Small-businesses owners can find out next month how they may get a taste of the $6.3 billion proposed to be spent building high-speed rail in the Valley.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority and the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation are co-hosting a Sept. 8 forum at Save Mart Center at California State University, Fresno.
The rail authority plans to begin construction in late 2012 for the first stretches of its statewide, 800-mile train system. Building would begin in Fresno for a section between Fresno and Bakersfield.
The forum is intended to show Valley businesses the subcontracting opportunities with prime contractors or joint-venture teams, said Rachel Wall, a spokeswoman for the authority. As of Tuesday afternoon, about 120 companies were registered for the Fresno event.
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Small businesses will be "essential to the development of the nation's first true high-speed rail system," said Roelof van Ark, the rail authority's CEO.
Officials suggest the high-speed rail project could result in as many as 16,500 construction-related jobs between 2012 and 2017.
Within the next couple of months, the authority will begin screening contractors' qualifications to build the project. It will seek formal bids next year for five Valley contracts.
The first contract would be for a segment from a new bridge over the San Joaquin River north of Fresno to American Avenue at the south edge of the city. The project, estimated to cost between $1 billion and $2 billion, includes 12 new overpasses or undercrossings, a tunnel and two elevated viaducts.
Three smaller contracts are planned to prepare for tracks from Fresno to Hanford; Hanford to Wasco; and Wasco to the northwest edge of Bakersfield.
A fifth contractor would be responsible for building the actual tracks for the entire length of the section.
If future sections to Los Angeles and San Francisco are not built and high-speed trains never run, officials said, Amtrak trains could use the new tracks for faster, improved service through the Valley.