Decision Process Will Guide Initial Construction Work and Lead to Core of the Statewide System
Seeking to make best possible use of available federal funding and ensure that the priority for those dollars is building the core of a statewide high-speed rail system, the California High-Speed Rail Authority is proposing formal criteria
to guide the selection of which segment of the project will receive the initial capital funding – up to $4.7 billion in federal and state construction dollars.
“It is absolutely critical that we invest these funds where they will do the most good – and position California to ultimately create a true high-speed rail system that connects major cities to one another,” said Authority CEO Roelof van Ark. “We want our board of directors to have all the facts when they make this decision, so we are spelling out both the legal requirements and a clear assessment of the benefits and risks in each eligible section.”
The Federal Railway Administration has set a January deadline for finalizing an agreement with the Authority specifying which segment of the project will receive federal stimulus funds, which would be matched with state bond funds.
California’s high-speed train project was the nation’s largest recipient of federal stimulus funding, $2.25 billion from the $8 billion available within the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The four sections eligible for stimulus funding are: Los Angeles to Anaheim, San Francisco to San Jose, Merced to Fresno and Fresno to Bakersfield. However, in order to accomplish the goals set out in the stimulus program, the Authority believes it is clear the funding must not be spread among the four sections, but rather concentrated in one of them.
The proposed criteria reflect both the legal requirements in Proposition 1A and federal law, as well as steps to maximize the benefits to the public while minimizing risks.
The legal requirements include meeting the federal deadline of fall 2017 for completing construction and “operational independence” – meaning quantifiable benefits such as improved travel reliability, reduced travel time, or more frequent intercity rail service, even if the overall high-speed rail system is not completed.
Other factors proposed for consideration include ensuring that the first segment built forms the core of a statewide system; building the most useful high-speed train infrastructure at the lowest cost; and any other factors, including potential litigation, that could delay construction.
The Authority Board is expected to discuss the criteria and use it to evaluate each of the four sections before determining which of these four sections will launch the project. Previously set for October 20, the meeting has been postponed until after the federal government announces the latest round of funding for high-speed rail projects, which is expected to occur before the end of October.
“Regardless of where the line begins construction, the Authority’s ultimate goal remains a statewide high-speed rail system that creates jobs, improves air quality and provides a cheaper, faster and more convenient way to travel for Californians for generations to come,” van Ark said. Contact: Rachel Wall
916 324 1541 www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov