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Crosscurrents logo 2021

California's high-speed rail gets first contractor


The first construction phase for California’s high-speed rail plan to link San Francisco and Los Angeles in under three hours has a builder. And the bid came in $200 million under expectations. 

The California High Speed Rail Authority has chosen the Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons joint venture as the winning bid for initial construction on the first 28-mile segment of the the line in California’s Central Valley between Madera and Fresno.

"Today is a significant milestone," Authority CEO Jeff Morales said in a statement. 

The Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons joint venture bid beat out four other bids to win the contract. The group, made up of construction companies from California and Texas, won out by keeping down the cost. Their bid is valued at $985,142,530—a figure surprisingly low to the Authority. Engineers had estimated this segment of the project would cost upwards of $1.2 billion.

The entire Central Valley section of the rail, which will run for 300 miles from Merced to the San Fernando Valley, is expected to cost $6 billion. The price tag for the whole high-speed rail system is estimated at $68 billion.

The next lowest bid, from multi-national joint venture Dragados/Samsung/Pulice, was almost $100 million higher than the Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons bid.

Bids were judged both on cost and the technical aspects of the plan, like how well they grasped the project to the likelihood of staying on schedule. More weight was given to the cost of the proposal. The winning Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons proposal got the full 70 points for cost, but received the lowest technical score with 20.55 out of a possible 30.

Construction on the Madera–Fresno project is slated to begin this summer, and service on the 300-mile Central Valley stretch of rail is expected to begin in 2022. The Authority has a big incentive to stay on deadline. The project’s $3 billion of federal stimulus money must be spent by September 30, 2017. The state's entire high-speed rail system is expected to be completed in 2029.