High-speed rail hits milestones – Streetsblog California
This week, the California High-Speed Rail Authority certified the final environmental impact report for the ninety-mile segment from San Jose to Merced via the Pacheco Pass.
This means environmental work has been completed on nearly 400 of the 500 miles of the Phase 1 alignment from San Francisco to Anaheim. Segments that still need to be environmentally cleaned up range from San Jose to San Francisco, Los Angeles to Anaheim, and Palmdale to Burbank. The environmental impact report for the first of them is expected to be approved later this year, with the other two expected to arrive in 2023 and 2024 respectively. The EIR for the section between Burbank and Los Angeles was certified earlier This year.
Four project alignments were studied for the San Jose-Merced segment, with differences between San Jose and Gilroy. All alternatives included ten miles of tunnels through the Pacheco Pass in the Central Valley.
The council has selected ‘Alternative 4’ as the preferred alternative – see map below. It takes a big bend just south of Gilroy, after emerging from a tunnel west of Casa de Fruta and before heading towards the planned Gilroy station. From there, the alignment is mostly level via Gilroy, Morgan Hill, and San Martin, to San Jose’s Diridon station.
Residents of these areas have raised concerns about travel, ground-level safety, noise, and wildlife impacts, among other issues. This alternative was chosen because it has the least amount of travel (it estimates that it will have to move 68 residences and an equal number of businesses), occupies the least agricultural land and has the least impact on wildlife corridors.
It’s not the quietest of the alternatives, as several of the others have considered including tunnels along this segment. It includes noise barriers, which are not as effective as tunnels, but tunnels would have been “prohibitively expensive” according to the EIR. The chosen alternative was therefore the least expensive overall, with an estimated cost of $19 billion.
It will also involve around fifteen permanent road closures.
Board approval concludes ongoing analyzes since 2005, with serious discussions of alternative alignments since 2009.
At the board meeting, several people, including former CAHSRA president Ron Diridon (hence the San Jose station’s name), reminded the board of the importance of keeping mind the federal money that will soon be available for “shovel ready” projects. “Delays are deadly,” he said. “As you consider this environmental work — which is important — whatever you do, don’t delay the project,” he called California’s “number one climate remedy.”
Funding LA Union Station
At the same meeting, the CAHSRA Board of Directors also approved an agreement with LA Metro to fund the upgrade of Union Station with the planned Link U.S. Passway Project. Link US will change the track configuration at Union Station to allow trains, including high-speed trains, to enter and exit from both ends. Currently, trains can only enter from the north; they have to backtrack and go around the station to head south to Anaheim and San Diego.
The deal secures $423 million from Prop 1A — the bond financing that launched California’s high-speed rail program — for Union Station improvements. He follows on a recent agreement between CAHSRA and LA Metro to continue shared use rights of way through Union Station, Palmdale and other locations.
🚨 The Board of Directors has approved an agreement with @metrolosangeles to advance the Link Union Station project in Southern California!
💵 The Authority will invest $423 million in Prop 1A funds to upgrade LA Union Station.
— CA High Speed Rail Network 🚄💨 (@CaHSRA) April 27, 2022
Central Valley Resort Designs
Staff released concept drawings for four Central Valley stations: Merced, Fresno, Kings-Tulare and Bakersfield, and the board gave the go-ahead to start the process of hiring companies to design and build the new stations.
Renderings of Fresno Station show separate bike lanes, canopies, bus lanes, and bus boarding islands. There will be opportunities for public comment on station access and other design elements after the consultants have been selected. Construction of the Fresno station is expected to begin in 2025.
Business Plan 2022
The board also approved the 2022 business plan. The plan outlines timelines and funding sources for the project, including the allocation of remaining Prop 1A funds and potential federal funding that California is well positioned to compete for, as well as $965 million from the cap and trade.
Director Margaret Peña was the only director not to back the plan’s passage because, she said, like last year, it postpones updates to tax measures until 2023 — specifically tax measures. $4.2 billion in Prop 1A funds. It’s still unclear whether that allocation will be approved, she said, “and I know the Assembly is looking at specific ways to spend those dollars on other things.” In addition, federal funds are still uncertain.”
The council adopted the plan. But expect another round of budget negotiations over the allocation of Prop 1A funds, which were not released last year. However, since some of this money will go to the LA Union Station project – as noted above – perhaps Southern California Assembly members will be able to see the benefits of allocating these funds somewhat better than last year.
Carbon footprint of electric train travel
More news from CAHSRA: For Earth Day last week, the Authority released a “carbon footprint calculatorshowing the differences in carbon produced by driving, by plane or by taking the future electric train. A train round trip between San Francisco and Anaheim would save 389 pounds of carbon compared to traveling by plane or car.