The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has issued a Record of Decision (ROD) for the 114-mile Fresno to Bakersfield Section of the California high-speed train system. The ROD is the last step in the National Environmental Policy Act process and clears the way to break ground on the project.
“This represents a major step forward, both for the State of California and for high-performance rail in the U.S.,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “It will create jobs, provide travelers with new options and improve connectivity up and down the West Coast. This project is an important example of our commitment to investing in modernizing our rail infrastructure to meet growing market demand.”
The FRA said the California high-speed train system will provide a high-speed electric-powered train system that links the major metropolitan areas of California, delivering predictable and consistent travel times that are competitive with air and highway travel. FRA also said it will provide connectivity to commercial airports, mass transit systems and the highway network and help alleviate capacity constraints of the existing transportation system as increases in intercity travel demand in California occur.
In its ROD, the FRA selects the preferred alternative outlined in its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), which was issued earlier this year. The preferred alternative is comprised of the alignment alternative adjacent to the BNSF bypasses of Corcoran, the Allensworth area and the Bakersfield Hybrid alternative. The preferred alternative includes a Downtown Fresno Station, a Kings/Tulare regional station and a downtown Bakersfield station. FRA selected this combination of route alignments because they are more compatible with the long-range development planning goals of the region and will result in fewer potential impacts on wetlands and special-status species habitat. The alignment will also reduce displacements and result in fewer impacts to religious facilities when compared to the other alignment alternatives.
FRA’s decision reflects the balancing of multiple considerations including environmental, technical, economic, operational, as well as community and stakeholder input. The ROD also includes a Mitigation Monitoring and Enforcement Plan that describes measures the California High Speed Rail Authority must implement as part of the project to reduce, avoid and minimize potential adverse environmental impacts.
“This ROD represents a major milestone in the planning process, which included a rigorous analysis that thoroughly incorporated public input to recommend these routes,” said FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo. “Public feedback is an essential component of the environmental review process and we relied upon it heavily while conducting this review.”