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March 13, 2012 > High-Speed Rail moves forward

High-Speed Rail moves forward

Submitted By Janis Mara and Karen Massie

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) announced on March 2, 2012 it has approved terms and conditions to be issued with a Request for Proposal (RFP), to solicit bids from Design-Build teams for construction of the first high-speed rail project in California.

Five Design-Build teams qualified for a short-list and will compete for contracts to build the backbone of the high-speed rail system in the Central Valley. Proposals will be scored on whether they meet strict guidelines for technical competence, deadline schedules, methods of operation and costs. The winning bid will include a CHSRA policy and goal that says 30 percent of the work will go to small businesses.

"This is a major step toward making high-speed rail a reality in California," said Lynn Schenk, Vice-Chair of the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board. "This construction project will also provide much-needed jobs in the Central Valley, an area with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation."

Preparing a bid for such a large infrastructure project can be costly, so CHSRA has agreed to award a $2M stipend to Design-Build teams that submit bids but are not awarded the contract. Stipends are a common engineering industry practice that partially compensates companies that participate in the RFP process.

The first segment of the high-speed rail project will extend 25 miles from near the city of Madera to south of the city of Fresno. It will create an estimated 100,000 job-years over the next five years and one million job-years over the next 20 years.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will pay for half of the $1.5 billion - to $2 billion project. Proposition 1A, the High-Speed Passenger Train Act, approved by voters in 2008, will supply money for CHSRA's portion of the funding.

The CHSRA Board of Directors also voted to support the development of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Southern California transportation agencies. It outlines a shared commitment to development of high-speed rail in Southern California while providing funding for local early investment projects that will improve rail service immediately.

"With this MOU, it's clear we now have the opportunity to start construction on the HSR project in Southern California, in addition to the Central Valley," said Dan Richard, Chair of the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board. "These early investment opportunities in the south are very much in line with the blended approach outlined in our Business Plan. We see great potential in these efforts, as it will lead to immediate infrastructure improvements, while preparing for future build-out using a phased approach. We look forward to developing similar agreements in Northern California."

Agencies that have already approved the MOU include: Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC), San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG) and the Southern California Regional Rail Authority (Metrolink).

Specifically, the Authority would identify $1 billion in Prop 1A or other funds that could be used for early investment projects along the high-speed rail corridors, as defined in the Authority's Business Plan. Meanwhile, regional agencies would work with the Authority to find matching funds to improve existing railways and deliver the HSR system sooner to Southern California. The coordinated effort defines a new inter-agency partnership that further promotes intermodal connectivity.

All agencies will coordinate to develop a Candidate Project list for early investment in Southern California by 2020. In addition, the agencies will prepare performance criteria for selecting and prioritizing the projects from the Candidate Project list. These projects will be recommended to the Legislature, which is uniquely responsible for approval and appropriation.

For more information, visit www.CAHighSpeedRail.ca.gov

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