November 30, 2018

Legal action regarding Caltrans quality assurance contract


Alta Vista was created to help clients like Caltrans succeed. We believe in the California Department of Transportation’s mission to provide a safe, sustainable, integrated and efficient transportation system to enhance California’s economy and livability. It has been our experience over the past decade that the women and men who work at Caltrans, from the bottom to the top, are dedicated to this mission. Alta Vista has stood by the Department through many challenging times and we believe that we are continuing to do so now as we work to resolve a single, but important, process issue related to a recent contract award.

Alta Vista was the incumbent contract holder for the Statewide Quality Assurance contract, and a competitor for the new contract, when it was awarded to a much larger, international competitor. Caltrans failed to follow their own process, which resulted in the award of this $42 million contract to a large international engineering firm. Upon discovering that established procedures were not followed and uncovering a preconceived bias, Caltrans’ initial response was to cancel the contract so that a fair process could be followed. This was entirely in accordance with Caltrans’ standard procedures. While unfortunate, mistakes occasionally happen, and having to re-advertise a contract is not out of the ordinary.

Two weeks after deciding to cancel and re-advertise the contract, Caltrans rescinded their decision to cancel the contract and attempted to proceed with the contract award despite the knowledge that the Department had violated their own protocols. At this point, Alta Vista had to decide whether to take legal action to stop a precedent from being set. Alta Vista did not, nor could we, litigate to get the contract or gain financial compensation or damages. We litigated to help the Department avoid a mistake that would tarnish its reputation in the business community and hurt small and disadvantaged businesses that require a level playing field in order to get work.

At Alta Vista, we walk in step with our clients and we believe in fair play. In this one specific case, we believe that our company had to stand up and make sure that a mistake was not made. We remain optimistic that Caltrans’ leadership will reassess the effectiveness and objectivity of their procurement processes, realize the importance of creating a level playing field for businesses of all sizes without partiality or bias, and in this case, do the right thing by canceling and re-advertising the contract in question.


  1. Caltrans initially canceled a quality assurance contract because they discovered that their selection process was biased and their procedures were not followed.
  2. Caltrans then reversed their decision and un-canceled a contract for the first time in history.
  3. Alta Vista is taking this action at great financial and reputational cost, and without compensation in order to have this particular contract re-advertised and competed in accordance with Caltrans established procedures.
  4. Alta Vista is taking action to make sure a mistake isn’t made that would tarnish Caltrans’ reputation in the industry, increase contract costs on taxpayers, and create a precedent that would harm small and disadvantaged businesses.