City Transit Riders Council, William Henderson, said. "This is a good chunk of the money for the project, and my understanding is, more importantly, it's the part where you don't have a good a hold on what the price is going to be."
Skanska's partners in the bid are Schiavone Construction and J.F. Shea Construction. The same consortium has been assigned the $330 million tunneling contract for the Second Avenue Subway, which was approved in March.
Contracts awarded by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority ordinarily have numerous bidders, sometimes with tens of millions of dollars separating the high and the low bids.
In addition to the venture including Skanska, one other group submitted a bid for the Second Avenue Subway, asking for almost $500 million, about $270 million more than the Skansa bid, according to MTA records.
A spokesman for the MTA, Jeremy Soffin, declined to comment on the tunneling bid, saying the agency is in the procurement process and expects to award a contract in the fall.
The no. 7 line extension, which will run 1.5 miles between Times Square and the southern end of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, lacks any guarantee of funding beyond the $2 billion committed by the city. Given that rising construction costs could contribute to cost overruns, transit advocates have expressed concerns about the project, which the city has pegged as a key driver in its effort to spur development on the West Side.
While multiple bidders would have been preferable, Mr. Henderson said the limited funding for the project could actually help the MTA to put pressure on the contractors to keep costs down.
"There's a budget for the project, and if they can't come to an agreement that allows them to work within that budget," he said, "then the project can't go forward."
Responding to an inquiry about the single bidder, a spokesman for Mayor Bloomberg, John Gallagher, expressed confidence in the stability of the project and the group vying for the contract. "These bidders are eminently qualified to do this work," Mr. Gallagher said in a statement.