High-Speed Rail

The changes made it possible for Sylmar-based Tutor Perini to be ranked as the top candidate despite having received the lowest technical rating among bidders.

By Dan Weikel and Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times
April 18, 2013, 8:10 p.m.

State high-speed rail officials acknowledged Thursday that they changed their rules for selecting a builder for the bullet train’s first phase in the Central Valley, a shift that subsequently made it possible for a consortium led by Sylmar-based Tutor Perini to be ranked as the top candidate despite receiving the lowest technical rating.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority announced last week that the Tutor Perini-Zachry-Parsons joint venture was the top-rated contender among five bidders seeking to build the initial 29 miles of track between Madera and Fresno.

While it offered the lowest price at $985.1 million, the Tutor Perini team’s technical score ranked last. Ferrovial and Acciona, two Spanish firms with significant high-speed rail experience, had the highest technical mark but bid almost $1.4 billion. The rail agency board is expected to select a contractor in the coming months after additional negotiations.

The technical score is based on safety measures, engineering, scheduling, quality of design, project approach and solutions to possible construction problems.

In March 2012, the rail authority’s board set up a two-step process for weighing the bids. In the first step, the bidders were supposed to be narrowed to three based only on a technical evaluation. Only the bids submitted by the remaining contenders would be opened. The winner was to be selected on a combination of price and technical scores.

Under that process, the Tutor Perini consortium and another team led by Skanska, a Swedish company, would have been eliminated after the first round, leaving groups led by Colorado-based Kiewit and two teams led by Spanish firms, Dragados and Ferrovial.

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