High-Speed Rail

Rail board eyes another $268 million for Madera-Fresno construction

California High-Speed Rail Authority board members will be asked to approve up to $268 million in additional spending for work on the first segment of a statewide bullet-train program.

The board's agenda Tuesday in Sacramento includes three different items related to work on the 29-mile stretch of the rail line from east of Madera to the south end of Fresno.

In June, the authority awarded a $985 million contract to Tutor Perini Corp. of Sylmar, Zachry Construction of Texas and Pasadena-based Parsons Corp. to design and build the Madera-Fresno section. The award included an extra $53 million for work such as removing asbestos or other hazardous materials from buildings to be demolished along the route or other unexpected conditions.

On Tuesday, the authority's staff is recommending that the board approve a contingency allowance of up to $160 million more for unanticipated risks that Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons might encounter during construction, such as different soil conditions or unmapped utilities that would have to be relocated.

"Contingency provides a level of protection to the project budget that allows for the successful completion of the project in the face of uncertainty and risk," said Jon Tapping, the rail authority's risk manager. The contingency fund allows project managers to react to "variations in the project cost in a timely manner to keep the project moving forward."

Spending from the contingency allowance will be controlled by the rail authority, and not by the contractor, Tapping added.

Two other big-ticket items on Tuesday's agenda are:

  • Authorizing agency CEO Jeff Morales to make agreements with AT&T and Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to cover the costs for the utility companies to relocate cables, switches, pipelines and other equipment to make way for construction of the Madera-Fresno section. The agreements would reimburse AT&T up to $18.4 million for relocating equipment at 54 locations in the 29-mile segment, and PG&E up to $50.4 million for relocating gas and power lines at 85 locations in the section.
  • Allowing Morales to sign agreements with the Union Pacific Railroad for up to $39.4 million for engineering, construction and maintenance of the high-speed rail line that runs adjacent or near the UPRR freight tracks through Fresno. "UPRR's cooperation and accommodation is crucial" to completing construction of the Madera-Fresno segment, said Frank Vacca, the authority's chief program engineer. For the agency to build the section, it requires UPRR's permission to come onto its right of way for appraising parcels and construction, temporary relocation of tracks, and approval of overpasses and walls to prevent derailments from intruding on its tracks. "At no point in time will high-speed rail share passenger tracks with UPRR," Vacca said in a staff report, "but it will go over and, in some areas, be in extremely close proximity to their right of way."

The contingency and additional agreements being considered Tuesday are on top of work that Caltrans will be doing under a $226 million agreement to relocate a 2.5-mile stretch of Highway 99, between Ashlan and Clinton avenues in west-central Fresno. The six-lane freeway runs adjacent to a Union Pacific Railroad switching yard; to make room for the high-speed tracks, the highway will be moved 100 feet to the west. Highway interchanges at Ashlan and Clinton avenues will also be rebuilt.

If you go

What: California High-Speed Rail Authority meeting

When: Closed session begins at 8 a.m. Tuesday (9/10); public session begins at 10 a.m.

Where: Secretary of State Auditorium, 1500 11th St., Sacramento.

Other details: The meeting will be webcast live; for a webcast link, visit the California High-Speed Rail Authority website. The meeting agenda is available online.