Five teams vie for opportunity to bid on second high-speed rail contract

The Fresno BeeDecember 18, 2013 

Conceptual view of high speed rail.

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Five teams of contracting companies are vying to be deemed qualified to bid for a contract worth between $1.5 billion and $2 billion to design and build a 60-mile stretch of California's high-speed rail project south of Fresno.

Before any company can win the contract, however, the California High-Speed Rail Authority still has some formidable hurdles to clear, including environmental approvals, ongoing lawsuits and souring public opinion.

One of the competing teams, comprised of Tutor Perini Corp. of Sylmar, Zachry Construction of Texas and Pasadena-based Parsons Corp., is aiming for a second bite of the apple. Earlier this summer, the consortium won the $985 million contract for the first 29-mile section of the statewide system between Madera and Fresno.

Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons and the other four teams submitted their statements of qualifications in response to a request in October by the state rail authority.

The other contracting teams are:

  • California Rail Builders, a joint venture comprised of Ferrovial Agroman U.S. Corp. and Granite Construction. Ferrovial is an American subsidiary of Ferrovial S.A., a Spanish company, while Granite Construction is a California company headquartered in Watsonville.
  • Dragados/Flatiron/Shimmick, a consortium that includes Dragados USA Inc., a subsidiary of Grupo ACS and Dragados S.A. of Spain; Flatiron West Inc. of San Marcos; and Shimmick Construction Co. of Oakland.
  • Golden State Rail Partnership, comprised of OHL USA Inc., a subsidiary of Spain's Obrascón Huarte Lain S.A., and Samsung E&C America Inc., a U.S. subsidiary of South Korea's Samsung Group.
  • Skanska-Ames Joint Venture, a team that includes Skanska USA Civil West California District Inc., a subsidiary of Sweden's Skanska, and Minnesota-based Ames Construction Inc.

"These five world-class construction teams represent international interest in helping deliver California's high-speed rail project," said Jeff Morales, the rail authority's CEO.

Ferrovial Agroman, Dragados, Granite, Samsung and Skanska were also involved in bidding for the Madera-Fresno section, but are teaming up with different proposed partners in the competition for the latest contract segment.

This contract section covers an area from American Avenue at the south end of Fresno, through Kings and Tulare counties, to about the Tulare-Kern county line. The project includes the railbed and related structures such as bridges, tunnels, road overpasses and relocating utilities.

Over the next few months, the rail authority will review the applications and narrow the list to firms deemed most qualified to design and build the project. Those firms will then be eligible to bid for the contract in 2014.

The sections of the proposed rail route in the San Joaquin Valley are intended to form the $6 billion backbone of a statewide system linking San Francisco and Los Angeles with electric trains capable of traveling at up to 220 mph.

Wednesday's announcement comes before the rail agency has finished its environmental assessment for its Fresno-Bakersfield section, a certification that must be completed before the authority's board can award a contract. Final approval of an environmental-impact report for the Fresno-Bakersfield route is expected next summer.

The authority also faces continuing opposition and litigation, including a lawsuit filed by Kings County and two of its residents over the legality of the agency's plans. A Sacramento Superior Court judge earlier this year ruled that the authority's 2011 financing plan violated Proposition 1A, a $9.9 billion bond measure approved by California voters in 2008. The judge ordered the agency to rewrite the funding plan before it could spend any state bond funds on construction, but he did not bar the authority from its pre-construction activities including engineering and planning or buying land for the railroad right of way.

In addition, public opinion polls indicate that most Californians would prefer to re-vote on the rail project after cost estimates rose from about $33 billion when Prop. 1A was passed in 2008 to $68.4 billion in the authority's 2012 business plan.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6319, tsheehan@fresnobee.com or @tsheehan on Twitter.

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