Staff of the California High Speed Rail Authority are recommending that the board select the East of Hanford route as its preferred alignment along the Fresno to Bakersfield segment. The November 7 CHSRA agenda staff report is being posted today says spokesperson Lisa Marie Alley. The news is welcome at the City of Visalia who have lobbied hard for a station site closer to Tulare County on the east side of Hanford instead of an alternative route west of Hanford with a station site near Armona. Visalia argued that ridership would improve if the station was closer to the larger population centers. Alley says there were fewer environmental issues on the east side as well.
The selection will probably not please opponents of the bullet train project including Kings County residents who own property along the east side route and who have sued the agency.
In fact on November 8 a court hearing is set to hear a judge’s ruling on what sanctions if any will be mandated regards the expenditure of state Prop 1A funds by CHSRA to build the project.
Rail officials have argued they will move forward with federal dollars to build the first segment of the line – a 29 miles route from Fresno to Merced, while the state monies issue is litigated.
The second segment is Fresno to Bakersfield – a 114 mile section. On this segment, the CHSRA is requesting the federal Surface Transportation Board approval of an exemption effective December 31 even though a final EIR would not yet be certified. In their STB filing – CHSRA says they expect to complete construction of the Bakersfield to Fresno section by December 2018 and start HST service by 2022. Such an exemption was granted on the first Fresno to Merced section.
Also in news of interest in the Central Valley – former Tulare County Farm Bureau director Cheryl Lehn has been hired as a public information officer for CHSRA starting next week. She will be headquartered at the new Fresno office. Lehn has been working for the consulting firm URS assigned the high speed rail