Construction Managers Chosen for Madera-Fresno Section
As Tim Sheehan reports, Wong/Harris have been chosen by the California High Speed Rail Authority to oversee the construction of the Madera to Fresno section of the project, slated to begin later this year:
The construction-management contract awarded Wednesday is worth up to $34.9 million to the joint venture of PGH Wong Engineering, a San Francisco engineering and consulting company, and Harris & Associates, a Concord-based consulting and management firm. Together, the companies will be the state’s eyes and ears supervising the Madera-to-Fresno work.
Wong/Harris beat three other bids for the construction management contract.
“These companies have extensive experience in transit and rail programs in California and around the country,” said Jeffrey Morales, the rail authority’s CEO. “They will ensure that the design-builder adheres to the conditions of the contract. They will be reviewing the work and reporting back to us.”
Diana Gomez, the authority’s project manager for the Central Valley region, said Wong/Harris will also help the agency evaluate bids from the five contracting teams.
Those five bids came in last week and are going to be reviewed over the coming weeks. The bidders are:
* California Backbone Builders, a consortium of two Spanish construction firms — Ferrovial Agroman and Acciona.
* California High-Speed Rail Partners, composed of Fluor Corp. of Texas, Swedish-based Skanska, and PCL Constructors of Canada.
* California High-Speed Ventures, made up of Kiewit Corp. of Nebraska, Granite Construction of Watsonville, and Comsa EMTE of Spain.
* A joint venture of Dragados SA of Spain, Denver-based Flatiron Construction Corp., and Shimmick Construction of Oakland.
* Tutor Perini Corp. of Sylmar, Zachry Construction of Texas and Pasadena-based Parsons Corp.
Almost a year ago we looked at the background of each of the five teams. All five have an extensive experience in major transportation projects, including rail. At the time I argued that the first group, California Backbone Partners, was probably something of a longshot given their comparative lack of experience on California transportation projects, but their experience in Iberia on high speed rail projects is significant. The others all have an extensive background in California, which also means they likely have their share of critics based on some of those projects.
Speaking of critics, the union representing the professional engineers employed by the state have criticized the way inspectors will be chosen for the first segment of construction:
The documents outlining the requirements for the bids say the independent contractor that would design and build the first phase of the project would hire the inspectors charged with testing the work on that segment, running from Madera to Fresno. The inspections would then be submitted to the California High-Speed Rail Authority.
Critics, including lawmakers and a state engineers union, say the arrangement could present a conflict of interest and that independent inspectors who are not aligned with the construction company are needed.
The inspection process outlined so far is not equivalent to having a state-employed engineer or an independently hired contractor on the ground looking at the work as it happens, said Bruce Blanning, executive director of Professional Engineers in California Government, the union that represents 13,000 state engineers.
“We believe that when you have a major public infrastructure project of that nature, that you should have somebody looking out for the public to ensure it is being built safely,” he said.
CHSRA CEO Jeff Morales defended the proposal, and noted that they can also add another layer of inspections by Caltrans staff as needed. He also added that the CHSRA would be conducting its own inspections, and that this process was standard for design-build contracts around the world.