Posts Tagged ‘California High Speed Rail Authority’

CHSRA Submits State Match to FRA

March 5, 2021

The Federal Railroad Administration will review a state match submitted for the California high speed rail project.

The agency had earlier approved $846 million in state matching dollars to go against a federal grant awarded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The FRA will now review a final state match submitted by the California High Speed Rail Authority.

CHSRA earlier used $2.5 billion in ARRA funding by the statutory deadline of September 2017. The state matching funds must be spent by the end of 2022.

Work is currently underway to build 119 miles in the Central Valley spread over 35 active job sites

Another Complication for Calif. High Speed Rail Project: Endangered Species

March 2, 2021

Yet another complication has arisen for the California high-speed rail project.

Listings of two species, the Southern California and Central Coast mountain lion, and the monarch butterfly, as candidates for an endangered species lists has resulted in an environmental impact statement having to be revised.

The review is of the Bakersfield-Palmdale route section of its route. Construction of the rail line could potentially affect the species listed.

The revised environmental impact statement must be the subject of a new public comment period that began on Feb. 26 and runs through April 12.

The California High Speed Rail Authority will take steps to mitigate the potential effect of construction and operation of the rail line on the endangered species.

Those measures are not expected to add significant cost to the project.

Cost Overruns Hinder California High Speed Design Changes

February 23, 2021

Cost overruns of more than $800 million will lead to a redesign of a 65-mile section of the California high speed rail plan.

The cost overruns reportedly occurred because of design changes proposed by a contractor in cost-saving move.

Spanish company Dragados had touted $300 million in savings that could be had by modifying designs proposed by the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

The Authority has since dropped those changes and said in a statement it is working with regulators to resolve the design issues.

Public Comment Sought on Revised California High-Speed Business Plan

February 18, 2021

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.

Calif. High-Speed Cost Rises, Completion Date Extended

February 9, 2021

The completion date for the segment of the California high-speed rail network currently under construction has been moved back to 2023.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority, which is overseeing the project, also has increased the cost of finishing the work to $13.1 billion. The Authority had projected the cost to be $12.4 billion.

Work is underway on 119 miles in the Central Valley between Bakersfield and Madera.

The Authority attributed the increases in cost and time needed to complete the work to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in worker quarantines, delayed right-of-way procurement, and loss of revenue from the cap-and-trade carbon reduction program.

The new cost estimates and completion timetable is part of a request the Authority is expected to make to the federal government for a one-year extension on a funding deadline.

Contractor Faults State for Calif. Project Delays

January 13, 2021

State failures may cause the California’s high speed rail project to miss a crucial 2022 federal deadline, one of the contractors on the project has charged.

Construction firm Tutor Perini told the Calfiornia High Speed Rail Authority in a 36-page letter that the project has been hindered by turnover of officials, delays in obtaining land, and failure to secure agreements with outside parties such as freight railroads and utilities.

Those developments have halted work at more than 500 parcels in the Fresno area as of mid-November the letter said.

Tutor Perini said it has slowed its work pace at other sites, laid off 73 workers and expects to make additional layoffs.

The rail agency’s chief executive, Brian Kelly, told The Los Angeles Times the letter “attempts to set out why project challenges are everybody else’s fault.”

Rising Costs Lead California High Speed Rail Authority to Pause to Assess Future

September 11, 2020

Increasing costs of construction and land acquisition costs are leading the California High-Speed Rail Authority to launch a comprehensive reassessment of its plans.

News reports indicated that the line under construction in Central California is facing a deficit of more than $1 billion.

Authority CEO Brian Kelly said the agency has interrupted finishing its 2020 business plan and will instead take time to assess revenue, costs, project scope, and construction schedule.

In an unrelated development, the city of Wasco, California, has reversed a decision to close a street to accommodate construction of a high-speed rail line being built by the California High Speed Rail Authority.

The city had agreed in 2017 to close Sixth Street but has now revoked that because a written closure agreement was never completed.

The 2017 agreement had left open the possibility of the city changing its mind on closing the street if other issues between the city and authority were not addressed.

Comments Sought on Calif. Project

September 2, 2020

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has issued a revised notice of preparation under the California Environmental Quality Act and a revised notice of intent under the National Environmental Policy Act for the 30-mile Los Angeles to Anaheim Project Section.

The action begins a month-long effort to solicit public views on additional facilities in Colton and Barstow, California, which are needed for project construction and operation.

The Los Angeles to Anaheim section of the network would run parallel to a BNSF-owned rail corridor between Los Angeles and Fullerton, which serves BNSF’s Hobart and Commerce Intermodal Facilities.

The corridor runs through an urban environment also used by Amtrak and Metrolink.

A portion of the BNSF tracks would need to be relocated away from the Los Angeles to the Fullerton corridor.

CHSRA has proposed getting environmental clearance for construction of new freight facilities in San Bernardino County, building a new intermodal facility in Colton and staging tracks in Lenwood, an unincorporated area of San Bernardino County near Barstow.

Written comments should be sent to CHSRA by Sept. 24.

Legislators Want Delay on Awarding Contract

June 8, 2020

A resolution asking the California High-Speed Rail Authority to defer awarding a contract has drawn the support of a majority of members of the California Assembly.

The contract, which is to be awarded this year, is for construction of 171 miles of track, catenary and signals.

The resolution would defer the awarding of the contract until the legislature reviews the plan.

Although the legislature lacks authority to force the CHSRA to delay awarding the contract, observers say that failure to adhere the legislature’s wishes could result in a costly conflict.

The contract covers the line between Bakersfield and Merced.

Draft Environmental Report Issued for Proposed Segment of California High-Speed Network

May 29, 2020

A draft environmental impact report was to be released this week by the California High-Speed Rail Authority regarding a 14-mile high-speed section between Burbank and Los Angeles.

The report evaluates the effects and benefits of CHSRA’s plan to realign existing rail tracks in the corridor to allow for two additional tracks.

The added tracks would be electrified for high-speed rail and could be shared with Amtrak and Los Angeles commuter railroad Metrolink.

The project section would connect Burbank Airport Station and Los Angeles Union Station.

CHSRA will host an online community open house and hearing for the public to submit oral and written comments.

The draft will be available for review from May 29 through July 16.

A final environmental report is expected to be issued in 2021.

In a unrelated development, the Sacramento Bee reported that California Gov. Gavin Newsom will remove 88 positions for private-sector consultants from the state’s high speed project.

Instead, the state will create 70 new jobs for public employees.

The change is designed to address criticism that there are too many consultants with insufficient oversight overseeing the project.

A 2018 audit found the project relied on high-priced consultants “for whom the state’s best interests may not be the highest priority.”