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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

California congressman opposes CHSRA's choice for first HSR construction segment


As the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) board prepares to review and possibly approve the starting point for high-speed rail construction in the state, Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.) is calling on the U.S. Department of Transportation to intervene with the “wasteful use of use of tax funding and illogical decisions being made about the proposed first route,” according to a prepared statement.

Last week, CHSRA staff submitted a recommendation to the board that called for beginning high-speed rail construction on a 65-mile segment from Madera to Corcoran. The segment — which would cost $4.15 billion to build — would make the best use of the $4.3 billion currently available in construction funds, and meet all state and federal legal requirements, CHSRA said.

But the “hybrid” route goes against expectations that the authority would first launch construction on a route between Bakersfield and Fresno, or Merced and Fresno, said Cordoza.

“The Merced-Fresno segment represents the backbone of this rail system, providing crucial links to Sacramento, the Bay Area and southern California,” he said. “The segment offers a line that is ready to go and will provide a functioning segment, connecting two stations and an operating line that has independent utility.”

In contrast, the Madera-Corcoran segment “cannot be considered a useable segment” and doesn’t meet the Federal Railroad Administration’s requirements for independent utility, Cordoza added.

“This decision is absolutely monumental and marks the cornerstone of the future of high-speed rail,” he said.

However, CHSRA officials say that starting construction on the Madera-Corcoran line would leave the authority with enough money to connect the high-speed tracks with existing rail lines, per the federal “independent utility” requirement. In addition, the 65-mile section would provide the greatest flexibility to continue construction in either direction, according to the authority.

Last month, the FRA 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.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 12/2/2010