Spain’s Dragados wins key role in California’s high speed rail plans

The California High-Speed Rail Authority board has awarded a $1.2bn contract for the design and construction of its second segment of rail line in the central San Joaquin Valley to a consortium made up of Dragados USA, Flatiron and Shimmick. 

The board, meeting Tuesday morning in Sacramento, voted 7-0 to select the consortium, which submitted a bid of $1.2bn, the lowest of the three received for the work, and more than $500m lower than the next-best bid, submitted by Tutor Perini, Zachry, Parsons, the team that is building the first segment between Fresno and Madera. The third bid, from Golden State Rail Partnership, was just less than $2.1bn.  

Dragados USA is a wholly owned subsidiary of Spain’s Grupo ACS and Dragados. Flatiron West and Shimmick Construction are both Californian companies. 

Californian authorities had forecast this this part of the link between Los Angeles and San Francisco would cost between $1.5bn and $2bn. The consortium also scored the highest in a state evaluation of its technical ability to perform the work. 

"This is a big deal," said Jim Hartnett, the rail board’s vice chairman. "These are concrete steps to fulfill the vision of high-speed rail in California. As technical as some of the contract issues are, and as comprehensive as the process is for evaluating the bids, we should not lose sight of the true significance of this." 

Board member Richard Frank expressed concern that the bid came in so far below engineers’ estimates. "In a sense that’s very good news, but could it also be bad news? To what does staff attribute that disparity?" 

The authority will pay each of the losing bidders a $2m stipend in exchange for ownership of the designs in their bids, so their innovations can be incorporated in future efforts, Morales said. "For $4m in stipends, we’ve obtained over $600m in design improvements from the bidders," he said.

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