The California bullet train authority is moving ahead with an aggressive plan to issue its biggest contract in history, steering into sharp criticism by federal regulators and even the state-appointed peer review panel that it is overreaching.
The agency took a key step last week toward issuing a 30-year-long contract to install track, set up high-voltage electrical lines, create a digital signaling system, build a heavy maintenance train garage and obligate future maintenance of the equipment and track.
It would cover future track from San Jose to Bakersfield, more than half the proposed Los Angeles-to-San Francisco system. It would lock the state into a maintenance contract, as well as equipment, on segments that it currently does not have money to build.
Rail authority Chief Executive Brian Kelly defended the plan as fulfilling the mission to build an electrified high-speed rail system and said it is essential to comply with federal grant agreements.
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