After being rumored for several weeks, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) has released a new business plan that will change the direction of the project. When the bullet train opens, it will start service out of the Bay area, not Southern California as had been originally planned.
Under the new business plan that was released late last week, construction will begin in Kern County and proceed north into the San Joaquin Valley and then west to San Jose. This is a major change in direction from the original business plan, which had called for starting the project near Merced and then moving southward through the Central Valley to Bakersfield, then southeast to Palmdale and on to San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles.
The pivot in direction is not entirely surprising given that the project has lost quite a bit of public and political support over the last several months. The project is already running two years behind and the cost of the train has many people worried. “The math is pretty clear,” said rail authority board chairman Dan Richard. “It’s longer and more expensive to get to L.A.”
The decision to build north rather than south was made in an effort to build support and ease concerns over the project. Richard added that the CHSRA believes that the change in direction will provide the nudge that private investors need to help pay for the remaining portions of the route. That, of course, remains to be seen.
The draft plan is required to go through a 60-day period of public review and comment before it is formally approved by the rail authority’s board and sent to Legislature.
Southern California officials have said building the segment to Burbank as originally planned could have an economic benefit for the region, provide commuters 15-minute rides to Antelope Valley and provide a convenient link to Central Valley. Moreover, some Southern California officials are concerned that neglecting the south defeats the entire purpose of the train, which is to connect the north and the south. The plan that was released does not include a date for when the train will reach L.A.
Those who oppose the rail project have suggested that the about face is an act of desperation, and the CHSRA is just trying to lay as much track down as possible so that it will be harder to stop the project.
Switching construction to the Bay Area will cause the CHSRA to begin focusing on acquiring the property along the new rail line. If your property is proposed to be acquired, you can probably expect increased pressure from the CHSRA to sell and ultimately, the use of eminent domain to force you to sell.
If you think you are an affected property or business owner, you can learn more about your options by giving us a call at (866) EM-DOMAIN.