High-Speed Rail

Contract for first section of HSR signed

More than two months after it was chosen, a team of contractors finally has a signed deal with the California High-Speed Rail Authority to design and build the first section of the state's high-speed rail system in the San Joaquin Valley.

The consortium of Tutor Perini Corp. of Sylmar, Zachry Construction of Texas, and Pasadena-based Parsons Corp. was the low bidder from among five competing teams to handle the first construction segment from Avenue 17 east of Madera to American Avenue at the south end of Fresno. Their bid of $985 million was approved by the rail authority's board June 6. The contract, which includes up to $53 million in additional money to cover unanticipated costs, such as hazardous waste removal from old buildings along the route, was signed Friday, said Jeff Morales, the rail agency's CEO.

Rail officials originally anticipated that the contract would be signed by mid-July, but Morales said the rail authority took great pains to craft a contract that could serve as a template for future construction segments. "There were no issues of consequence" between the agency and the contractor, Morales said. "There were little language things, like a lot of changing 'that' to 'which,' but nothing of real substance."

No date has been set for when work will begin, but Morales said he is hopeful for breaking ground within a month. The first tangible work will include clearing property, demolishing buildings and relocating utilities. Actual construction, however, is not expected to take place until next year.

"This is a design-build contract," Morales said. "They've got to design it before they build it."

Unlike most transportation projects, in which a public agency designs a project and hires a company to build to that design, the high-speed rail authority is using a design-build process in which the hired contractor is responsible for both designing and building the project.

For the Fresno-Madera section, the work will include the railbed itself; a bridge over the San Joaquin River; elevated tracks at the north and south ends of Fresno; a tunnel under Belmont Avenue and Highway 180; and a dozen street or road overpasses. Laying the steel rails will be done as part of a later contract that spans the length of the Valley from Madera to north of Bakersfield.

Morales said agents for the rail authority have made written offers to about 130 property owners along the route, and estimated that "a few dozen" owners have accepted those offers.