California High Speed Rail Authority Issues RFQ for Second Phase

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) issued its Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for Construction Package 2-3 (CP2-3) on October 10 and will be hosting an industry forum for the project on October 29, 2013.  The RFQ calls for contractors to submit their qualifications to bid on the second phase of high speed rail construction, consisting of a 60-mile route from Fresno south to the Tulare-Kern County line near Bakersfield.  The construction contract for the first 29 miles, from Madera to Fresno, was signed on August 19 of this year. 

Firms will have until December 6 to submit their statement of qualifications (SOQs) in response to the RFQ.  The Authority will then review the SOQs and shortlist the most highly qualified firms to provide design-build services for the CP2-3 project. Firms will be selected based on experience, technical competency, ability to perform and other factors. The shortlisted firms will then be eligible to submit formal design-build proposals in 2014. 

Work on CP 2-3 will extend approximately 60 miles through the Central Valley beginning at East American Avenue in Fresno and continuing south to approximately one mile north of the Tulare-Kern County line. The $1.5 to $2 billion design-build contract is expected to bring thousands of jobs to the Central Valley, an area with one of the highest unemployment rates in California and the nation. The route is also expected to provide environmental benefits, relieve roadway congestion and spur economic development.  The environmental clearance process for the route is already underway and is anticipated to be final by summer 2014.
The CP 2-3 procurement is expected to attract a number of major national and international construction and design firms that will team with sub-consultants and subcontractors to deliver the CP 2-3 phase of the massive high speed rail project.  The Authority is committed to small businesses playing a major role in delivering the State’s high-speed rail program, and has adopted a 30 percent goal for small business participation in the work.

The Authority will be hosting an Industry Forum from 1:00-3:30 pacific time on October 28, 2013, at the Secretary of State Auditorium, 1500 11th Street, Sacramento. CA 95814.  The forum will feature a project overview, small business presentation and networking opportunities.
The RFQ is posted on the Authority's website.

Geoff Petrov co-authored this entry.

California High-Speed Rail Authority Executes Initial Design-Build Contract for First High-Speed Rail System in the United States

On August 16, 2013, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) executed a design-build contract with a joint venture among Tutor Perini Corporation, Zachry Construction Corporation and Parsons Transportation Group Inc. for the initial segment of the first high-speed rail system in the United States.  The initial segment is 29 miles long and is located in California's Central Valley.  The contract is valued at approximately $985 million, plus an additional $53 million in provisional sums.  Please refer to the Authority's web site for further information.

California High-Speed Rail Authority Receives Federal Regulatory Authority to Construct Initial Segment of Passenger Rail System

Yesterday, the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) authorized the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) to construct the initial 65-mile segment of its passenger train system between Merced and Fresno, California.  The system will eventually connect the major population centers of the state on over 800 miles of rail lines, operating at speeds up to 220 mph.

"We welcome this decision and will continue to work with the Surface Transportation Board on the implementation of the nation's first high-speed rail program," said Jeff Morales, the Authority's chief executive. "We can now focus on starting major work on the project this summer and providing thousands of jobs in the Central Valley."

The Authority expects to award a $985 million contract shortly to a joint venture led by Tutor Perini to design and construct the first 29-mile section of the high-speed train system in the San Joaquin Valley, from Madera County to Fresno.

In authorizing construction of this initial Merced-to-Fresno segment of the larger high-speed train system, the STB exempted the Authority from the more detailed and lengthy application process that would otherwise govern federal licenses to construct rail lines.  The STB noted that the Authority's rail line will be a "valuable addition to the passenger rail transportation system in California," and adopted the extensive environmental analysis already completed by the Authority for this segment.

The STB, a federal economic regulatory agency, has jurisdiction over the construction of rail lines as part of the interstate rail network.  The STB determined that it had jurisdiction over the Authority's high-speed train system because the STB found that, despite being located entirely in the state of California, the Authority plans to interconnect its system with other interstate services like Amtrak.

The STB's decision in this matter will establish important precedent for the future federal regulation of state-supported passenger rail systems.

