The state of California will soon be starting work on one of the largest infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the United States: the California High-Speed Rail project. Designed to travel at speeds exceeding 200 mph (which will enable travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles in less than 3 hours), this state-of-the-art rail system will be the first of its kind to be built in the United States. Upon completion, the project will connect up to 24 stations spread throughout California, opening up new opportunities for job creation and business in many regions of the state. [i]
Innovation through Procurement
To ensure that the services and materials needed for this project are obtained in the best possible manner, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) has developed a procurement plan for each phase of the project. Throughout the procurement process, vendors will be called upon to submit bids for needed resources, designs and rail infrastructure. This approach is intended to spur competition between vendors and to encourage them to offer innovative solutions. This competitive process also helps the CHSRA reduce financial risk, while ensuring that the Authority receives the best value for its investments.
Certain aspects of the project – such as rolling stock, systems and operations - must be consistent across the entirety of the rail system. Accordingly, the project procurement plan is flexible for cases like these and allows the CHSRA to extend certain vendor partnerships as necessary.
In 2017, the Authority will begin the procurement process for an operator and rolling stock (which includes railway vehicles like locomotives, cars, coaches and wagons). Design and manufacturing of rolling stock is a complicated process; as such, a vendor will be selected by the end of the year to avoid any production delays. Securing an operator is equally important, as the operator’s knowledge will be crucial to the planning and design of the rolling stock and rail infrastructure.
Another vital aspect of the project that will be addressed in 2017 is the contracting of vendors for tunneling contracts. Tunneling, and the engineering work it involves, requires in-depth planning, environmental approvals and specialized equipment. Procurement for the tunneling portion of the California High-Speed Rail project must be completed before many other additional civil works contracts can be put out to bid. Because of this, tunneling opportunities should begin to become available in 2017.
Modernizing Existing Rail Systems
In addition to the construction of the High-Speed Rail system, five existing rail systems in California are set to receive numerous improvements, projects that will generate even more bidding opportunities for businesses.
A new Metro Rail Extension is under construction in Southern California along the Regional Connector Transit Corridor. This extension will facilitate travel from Azusa to Long Beach and from East Los Angeles to Santa Monica without the need for transfers. This $1.3 billion project will help stimulate economic development by providing greater access to Little Tokyo, the Arts District, the Historic Core, Bunker Hill, and the Financial District, among others.
Scheduled for completion in 2020, the $1.7 billion Caltrain Corridor Modernization Program will see improvements across the entire line that runs from the Fourth and King Street Station in San Francisco to the Tamien Station in San Jose. Included in this project will be the installation of new electrical infrastructure and the conversion from diesel-hauled trains to Electric Multiple Unit trains.
Construction is already underway on San Francisco’s Central Subway, a 1.7-mile light-rail line extension connecting the Fourth and King Street Station to Chinatown. This $1.6 billion project is designed to improve access to the cities commercial districts and tourist attraction with stops in South of Market (SoMa), Yerba Buena, Union Square and Chinatown.
The Metrolink Positive Train Control Project recently saw the installation and testing of collision-avoidance technology. This new system provides engineers with continuous information about safety concerns including speed restrictions and work zones, while keeping trains, tracks and dispatch centers in constant communication with each other through a fiber optic network. The Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA) is the first in the nation to have its entire rail lines equipped with this advanced safety technology.
Recently, the $660 million Blue Line Light Rail improvements project was completed. This project involved the replacement and repair of rails, track and switches. Platforms along the line saw improvements, along with renovations for all 12 rail stations. The Blue Line services more the 45,000 people a week, making it the most-used rail system in the San Diego region.
Partnering with Small Businesses
The involvement of small business is an important part of the planning, design and construction of California’s High-Speed Rail project. The CHSRA has set a 30% participation goal for small business contributors, which includes Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE), Disabled Veteran Business Enterprises (DVBE) and Micro-Businesses (MB). [ii]
Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) – Created to certify small, for-profit, businesses that are at least 51 percent owned by one or more individuals considered socially or economically disadvantaged, the DBE helps create a level playing field for small business competing for federally funded contracts. [iii]
Disabled Veteran Business Enterprises (DVBE) – To be eligible for this certification, 51 percent or more of the business must be owned by a U.S. military, naval, or air service veteran who has a service-connected disability of at least 10 percent or more and who resides in California. Certified DVBE’s benefits from California’s mandate that at least 3 percent of the state's overall annual contract dollars go to DVBE businesses. [iv]
Micro-Businesses (MB) - To qualify for this certification, a business must be independently owned, not dominant in their market and have their main office located in California. The business must also have gross annual receipts of less than $3,500,000 and/or be a manufacturer with 25 or fewer employees. MB’s receive a 5 percent preference on applicable state solicitations. Certified businesses fall under the California’s Small Business Participation Program, with the goal that 25% of the State's overall annual contract dollars go towards small business and micro-businesses. [v]
The small business partnership plan is designed to be flexible so that vendors are able to take advantage of the many business opportunities generated by the high-speed rail project. The CHSRA has developed an outreach program to aid vendors, which includes small business certification assistance, organized networking opportunities and a monthly newsletter, as well as a Business Advisory Council that will be established to ensure any possible opportunities for small business participation are identified and made available. [ii]
Be aware that the CHSRA is not a small business certifying agency; they recognize small business certifications from the California Department of General Services, the California Unified Certification Program, and the U.S. Small Business Administration 8(a) Program, but do not issue certifications. [ii]
Riding Towards the Future
Construction of the first high-speed rail system in the United States will require numerous partnerships with businesses in a variety of different industries. Over the next decade the CHSRA will require the goods and services of companies specializing in information technology, construction and professional services, construction management, mechanical engineering, signage, weatherproofing, transportation, catering, CADD design and demolition. These are just a handful of the specialized services that will be needed as part of the high-speed rail project, all of which are essential to the successful completion of this massive transit system.
California is the 3rd largest - not to mention the most populated - state in America, and the California High-Speed Rail project will help ensure that its citizens and businesses are able to move quickly and safely into the future.
Kevin McClintock | BidNet.com