Public Comment Sought on Revised California High-Speed Business Plan

The California High Speed Rail Authority is seeking public comment on a revised draft of its 2020 business plan to complete construction of high-speed rail service in the Central Valley.

The draft report outlines a plan to complete the project while highlighting progress to get high-speed trains running in California as soon as possible.

The report supports the Authority’s earlier decision to develop an electrified Merced-Fresno-Bakersfield high-speed rail interim-service line in the Central Valley, while continuing to advance environmental reviews and current investments in local and regional infrastructure projects in Northern and Southern California.

Authority and state officials also expressed optimism that the Biden administration will be supportive of the high-speed plan.

That would be a change from the position of the Trump administration, which canceled federal funding for the project and sought to claw back some federal funding already spent on it.

Acting FRA Administrator Amit Bose said a recent statement that the U.S. Department of Transportation “looks forward to partnering with California” on high-speed rail.”

The original plan for the California high-speed rail project was to build between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

But cost increases and project delays have led to changes. The Authority now is looking to complete the 119-mile Central Valley construction segment and lay track pursuant to the state’s federal-funding grant agreements with the FRA.

It also is eyeing expanding the Central Valley segment to 171 miles of electrified high-speed rail, connecting Merced-Fresno-Bakersfield and to begin testing electrified high-speed trains by 2026-2027.

Those trains would be placed into service by the end of that decade.

As for serving San Francisco and Los Angeles, the authority wants to environmentally clear all segments of the Phase 1 system between two cities and advance construction on “bookend” projects that the authority has committed funding to in the LA and Bay areas.

It said it will pursue additional funding to close the gaps and expand the service to the Bay Area and LA as soon as possible.

The Authority Board recently agreed to seek $4.1 billion in state bonds authorized by voters 12 years ago.

Construction that is now underway is projected to cost $330 million more than was anticipated.

Track construction is now projected to last through 2023, a year later than what was projected last year.

In an effort to cut costs, service may begin on a single-track railroad with passing sidings and leased equipment.

Officials say double tracking would need to be completed before the San Francisco Bay Area is linked to the line with 220-mph trains.

Connections would be made at Merced to extended Amtrak’s San Joaquin service and Altamont Corridor Express commuter into the Central Valley from the Bay Area and Sacramento.

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