The RFQ will cover the first segment of the scaled-back route — 119 miles from Madera, California, to Shafter, California, just northwest of Bakersfield — and will include design-build services, as well as a 30-year maintenance contract, for track work, railway systems, electrification, maintenance facilities and testing and commissioning. The selected contractor will also perform certain interface and integration work in coordination with other authority contractors.
Responses to the RFQ are due by Sept. 5. The board is expected to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) this fall and award a contract and begin work by next summer after delivering a Notice to Proceed (NTP) to the winning bidder. There are five other project segments that the authority plans to put out to bid, but it has not yet set a procurement schedule for those.
The authority also said the procurement schedule should allow it to meet its Dec. 31, 2022, Federal Railroad Administration deadline for completion. This is a critical goal if the authority wants to hold onto a $928.6 million Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) grant for the project.
In May, the FRA notified the CHSRA that it had terminated the grant because the authority had not made sufficient progress on the bullet train and would likely not meet the deadlines outlined in the grant agreement. The FRA also accused the authority of failing to make "reasonable progress" on the project and mismanaging its administrative duties. In addition, it said it might try to claw back $2.5 billion of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds as well.
A few days after receiving the federal government's grant cancellation notice, the state of California and the CHSRA sued the USDOT and the FRA in an attempt to stop them from terminating the financing agreement. In the lawsuit, the state claims that it has met its obligations under the grant agreement and that, in fact, the federal government had not kept up with its responsibilities to the project.
The FRA said one of the other factors it considered when making its decision to rescind the grant was California Gov. Gavin Newsom's order that the $79 billion Northern California-to-Southern California bullet train route be scaled down to just the Bakersfield-to-Merced route. This changed the nature of the project, according to the FRA.