Regional Newsletters

August 2020 Statewide Newsletter

Group of construction workers with masks

Closing in on 1,100 Weekly Workers… and Counting

Heading into Labor Day weekend, we are proud of the hard-working men and women helping to bring high-speed rail to California. This June, we announced that more than 4,000 construction jobs have been created at the more than 32 active construction sites along the system’s first 119 miles of the high-speed rail project…and that number keeps growing! Over the past year and a half, we have quadrupled the number of workers dispatched to our construction sites, averaging more than 1,100 workers weekly at sites in July, a 149% increase compared to August 2019, just one year ago. Please join us in recognizing the hard work of American laborers that help with the development, growth and prosperity of our country. Check out the Authority’s most recent construction update.

CEO Brian Kelly at construction site with worker

August 2020 CEO Report

Los Angeles Union Station Update

Funding Plan: At the April 2020 Board of Directors meeting, the Board approved the Funding Plan for Phase A of the Los Angeles Union Station Project – referred to as “Link US.” The Funding Plan directs $423.3 million in Proposition 1A bond funds to the project, which has a total Phase A budget of $950.4 million. The Authority is now working with LA Metro to develop a Project Management Funding Agreement, which we will bring to the Board for approval.

Change in Procurement Status: On July 10, LA Metro notified industry that it will cancel its current Request for Qualifications (RFQ) and re-issue the RFQ with a revised Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC) integrated delivery approach for the project. Specifically, Metro is changing from a “not to exceed price” to a more traditional approach similar to the one that the Authority used in delivering the State Route 99 Realignment Project in the Central Valley. Authority staff have discussed this change with LA Metro staff, who have indicated this change is warranted given COVID-19, financial, and other considerations. The Project Budget is expected to stay the same, and the Authority’s funding contribution remains capped at the $423.3 million in Proposition 1A funds and $18.7 million in planning funds.

Palmdale to Burbank Preferred Alternative Adjustment

In November 2018, the Board of Directors identified a Preferred Alternative for the 41-mile segment of the Phase 1 system between the Palmdale Transit Center and the Burbank Airport Station in Southern California. For environmental review and planning purposes, we refer to this project section as “Palmdale-to-Burbank.” The Preferred Alternative included a direct impact on Una Lake, a body of water near Palmdale.

After consultation with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, under the authority delegated to the CEO by the Board, I approved an amendment to the Preferred Alternative adopted in 2018 to achieve the objective of avoiding impacts to Una Lake.

Staff is continuing to advance the environmental work and the Draft Environmental Impact/Statement (EIR/EIS) will be issued for public comment in 2021.

A link to the PowerPoint presentation associated with this topic can be found here: PowerPoint: Palmdale to Burbank Amendment to the Preferred Alternative.

Construction/Program Updates

I am pleased to provide two updates on program advancements.

Agreement with Madera County: Staff recently completed an agreement with Madera County related to the fulfillment of the Authority’s commitment to remediating construction impacts to local roads and the County immediately opening several roads where work has recently been completed work (at Avenues 7, 10 and 15) and accepting ownership and maintenance obligations for all completed structures at Avenues 7, 8, 10,11 and 15. Avenues 8 and 11 are currently open to the public. The opening of these roads allows additional work to progress on our project.

Collaborating with “Fresno Works” to Secure Maintenance of Way Site: As we build out the full Phase 1 system connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles/Anaheim, we anticipate requiring three separate Maintenance of Way Facilities to support the system. In the Fresno-Bakersfield Final EIR/EIS approved by the Board of Directors in 2012, the Authority identified and environmentally cleared the first of these sites just south of downtown Fresno. The site will also contain the Operational Control Center (OCC), a temporary trainset acceptance testing and certification facility and will include training classrooms and support equipment, such as simulators.

