October 6, 2011

Calif. to re-introduce alternate high-speed rail route

The California High-Speed Rail Authority will issue a revised environmental report for the Fresno-to-Bakersfield section of the high-speed train project to re-introduce an alternative route and station location.

The revised Revised Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR)/Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is scheduled to be released next spring. This additional analysis of alternatives in the Fresno-to-Bakersfield section will not impact the construction schedule, set to begin late next year in Fresno, nor will it affect the Draft EIR/EIS for the Merced-to-Fresno section.

In response to stakeholder, agency and public feedback on the high-speed train alignment that bypasses Hanford to the east, the authority will re-introduce an alternative route, along with an alternative station location to serve the Kings/Tulare region along that portion of the Fresno to Bakersfield section.

The authority will also investigate improvements to the existing Fresno-to-Bakersfield alternatives. This step will also afford additional time to review the information contained in the current Fresn-to-Bakersfield Draft EIR/EIS.

The Hanford West Bypass alternative was identified in the 2005 Statewide Program EIR/EIS, and including this alternative is consistent with input from regulatory agencies.

Rather than issuing a Final EIR/EIS for the Fresno-to-Bakersfield section in January as previously scheduled, the Authority will now use the coming five to six months to further engineer the additional Hanford West Bypass route and new station alternative, conduct the additional environmental analyses needed, seek "value engineering" opportunities to reduce costs, and make other necessary revisions including those based on comments received through Oct. 13, 2011, after which a "Revised Draft EIR/Supplemental Draft EIS" will be issued for public comment.

Subsequent construction packages are scheduled to begin in mid to late 2013, after the Fresno to Bakersfield section environmental review has concluded.

Planned construction is composed of approximately 140 miles dependent on the alternative selected, and has an estimated contract value of nearly $6 billion. Constructing the backbone of the state's high-speed rail segment is anticipated to generate tens of thousands jobs over the span of construction.

The formal comment period for the Fresno-to-Bakersfield Draft EIR/EIS section will still end on Oct. 13, 2011, and the revised document, to be issued in the spring of 2012, will have a separate, additional 45-day formal comment period.

 

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