High-Speed Rail

High-speed rail construction extended northward in Madera County

Work continues on a high-speed rail viaduct, or elevated bridge, over the Fresno River next to the BNSF Railway freight trail tracks east of Madera. It is part of a 29-mile, $1 billion construction contract. A $154 million change order to the contract will extend work north of this site to about Avenue 19.
Work continues on a high-speed rail viaduct, or elevated bridge, over the Fresno River next to the BNSF Railway freight trail tracks east of Madera. It is part of a 29-mile, $1 billion construction contract. A $154 million change order to the contract will extend work north of this site to about Avenue 19. Contributed

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has given a green light to a $154.2 million extension of its first construction contract in the San Joaquin Valley, stretching the line northward by almost 3 miles in Madera County.

Meeting Tuesday in Sacramento, rail authority board members voted to allow managers to negotiate a change order with contractor Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons for Construction Package 1, a 29-mile section of the rail line from American Avenue south of Fresno to Avenue 17 northeast of Madera. The original contract was awarded in mid-2013 at a cost of about $1 billion. The change order extends the construction to about Avenue 19, near Madera’s Amtrak station.

Scott Jarvis, the authority’s chief engineer, said extending the construction segment “advances the work towards Merced on an environmentally cleared section and provides the capability for a more logical connection and transfer point near an existing Amtrak station.”

Madera’s Amtrak station is along the east side of the BNSF Railway tracks just north of Road 26. Jarvis added that the section was included within the Merced-Fresno environmental impact report that the authority and Federal Railroad Administration certified in 2012.

Including the additional mileage within a change order, instead of a new contract, makes sense “as the design and construction work is consistent with the nature of TPZP’s current scope of work,” Jarvis told the authority board. “Additionally, there is a time and monetary efficiency in adding this work to the existing contract where similar construction is already underway.”

The extra work also allows the rail agency to use more of its $3 billion share of federal grant funds, including American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus money that must be spent by Sept. 30, 2017.

“We know there’s a deadline, and we’re on track to meet that,” rail board chairman Dan Richard said. “But it’s nice to have that cushion in case we have delays.”

The work will include building the railroad line up to the railbed, plus new overpasses at Avenue 17, Road 26 and Road 27 as well as a bridge over Schmidt Creek, Jarvis said.

Construction crews have been working since last summer on a viaduct, or elevated bridge, that eventually will span the Fresno River, Highway 145 and Raymond Road. That site is just over a mile south of Avenue 17, the original northern limit of the construction contract.

Crews for Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons are doing other substantial work on the route:

▪ The Tuolumne Street bridge over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks in downtown Fresno has been demolished, and construction has begun on a new bridge with higher clearance to accommodate high-speed trains and the electrical lines that will power them.

▪ Early work is underway on a trench north of downtown Fresno that will take high-speed train tracks under Highway 180.

▪ Excavating and concrete work has started on pilings for a viaduct that will carry high-speed trains up and over Highway 99 near Cedar Avenue south of downtown Fresno where the tracks swing southward toward Hanford along the BNSF Railway tracks.

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