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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

California High-Speed Rail Authority approves alignment, certifies environmental report and inks emissions agreement

The California High-Speed Rail Authority's (CHSRA) board yesterday certified the Final Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) for the Fresno-to-Bakersfield section of its high-speed rail project and approved an alignment within the same section.

The board's actions allow CHSRA to take additional steps toward continuing major work on the project from Fresno to the south, as well as approve the preferred alignment from the southern edge of the already-approved Fresno Mariposa Street station to the 7th Standard Road in Kern County northwest of Bakersfield, authority officials said in a press release.

The board's actions followed "extensive input" from community members, local and elected officials, various stakeholders and state and federal partners, said Chairman Dan Richard.

"As this process moves forward, we are all committed to and will continue to work with property owners and businesses to ensure that impacts from the high-speed rail project are mitigated and that the project benefits Central Valley residents now and into the future," he said.

The Fresno-to-Bakersfield section runs 114 miles from south of the terminus of the Merced-to-Fresno project section to north of the City of Bakersfield. The preferred alternative is comprised of a BNSF Railway Co. line, the Corcoran Bypass alternative, the Allensworth Bypass alternative and the Bakersfield Hybrid alternative. Proposed stations have been identified for downtown Bakersfield on Truxtun Avenue and the East of Hanford/west of Visalia station option located near State Route 198, CHSRA officials said.

After deliberations, the board considered the final EIR/EIS document under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by approving the project to 7th Standard Road and adopting document required under CEQA. The board then voted unanimously to certify the Fresno-to-Bakersfield Section Final EIR/EIS. Next, they unanimously approved a high-speed rail alignment within the Fresno-to-Bakersfield project section. In the next step, the Federal Railroad Administration will consider approving the project and issuing a record of decision under the National Environmental Policy Act, anticipated in June, CHRSA officials said.

The Final EIR/EIS and associated documents are available online at the authority's website.

Also yesterday, the board approved entering into a memorandum of understanding with the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District that commits the CHSRA to offset its construction criteria pollutant emissions, commits the district to source, procure and secure the offsets on behalf of CHSRA and outlines a process for detailed Voluntary Emission Reduction Agreements as CHSRA builds out the project within the district boundaries, officials said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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