CHSRA Postpones Central Valley Bids to January

Oct 30th, 2012 | Posted by

So reports Tim Sheehan at the Fresno Bee:

Authority CEO Jeffrey Morales said Tuesday that questions from five consortiums of building firms have prompted the authority to set Jan. 18 as the new date by which bids must be submitted for a 28-mile stretch of the high-speed rail line from Avenue 17, northeast of Madera, to American Avenue at the south end of Fresno.

“The bidders have been asking for more information and more time to analyze the information,” Morales said. “If we take our time at the front end to get it right, it will ultimately be to the benefit of the project” through better bids and possibly lower prices.

The rail authority estimates that this construction segment will cost between $1.2 billion and $1.8 billion. Morales said the agency now anticipates awarding a contract and beginning construction by June 2013.

Well, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do to get good bids. It certainly sounds like the Authority would have difficulty getting good bids if they had not extended the deadline.

This does make an already tight timeline even tighter. Construction is scheduled to be complete by October 2016, with a six-month buffer to March 2017, after which point construction work risks not getting funded by the federal grant that has to be completely spent by September 2017.

On the other hand, if this extension means lower bids can be awarded, then the risk of a tight construction timeline is worth it.

  1. John Nachtigall
    Oct 30th, 2012 at 23:54

    good to see they are off to a fast start on mismanagement of the project. Slipping the date 3 months before you even get a bid…that is fantastic.

    Alan Reply:

    One of your typical fact-free accusations… This is the largest infrastructure project in the state’s history, of a kind never before seen in this country, and taking a few months more to allow the bidders to get it right is mismanagement? Please… When the rolling stock arrives, you’ll be calling it “mismanagement” because the blue paint is the wrong Pantone number…

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    On one hand they complain – not specifically Mr. Nachtigall – that things are being rushed. Then on the other hand complain that things are being delayed. Even farther back they complain that things aren’t being studied enough. Now that they want to study things a bit more they complain that things are being delayed to study. Also in the past they complained that not enough money was being spent on studies. Someone is going now complain that they are wasting money on more studies.
    …. Ya can’t win…

    VBobier Reply:

    Yep, they complain and bicker over trivial matters, first one stance and then another stance in opposition to the 1st one.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    They are slipping the date before they even start. It was my understanding they have been “organizing” this project since even befor prop 1a was passed. So in all those years of effort they could not pull together a detailed explanation of what they wanted.

    They are already bumping up against the federal deadline and they have not even broken ground yet.

    Yes, that is called mismanagement, at this stage pretty minor, but I have faith they will keep getting worse

    VBobier Reply:

    So if a company needs more time to submit a proper bid and to figure what this will entail You think it’s a bad thing? Get lost…

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    yes its a bad thing. There is an imposed Fed deadline on spending the federal part of the money. I have documented why i do not support HSR, but if you are going to do it, at least do it well. There is a reason they are called project MANGERS and construction MANAGERS. Because you have to manage the different groups involved, not roll over everytime anyone says they need to slip a date. They already moved this date back once before.

    Alan Reply:

    And part of being a MANAGER is employing well-qualified subordinates and listening to what they have to say. A good manager listens to different points of view and evaluates them before making a decision.

    Yes, you have documented why you do not support HSR. All you’re doing now is useless whining and moaning.

    synonymouse Reply:

    On the contrary, being a good manager, CHSRA style, is being a ready, willing, and able participant in all the corruption and pandering. That and having your nose firmly planted in Barry Zoeller’s keester.

    Alan Reply:

    Blah, blah, blah. Try singing a new tune, Syno. Maybe one backed up by something relevant.

    Alan Reply:

    Nonsense. They had a detailed “explanation of what they wanted” before Prop 1a. The “explanation” was the railroad described in Prop 1a. That was before, however, the detailed engineering studies and such–which occasionally reveal situations that require a bit more time to work out, both by the Authority and the contractors.

    The time schedule established by the Authority–if you had been paying attention–provides pad to allow for contingencies. That was pointed out, as I recall, by the Authority’s spokesperson. And it seems to me (as a layperson) unlikely that there are going to be any significant construction obstacles that would cause a major delay. We’re building between Madera and Bakersfield here, not tunnels through the mountains or under SF Bay.

    Face it: You’re whining now because the Authority is taking a bit more time to let the contractors do it right. If they had plowed ahead with the original bid schedule, and the bids came out higher than they could have if they’d waited, you’d be whining about wasting money.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    The chances of a construction project of this scale have no construction delays is about as likely as Kate Upton calling me for a date, while theoretically possible, as a practical matter probably not going to happen.