Our Central Valley staff is working closely with Board Member Perea and a group of business and local government representatives in Fresno known as “Fresno Works” to secure the site for these activities and to preserve a local investment of $25 million to accelerate infrastructure improvements to the site and help ready it for future job-generating activities. These facilities are proposed to be constructed by the Track and Systems contractor that we are currently in the process of procuring. As part of this procurement process, the Authority is required to instruct the bidders where these facilities will be located.

Look-Ahead Issues

The Board of Director’s September meeting will have a full agenda of both action and informational items, including:

To view the August 2020 CEO Report in its entirety, visit

Seal of the Governor of the State of California

Governor Gavin Newsom Announces High-Speed Rail Board Appointments

Nancy C. Miller of Sacramento and Lynn Schenk of San Diego have been reappointed to the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors; Anthony C. Williams of Orange has been appointed to the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors. Read more about these appointees at the website for the Office of Governor Gavin Newsom.

Burbank to Los Angeles project section, public comment period through August 31

Environmental Progress Update

The Authority kicked off 2020 with an ambitious schedule to issue several environmental documents that are part of the process of identifying the final route of the high-speed rail line from San Francisco down to the Los Angeles/Anaheim area.

Starting in February, we issued the Bakersfield to Palmdale Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS), and in April, we issued the San Jose to Merced Draft EIR/EIS document. Those comment periods have closed, with final documents due out next year. Currently out on the street for public review and comment are the Burbank to Los Angeles EIR/EIS and the San Francisco to San Jose EIR/EIS documents, with their comment periods closing at the end of August and early September respectively.

At the same time we started issuing the documents, the COVID-19 pandemic was taking hold, and we had to adjust to the new normal along with so many others. To support this effort, we have held dozens of virtual open houses and meetings to make sure the public has an opportunity to view the documents, speak with the experts, and provide their feedback on the routes and potential impacts to their communities.

One of most significant environmental actions will be happening in September at the Board of Directors meeting. At that meeting, the Board will be asked to take action on the Central Valley “Wye” Final Supplemental EIR/EIS, which has currently been published. At that same meeting, we will also be providing an update on the environmental schedules for all remaining Phase 1 project sections (San Francisco – Los Angeles/Anaheim).

Although COVID-19 has changed the way we do business, we remain committed to completing all environmental review work by the end of 2022, allowing us to meet our federal grant requirements and ensuring that these project sections are ready so we can move forward on construction as soon as possible when additional funds become available.

Executives at the Authority provide a project overview through zoom to students and affiliates at UC Davis.

UC Davis Policy Institute Welcomes High-Speed Rail Executives

Members of the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) executive team chatted with leaders of the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) Policy Institute for Energy, Environment and the Economy as part of the Policy and Popcorn event. The event is hosted at UC Davis about twice a month, bringing together policy leaders from around California to connect with UC Davis students and affiliates in policy conversations with popcorn snacks. Organizers of the event rose to the occasion when COVID-19 caused universities to cancel many events. In a quick transition to a virtual platform, UC Davis leaders created an online space for the campus community to engage with the Authority’s executive team – minus the popcorn.

Starting off the event, the Authority’s CEO Brian Kelly gave a statewide overview of high-speed rail in California and the guiding principles that the Authority follows. The presentation continued with CFO Brian Annis discussing funding sources for the California High-Speed Rail program and some of the complexities associated with funding the project. To close the presentation, Chief of Communications Melissa Figueroa highlighted ways for students to stay engaged with the high-speed rail project through student chapters, newsletters and social media.

Leaders of the UC Davis Policy Institute closed the event by asking, “What research questions do you think the research community should be asking?” Captivated with the question – the executive team discussed the need to research the transformative effects that electric high-speed passenger rail brings to communities through jobs, sustainability benefits to the environment and connecting California’s regions. Above all, the question highlighted an important point – academic communities are a vital part of high-speed rail development in California.

If your university and/or college group would like to engage with the Authority through presentations, panels, webinars or student gatherings – sign up for a presenter through the Speakers Bureau.

Listen to CEO Brian Kelly on the HiPER Leadership Podcast

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