Recommendation for first leg of Calif. HSR made

Posted on November 30, 2010

To meet federal and state requirements while building the backbone of a high-speed train system that will eventually run from Los Angeles to the Bay Area, engineers for the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) submitted to its board a recommendation that the project start construction on a critical portion of track in the heart of the Central Valley.

In making his recommendation, which the Authority's board of directors will consider next week, CHSRA CEO Roelof van Ark noted that the first segment to enter construction would make the best use of the $4.3 billion in currently available construction funds and meet all state and federal legal requirements.

The recommendation follows a decision last month by the Federal Railroad Administration, which directed that the federal funding awarded to the project — both the stimulus funding and the Fiscal Year 2010-11 dollars — must be dedicated to a single section of the project in the Central Valley.

Spanning about 65 miles, the recommended segment would start near Madera, include the construction of two new stations and continue south to Corcoran.

Estimates place the cost of the proposed section at $4.15 billion, which leaves enough money to — if necessary — connect these tracks with existing rail lines as per a federal "independent utility" requirement.

Central Valley business leaders applauded the recommendation, which promises to bring much-needed jobs to a region hit hard by the recession.

The cost of the project accounts for two new stations, right-of-way acquisition, viaduct construction, site preparation, grading, vegetation restoration, rail bridge construction, roadway realignments, relocation of existing railways and utilities. The final track would be ready in 2017.

CHSRA will also consider three other options for beginning the 520-mile project, however, each of them would either leave more money unused or limit the expandability of the project.

No construction can begin until the CHSRA completes its relevant environmental reviews of the project. The federal deadline for completing these reviews is September 2011.

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