    It is the Authority that is whining that the lawsuits are going to cause them to slip the federal date because it is so close. You are using all the buffer before shovels even hit the ground, not good project management

    Alan Reply:

    Yeah, just like that BART construction in the South Bay is running so far behind schedule and over budget. Oh, wait. It isn’t.

    And you’re trying to suggest that NIMBY lawsuits are somehow a cause of “not good project management”? You’re really grasping at straws.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:


    You mean it opened in sooner than 2012, the date promised and projected, and cost less than a grand total of $3.8 billion, the construction budget promised and projected, to construct all the way to Santa Clara (not just the San Joé Flea Market), as promised and projected?

    Great news!

    But … what the hell are you smoking?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Or they be whining that no one paid attention to local concerns.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    The latest changes to the RFP have actually pushed the due date of the project back to February /March 2017 (44 months after the notice to proceed) , which gives very little leeway with how federal contracting works.

    The penalties for delivering that project after that date have also been lowered from $1 million a day to $60,000 a day.

  2. Tom McNamara
    Oct 31st, 2012 at 01:07

    Sort of convenient that the deadline switches from one week before the Presidential election to the Friday before the Inauguration…..

    swing hanger Reply:

    Indeed, I’m sure many bidders and potential investors are holding off on passenger rail projects until the political climate is more certain post election.

  3. Alon Levy
    Oct 31st, 2012 at 03:48

    Tom beat me to it. “More time to analyze the information” = “we want to know whether you’re going to get $5-8 billion in the two years or 0.”

    Alan Reply:

    Can either of you provide proof of that? The possibility–slim as it is–of a GOP-controlled White House and Congress was known well before the original bid schedule was set.

    joe Reply:

    HSR detractors have Romensia.

    I see no proof offered this is a delay manufactured by contractors due to fear/concern the election is going to cut the funding.

    The likelihood this bid will result in future work on such a large project would explain the request for more time. The positives carry no significance to HSR detractors.

    CA’s HSR is a cost sharing project and it’s with obligated funding off the 2013 books and benefits the Minority Leader’s State and is the President’s and Senate Majority Leader’s interests.

    As for risk – there is a massive sequestration looming over all spending in the 2013 budget. A construction firm would be stupid to delay the HSR bid when the chances of 2013 spending be cut is quite high.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    Project proponents (like CHSRA) are ALWAYS setting aggressive schedules. Potential bidders ALWAYS ask for more time.

    There is no news here.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Bidders who are eager to get paid don’t generally ask for delays.

    joe Reply:

    I think you’re mistaken.

    Since a bid is not a bill, no one is being paid. They are spending money responding and that means extra time saves them effort if not money.

    Years of experience in writing and reviewing and funding proposals – “bidders” universally want more time to write a proposal. A bid is typically submitted at the deadline.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Right, they don’t get paid to work on bids. So having to submit bids multiple times on a moving target is not at all in their interest.

    joe Reply:

    I think you can spin it any number of ways.

    If they’re asking for more time, they’re interested.

    It’s a 60B+ project, maybe winning a bid on the first section could help a business. What else do they have to work on in this economy?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Exactly my point: they want to wait until after the election because it matters to them whether there will be future CAHSR work for them or not. If there is, they may want to submit lower bids to get their foot in the door for future segments, just like private bidders were willing to assume cost escalation and operating loss risk in Florida in order to get their foot in the door for much larger US projects, including CAHSR.

    joe Reply:

    “Exactly my point: they want to wait until after the election because it matters to them whether there will be future CAHSR work for them or not.”

    The opposite – they’d continue working hard on the bid and have the superior bid. There’s scant work as ARRA funds wind down and companies have under used capacity.

    Any company that has the skill to put in a bid can read the poll aggregators that don’t forecast any significant shift or uncertainty in CA or the national level. Dems will win seats in house, hold the Senate and White House.

    ” If there is, they may want to submit lower bids to get their foot in the door for future segments, just like private bidders were willing to assume cost escalation and operating loss risk in Florida in order to get their foot in the door for much larger US projects, including CAHSR.”

    Obvious problem with the argument – If the future of HSR is so tenuous (it isn’t) that they’ll wait out this election, then every 2-4 year election, firms could face total loss of project funds and there is no long term.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Democrats will almost certainly hold the Senate and the White House, but the House is uncertain. This is what’s going to determine how much extra money is available.