California High-Speed Rail Authority Announces Apparent Best Value Proposer

The California High-Speed Rail Authority recently announced that a joint venture composed of Tutor Perini, Zachry Construction and Parsons has provided the apparent best value proposal for the initial design-build construction package of California's high-speed rail system located in the Central Valley.  The Authority received four other proposals from Dragados/Samsung/Pulice (composed of  Dragados SA; Samsung C&T America and Pulice Construction), California Backbone Builders (composed of Ferrovial Argoman and Acciona), California High-Speed Rail Partners (composed of Fluor, Skanska and PCL Constructors) and California High-Speed Ventures (composed of Kiewit Infrastructure West, Granite Construction and COMSA EMTE USA).  The apparent best value scores are shown in the table below:

The apparent best value selection was based 70 percent on price and 30 percent on technical scores.  The Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons proposal price of $985,142,530 was also the lowest price proposal.  The apparent best value proposal price was also significantly below the Authority's cost estimate of between $1.2 and 1.8 billion.  While the initial determination of the apparent best value proposer has been made, the procurement remains in progress.  If the Authority is unable to reach a final contract with Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons, the Authority may continue the procurement with the next most highly ranked proposer.

Please see the Authority's website for further information.

California High-Speed Rail Authority Shortlists Five Design-Build Teams

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has shortlisted five design-build teams in response to its first design-build project for the first segment of the California High-Speed Train System in California's Central Valley. 
The shortlisted teams are: 

  • California Backbone Builders, composed of Ferrovial Agroman and Acciona
  • California High-Speed Rail Partners, composed of Fluor Corp., Skanska and PCL Constructors
  • California High-Speed Ventures, composed of Kiewit Corp., Granite Construction and Comsa EMTE
  • Dragados SA, Flatiron Construction Corp. and Shimmick Construction
  • Tutor Perini Corp., Zachry Construction and Parsons Corp. 

Known as Construction Package 1 of the Initial Construction Section, this first project is located within the Counties of Madera and Fresno and the City of Fresno, and is expected to have a cost between $1.5 and $2 billion.  The shortlisted teams will be eligible to submit design-build proposals to design and build the initial project.  The Request for Proposals is anticipated to be released next month. 
The planned California High-Speed Train System length is approximately 800 miles from Sacramento to San Diego, with nine segments running through the Bay Area, Central Valley, Inland Empire, and Southern California.  The train will travel at speeds up to 220 miles per hour with approximately 15 stops.

California High-Speed Rail Statements of Qualifications Due Dec. 19

Statements of Qualifications for the California High-Speed Rail Authority's Initial Construction Section, Construction Package 1 (north of the San Joaquin River through the City of Fresno) are due Dec. 19, 2011, with contract award currently scheduled for December 2012. 

This is the first of five design-build procurement packages planned for the California High-Speed Rail Project. The Authority's procurement schedule is available here.  Comments on the Draft 2012 Business Plan, issued by the Authority last month, are due by the end of the year.  The Draft Business Plan includes a general description of contract packaging.

DesertXpress High-Speed Passenger Rail Line Receives Construction and Operating Authority From STB

Today, DesertXpress Enterprises, LLC (“DXE”), a group of private investors, received authority from the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (“STB”) to construct and operate a 190-mile dedicated high-speed passenger rail line between Las Vegas, NV and Victorville, CA.  Once the line is constructed, trains will operate at up to 150 miles per hour and provide an energy-efficient alternative to automobile travel on the I-15 corridor and air travel between these two areas of the country.

DXE requested that the STB grant authority to construct and operate this line under an expedited review process that allows for an exemption from certain statutory prior approval requirements.  The STB granted DXE’s request, citing the many benefits of the project.

The STB found that the project will clearly promote the rail transportation policies set forth in the federal agency’s governing statute.  By providing a passenger rail transportation option in this market and alleviating automobile congestion on the I-15 freeway, the project will reduce air pollution and overall fuel consumption.  The proposed line also will alleviate constraints on the expansion of air travel in Southern California and is expected to have a multi-billion dollar beneficial impact on the economies of both Nevada and California. 

