Courtesy of California High-Speed Rail Authority

California high-speed rail design procurement underway

November 9, 2023

The agency overseeing construction of California’s electric high-speed rail is moving forward with plans to design a 171-mile section of the track through the Golden State’s Central Valley. 

The California High-Speed Rail Authority recently board approved issuing a request for qualifications (RFQ) for the design of the track and the overhead contact systems for electricity. Statements of qualifications are due Jan. 22, and the board could approve a contract for up to $131.2 million in April. 

California’s high-speed rail line will eventually span 800 miles and include 24 stations that connect Sacramento and San Diego. When completed, it will be the nation’s first high-speed rail line, capable of running from San Francisco to Los Angeles in three hours at speeds of more than 200 mph. 

Due to the size of the project, it will be completed in phases. Phase 1 focuses on the Central Valley between San Francisco/Merced and Los Angeles/Anaheim. The legs north to Sacramento and south to San Diego will be part of Phase 2. The goal is to have a section between Merced and Bakersfield in operation between 2030-33. 

The RFQ comes after a more than year-long pause on procuring a design consultant as industry prices climbed and supply-chain issues continued.  

Once selected, the consultant will design the track and overhead lines for the 119-mile section across the Central Valley, including track structure, how to contain the electric cable, walkways, fencing and drainage. 

The overall project has completed several milestones over the past few months. In August, the board issued an RFQ for the design, manufacture and maintenance of six trainsets that can operate at speeds over 220 mph. Those statements of qualification are due Nov. 14, and the board will approve a shortlist of contractors in early 2024 to produce proposals for the contract. 

Despite the pause on procuring a design consultant, work on Phase 1 has been ongoing. More than 32 structures are under construction, and the authority has completed nine overcrossings to date in 2023. 

The most recent overcrossing completions were at Kansas Avenue in Kings County on Nov. 2 and at Davis Avenue in Fresno County on Oct. 30. The bridges allow vehicles to pass over the area where the electrified track will ultimately be built. 

About 422 miles of future track area have received environmental clearance. The rail authority anticipates having the final section in Phase 1, Los Angeles to Anaheim, cleared in 2024. 

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