HIGH-SPEED RAIL: Contractor for Calif. high-speed rail questioned as construction nears

Lowest technical scores of all bidders generate concern about rising costs

May 28, 2013

With construction set to begin on the first phase of the California high-speed rail project in July, state and federal entities are closely examining the contractor for the first phase of the project amid concerns about its performance scores in relation other bidders.


The contract for the first 29 miles of the high-speed rail line was awarded to Tutor Perini Corp., which offered the lowest bid out of all five competing contractors at $985 million.

Tutor Perini was selected despite the fact that it ranked below all other bidders in design quality, safety plan and engineering among other factors.   


Now, Rep. Jeff Denham, chair of the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on rail, is one of several voices asking how and why Tutor Perini was selected to take the job, along with a state Senate committee and the state auditor. The Los Angeles Times reports that the California High-Speed Rail Authority based 70% of its selection on cost and 30% on technical scores.


Denham advocates waiting until all environmental reviews and legal proceedings are concluded—and the public has had a chance to weigh in—to begin construction. He expressed concern that as a result of the choice of contractor, the  project price would continue to climb to the point that the state would be forced to abandon it mid-construction.

The rail segment in question will begin near Madera, Calif., and run south toward Fresno. All federally funded portions of the high-speed rail project must be completed by 2017 to avoid forfeiting federal grants.