CA: Work on High-Speed Rail Moves Forward

July 29--Construction in the Fresno area of the 114-mile-long California high-speed rail stretch to Bakersfield will begin by the end of the year, the Kern Transportation Foundation board of directors was told Monday.

The acquisition of property from Madera to Fresno is continuing, said Diana Gomez, Central Valley regional director for the California High-Speed Rail Authority, and some vacant structures have been demolished as part of the line from Madera to the southern edge of Fresno.

Gomez said the Fresno-Bakersfield portion was chosen as one of the first sections of the rail to be built in the Central Valley because it is the fastest growing portion of the state. In the past 10 years, the valley's population has increased by 17 percent, she said.

Michelle Boehm, southern California regional director for CHSRA, said after the meeting that planning and environmental testing of the 80-mile-long Bakersfield-Palmdale section was progressing.

"We are performing environmental survey work in some locations," she said. "That typically entails professionals visiting areas near proposed (areas) to catalog the types of plants and animals in the area."

Palmdale has an existing transportation station and the city is "very excited" about the high-speed rail, she said.

The entire high-speed rail project has been beset by legal challenges and controversy. Completion of the 520-mile-long system from San Francisco to Los Angeles, with electric trains traveling at more than 200 mph, is set for 2029. Extensions to San Diego and Sacramento are proposed as future phases.

The current projected price tag is $68 billion, more than twice the $33 billion approved when California voters in 2008 approved Proposition 1A, a $9.9 billion high-speed rail bond measure.

CHSRA will host meetings for public comment on the Bakersfield-Palmdale section of the rail in the coming months. The dates have not been scheduled.

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