    And you’re right that there’s no long term. That’s one of the many problems with American infrastructure. At least it’s hard for the federal government to cancel a grant that’s already been obligated, which means that as far as Congressional control goes, things can only move in one direction.

    joe Reply:

    Reading the above I see no compelling reason for a firm to STOP preparing and / or working on a proposal/bid and wait for an election. The actual decision for 2013+ are going into play out long after the extended due date.

    With HSR, a signature project for Obama & Biden, the project is safe. A recession of the funds would have to pass the Senate and withstand a veto.

    Firms that bid on federal/state money construction see Business As Usual. The project will be built over time, with varying degrees of speed and funding. The key is bidding – they’ll learn from the failed bid or to gain experience with a winning bid and construction.

    Sometimes a banana is just a banana and a delay to prepare a bid is best explained by the need to prepare the bid.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Who the hell is talking about the recession of funds? I’m counting two separate comments in which I brought up future funding rather than the state of the current funding.

  4. James M. in Irvine
    Oct 31st, 2012 at 06:57

    In looking over the design drawings, why can’t they use a single pole in the center of the ROW to hang catenary from?

    Thanks for you answers,Jim

    VBobier Reply:

    Probably cause no one does that, it’s more stable with two and the cost isn’t that much different, so at most pennies on the Dollar would be saved, spend the money now instead of later, besides aren’t the poles going in later with the catenary?

    jonathan Reply:

    Actually, _lots_ of people run double-track catenary with a single mast between the tracks:

    Just not for high-speed rail. More often at stations and other slower-speed tracks.

    VBobier Reply:

    Note: I said “probably”… Thanks for the links.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Partial independence of tracks and systems.
    Immensely simpler maintenance and easier maintenance access.
    Simpler construction. (Nearly twice as many holes and poles, but easier to place.)
    Simpler design.

    But PB will be reinventing the wheel, in feet and inches, and cost and simplicity are never goals, so who knows what they will manage to come up with.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    As it has been stated, it exists, but is essentially more expensive, except for special locations (station area, yards etc.).

    There are places where light rail has a central mast. This is feasible because the light rail catenary is lighter and simpler.

    James M. in Irvine Reply:

    Thanks. I was thinking it would be more pleasant to watch the scenery fly by without the poles flickering by. Maybe at 200mph it isn’t a big deal.


    Miles Bader Reply:

    It really isn’t a big deal at any speed. It’s exactly the sort of thing your brain is very good at filtering out.

    [It might be more of a pain for photographers, as your camera isn’t so good at that kind of thing…]

  5. J Baloun
    Oct 31st, 2012 at 07:43

    Off Topic.

    KCBS advising this morning that all transit systems will be impacted today with the Giants parade and Halloween.
    Caltrain running extra trains.
    Caltrain adding a ticket machine button to take you to the Giants parade without calculating zones.
    Bart running extra length trains.
    Out-lying Bart stations may still have parking but closer stations will fill up.
    Larkspur ferry terminal had to open the extra parking lot.
    No crossing parade route street during parade. Instead use transit, which will be extremely full.

    This type of crowd for a random, one-time event is somewhat different from weekday commuters who know exactly where they are going and have the timing down. The early travelers may mess up the commuters today with early heavy ridership. Today’s crowd is also not like the transit riders during a carefully prepared bridge closure or even the quickly prepared post-Loma Prieta quake transit riders or the carefully prepared carmeggedon travelers in LA. It sounds like it will max-out all systems. Hopefully this will be a learning experience.

    Peter Reply:

    At least public transit got a rehearsal for this two years ago…

  6. joe
    Oct 31st, 2012 at 08:54

    More examples of HSR funding paying for and improving transit in CA.
    Stockton Rail Facility Gets $11 Million Boost From State
    Oct. 26, 2012
    Zachary K. Johnson

    California state transportation officials allocated nearly $11 million in high-speed rail funds this week to shore up the infrastructure for existing passenger rail service passing through Stockton to other points in Northern California.

    Approved by the California Transportation Commission on Wednesday, the money will pay for 2.6 miles of track to connect the downtown Cabral Station used by the Altamont Commuter Express to a maintenance facility north of the station.

    The $61 million project on 64 acres north of the downtown station is the biggest construction for ACE in the rail service’s 14-year history. It’s also important in efforts to build a statewide bullet train, because building the track is a step toward improving and growing service for ACE and other passenger trains through Stockton, transportation officials said.

    When finished, Amtrak trains can pull into the Cabral Station on the way between Bakersfield and Sacramento. Those trains now load and unload passengers on Weber.

