High-Speed Rail

Eight firms picked to help rail agency buy Valley land

Up to $35 million will be divided among eight firms over the next four years to help the California High-Speed Rail Authority play catch-up in acquiring the land it needs for its bullet-train route through the San Joaquin Valley.

The agency's board, meeting Tuesday in Palmdale, granted CEO Jeff Morales the authority to ink deals with consulting firms that will be responsible for negotiating with property owners for more than 1,000 parcels along the high-speed rail line in Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties.

The land is needed for the railroad right of way as well as for associated structures including roadway overpasses.

The eight firms are:

-- Associated Right of Way Services Inc. in Pleasant Hill.

-- Bender Rosenthal Inc. in Sacramento.

-- Briggs Field Services Inc. in Texas.

-- Continental Field Service Corp. in Virginia.

-- Epic Land Solutions Inc. in Torrance.

-- Hamner, Jewell & Associates in Pismo Beach and Ventura.

-- Steele Land Services LLC in Colorado.

-- Universal Field Services Inc. in Oklahoma.

"Delivery of this Central Valley segment will require the acquisition of well over 1,000 parcels of real property," according to a staff memo to the authority board. "To ensure the authority is able to effectively acquire right of way, it is necessary to obtain the personnel and experience of right of way consultants. Multiple contracts will be required to carry out this critical work.

Real estate acquisition has been a bottleneck in the development of the rail line in the Valley. As of last week, the agency had acquired fewer than 80 of more than 550 parcels it needs for its Madera-Fresno segment, where construction is supposed to start this fall. Almost 580 additional pieces of property will be needed between Fresno and the Tulare-Kern county line.

Also on Tuesday, the rail board certified that 71 parcels in Fresno County, now covered under Williamson Act farm-preservation contracts, were selected for the rail route because there were no feasible alternatives, and not because the contracts lowers their value.