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California begins search for high-speed track and systems builder

July 22, 2019

California continues to move ahead with its critical first segment of high-speed line.

Last week, the high-speed rail authority released a request for proposals for the contract to design, build and maintain the track and systems along the 119-mile initial segment in the Central Valley. This includes the track, signals, overhead electrification and station platforms.

This contact is only expected to represent $1.65 billion of the project’s overall budget of $79 billion. The bulk of California’s high-speed budget is dedicated to land acquisition, relocating utilities and other infrastructure, and building the bridges, viaducts and tunnels that carry the tracks.

(The high-speed rail authority shared a new video showing that construction progress along the 119-mile right-of-way.)

Several months ago, the authority published a report by Deutsche Bahn that suggests the line should begin operation with hourly high-speed trains running the length from Bakersfield to Merced. In Merced, passengers could transfer to Amtrak or commuter trains to continue to the Bay Area or Sacramento.

The Midwest High Speed Rail Association recommends California also offer trains that travel on the high-speed track and then continue to destinations like San Francisco or the Silicon Valley over existing, conventional tracks. This sort of unified service is commonplace and very successful in Europe because it offers fast connections between many places without requiring people to change trains.

Firms from around the world have until September 5 to file their bids for this construction contract. California is moving quickly to ensure it can meet a 2022 deadline for spending certain federal funding. It’s also in the middle of a legal battle over nearly $1 billion of previously promised funding that the Trump administration is trying to revoke.

Federal deadlines aside, California needs to get people riding this initial segment as soon as possible in order to secure funding to finish its full high-speed rail system. Once people have experienced the game-changing reality of dedicated tracks and 220-mph travel, they’ll be clamoring to complete the line to San Francisco and Los Angeles.