California High Speed Rail Authority to Extend EIR Timeline
With the selection late last year of the Central Valley high speed rail segment as the first part of the LA-SF project to be built, it eased the pressure on the other stimulus-eligible segments to have their planning processes be done in time for the September 2012 stimulus deadline. Today the California High Speed Rail Authority announced that it will extend the EIR timeline for the LA-Anaheim, SF-San José, Merced-Fresno and Fresno-Bakersfield segments:
The two Central Valley sections (Merced to Fresno and Fresno to Bakersfield) will delay their draft EIR release to June 2011, as a result of very positive Value Engineering which has been accomplished along the alignment, and which is being achieved in close cooperation with the local stakeholders. This will not affect the ROD/NOD, nor the award of construction contracts for the Initial Construction Segment, which is still envisaged for the second half of 2012. The two segments, LA/Anaheim and San Francisco/San Jose, have laid out a framework to investigate possible phased implementation that may provide services to these areas sooner and in the most efficient and cost effective way possible. Both sections also incorporate, in some form or other, “Shared Track” alternatives which become more complicated as phased implementation is envisaged. The LA/Anaheim phased implementation framework will be presented to the Board on March 3. To accommodate these shared track and phased implementation scenarios, more work needs to be done. This will result in the submission of the draft EIR being moved to late 2012, allowing inputs and participation by local and regional transit agencies and all other stakeholders. This approach allows us not only the time to involve these stakeholders, but also time to consider additional cost savings in further study of the alignments as we move forward.
It is important to note that only the estimated schedule for environmental milestones has changed; the schedule for construction has not. Should unexpected large amounts of additional funding become available at short notice, we will of course examine this schedule again and identify ways to not only expand the reach of initial construction, which will begin September 2012, but also to possibly accelerate these schedules.
So there you have it. More time to work in the Valley with farmers and local governments, as well as to settle some of the outstanding questions (like where the tracks go in Corcoran). And a lot more time to work with local governments and local residents in the Peninsula, in the LA County Gateway Cities, and in Orange County.
More time is probably useful. But it cannot become an indefinite delay. That helps nobody. Residents along the line, the surrounding community whose economic futures depend on the trains, and the state as a whole need to know the details. Let’s hope that this extra time gets used productively, instead of as an excuse for further delay.