California changes high-speed rail bidding rules

(Photo: California High-Speed Rail Authority)(Photo: California High-Speed Rail Authority)

California high-speed rail officials said Thursday that they have changed their rules for selecting a builder for phase one in the Central Valley, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In March 2012, the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s board created a two-step process for selecting a contractor. The first step would use a technical evaluation to narrow the selection down to three bidders, which would then have their bids opened. The winner would be chosen based on a combination of price and technical scores.

The two-step process was intended to create competition and allow the agency to otain quality technical proposals for the United States’ first 200-mph rail system.

An agency spokesperson said the agency changed the evaluation process in July, a move that will likely save hundreds of millions of dollars for California.

An artist rendered a proposal for California’s high-speed rail system. (Photo: California High-Speed Rail Authority)An artist rendered a proposal for California’s high-speed rail system. (Photo: California High-Speed Rail Authority)

However, the new bidding process has gained some criticism. Elizabeth Goldstein Alexis of Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design said the change has invalidated the bidding process, while others have said said the state is looking at price more than it is evaluating technical merit.

Design Build Institute of America has advised public agencies to pay closer attention to technical merit in order to avoid later problems.

California’s high-speed rail is no exception, especially since the first phase of construction is vital to the rail project. The first section will require engineering such as cutting a 1.7-mile trench, erecting a 1.2-mile viaduct and creating a tunnel beneath California State Route 180.

The state completed about 15% percent of the first segment’s design when it began seeking bids.

The rail agency board is expected to select a builder in the coming months.

For more information about California’s high-speed rail system, visit