California explores P3 option for high-speed rail

California’s High Speed Rail Authority is turning to the private sector for ideas on how to proceed with the procurement of the first high-speed rail system in the US.

As California’s high-speed rail project moves forward – construction began this past January – the state agency responsible for the delivery of the $67.5 billion project has issued a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) seeking input from the private sector as it looks to move forward with the procurement process.

The High Speed Rail is an 800-mile project which will ultimately connect Sacramento to San Diego. The High Speed Rail Authority (HSRA) is currently focusing on what it calls Phase I of the project, the 520-mile section that runs from San Francisco to Los Angeles-Anaheim.

To date, three sections of the project are being delivered under design-build contracts. Construction Package 1 (CP1), a 29-mile section linking Madera County with Fresno County, was awarded in August 2013. Construction Package 2-3 (CP2-3), that runs approximately 60 miles south of Fresno, was awarded last month, while another 22-mile section further south to Poplar Avenue, is at the Request for Proposals (RFP) stage.

“So, what we’re saying is, instead of doing individual design-build contracts section by section, could we package them in another way,” HSRA spokesperson Lisa Marie Alley told Infrastructure Investor in a phone interview.

According to the RFEI, the state agency is “looking for detailed feedback on the technical, commercial, financial and procurement aspects of its preferred delivery strategy, as well as the industry’s view on the potential benefits and challenges from combining large remaining portions of the system into one or more DBFM [design-build-finance-maintain] or similar contracts.”

“Maybe company X says: ‘We want to fund, design, build San Jose to Gilroy,’” Alley explained. “Maybe someone else says ‘you should combine the signal systems, the earthquake warning detection, the track all in one’. That’s the kind of feedback we’re looking for and that will help us determine our next procurement steps,” she added.

Asked whether the state agency has made any decisions regarding the procurement of the remaining 300 miles of the system, Alley said: “No we have not; right now, we’re focusing on procuring Phase I.”

The first part of the project is slated for completion by 2029, but according to Alley, “based on what we’re anticipating from the responses, we would hope to do it earlier. The sooner we can build this, the less it will cost in the end.”

Those interested in providing feedback have until September 14 to do so but expressions of interest received after that date “may still be considered,” according to the HSRA document.