State Sen. Jeff Denham

U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Atwater), a critic of the state's high-speed rail project, is expected to demand a detailed explanation of how Tutor Perini was selected to build the first phase of the line. (Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times / August 1, 2007)

The state bullet train agency is pushing full throttle to start construction of the important first phase of the California high-speed rail system in as little as six weeks, prompting scrutiny of the state's selection of a construction company with the worst technical scores among bidders.

Tutor Perini Corp. won the competition to build the first 29 miles of the high-speed rail route on a low bid of $985 million, even though its design quality, safety plan and engineering, among other factors, ranked at the bottom of five teams seeking the work.

The highest-scoring team, led by the Spanish firm Ferrovial, bid $1.4 billion. The second-highest scorer, led by the Spanish firm Dragados, bid about $100 million more than Tutor.

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