Image Courtesy of California High Speed Rail Authority
Construction of California's high-speed-rail line will begin on a 30-mile section running from Madera to Fresno.

California's High-Speed Rail Authority selected Wong-Harris as the project and construction manager for the first 30-mile section of a high-speed-rail line from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The joint-venture contract for PGH Wong Engineering, San Francisco, and Concord, Calif.-based Harris & Associates, is worth up to $34.9 million.

"It's an important step forward for the project," says Jeff Morales, CEO for the rail authority, adding that experience was a key factor in the selection. PGH Wong managed BART train extensions for San Francisco and the Silicon Valley, while Harris currently is working with Caltrans on Interstate 405 design-build projects.

Estimated to cost upward of $1.8 billion, the first leg of the rail line runs from Madera to Fresno, mostly adjacent to existing BNSF and Union Pacific Railroad track.

Wong-Harris also will assist the authority in selecting the design-build contract from bids submitted on Jan. 18.

"We are just getting under way with the evaluation of the proposals," Morales says. "We are pleased to have five bids from five world-class teams, and we think that bodes well for the outcome." The contract award is expected in June.

The five bidding design-build teams include the joint ventures of New York City-based Dragados USA, Long Beach, Calif.-based Samsung C&T America and Pulice Construction, Phoenix; Sylmar, Calif.-based Tutor Perini Corp., San Antonio-based Zachry Construction Corp. and Parsons Corp., Pasadena, Calif.; California Backbone Builders, consisting of Spanish firms Ferrovial and Acciona Infrastructure; California High-Speed Rail Partners, comprising Irving, Texas-based Fluor Corp., New York City-based Skanska USA, PCL Constructors, Canada, and HDR Engineering, Omaha, Neb.; and California High-Speed Ventures, made up of Kiewit Corp., Omaha, Granite Construction, Watsonville, Calif., and Spanish companyCOMSA EMTE.

Critics, including the Professional Engineers in California Government, are worried the wording of the design-build contract doesn't allow for independent inspector oversight. "Our concern is that the contractor should not be self-certifying their own work," says Bruce Blanning, the group's executive director.

Morales says inspection and compliance will be consistent with how design-build projects are implemented throughout the U.S. "It's a program that we have developed jointly with the Federal Railroad Administration and with Caltrans. We are all in agreement that this is the right way to proceed."