Construction will begin on the 60-mile stretch between Fresno and Merced, known technically as the Initial Construction Segment. It will be funded with $2.6 billion in Prop 1A, 2008 state High Speed Rail (HSR) bonds and $3.2 billion from the federal government, a substantial part of which comes from stimulus funds rejected by the governors of Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida who opposed the high speed rail grants that their predecessors had successfully applied for.
Tim Sheehan of the Fresno Bee reports on the landmark approval.
"Backers of the project hailed the decision as historic for the development of the first high-speed train project in the nation and the start of construction in the central San Joaquin Valley. 'With the federal record of decision, we are now poised to move forward and break ground next year,' said Jeff Morales, the CEO of the High Speed Rail Authority (HSRA)..
"But the specter of lawsuits continues to hang over the project. Several have been filed against the rail authority in hopes of stalling or stopping work on the Merced-Fresno section.
The decision comes despite recent pleas from critics asking the federal authority to withhold approval based on concerns over "environmental justice" in the environmental review process, potentially in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act."
Also writing on the approval is Juliet Williams of the Associated Press who reports that the plan is now in compliance with "dozens of federal regulations, including the:
Many of the lawsuits are coming from Central Valley farmers who oppose the project.
"We're not seeking necessarily to stop the project entirely, but we do think the project should be stopped until some of these environmental issues, and their severity, are addressed," said Anja Raudabaugh, executive director of the Madera County Farm Bureau.
Thanks to Streetsblog San Francisco