CA High Speed Rail Receives More Good News from Feds

Two days after the CA High Speed Rail Authority received federal environmental streamlining of the 60-mile Merced to Fresno segment, the Federal Railroad Administration announced they will do the same for the 114-mile Fresno to Bakersfield segment.

Tim Sheehan reports on the double-dose of good news the California High Speed Rail Authority (HSRA) received from President Obama's "We Can't Wait" initiative that is intended to "to speed development of major transportation projects". Consequently, the FRA has been directed to to"finish its environmental review of the remaining segment of the Central Valley route, known as the ‘spine' of the CA High Speed Rail project, the Fresno-Bakersfield 114-mile section by October 2013."

Unlike the northern, 60-mile Merced to Fresno segment that has a completed environmental review by HSRA and which received expedited federal approval on Weds, Sept. 19 (see Let the Track-Laying Begin!), both the "HSRA and the FRA are working on the environmental review of the Fresno-Bakersfield section", the southern stem of the spine.

Even with the expedited federal environmental review of the southern Central Valley segment, it will be difficult to meet the federal requirement that came with the $3.3 billion in federal grants that construction for the "120-mile stretch of the route, between Madera and Bakersfield known as the Initial Construction Segment to be completed by September 2017."

"The boards of supervisors in Kings, Tulare and Kern counties and many of the cities along the Fresno-Bakersfield line have taken formal positions opposing the project. Kings County and two of its residents also are suing the state rail authority over the legality of the program."

Also reporting on the White House announcement was Michael Cabanatuan, transportation reporter of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Jeff Morales, chief executive officer of the High-Speed Rail Authority, said the order requires federal agencies to avoid delays and complete environmental reviews as fast as possible."

In addition to the high speed rail project, the White House directive will expedite a "second California project, the Water Emergency Transit Authority's planned expansion of its San Francisco ferry terminal. The $115.6 million project "would add two, and eventually three, ferry berths to the Water Emergency Transit Authority's two landings at the Ferry Building.

Thanks to David McCoard

Full Story: Feds to streamline high-speed rail approval process

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