On May 7, California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) board members voted on the next section of the rail project. The two-part vote resulted in the approval of the 114-mile route from downtown Fresno to the northern outskirts of Bakersfield. The first part of the vote was dedicated to the 20,000 page Environmental Impact Report which contained the analysis of how construction and operation of the rail will effect nearby homes, businesses, farms, wildlife and their habitats, and what CHSRA would do to minimize or compensate for those effects. The second part of the vote was with regards to the actual route from Fresno to Bakersfield. Both the EIR and the route were approved by the CHSRA’s board. Opponents to the high speed rail objected to the approval. Opponents were unsatisfied with CHSRA’s work and research in regards to the effects the high-speed rail would have on the environment. Concerns of the unchanged line running through the Central Valley were one of the imminent issues for the opponents. They believe CHSRA had done little to address their concerns regarding the high-speed rail’s impact on the environment. Lawsuits against CHSRA are still underway as a recent appeal in three lawsuits was denied. CHSRA is ready for more lawsuits seeing that the Bakersfield-Fresno track will bring more opposition. Rail board’s vice chairman, Tom Richards, doesn’t think the new lawsuits will be any different from the ones CHSRA faced for the Madera to Fresno section of the rail; he says they are ready.
In response to concerns over the pollution the construction of the high-speed rail will cause, CHRSA stated that they will be committing over $35 million to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. Jeff Morales, CHSRA’s CEO, also stated that the agreement with San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District will also pay for replacements of old farm equipment, including pumps and tractors, to minimize pollution. In addition, CHSRA claims that all contractors during the construction of the high-speed rail will be required to use the cleanest-burning construction fleet available.

Although the votes for the Fresno-Bakersfield track were a significant step towards construction of the project, CHSRA still needs to get the approval of two federal agencies: the Federal Railroad Administration and The Surface Transportation Board. They also require permits from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in order to work along waterways, wetlands and various other habitats.

For frequent updates on the California High Speed Rail Authority project, and other California projects, visit our blog and look for “California Eminent Domain Project News” for the latest news and information on projects near you.

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