Friday, November 10, 2017

Draft Supplemental document released for Fresno-Bakersfield section of California HSR project as state seeks to take over environmental reviews

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Draft Supplemental document released for Fresno-Bakersfield section of California HSR project as state seeks to take over environmental reviews California High-Speed Rail Authority

The state of California is looking to assume federal environmental responsibilities for the California high-speed rail project.

A Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (Draft Supplemental EIR/EIS) for the Fresno to Bakersfield section of the project was also released.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA), in partnership with the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA), has opened its draft application to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to assume the federal environmental responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other federal environmental laws for public review and comment.

The process would allow the state of California to assume federal environmental responsibilities on all projects comprising the Phase 1 system of the high-speed rail program connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles/Anaheim, and projects extending service to Sacramento and San Diego as part of the Phase 2 system. The state is also applying to include the ACEforward project on the Altamont Corridor Express System and projects that will directly connect to stations on the high-speed rail system, such as Link Union Station and West Santa Ana Branch Extension projects in Southern California.

The state says assuming federal environmental responsibilities will enable more efficient reviews and approvals of the environmental documents required to advance the high-speed rail program and related rail projects.

Through NEPA Assignment, the CHSRA will manage both NEPA and the California Environmental Quality Act document preparation for the Phase 1 and Phase 2 system of the high-speed rail program, finding efficiencies where possible to complete the process faster without diminishing the rigor of the environmental analysis or the opportunities for the public meaningfully to engage with the program.

Comments on the application will be accepted through Dec. 11.

This Draft Supplemental EIR/EIS supplements the 2014 Final EIR/EIS for the Fresno to Bakersfield section of the high-speed project and is focused on the southern portion of the alignment between Poplar Avenue in Shafter and a station location in Bakersfield. The 2014 Final EIR/EIS evaluated alignments that generally followed the existing BNSF tracks from Shafter into Bakersfield. Since then, a new alignment was developed, known as the Locally Generated Alternative, extending from Shafter east towards State Route 99 and the existing Union Pacific tracks, then southward into Bakersfield.

Comments on the Draft Supplemental EIR/EIS will be open until Jan. 16, 2018, to accommodate the holiday season.

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