CHSRA Board Greenlights Bakersfield-Palmdale Segment

CHSRA reported on Aug. 19 that the move will allow it to “begin preconstruction work as funding becomes available,” and marks the first California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) certification of an environment document in the Southern California region. (CHSRA is the lead agency for both CEQA and the National Environmental Policy Act/NEPA.) In June, CHSRA prepared and released the Final EIR/EIS for the Board’s review and approval this summer.

The north-south Bakersfield-Palmdale section (see map below) will link and close the passenger rail gap between the Central Valley and Antelope Valley in northern Los Angeles County. It will also accommodate a connection with the proposed Brightline West high speed rail project to Las Vegas.

CHSRA said the next steps under CEQA and NEPA “include issuing a Record of Decision consistent with NEPA requirements and filing a CEQA Notice of Determination.”

CHSRA CEO Brian Kelly

“Today’s [Aug. 19] approval represents another major milestone for this project as we move the project into Los Angeles County,” said CEO Brian Kelly. “We appreciate the collaboration with our local and regional partners as we work to build a clean, electrified high speed rail system that will connect our state for generations to come.”

The CHSRA Board’s approval of the Bakersfield-Palmdale section paves the way for full CEQA clearance of nearly 300 miles of the high speed rail project’s 500-mile Phase 1 alignment. The Board in September 2020 approved the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement for the 50-mile Central Valley Wye portion of the Merced to Fresno line. “That action, along with the 2018 issuance of the Record of Decision for the final ‘Locally Generated Alternative,’ a 23-mile route between Shafter and Bakersfield in the Central Valley, provided for full environmental clearance for 171 miles of the high speed rail alignment between Merced and Bakersfield,” according to CHSRA.

CHSRA said it is committed to completing the environmental process for Phase 1 by 2023.

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