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Published: Friday, 1/24/2014

Calif. high-speed rail authority, Amtrak seek joint bids for trains to run on high-speed lines

ASSOCIATED PRESS

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California’s High-Speed Rail Authority and Amtrak on Friday released a joint request for proposals to build trains for California’s planned bullet train and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

The California agency is seeking an initial order of 15 so-called “trainsets,” which can travel at minimum speeds of 200 mph. Each will have a minimum of 450 seats distributed throughout several cars, determined by the bidders.

The trains must be able to meet the bullet train’s planned trip time of 2 hours and 40 minutes between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. Opponents claim that modifications made to address funding problems and appease urban residents mean the system will not be able to meet that time.

Amtrak is seeking up to 28 trainsets for its Acela line, which runs between Boston and Washington, D.C. Those trains must be able to travel at least 160 mph on the existing infrastructure.

Unlike on a conventional train, the engines will be distributed throughout the cars.

The two agencies previously announced a partnership to bid for about 60 trains over the next decade. The aim is for manufacturers to design trains that will work for both systems and allow their combined buying power to generate better pricing from manufacturers.

Officials also hope it will promote manufacturing within the U.S.

“Combining California’s and Amtrak’s orders will help make it worthwhile for manufacturers to locate in the United States, create jobs and deliver 21st century, state-of-the art trainsets,” High-Speed Rail Authority chief executive Jeff Morales said in a statement.

California’s high-speed rail project has been dogged by legal setbacks in recent months.

In November, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge rescinded the rail authority’s funding plan, ordering it to get more environmental clearances and show how it will pay for the first 300 miles of work. The judge agreed with opponents that those details were required in the voter initiative that authorized funding.

That 300-mile segment alone is projected to cost $31 billion. The entire system is estimated at 520 miles.

The judge also blocked the further sale of roughly $9 billion in bonds that were approved as part of the 2008 initiative, money the state had planned to use to start work in the Central Valley.

But Gov. Jerry Brown still backs the project and is proposing to spend $250 million in state environmental money to keep it going.



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