The majority shareholder in DXE – The Marnell Companies – is an experienced architect and real estate developer with large-scale project development, construction and finance experience. 

The Biggest Winner in Latest Round of High-Speed Rail Grants - Northeast Corridor

Monday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced an additional $2 billion in High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program funding, bringing the total awards for the program to $10.1 billion.  USDOT distributed the $2 billion to 22 projects in 15 states, but three big winners together received over $1.8 billion or about 90 percent of the additional money.

We said we will roll out our view of the big winners on three successive days, in reverse order.  On Monday, we explained why we think California is the third biggest winner in this latest round of funding. Yesterday, we outlined the package of funded projects that make the Midwest region the second biggest winner.

Today, we tell you why we think the biggest winner of all in the latest round is the Northeast Corridor, which runs from Washington, DC, to Boston, including stops in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Providence.  All together, USDOT awarded $795 million to the projects on the Northeast Corridor, including $450 million for power, track, and signal improvements on a 24-mile stretch between New Brunswick and Trenton, NJ; $295 million to unsnarl an interlocking in Queens, NY; and a total of $50 million for preliminary engineering and environmental work for a bridge replacement on the Susquehanna River and station improvements in Kingston and Providence, RI.

The $450 million awarded to Amtrak for the New Brunswick to Trenton corridor project will boost capacity, reliability, and speed in this heavily-used segment of the Northeast Corridor by adding high-tension catenary, upgraded power facilities, and high-speed interlockings.  The award also will fund track and interlocking upgrades between Morrisville, PA, and Trenton and at New York Penn Station.

The $295 million awarded to New York DOT will pay for new routings through Harold Interlocking in Queens, NY, one of the busiest passenger rail interlockings in the nation, allowing Amtrak through trains to/from New York or Boston to bypass the interlocking.  The project also will improve access to nearby Sunnyside Yard.

In March, Secretary LaHood designated the Northeast Corridor as a federally-recognized high-speed rail corridor, making Amtrak eligible to compete for this round of funding awards.  Several Democratic senators from Northeast Corridor states praised this designation and issued a statement applauding Monday’s awards.

Not all influential elected officials were as sanguine.  House T&I Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL), a strong supporter of improved passenger service on the Northeast Corridor, issued a statement on the announced awards: “. . . with Amtrak’s plan to spend $117 billion over the next 30 years, the Administration continues to take a piecemeal approach to improving the NEC.  We need a comprehensive, responsible plan for the Northeast Corridor, and Amtrak – our nation’s Soviet-style passenger rail service – is incapable of carrying out a project of this scope and significance.  We need to bring in the private sector to finance, design, build, operate and maintain true high-speed service in the Northeast Corridor if we are going to have any chance of success.”

First Runner-Up in Latest Round of High-Speed Rail Funding - The Midwest

As discussed in yesterday's post on California, three big winners have emerged from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s announcement of $2 billion in federal funds to 15 states for 22 different high-speed and intercity passenger rail projects.  The second biggest winner of this funding round is the Midwest region.

Illinois received $186 million for upgrades and improvements to the Chicago – St. Louis corridor between Dwight and Joliet, Ill., to allow trains to operate at 110 mph (from 79 mph) and increase operational flexibility and reliability.  Also on the Chicago – St. Louis corridor, Missouri received $13.5 million for design work on a new span to replace the circa-1890 Merchant’s Bridge over the Mississippi River.

Michigan received $196 million for track rehabilitation and positive train control implementation along the Chicago – Detroit corridor between Kalamazoo and Dearborn, which will allow trains to travel at 110 mph for 235 miles.  Michigan also received $2.8 million for preliminary engineering and environmental work on a new high-speed rail station in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder welcomed the news, stating that an “investment of this magnitude can spur economic development in our communities with rail stations, and provide access to a 21st century rail system that will help Michigan citizens compete in a global economy.”

In addition to the funds for track work, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Missouri received $268 million for the purchase of 48 passenger rail cars and seven locomotives for eight separate intercity rail corridors.  The new bi-level cars replace aging and obsolete Amtrak equipment and can travel at speeds up to 125 mph.

