Regional Newsletters

June 2020 Statewide Newsletter

Construction worker at San Joaquin River Viaduct site

Conducting Business at the Authority During COVID-19

Along with the state and the nation, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) has been adapting to and addressing the evolving circumstances associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, work on the nation’s first high-speed rail program is continuing as we work to deliver clean, electrified high-speed rail in California.

Construction is Progressing in the Central Valley: Despite the COVID-19 challenges, construction progress in the Central Valley continues to build. We continue to increase the number of men and women working on the project in the Central Valley, with the average number of weekly workers rapidly approaching 900 as of mid-May. Since the start of construction, almost 4,000 workers have been dispatched to work on the project. Workers have also completed 78 miles of guideway and 41 structures are either underway or complete, and we anticipate the competition of several structures this summer. These are important jobs in a time where unemployment numbers are particularly high. The safety of our construction workers is a top priority, and we continue to work with various unions, the State Building and Construction Trades, our contractors and construction management teams to implement best practices for safety at those job sites.

Environmental Work is Progressing Statewide: The Authority has also released four draft environmental documents, demonstrating our commitment to meeting our federal obligations to fully identify the route of the high-speed rail system from San Francisco to the Los Angeles Area. The Bakersfield to Palmdale Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) was released in February, with public comment wrapping in April. The San José to Merced Draft EIR/EIS was issued in April, with that comment period wrapping at the end of May. Just last week, we issued the Draft EIR/EIS for the Burbank to Los Angeles project section, and we anticipate issuing the San Francisco to San José Draft EIR/EIS in early July. As a result of COVID-19, and in concert with state and local stay-at-home requirements, we have conducted open houses and hearings about these documents online, with hundreds of people from across the state participating.

This quarterly newsletter contains more information about the Draft 2020 Business Plan, which is due to the Legislature July 1st, and other topics specific to the regions of the state, but the bottom line is that the progress happening on high-speed rail in California demonstrates that this state continues to be a national leader on clean transportation. Now is not the time to turn back.

Numerals from 2020 Business Plan cover

2020 Business Plan Moves Towards Adoption

Every two years, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) is required to submit a business plan to the California State Legislature that has been adopted by the Authority’s Board of Directors. The Authority’s draft plan was released in February for public review and comment, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the due date for comments was pushed back from mid-April to June 1, with the consideration of the adoption of the plan by the Board scheduled for June and the final plan to be submitted to the Legislature by July 1.

On May 27, Authority CEO Brian Kelly and CalSTA Secretary David Kim testified before the California Assembly Transportation Committee at an informational hearing on the draft plan. Lawmakers asked questions and provided their input and general thoughts on the plan and the future of the high-speed rail program. CEO Kelly acknowledged that while every business plan is important, the next two years are especially critical for the Authority. Within the next two years, the Authority will work to meet the deadline to complete construction in the Central Valley, lay rail, and complete environmental reviews from San Francisco to the Los Angeles area as per our federal agreements.

Today, there are 350 miles of electrified high-speed rail in project development and construction in the three regions of the state, and the Draft 2020 Business Plan lays out a path forward for high-speed rail in California by using current resources and assets to deliver the first building block of a statewide high-speed rail system: 171 miles of 220 mph, electrified high-speed rail infrastructure in the Central Valley.

Online Authority Board of Directors meeting, April 2020

Virtual Meet-Ups: Conducting the Business of the Authority Online

In this new world of conducting business via Zoom, Skype, or any other number of online platforms, like so many others, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) has embraced technological options to execute our work on the high-speed rail program.

In April, we held our first virtual Board of Directors meeting, which like our general in-person meetings, allowed for presentations by staff on the business of the Authority and opportunities for public comment. We anticipate hosting a virtual public meeting in June to bring the Draft 2020 Business Plan to the Board for consideration.

We have also jumped at the opportunity to continue to engage with people about high-speed rail. Our CEO Brian Kelly and CFO Brian Annis have participated in webinars in partnership with the U.S. High-Speed Rail Association and other stakeholders to provide updates about the latest news on the project. We will continue to seek additional opportunities to engage with a broad audience on these digital platforms as the year progresses.

In March, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we began shifting our external public meetings to a virtual format. With the issuance of environmental documents in Northern and Southern California this year, it is important that we provide members of the public with the opportunity to provide comment and input on these documents to help inform out decision-making progress going forward.

Day-to-day life also continues at the Authority. More than 90 percent of the organization is now teleworking on a full-time, part-time or rotational basis, and, consistent with the Governor’s recent budget revisions, we are looking at ways to continue meeting virtually with our colleagues and we have stopped all non-essential travel. The health and safety of our employees and the public is a top priority.

California Economic Impacts Total for July 2006 – June 2019

New Economic Data Shows Power of HSR Investments

Investment in high-speed rail is supporting jobs, labor income and economic output throughout California. A recently updated report on the economic impact of California high-speed rail shows how investments in the program are paying immediate dividends.

From July 2006 through June 2019, the California High-Speed Rail Authority invested about $5.7 billion in planning and constructing the nation’s first high-speed rail system. High-speed rail contractors hire workers throughout the state and pay other businesses for goods and services. Workers spend their earnings throughout the economy. These direct and indirect impacts induce statewide economic activity by pumping money back into local and regional economies.

See highlights from the report, an interactive economic map, the full report and more at https://www.hsr.ca.gov/programs/economic_investment/.

Construction worker building falsework

Building for the Future of California

High-speed rail is forging ahead in California’s Central Valley. In these challenging times, we’re putting California to work while building the future of transportation in our state. With more than 30 active high-speed rail construction sites and more than 3,700 workers dispatched to date, we’re building for the future of California. Visit https://youtu.be/bTvgs0Q5OdQ to see more.



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