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Tim Skubick: High-speed train bid raising eyebrows

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LANSING, Mich. (WJBK) - Who better to blow the whistle on an MDOT train contract than railroad devotee and former state senator Joe Schwarz.

Off the political radar for months, the former GOP politician is back in the game and playing with trains which he loves to do.

But he’s not in love with the way the state transportation department is handling the bid on high speed train service between Detroit and Chicago.

The state is poised to offer 110 mph service but it needs some rolling stock to get things going and Mr. Schwarz is critical of the RFP (Request for Proposal) the agency drafted.  He contends only one company could met the requirements and therefore only one bid was received.  Or as one PR guy alleges the contract was written for one firm.

Time out, Mr. S. demands.

“This deal is not a good deal,” he explains as he has asked the governor to restart the whole process so other companies can bid not just Talco which is in line to get the job.

He complains Talco has equipment that can not withstand Michigan’s grueling winters.  He contends their trains would require the regiggering of the railroad stations which handle Amtrak trains and another $30 million or so, not in the contract, would be needed to repair the trains.

Michigan P.R. guy John Truscott, hired by a Chicago firm that wants the job, suggests this whole thing is “smelly.”

Mr. Schwarz is not willing to go that far, but he says, “I don’t think they thought it through…the RFP was too narrow.”

This has been an expensive project with the feds kicking in a cool $338 million to upgrade the tracks between the two cities and Mr. Schwarz believes MDOT did a “superb” job on that, but not so much on the bid.

One-bid contracts do raise eyebrows in this town.  It doesn’t necessarily mean anything is wrong but in this case the former lawmaker wants to hit the re-boot button just to make sure and he's hoping the governor will push it.
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