All told, yesterday Midwestern states received approximately $657 million of the $2 billion in federal funds redistributed from the canceled Florida high-speed rail project.

"This is a big deal," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "America's ready for high-speed rail. Nothing can stand in the way of it. We're going to create a huge economic corridor between Chicago and Detroit and beyond."

The federally-designated Chicago Hub Network envisions mostly incremental upgrades to increase speeds of existing passenger rail service on a variety of rail lines radiating from Chicago, including service to St. Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Des Moines, Cleveland, and Minneapolis.  While newly installed governors in Wisconsin and Ohio have rejected federal funds over concerns about operating subsidies and cost overruns, states like Illinois and Michigan have welcomed the passenger rail funding.  Total federal funds now awarded to Midwestern states for high-speed and intercity passenger rail include nearly $1.5 billion for Illinois, $400 million for Michigan, $230 million for Iowa, and $71 million for Indiana.

Kevin M. Sheys also contributed to this post.

Three Big Winners In Latest Round of High-Speed Rail Grants

Today U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced an additional $2 billion in High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program funding, bringing the total awards for the program to $10.1 billion.

The $2 billion awarded today by the Department of Transportation was largely redistributed from initial awards to Florida, whose governor canceled the state’s high-speed rail project due to concerns about cost overruns and operating subsidies.  DOT distributed today’s funds to 22 projects in 15 states, but three big winners together received over $1.8 billion or about 90% of the additional money.

Secretary LaHood focused on the job-creating benefits of these grants, stating that “the investments we’re making today will help states across the country create jobs, spur economic development and boost manufacturing in their communities.”

On the theory that good news on high speed and intercity rail should be savored, we will roll out our view of the big winners on three successive days, in reverse order.

The third biggest winner in this latest round of funding is California.

The California High Speed Rail Authority (“CHSRA”) today received $300 million to help extend by an additional 20 miles construction of an initial 113-mile Central Valley segment (from Bakersfield to Fresno) of its proposed statewide system.  The CHSRA has already received almost $3 billion in federal funds for final design and construction of the Central Valley segment.  The additional funds will allow CHSRA to extend the initial construction segment from Fresno north to a wye junction, where one future track will be constructed to San Jose and another future track will be constructed to Merced.

Curt Pringle, chairman of CHSRA, said today: “It is a testament to the strength of California’s project that we have won 40 percent of every federal dollar awarded for the development of high-speed rail. In the past 15 months we have won the lion’s share of federal dollars, unlocked state bond funds and began engaging the private sector to secure their future participation, so that we can begin construction and begin creating thousands of quality jobs next year.”

The proposed California high-speed rail system will eventually traverse up to 800 miles and is currently estimated to cost about $45 billion.


FRA Issues More Details on National Rail Plan

The Federal Railroad Administration (“FRA”) recently published a progress report (PDF) presenting its ambitious vision for the congressionally-mandated National Rail Plan (“NRP”).  The NRP is being developed as part of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008.  The progress report builds upon the Preliminary National Rail Plan (PDF) submitted to Congress last year.  When completed, the NRP is expected to present a framework for improving our transportation network for future generations.

The progress report emphasizes the importance of efficient and effective rail infrastructure to the nation’s economy and then details the need to build a nation-wide system of high-speed and intercity passenger rail while preserving the nation’s freight rail network.  FRA’s plans include a tiered network of passenger rail corridors, with each tier tailored to the size and needs of the various areas serviced by the system.  These tiers would include Core Express Corridors, which would consist of high-speed rail service on a dedicated track and connect large urban areas separated by distances of up to 500 miles.  The middle tier, Regional Corridors would use a mix of dedicated and shared track to provide service ranging in speed from 90-125 mph and link mid-size urban areas as well as smaller communities in between.  Finally, Emerging/Feeder routes would use shared track and provide smaller or more distant areas with service speeds of up to 90 mph.  FRA’s goal for each of these tiers is to provide connections with communities, and integrate passenger rail with other modes of public transportation. 

