California High-Speed Rail Authority approves alignment for Central Wye Valley section
THE California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) has confirmed its choice of alignment for the 80.5km Central Valley Wye section of the Merced – Fresno high-speed line, following the unanimous approval of an environmental impact report for the section by the authority’s board.
The section comprises two elements. A west-east alignment follows State Highway 152 from the the terminus of the previous section from San Jose and Gilroy at Carluccio Road to Madera where the high-speed line continues to Fresno. The south-north element runs alongside Road 11 west of Chowchilla to an intersection with the Union Pacific line from where the high-speed line will run north to Merced. This is the final section of the route to be approved after all other sections in May 2012.
The decision commits CHSRA to minimise impact of the project on the communities and local environment, and enables the authority to begin land purchases for the section. The decision was made as part of a three-part process, in which CHSRA certified the environmental analysis under state law, formally confirmed its choice of alignment from a shortlist of four options, and approved the environmental analysis and route under federal law.
The section was subsequently placed under more detailed consideration to address the concerns of local residents about the potential impact of the junction on their communities. The State Highway 152/Road 11 alignment was previously confirmed as the preferred option by CHSRA in January 2017, following preliminary assessments which suggested that the route offered the best balance between achieving the project’s objectives, reducing environmental impact and satisfying the concerns of communities and stakeholders. The alignment was also seen to be the most cost-effective option at $US 3.6bn.
Following this initial assessment, the alignment was submitted for an in-depth environmental analysis. The Merced – Fresno line is part of Phase 1 of California’s high-speed rail project, which will connect San Francisco to Anaheim. Phase 2 will extend the line north to Sacramento and south to San Diego. Around 1287km of line is planned for the project when completed.
Phase 1 is estimated to cost around $US 98.1bn, up from $US 64.2bn in 2016. The phase is currently expected to open for operation in 2029, having been delayed by four years from its previous launch date in 2025. No launch date for Phase 2 has been set. “Today’s approval represents another major milestone for this project as we have now completed the environmental reviews for the entire 275km stretch between Merced and Bakersfield,” says Mr Brian Kelly, CEO of CHSRA.