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California agency reports progress on high-speed rail project

Since March 2015, the agency has advanced construction on 119 miles of track.
Photo – California High-Speed Rail Authority

From July 2006 through June 2016, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) has invested $2.3 billion in planning and constructing the state's planned high-speed rail system, according to the agency's 2017 project report released earlier this week.

By law, CHSRA is required to submit progress reports to the California State Legislature every two years.

Since CHSRA's March 2015 report, the agency advanced construction on 119 miles of transportation infrastructure at nine sites between the Central Valley and Silicon Valley.

In addition, CHSRA has employed more than 900 construction workers in the Central Valley, with many more hires expected, the report stated.

CHSRA has engaged 334 small businesses on the project. Of that total, 102 are certified disadvantaged businesses and 39 are certified disabled veteran businesses.

However, the project faces myriad "regulatory, environmental, public policy, political, funding and other challenges that must be anticipated and effectively managed in order for the program to be successfully delivered," CHSRA officials said.

To tackle the regulatory and environmental issues, California Gov. Jerry Brown last week asked President Donald Trump's administration to expedite the federal environmental review of construction for the Silicon Valley-to-Central Valley portion of the high-speed rail system.

Brown's request came after Trump in late January issued an executive order calling for expedited environmental reviews for high-priority infrastructure projects.

CHSRA also has reached agreements with railroads whose rights-of-way are near the high-speed line's planned alignment in the Central Valley. In particular, the agency and Union Pacific Railroad have executed an engineering, construction and maintenance agreement; an insurance and indemnification agreement; and an environmental liability agreement.

Additionally, CHSRA has negotiated various agreements with BNSF Railway Co., the San Joaquin Valley Railroad and West Isle Line Inc., a railroad owned by Crop Production Services.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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