Posts Tagged ‘California’

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.

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.

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.

Grant to Improve Pacific Surfliner Facilities

April 28, 2020

The Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo passenger-rail corridor agency has received a $38.7 million state grant that it will use to improve Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner service.

The funding is coming from the California State Transportation Agency’s 2020 Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program.

The grant to LOSSAN includes funding to help overhaul and modernize rail cars used by Pacific Surfliner trains and to build two layover facilities in San Luis Obispo County and San Diego.

The San Diego layover facility will include maintenance bays and space for overnight storage of Pacific Surfliner equipment.

Las Vegas Rail Projects Gets OK to Issue Bond

April 21, 2020

A proposed intercity rail service to Las Vegas received approval last week from the California Debt Limit Allocation Committee to issue $600 million in tax-exempt bonds.

XpressWest has proposed creating a high-speed rail route between Las Vegas and Southern California.

Under Internal Revenue Service guidelines ExpressWest would be allowed to sell up to four times the amount of the $600 million in bonding authority, for a total of $2.4 billion in tax-free, private equity bonds.

ExpressWest, which is part of Virgin Trains USA, has estimated the project cost at

$4.8 billion

The route would begin in California at Victorville, although ExpressWest has said it would eventually be extended into Los Angeles.

A groundbreaking ceremony for route is being planned by the end of this year.

The U.S. Department of Transportation approved last month $1 billion in tax-free private bonds for the project.

The bonds are required to be issued by Sept. 30.

ExpressWest also is seeking approval from Nevada officials to issue $200 million in bonds, which would allow the company to market $800 million in bonds toward the project.

In an unrelated development, the California High-Speed Rail Authority has extended the public comment period to April 28 on the draft environmental impact report for the Bakersfield-to-Palmdale section of the high-speed rail system.

In a news release, CHSRA said the extra time will allow stakeholders and the public to review and submit comments on the draft EIR during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CHSRA plans to host a virtual public hearing on the report on April 23. The authority is accepting comments via mail, email, online portal and by phone.

Track Work to Affect San Joaquins on Feb. 23

February 19, 2020

Trains 704, 712, 714, 716 and 718 will terminate at Stockton. Passengers will be provided bus service via Buses 4304, 4312, 4314, 4316 and 4318 between Stockton and Merced, making intermediate stops at Modesto and Turlock-Denair.

At Merced, passengers can board their respective 1700-series train to Bakersfield and intermediate stations.

Trains 703, 713, 715, 717 and 719 will originate at Stockton. At Bakersfield, passengers can board their respective 1700-series train to Merced and intermediate stations.

Passengers will be provided bus service via Buses 4303, 4313, 4315, 4317 and 4319 between Merced and Stockton, making intermediate stops at Turlock-Denair and Modesto.

At Stockton, passengers can board their respective 700-series train.

Train and bus schedules from Merced to Bakersfield, Stockton to Sacramento and Stockton to Oakland have been adjusted to depart up to 60-minutes later than normal times.

Some Want New Direction for Calif. High-Speed Project

November 17, 2019

Some California policy makers are raising questions about the wisdom of continuing to proceed with a high-speed rail project in the central part of the state.

They are asking whether it would be better to go with slower trains that would be put into service sooner.

During a hearing conducted by the state Assembly Transportation Committee, Rail Authority board member Daniel Curtin said, “building catenaries and maintenance facilities and buying high-speed trains is unnecessary” if there wasn’t enough money to connect the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

Curtin noted that the state would need to spend billions to purchase new equipment and electrify the lines once construction is finished.

Assembly Member Laura Friedman took issue with an analysis of cost options and how that would increase ridership numbers in the Valley, Bay Area, and Southern California.

“Assuming that our goal is to build from San Diego to San Francisco  . . . the way we get there is by increasing ridership anywhere on the line where you have a large population saying, ‘OK, we’re now in on the train . . . and we demand that you give us that whole system,” she said.

Virgin Gets Preliminary OK on California Bonds

September 24, 2019

A California agency has given Virgin Trains USA received preliminary approval to issue tax-exempt bonds to finance its Xpress West high speed rail project between Southern California and Las Vegas.

The Debt Limit Allocation Committee recommended that Virgin receive the first $300 million of its request, contingent on it providing an economic development plan that outlines its goals, and how it plans to achieve them, in the areas of housing, jobs, and workforce development.

Virgin Trains plans to seek more than $3.2 billion of tax-exempt debt to be issued by a state agency, including more than $800 million in California’s share of U.S. Department of Transportation tax-exempt proceeds.

The company also plans to seek $800,000 in bonds from Nevada, plus part of the federal allocation, providing a total of $4.2 billion in tax-exempt financing for the project.

A similar funding method was used to finance the Brightline service in Florida that Virgin operates.

Rail Safety Event Set at Baseball Game in Anaheim

August 30, 2019

Amtrak, California Operation Lifesaver and the Los Angeles Angels Major League Baseball team will collaborate on a public safety event on Sept. 1 in Anaheim.

There will be a rail safety booth at Angel Stadium of Anaheim featuring rail safety experts who will provide tips for staying safe around railroad tracks.

The stadium is a stop for Pacific Surfliner trains operating between San Diego and San Luis Obispo.

OLI officials said that California leads the nation in annual fatalities due to accidents at grade crossings and trespassing incidents.

Angels starting pitcher Andrew Heaney recently recorded a radio message in which he encourages fans to follow safety rules around railroad tracks and crossings. The radio spot will air on KLAA through September.

September is rail safety month in California, and Sept. 22-28 is U.S. Rail Safety Week.