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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

CHSRA recommends high-speed construction starting point


Today, California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) engineers submitted to the board a recommendation that construction on the state’s high-speed rail line begin on a “critical portion of track in the heart of the Central Valley,” according to a press release. The segment would make the best use of $4.3 billion currently available in construction funds, and meet all state and federal legal requirements, CHSRA said.

The 65-mile segment proposed for initial construction would run from Madera to Corcoran and include stations in Fresno and Hanford. The segment would cost $4.15 billion to build, including station construction, right-of-way acquisition, viaduct construction, site preparation, grading, vegetation restoration, rail bridge construction, roadway realignments, railway relocation and utility work. The segment would be complete in 2017.

By taking that route, CHSRA would have enough money to connect the high-speed tracks with existing rail lines, per a federal “independent utility” requirement. In addition, the 65-mile section proposed by CHSRA would provide the greatest flexibility to continue high-speed construction in either direction, according to the authority.

CHSRA is considering three other options to launch construction on the 520-mile Central Valley corridor, but each either would leave more money unused or limit the possibilities for the project’s expansion, CHSRA said.

Last month, the Federal Railroad Administration directed CHSRA to use all federal funds awarded for the project through the stimulus bill and FY2010 appropriations bill for a single section in the Central Valley. CHSRA can’t begin construction until the authority completes its environmental review. The federal deadline to complete the reviews is September 2011, CHSRA said.

In order to launch construction on additional segments, CHSRA would need additional federal dollars. Authority officials hope that the U.S. Department of Transportation would reallocate high-speed stimulus dollars available for Wisconsin and Ohio to California, should the governors-elect from those states refuse the funds once they take office.

“The funding other states are sending back to Washington — if redirected to California — would allow us to extend initial constructional the way to Bakersfield,” said CHSRA Chief Executive Officer Roelof van Ark in a prepared statement.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 11/24/2010