California High-Speed Rail Authority releases Final EIR/EIS for Bakersfield to Palmdale section

Posted: 28 June 2021 | | No comments yet

If CHSRA’s Final Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement is approved, the Bakersfield to Palmdale section will be ‘shovel ready’ for when funding is made available.

High-Speed Rail awarded federal grant to improve infrastructure in Wasco

Credit: California High-Speed Rail Authority.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) has released the Final Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (Final EIR/EIS) for the approximately 80-mile Bakersfield to Palmdale project section of the California high-speed rail system, moving CHSRA one step closer to approving its third environmental document in two years.

The document will be presented to the CHSRA’s Board of Directors for approval during a two-day board meeting on 18 August and 19 August 2021. If approved, the Bakersfield to Palmdale project section will be the first high-speed rail segment in Southern California to be environmentally cleared. In addition, this milestone moves the project section closer to being ‘shovel ready’ for when pre-construction and construction funding become available.

“This environmental document is a culmination of thoughtful study and collaboration with partner agencies, city and county leaders, community members and other stakeholders,” said Brian Kelly, the California High-Speed Rail Authority‘s CEO. “With this effort, California will have 300 of the 500-mile high-speed rail system environmentally cleared, paving the way for future construction progress into Los Angeles County.”

In February 2020, CHSRA released the Draft EIR/EIS for public review. CHSRA served as the lead agency under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). In February 2021, CHSRA released a Revised Draft EIR/Supplemental Draft EIS for public review to expand its analysis of measures to protect biological resources and endangered species candidates. CHSRA has since responded to the comments received during the public review periods, and these responses are documented in the Final EIR/EIS.

This Final EIR/EIS evaluates four build alternatives from Bakersfield to Palmdale and two design options near the César E. Chávez National Monument (CCNM). CHSRA has selected Alternative 2 with the Refined CCNM Design Option as its Preferred Alternative under CEQA and NEPA.

In autumn 2020, CHSRA’s Board of Directors approved the final document for the approximately 50-mile project alignment section referred to as the Central Valley Wye part of the Merced to Fresno Station section. 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 of 171 miles of the high-speed rail alignment between Merced and Bakersfield. 

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