The FRA also uses the report to address its plan for High Performance Freight Rail and the need to improve the nation’s freight rail network to accommodate long-term capacity needs.  The report emphasizes that freight system performance can also be improved by enhancing the connections between individual modes of transportation in order to make the best use of the inherent efficiencies of each mode, including pipelines, airfreight, waterways, and trucking.  Such improvements to corridors and connections will, in turn, enhance the nation’s economic competitiveness. 

Success will require a long-term commitment to passenger rail at the Federal, State, and local levels, similar to the dedication shown to the interstate highway network in the latter half of the 20th century.”

The next steps in the development of the NRP may prove to be the most critical in terms of garnering the political support necessary for an endeavor whose significance and breadth the FRA compares to the development of the interstate highway system in the 1950s.  USDOT and FRA are currently developing criteria to identify regions of the country where Core Express, Regional and Emerging/Feeder corridors could be feasible, analyzing the costs and benefits of high speed and intercity rail and High Performance Rail, and continuing extensive public outreach to identify and aid in the resolution of challenges associated with the initiative.  When issued, the final NRP is expected to include a comprehensive strategy for implementation, including legislative, policy and administrative recommendations.  The ultimate strategy will need to anticipate and overcome the numerous financial and political challenges to such an ambitious undertaking.

California High-Speed Rail Authority Seeks Regional Director

Indicative of the progress and forward momentum of the project, the California High-Speed Rail Authority is hiring.  The executive management team is expanding as the project makes advancements such as the recent award of $2.25 billion in federal grants.  With newly appointed CEO Roelof Van Ark at the helm, the Authority is seeking a Regional Director for Southern California to add to the team.

As described in the full position dossier (PDF), “The Regional Director is responsible for ensuring the high-speed train project in Southern California continues forward on the planned schedule and budget by developing and maintaining relationships with local residents, policy makers and Authority consultants and by building strategies for communicating with local advocates to foster their continued involvement and support.”

The voter approved 800-mile-long high-speed train system will connect California’s major cities between San Diego, San Francisco, and Sacramento and it will be the first of its kind in the nation.

Interested parties should contact Stuart Satow of CPS Executive Search at 916.263.1401 or

Karen J. Hedlund named Chief Counsel of the Federal Railroad Administration

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has asked Federal Highway Administration Chief Counsel Karen J. Hedlund to serve as Chief Counsel of the Federal Railroad Administration, effective June 29.

Hedlund moves to FRA to help advance DOT's new high-speed and intercity rail development program, one of the Obama Administration's signature initiatives with more than $10 billion already appropriated.  During her tenure at FHWA starting in 2009, Hedlund helped implement the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, including new investments in highway, intermodal and freight rail facilities.  Hedlund has 35 years of experience in transportation and is recognized nationally for her expertise in structuring public-private partnerships.

All of us at Nossaman congratulate our former partner Karen Hedlund on her new appointment.

Alternative Financing - the New Mainstream?

State and local strategies to bridge the gap between traditional funding and current needs – which has been referred to as alternative finance – are now becoming mainstream. 

Consider Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s plan to speed up the development of LA’s transit infrastructure, which the LA Times reports would include financing from ‘a combination of private financing and bonds, such as Build America Bonds, established in the economic recovery bill to cut interest costs for local and state infrastructure projects.’ 

In fact, this model has already been used in several states for highway projects (see Texas and Florida for recent examples).  Recent changes in TIFIA rules and the Obama administration’s so-called ‘livability’ criteria may indicate the federal credit program’s shift of emphasis toward funding transit programs.  And enhanced versions of existing credit programs, such as the proposal to establish and capitalize a National Infrastructure Bank, could present a new vehicle to make these financing options available.

Public agencies responsible for developing high speed rail will also have to consider alternative financing methods.  The ARRA grant funds allocated for these projects, although impressive, will only make up a portion of the monies necessary to provide a viable service.  The choice comes down to this: wait years or even decades for the federal government to dole out enough funds on a pay-as-you-go basis to build the infrastructure we need, or creatively finance critical deals using low cost federal credit, bonds, and private equity so that we can reap the benefits of increased mobility sooner.  After sitting in L.A. traffic this morning, I can certainly tell you which option I would prefer.