California calls high-speed rail qualifiers Nov 2011
Paula Wallis, TunnelTalk
California's proposed $98 billion high-speed rail system is seeking bids from design-build firms as the first leg of the 800-mile system moves closer to construction.

Merced to Fresno alignment

On Tuesday (15 November) the High-Speed Rail (HSR) Authority issued a Request for Qualification (RFQ) from prospective firms interested in building the largest construction contract in California's Central Valley, from Madera to Fresno. With an estimated value between $1.5-2 billion, construction of the design-build contract is expected to begin next Fall, upon completion of the environmental review process. The plan is to have the large design-build construction contract awarded before the end of 2012. Smaller construction packages, focused in and around the City of Fresno, will be released for bid in the coming months and awarded in mid-2012.
The segment begins north of the San Joaquin River near the city of Madera and continues south to East American Avenue through the city of Fresno. This particular sub-segment, for which qualified bidders are being sought, will extend 21-29 miles depending on the final alignment selected through the environmental process. It will include 12 grade separations, two viaducts, one open trench tunnel and an elevated river crossing over the San Joaquin River.
According to the HSR Authority, funding requirements of The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) dictated the design-build contracting method to take advantage of potential time-savings, which could be significant.
The Authority also cited the capacity to transfer risk to the party best positioned to manage the risk as another benefit. The Authority aims to meet the funding deadlines by giving the selected design-build group the flexibility to determine the most efficient means and methods to complete the scope.
Political brew
As the procurement process gets underway, there is a battle brewing in San Jose as to whether the alignment goes under or over the downtown or bypasses the city all together.

California's high speed rail aspiration

A report released earlier this week by the Authority restates the Authority's long-held position that a tunnel and underground solution will not work in San Jose. Neighborhood groups however, as well as some city officials, argue that the proposed elevated structure will be an unsightly and unwelcome addition to the city skyline.
Following an October meeting with Roelof can Ark, CEO of HSRA, and Dan Leavitt, HRSA Deputy Director, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed said: "They think a tunnel option is not realistic and will not be permitted or funded by the Federal Transporation Administration."
Rod Diridon, a former Santa Clara County supervisor and the longest serving HSRA board member until last year, when then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger failed to reappoint him, sides with the Authority on the issue of a tunnel. "There is a groundwater lake underneath San Jose. The only way you can stabilize it is to inject chemically-treated grout," Diridon said. "In the future, water is going to be much more valuable than petroleum, and to think of us putting chemically treated grout into our ground water is absolutely ridiculous."
The issue could push the Authority to consider alternative routes including the route through the Altamont Pass from Fresno to the peninsula, which has previously been rejected. This route would effectively bypass San Jose and the Silicon Valley. Once a dead issue, this alternative has been revived by a court ruling last week that forces HSRA to reopen the environmental analysis of its preferred route through the Pacheco Pass to Gilroy and north to San Jose and along the Peninsular to San Francisco.
While the alignment elsewhere is in question, the HSRA is pushing to award the first construction contract in the Central Valley. A 35-day RFQ will establish a shortlist of no more than five of the most highly qualified firms, which will be invited to respond to a request for proposals (RFP) scheduled for release in Spring 2012. The selected group will be responsible for all work required to design and construct the first portion of the initial construction segment of California's high-speed rail goal in the Central Valley.
Costs balloon for California's high-speed rail - TunnelTalk, Nov 2011
California calls for high-speed rail collaborators - TunnelTalk, Feb 2011
High Speed Rail Authority - RFQ documents

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