Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government
In 2001, the Authority and FRA started a tiered environmental review process for the HST System and in 2005, completed the first tier California High Speed Train Program EIR/EIS (Statewide Program EIR/EIS) and approved the statewide HST System for intercity travel in California between the major metropolitan centers of Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area in the north, through the Central Valley, to Los Angeles and San Diego in the south. The approved HST System would be about 800-miles long, with electric propulsion and steel-wheel-on-steel-rail trains capable of operating speeds of 220 miles per hour (mph) on a dedicated system of fully grade-separated, access-controlled steel tracks with state-of-the-art safety, signaling, communication, and automated train control systems. In approving the HST System, the Authority and FRA also selected corridors/general alignments and station location options throughout most of the system. The Statewide Program EIR/EIS generally selected the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF) corridor for the high-speed train route from Fresno to Bakersfield and the Union Pacific Railroad Company (UPRR) corridor was selected through the urban area of Fresno, with stations in downtown Fresno and Bakersfield. The Statewide Program EIR/EIS also stated that the project EIR/EIS for the HST in this portion of the Central Valley would evaluate an alignment around Hanford and a potential station location in the Visalia/Hanford/Tulare area.
The preparation of the Fresno to Bakersfield HST Project EIR/EIS will involve the development of preliminary engineering designs and the assessment of potential environmental effects associated with the construction, operation, and maintenance of the HST System, including track, ancillary facilities and stations, along the preferred alternative corridor from Fresno to Bakersfield with alternative alignments to the east of Hanford.
The Authority was established in 1996 and is authorized and directed by statute to undertake the planning and development of a proposed Statewide HST network that is fully coordinated with other public transportation services. The Authority adopted a Final Business Plan in June 2000, which reviewed the economic feasibility of an 800-mile-long HST System capable of operating speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour on a dedicated, fully grade-separated state-of-the-art track. The Authority released an updated Business Plan in November 2008.
The FRA has responsibility for overseeing the safety of railroad operations, including the safety of any proposed high-speed ground transportation system. FRA is also authorized to provide Federal funding for intercity passenger rail capital investments including high-speed rail. For the proposed HST, it is anticipated that FRA would need to take certain regulatory actions prior to operation and may provide financial assistance for the project including grant funds.
In 2005, the Authority and FRA completed a Statewide Program EIR/EIS for the Proposed California High Speed Train System, as the first phase of a tiered environmental review process. The Authority certified the Statewide Program EIR under CEQA and approved the proposed HST System, and FRA issued a Record of Decision under NEPA for the Program EIS. This Statewide Program EIR/EIS established the purpose and need for the HST System, analyzed an HST System, and compared it with a No Project/No Action Alternative and a Modal Alternative. In approving the Statewide Program EIR/EIS, the Authority and FRA selected the HST Alternative, selected certain corridors/general alignments and general station locations for further study, incorporated mitigation strategies and design practices, and specified further measures to guide the development of the HST System during the site-specific project level environmental review to avoid and minimize potential adverse environmental impacts. The Fresno to Bakersfield HST Project EIR/EIS will tier from the Statewide Program EIR/EIS in accordance with Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations, (40 CFR 1508.28) and State CEQA Guidelines (14 California Code of Regulations 15168(b)). Tiering will ensure that the Fresno to Bakersfield HST Project EIR/EIS builds upon all previous work prepared for, and incorporated in, the Statewide Program EIR/EIS.
The Fresno to Bakersfield HST Project EIR/EIS will describe site-specific environmental impacts, identify specific mitigation measures to address those impacts and incorporate design features to avoid and minimize potential adverse environmental impacts. The FRA and the Authority will assess the site characteristics, size, nature, and timing of the proposed project to determine whether the impacts are potentially significant and whether impacts can be avoided or mitigated. This project EIR/EIS will identify and evaluate reasonable and feasible site specific alternatives, and evaluate the impacts of construction, operation, and maintenance of the HST System. Information and documents regarding this HST environmental review process will be made available through the Authority's Internet site:
The two preferred station locations selected by the Authority and FRA through the Statewide Program EIR/EIS will be evaluated in the Fresno to Bakersfield HST Project EIR/EIS. These
The Fresno to Bakersfield HST Project EIR/EIS will be prepared in accordance with FRA's Procedures for Considering Environmental Impacts (64 FR 28545 May 26, 1999) and will address not only NEPA and CEQA but will also address as necessary other applicable statutes, regulations, and executive orders, including the Clean Air Act, section 404 of the Clean Water Act, section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act, the Endangered Species Act, and Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice. This EIR/EIS process will also continue the NEPA/Clean Water Act section 404 integration process established through the Statewide Program EIR/EIS process. The EIR/EIS will evaluate project alignment alternatives, and station and maintenance facility locations to support a determination of the Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative (LEDPA) by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Public scoping meetings were held in March 2009 for the Merced to Bakersfield HST Project EIR/EIS and are an important component of the scoping process for the Fresno to Bakersfield HST Project EIR/EIS for both the State and Federal environmental review. FRA is seeking participation and input of all interested Federal, State, and local agencies, Native American groups, and other concerned private organizations or individuals on the scope of the EIR/EIS. Implementation of the Fresno to Bakersfield section of the HST System is a Federal undertaking with the potential to affect historic properties. As such, it is subject to the requirements of section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (16 U.S.C. 470f). In accordance with regulations issued by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, 36 CFR part 800, FRA intends to coordinate compliance with section 106 of this Act with the preparation of the EIR/EIS, beginning with the identification of consulting parties in a manner consistent with the standards set out in 36 CFR 800.8.