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High speed train bond may put construction industry on right track

Californians voted last week to approve Proposition 1A, the Safe, Reliable High-Speed Train Bond Act. Although construction of San Diego's portion of the line may be a while off, contractors in the area are likely to see work from the project in the not-so-distant future.

The bond provides $9.95 billion over 30 years for construction of a high-speed intercity rail system.

While the measure passed with 52.2 percent of the vote, a majority of San Diegans voted against issuing the bonds.

San Diego construction companies are pleased with the passage of the bond-measure, which will provide infrastructure for Californians and work for contractors, said Brad Barnum, vice-president of government relations for Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) San Diego Chapter.

A number of AGC San Diego members specialize in rail projects and many more would be qualified to build train stations and other facilities.

"Voters continue to vote to invest in infrastructure projects even when facing a budget deficit," Barnum said.

The High-Speed Rail project will provide work for residential contractors, many of whom are turning to public works projects while the home-building industry is frozen.

The High-Speed Rail Authority plans to construct a portion of the track between Los Angeles and San Francisco first, before eventually extending service to San Diego and Sacramento.

While it may be a while before construction companies start working on laying rail and constructing stations, the massive project should stimulate the state's construction industry, Barnum said.

With the passage of school and other bonds, San Diego contractors should have enough work until it comes time to break ground on the regional portion of the line, Barnum said.

There are already hundreds of contractors working on the design-phase of the project, said Judge Quentin Kopp, who is on the board of the High-Speed Rail Authority.

More than 1,000 people are already working on the project and even more will be employed when construction begins in the latter part of 2010.

Caltrans may also put out a bid in Los Angeles to construct the infrastructure necessary to give the train right of way.

Although contracts for the design and engineering of the project are likely to total $100 million, not all of the work is ensured to go to California contractors.

The High-Speed Rail Authority will open bidding on the contracts on a competitive basis to companies around the world, Kopp said.

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