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The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) late last week contracted a southern California firm to start construction on the state's $69 billion high-speed rail line, according to an article posted on the Silicon Valley MercuryNews.com.The board chose Tutor Perini to lay the physical groundwork for the first 29 miles of track between Madera and Fresno. Work could begin as early as this summer, the website reported. The group's bid was $985 million, which was less than the state's $1.2 billion estimate.Also last week, the CHSRA's board voted to transfer full leading and funding for rail planning in the Altamont Corridor to the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission (SJRRC).The SJRRC operates the Altamont Commuter Express (ACE), which connects the Central Valley and Silicon Valley via the Altamont Corridor. The memorandum of understanding (MOU) will enable SJRRC to focus on near-term improvements to speed up and increase ACE service on existing track, and plan for regional service connections to Modesto and Merced, CHRSA and SJRRC officials said in a joint press release.The CHSRA will remain a partner in the planning process and the long-term goal of tying into the high-speed rail system, they said."With this MOU, we can expedite improvements at the local level while preparing ACE to be an important connecting service to high-speed rail," said SJRRC Executive Director Stacey Mortensen.Meanwhile, California Assembly Speaker John Pérez appointed Patrick Henning to CHSRA's board. Henning was director of the Employment Development Department before his retirement in 2010.