  7. Brian FL
    Oct 31st, 2012 at 10:15

    O/T But more news from All Aboard Florida. AAF has just released today their Environmental Assessment Document for the Miami to West Palm Beach section. Lots of details about new trackage, crossovers, frequency, platform length, locations, etc… Here is the link:

  8. John Nachtigall
    Nov 1st, 2012 at 07:52

    Off Topic, but when I read it I thougt of this board

    The article is on the amount of parking that would be needed to accomodate everyone driving instead of using subways. Very informative. It does show the power of light rail/subways if they go everywhere in the city so you can ditch cars almost altogether. Too bad NY is the only city in the US where this is really true and the captital investment required to get to this point in other cities is prohibitive.

    Still, it may be possible in some city that is dying otherwise, like Detroit, but where would the capital investment come from? Other articles say NY Subways have about 64 billion in capital. To build it, even in a troubled community, would require probably more than tripple that for digging and stations and such. Some economies of scale because you are doing it all at once as opposed to organic growth over time. So say 200 billion to put a system in? I would be interested to hear other opinions on my wild guesstimate.

    If you did, however, you could use it to sell shrinking the footprint of the city which is the thing that is holding back cities like Detroit and New Orleans. They just can’t support the area they occupy. So you turn large sections into park or de-incorporate them and use the new transit system to force people to live in certain areas (because it does not serve the other areas). Might work.

    Anyway, I knew the members of this board would like the article. Very pro-train

    J Baloun Reply:

    For comparison, another North Ease project, the Big Dig cost estimate is up to $24.3B.

    How many BDs equal a NYC subway system?
    All the more important to manage the project efficiently, avoid CFs like CBOSS, and put the project on a pre-stressed concrete diet by efficient design choices that support operational requirements.

    jonathan Reply:

    Avoid CFs? yes, but how? Who at CalTrain has the background to recognize what a CF CBOSS is?

    Dieting on the pre-stressed concrete? Again, great idea, but when the firm conrtraced to do overall projec tmanagmeent — including design — is a pre-eminent local pre-stressed-concrete constructor, with a corporate culture of concrete Brutalism, how the helli s that going to happen?

    It’s much more profitable for PB to design in *billions* of dollars of poured concrete, so that CHSRA doesn’t have to disturb existing agency turf lines. And even _I_ could design a better station throat for TTC than the PB one.

    Egad, I’m starting to sound like Mlynarik!! Run away, run away!!

    synonymouse Reply:

    Don’t be afraid of your inner common sense.

    Even Kopp is disgruntled.

    joe Reply:

    “Too bad NY is the only city in the US where this is really true and the captital investment required to get to this point in other cities is prohibitive.”


    Chicago – it’s a city – in the US – with a Subway/Elevated system and extensive Bus system – operating on a grid layout. Easy as pie – I used it as a kid.

    But I am interested in your movie “Red Dawn” meets “Atlas Shrugged”.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    wow joe, you got through that whole post without ranting about Wisconsin. Nice Job.

    Now for the bad news…Chicago has 1/2 the public transit ridership of New York.

    But thanks for playing.

    joe Reply:

    What does ridership have to do with you correcting an obvious mistake?

    You incorrectly asserted:
    “Too bad NY is the only city in the US where this is really true and the captital investment required to get to this point in other cities is prohibitive.”

    NYC is not the only city- Chicago has a similar system.

    Yes, NYC has greater ridership – google also tells me NYC is larger. 2.7M in Chicago, 8.2 M in NYC. If the ridership is half, then a greater fraction of Chicagoans use the system since the population is not half of NYC.

    Peter Reply:

    Oh dear. The wikipedia link gives ridership in terms percentage of population using public transit for commuting. Not ridership in numbers of riders. John is right about Chicago having 1/2 the public transit ridership of New York City.

    joe Reply:

    oh my.

    He’s right – Chicago doesn’t have an elevated transit system or a subway. It’s all imaginary and NYC is the only US city with such infrastructure.

    I am humbled.

    Joey Reply:

    It’s not binary. Chicago’s system is a lot less developed than New York’s. It’s not difficult to be car-independent in New York. In Chicago it’s a different story, unless your life revolves around only a few locations.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You might want to not respond with sarcasm after making a comment saying a greater fraction of Chicagoans use transit than New Yorkers. “Sorry, my bad” is a more appropriate response in this case.

  9. Billy
    Nov 2nd, 2012 at 07:36

    You guys are entertaining. All the delays, for good reason or not, are making the troops restless. As soon as shovels hit the dirt a lot of the naysayers will probably quiet down a bit.

    James M. in Irvine Reply:

    I wish it would quiet the naysayers down. More than likely, they will have more fits when dirt starts to fly. That will bring out protests, studies, lawsuits and who-knows-what-else.


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