High-Speed Rail

High-speed rail agency adds money, time to right-of-way contracts

More time and money are being allocated to property acquisition for high-speed rail sections in the San Joaquin Valley – a process that continues to take the California High-Speed Rail Authority much longer than originally expected and threatens to slow progress on construction in the region.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority agreed Tuesday to amend four of its existing contracts with right-of-way engineering/surveying consultants – deals that amount to about $16 million and were to expire in February 2018 – to add $10 million and two years to the terms.

Alan Glen, the rail agency’s director of real property, told the authority board that construction contractors’ proposed design changes for the route have resulted in the authority having to acquire more pieces of land than anticipated, forcing engineers to do additional survey and mapping work.

“In addition to this remapping, the condemnation process and negotiations with property owners during the acquisition process have required more work than previously contemplated,” Glen reported. “Due to this unforeseen work, staff now anticipates that the existing ($16 million) funding will only last until the third quarter of this year.”

Amending the engineering/surveying contracts to run through April 2020 and adding the extra $10 million is needed, Glen added, “to maintain the momentum the authority has gained in delivering (property). … Timely acquisition of (right of way) is fundamental to the continued progress of the delivery” of the first three construction contract segments from Madera to just north of Shafter.

The rail authority has identified 1,468 parcels that are needed for the railroad right of way, and associated structures such as bridges and road overpasses, for its Madera-Shafter construction sections. As of late February, the agency reported that it had completed the acquisitions – through either negotiated purchases or settlements of eminent domain cases – of 668 properties.

In a separate action Tuesday, the authority’s board gave a green light to seeking bids for more consultants to help pick up the pace of property appraisals, negotiations and condemnations from Merced to Bakersfield, anticipating spending up to $44 million over a five-year period. The agency already has 11 prior contracts for the same types of services in the Valley: four awarded in 2011 for a total of $40 million, which Glen said are nearing their expiration dates; and seven awarded in 2014, for a total of $35 million.

As with the engineering/surveying contracts, “many of the parcels have required additional work that was not anticipated at the time of the procurement and contract execution,” Glen told the board. “It is anticipated that the remaining 2014 contract capacity will not handle the magnitude of the needed task orders.”

The authority expects to issue its request for proposals from would-be contractors later this month, with hopes of awarding a contract in early June.