Moving Power, Gas, and Phone Lines Causes High-Speed Rail Cost to Increase by Millions
When the California High-Speed Rail Authority awarded its first contracts for construction of the bullet-train route in Fresno and Madera counties in 2013, the cost to move utilities such as AT&T and PG&E out of the way was estimated at about $25 million. Unfortunately, that figure has been severely underestimated. Now, five years later, the cost to relocate utility components such as power lines and communication cables has increased to almost $400 million. Last month, the authority’s board approved adding $40 million to the Fresno-Madera construction contract to continue the work going through the end of June. Joe Hedges, the agency’s chief operating officer who joined the authority earlier this year, stated,
There’s critical path work, and this $40 million is a bridge … to allow that work to continue, and to incur delay costs.
The rail authority has three active construction contracts for the roughly 119 mile portion of rail that goes through the Valley, from Madera to north of Bakersfield. The $40 million addition is for utility relocation and it is being pulled from the yet-to-be-spent budget for the future construction of the actual rail tracks for the entire 119-mile Valley section. According to the Fresno Bee, the original $1 billion contract award in mid-2013 to Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons, who is the main contractor for the Fresno-Madera section, included an extra $53 million in “provisional sums” that a contractor could not be expected to predict in their bid. However, that figure began to climb and the rail agency increased its allowance for utility relocation to almost $69 million. Of that almost $69 million, $18.4 million was for relocating AT&T communications equipment at 54 locations in Fresno and Madera, and up to $50.4 million was for moving gas and power lines at 85 locations. We will have to wait and see if the estimates to relocate utilities continue to increase.