January 21, 2011

Calif. HSR group tabs $30M to buy L.A. Union Station


Photo courtesy of LACVB.


The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) has set aside $30 million in federal funding for property acquisition and railway development in the Los Angeles area. Officials indicate that some of the funds may be used to acquire the Los Angeles Union Station property — the region’s primary transportation hub, where three high-speed rail segments will converge.

The announcement follows several weeks of discussions with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), which is the funding agent, and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), which has been a planning partner with the CHSRA in Los Angeles County.

This money is included in the recent grant agreement with the FRA outlining the use of federal funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The grant agreement also includes $500,000 each for station design in Merced and Bakersfield and $4.5 million total for station area planning in Fresno, Visalia/Kings, Bakersfield, Merced, Palmdale, Gilroy and San Jose, among others.

The specific use of the funds is still being determined. However, officials from both the CHSRA and Metro indicate that some of the funds dedicated to Southern California may be used to acquire the Los Angeles Union Station property — the region’s primary transportation hub, where three high-speed rail segments will converge.

Using the funds to acquire the L.A. Union Station site creates independent benefit for existing transportation entities in the region. An L.A. Union Station revamp would improve operations and service for Metro light rail, Amtrak, Metrolink and the Metro bus system.

“Even as we plan to begin construction in the Central Valley — the backbone of a statewide system — we must also steer startup funding in urban areas like L.A. to ensure that regional agencies can begin to set the stage for the arrival of high-speed rail while also benefitting existing infrastructure,” said Roelof van Ark, CEO of the CHSRA.

This infusion of funding will create immediate benefits in the Southern California region; however, the design and environmental impact review process being undertaken by the CHSRA is still underway, according to officials.

Design and environmental engineering teams have been engaged since 2007 with local communities and transportation agencies to design three segments in Southern California: Palmdale-Los Angeles, Los Angeles-Anaheim, and Los Angeles-San Diego, via the Inland Empire. That process is still underway, with Environmental Impact Reports yet to be released.  

The CHSRA is developing an 800-mile high-speed train system that will operate at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour, connecting the state’s urban centers, including the Bay Area, Fresno, Los Angeles and San Diego.

The first phase of the project, projected to cost about $43 billion, will begin operation once the first operable segment (150-200 miles) is built, connecting the system to at least one major metropolitan center. The project is being funded through a voter-approved bond, public-private partnerships and federal grants.

California has already secured more than $3 billion in federal funding, the most of any state in the nation and a welcome step toward a long-term federal commitment. This incorporates grants under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, as well as federal grants from other sources. Matched with varying levels of state funds, these dollars mean that more than $5.5 billion total is available to begin work on California’s high-speed rail system.

The federal grant agreement and other documents outlining the ARRA funds are available on the CHSRA’s website. Another grant agreement pertaining to the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program FY 2010 funds, also to be directed to the Central Valley, is forthcoming.

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