CHSRA finalizes first HSR contract

Written by Douglas John Bowen

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) has awarded a $985.1 million contract to a joint venture led by Sylmar, Calif.-based Tutor Perini to oversee construction of the first phase of the state high speed rail network. Work is scheduled to begin this summer.

Tutor Perini reportedly offered the lowest bid of five submitted to CHSRA, leading the authority to select the joint venture last April for final negotiations. But the choice was criticized by anti-rail voices, and even some pro-rail supporters, for relatively low technical ratings for safety and design.

“The questions really boil down to, can the successful bidder do the job, and will they do it within the confines of the contract as contemplated by the authority,” CHSRA board member Jim Hartnett observed Thursday, June 6. “The questions that I had were answered to my satisfaction.”

Tutor Perini CEO Ron Tutor told local media the criticisms of his firm are “all nonsense” fanned by the media “to create controversy that doesn’t exist.

“Like most of the uneducated opinions you hear where we can’t rebut them, they’re not based on anything factual or real,” he said. “We’ve built more large civil works programs in this state than anyone else, virtually all of them successfully and without the cost overruns they all allude to.”

Tutor Perini’s partners include Pasadena, Calif-based Parsons and San Antonio, Tex.-based Zachry Corp. Parsons is serving as the lead designer for the section, which will stretch between Madera and Fresno.

Board Chairman Dan Richard did not vote or participate in the conversation because he had previously worked with one of the firms involved in the bid. CHSRA had estimated the first phase cost at between $1.2 billion and $1.4 billion.

U.S. high speed rail advocates praised the move. “This is a major milestone for America, and the beginning of the nation’s 21st century transportation system,” said U.S. High Speed Rail Association President Andy Kunz in a statement. “The first step into something this big is always the most difficult and most important.”