California's High-Speed Rail Authority is moving forward on finalizing a $985 million dollar contract to build the first 29 miles of track from Madera to Fresno.
Critics caution the rail board is selecting the lowest bidder with the least technical proficiency, a consortium led by Sylmar's Tutor Perini.
At today's meeting in Sacramento, Ted Hart questioned the board's decision: "How thorough is the vetting of Tutor Perini? I question the bid procedure and selection of this contractor."
Hart pointed to a lawsuit in Las Vegas, between MGM Resorts and Tutor Perini over a hotel's structural integrity.
"I am sure you're aware what's going on over there," he said.
"Tutor Perini should never have even made it to the technical evaluation round that preceded the cost evaluation," said William Grindley, a business consultant who co-authored dozens of reports on high-speed rail costs. "Their financial situation deteriorated between the time they stated their qualifications to bid and submitting their bid. Moody's has downgraded their financial rating, and they are being sued in Nevada for half a billion dollars by MGM Grand Hotels. The fact that they slipped through the noose with poor financials, and scoring technically lowest to build a complex project's first miles smells awfully bad. Californians should brace themselves to pay a lot more for those 29 miles than Tutor Perini bid, because of their record and because the Authority is hiding costs of buying land, moving irrigation, electricity and telecommunications equipment in other accounting pots."
The Rail Authority said it was confident in choosing a Southern California firm that promised to save the state at least $100 million.