The authority's "best value bidder," a California-based joint venture of Tutor Perini, Zachry, and Parsons, submitted an offer of $US 985.14m to build the Madera – Fresno section, significantly less than the anticipated pricetag of between $US 1.2bn and $US 1.6bn.

Each bidder was scored up to 70 points for their price proposal and 30 points for technical proposals with the preferred bidder scoring full marks on price and 20.55 on the technical element, giving a total of 90.55. A joint venture of Dragados, Pulice, and Samsung came a close second, scoring 63.55 on price ($US 1.09bn) and 26.13 on its technical submission, a total of 89.68. The three remaining bids scored less than 80% with offers ranging from $US 1.37bn to $US 1.54bn.

CHSRA says it intends to proceed with procurement with the highest-scoring bidder, although if it is unable to conclude a deal it may open negotiations with the second place group. The contract is expected to be signed within the next few weeks.

Construction is expected to start later this year on the Madera – Fresno line, the northern stretch of the 209km Initial Operating Section (IOS) Stage 1 between Bakersfield and Madera, which is due to be completed in 2017. The second 273km phase of the IOS will extend the line south through the Tehachapi Mountains to Palmdale, and is expected to open in 2021.