Cal High-Speed Rail Must Hustle to Keep Funding

Fri June 15, 2012 - West Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

LOS ANGELES (AP) California will need to build its high-speed train line in record time if it doesn’t want to risk losing federal funds — indeed, it will have to be the fastest piece of transportation construction in U.S. history, experts said.

Under a federal deadline, the California High-Speed Rail Authority has until September 2017 to finish the first segment of the line in the Central Valley. In that time, the project will need to acquire some 120 permits, 1,100 parcels of land and a huge workforce.

At a projected cost of $6 billion, California would be spending $2.7 million a day to finish on time, according to an estimate by John Popoff of Parsons Brinckerhoff, a consulting firm working with the rail authority.

The figure could reach $3.5 million a day when the cost of buying land is added to construction, management and environmental costs, construction experts told the Los Angeles Times.

By comparison, the spending rate for the $6.5 billion Bay Bridge replacement project in Oakland is tagged at about $1.8 million per day.

Construction of the Alameda Corridor freight rail line in Los Angeles, completed in 2002, also ran about $1.8 million per day.

“It is a very aggressive plan,” said Manuel Garcia, associate director at the Construction Industry Institute affiliated with the University of Texas at Austin. “It does appear that it will be a challenge.”

Delays caused by legal, political or technical problems could leave the first segment uncompleted by the deadline, which potentially could halt the flow of federal money.

The project is nine months behind schedule in securing approval from the Federal Railroad Administration, a consultant for the rail authority said in a status report.

Land acquisition also is facing problems, Mark Ashley said.

“It is dicey right now whether that is going to hold up our construction or impact our schedule,” he said.

Contractors must submit bids by September to build the first section, from Madera to Fresno. The rail authority contract terms call for builders to face $1 million per day in penalties for failing to meet final deadlines after March 1, 2017.

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