Monday, April 29, 2013

Your California high-speed choo-choo update

Before a single length of track has been laid, the short yet sad and corrupt saga of California's high-speed choo-choos continues apace.

The contracting consortium of Tutor Perini-Zachry-Parsons was recently awarded the bid to lay down the first 29 mile section of track between Fresno and that other bustling burg of the Central Valley, Madera for the sum of $985.1 million. For those of you who broke out your Rand-McNally atlas Google Maps and did some number crunching, this works out to $34 million/mile.

(Please bear in mind, and this is worth repeating every time we speak of this foul subject that the near-$1 billion awarded to TPZP is strictly for the tracks; the stell itself. Contrary to the language of the ballot initiative voted on by Californians back in 2008, there is no money in the $68 billion budget for electrifying the tracks nor is there any money for the actual choo-choos, nor is there any money to purchase land upon which the tracks will be laid. This explains why more realistic estimates of the entire project are in the $100-120 billion range.)

Before we go any further, it might please you to know that Richard Blum, the husband of California Senator, Diane Feinstein, is the principal owner of TPZP. Just put that one in your back pocket before continuing.

It was revealed that TPZP was the low-bidder in what amounted to a five team race for the contract award. TPZP also scored the lowest of the five in technical merits which is based on safety measures, engineering, scheduling, quality of design, project approach and solutions to possible construction problems.

There would appear to be a problem with this as the L.A. Times explains:

In March 2012, the rail authority's board set up a two-step process for weighing the bids. In the first step, the bidders were supposed to be narrowed to three based only on a technical evaluation.

Only the bids submitted by the remaining contenders would be opened.

The winner was to be selected on a combination of price and technical scores.

Those of you in Placentia, California are probably thinking to yourself, how the hell did TPZP make it out of the first round if they scored lowest on the technical side? This would be sound thinking and sound thinking for which the California High Speed Rail Authority has come nowhere close to answering.

More from the Times:

Fellenz (the Authority's lead attorney0 said at the time that "non-substantive" changes could be made in consultation with board Chairman Dan Richard.

The agency changed the evaluation process in July, according to an agency spokesman. The official did not provide details of the internal process used to alter the criteria.

But he said the state potentially would save hundreds of millions of dollars as a result of the decision to change the evaluation criteria.

We don't think it would be out of the realm of possibility to question the validity of "non-substantive" when the bidder with the lowest technical score, the lowest bid and with um, you know, other stuff wins the contract award outright in clear contradiction of the original contract award process.

Elements within the TPZP consortium have, for years, had a sketchy reputation in the government/defense contracting arena in regards to squeezing the contracting entity via "change orders". Change orders are unanticipated obstacles or difficulties in the contracted work that was not budgeted for in the bid.

There are legitimate change orders and then there are the change orders where the government will simply roll over and pay the contractor because of a lack of will and/or resources to challenge the claim. TPZP has made a habit of the latter.

And dig this:

According to the New York US Attorney’s office: “Following a four-week trial, a federal jury in Brooklyn yesterday (March 9, 2011) found Zohrab B. Marashlian, the former president of Perini Corp.’s Civil Division, an international construction services corporation, guilty of fraud and conspiracy to launder money. The charges arose out of Marashlian’s false representation to New York government agencies that Disadvantaged Business Entities (DBE’s) were performing work in connection with major public works contracts, when, in reality, Marashlian had non-disadvantaged businesses favored by Perini Corp. do the work.” Tutor Perini paid Marashlian $14 million in salary while all this was going on. Two days before Marashlian was to receive a multi-year prison sentence he committed suicide. A fellow employee is currently doing a long prison term for the same case.

Perini has been caught doing such things over and over again. They are absolutely ridiculous in California projects. … According to the Seattle News some of the Perini headlines read: “In February, Tutor-Saliba and Perini agreed to pay $19 million to settle racketeering and fraud allegations in a San Francisco airport project.” … “The companies are embroiled in an 11 – year legal battle over $16 million in extra costs on a Los Angeles subway job.”

Go to the link above for more Blum/Feinstein/federal government Kevin Bacon-ness.

Before a single length of steel has been laid in a former pistachio field in the Central Valley, California's high-speed choo-choo project is proving itself to be the apex of cronyism, favortism, malfeasance and government/private enterprise hand-in-glove corporatism. At the end of the day, train wreck analogies won't even suffice.

H/T: drozz of The Double Standard



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