Regional Newsletters

February 2021 Statewide Newsletter

 

CEO Report

 

This year is starting off with plenty of energy surrounding the California High-Speed Rail project. At February’s Board of Directors meeting, we released our 2020 business Plan. This revised plan describes how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted California’s high-speed rail project and how we are adjusting. The plan also includes highlights from the program, including the creation of over 5,200 construction jobs in the Central Valley since the start of construction, detailed information on how we plan to complete work on the first 119 miles of the system, proposals to expand that construction to Merced and Bakersfield for an initial operating segment in the Central Valley, and progress on environmental clearance statewide. Public comment for the revised plan is open for 30 days through March 12, 2021. We expect board action on the plan at the March 25th Board of Directors meeting. In the press release we put out for the Draft Business Plan, Governor Gavin Newsom emphasized his support for the project:

“At a time when job growth is needed most, California high-speed rail is putting thousands to work in good paying labor jobs in the Central Valley and making tremendous progress on construction of the nation’s first high-speed rail. Our goal is to get fast, electrified trains up and running in the Central Valley as soon as possible while leveraging other sources of funding to advance important, clean rail and transit work statewide. We’re confident that our federal partners in the Biden administration share our vision for electrified rail – we look forward to working with them to get it done.”

– Governor Gavin Newsom

In the Central Valley, we’re working to make sure the public knows how proud we are of the hard-working men and women working on this project. Three new banners marking our 5,000-worker milestone have been hung on structures in the region. Look for continued features on our social media platforms with these workers, our project engineers and more – Engineers Week, Women in Construction week and more are right around the corner.

Our good work is being noticed not just in California, but nationally as well. In the news over the past few weeks, we’ve been following the vocal support that Secretary Pete Buttigieg has been showing for advancement of high-speed rail nationally. In addition to that, acting FRA Administrator Amit Bose put out a statement of support specifically targeted to the positive work happening here in California:

“America has a chance to lead the world once more through innovation in infrastructure—connecting our communities, creating good jobs, addressing climate change and ensuring equity. Passenger rail development, including world-class high-speed rail, can and must be a part of our strategy to accomplish these goals. As in many other arenas, California has taken the lead nationally to advance high-speed rail, starting an economically transformative project in the Central Valley and assuming the challenges that come with that leadership. The U.S. Department of Transportation looks forward to partnering with California as it leads the way to build back better.”

– Acting Federal Railroad Administrator Amit Bose

 

A Conversation Among Regional Directors

Boris Lipkin, Northern California Regional Director, chats with new Southern California Regional Director LaDonna DiCamillo about plans for 2021 and how the Authority is working to connect the sections of high-speed rail being built in the Central Valley to Northern and Southern California.

View their conversation at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TBzZFidw-s.

 

What is Proposition 1A?

In 2008, California voters passed Proposition 1A (Prop 1A) to begin construction of a statewide high-speed rail system. Prop 1A provided $9.95 billion in general obligation bonds for the California high-speed rail program and related transportation projects and set out requirements for how the system would be developed. See our Prop_1A_High-Level_Facts for a quick review of Proposition 1A, what a bond allocation is, and what has been done as of early 2021. The Authority has put forward a proposal for the remaining allocation of these bond dollars to be used to continue construction and progress on high-speed rail. View Chief Financial Officer Brian Annis’ presentation from the February Board of Directors meeting for an overview of this proposal.

 

Calling All Future Engineers

Everywhere you look, our world is changed by engineers. High-speed rail is coming to California with the help of a team of world-class engineering experts. Visit our FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn all this week as we celebrate National Engineers Week and this year’s theme, “Imagining Tomorrow”. The engineers on the California high-speed rail project are pioneering sustainable transportation for California’s tomorrow and beyond.

Engineers help create a tomorrow that makes a difference in climate change and other daunting global challenges. Engineers Week is a time to for us to celebrate the important work these women and men are doing today and to engage the next generation of innovators.

We’re joining in the celebration to help promote the value of engineering in education and careers. Hear how engineering became a passion for some of our crew, including Regional Delivery Manager Noopur Jain in our Los Angeles office, Northern California Project Manager James Tung and Associate Project Manager Amanda Martinez in the Central Valley. The week will culminate with an engineering-themed webinar on Friday, February 26.

 

I Will Ride Kicks Off with Webinar Featuring Executives, Board

The revamped I Will Ride student outreach program is providing a space for professional development outside of the classroom as many student events have been put on hold. In November, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) staff welcomed dozens of students, teachers and education professionals from around the State for the “Building Student Partnerships” webinar.

Vice Chair of the Board of Directors Nancy Miller joined staff at the Authority to kick off the I Will Ride student outreach program alongside Chief Executive Officer Brian Kelly, Chief of Strategic Communications Melissa Figueroa and I Will Ride Alumni Kielan Rathjen.

Miller began the event with a moving welcome, highlighting that students and young professionals often are not exposed to the different levels of opportunities in their intended careers, especially if they come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Following a welcome from Miller, CEO Brian Kelly added to the importance of youth and student participation not only in high-speed rail but in all aspects of government. “Students are a key part of movements for change. Your generation, in my view, has a better sense of the importance and the urgency of policy that addresses climate change,” said Kelly. “Your advocacy can make sure that we do things better and smarter.”

The Authority also welcomed Kielan Rathjen, former chapter lead of I Will Ride at UC Berkeley and now special adviser at the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz). Rathjen shared his experience in I Will Ride and how it introduced him to a career in public service. The program wrapped up with details about joining I Will Ride and a Q&A session with the panelists.

You can watch the full webinar on YouTube and check out the I Will Ride page to learn more about the program.

 

 

 

Northern California Regional Update

February 2021

From Boris’ Desk: Update on Our Progress

 

In 2020, we passed a major milestone in bringing high-speed rail to Northern California, issuing draft environmental documents for both Northern California project sections. These documents are the culmination of almost 10 years of work gathering public feedback, analyzing requirements, and designing the system so that it minimizes impacts and maximizes benefits for Northern California residents.

We received hundreds of comments on the draft environmental documents, and our team is working hard to respond to and incorporate your input. Based on changes in regulations and review of certain public comments received on the draft environmental documents, we have decided that publication of partially revised draft environmental documents focused on certain specific issues is warranted. Those documents will be circulated to the public later this spring and summer. Our goal is to finish the environmental clearance process for the two Northern California project sections in the first half of next year, which will position us to move toward construction from San Francisco to the Central Valley.

New Business Plan Released

Earlier this month, we released our Revised Draft 2020 Business Plan, as detailed earlier in this newsletter. This plan lays out progress on developing the high-speed rail program statewide, even in the face of the global pandemic. Additionally, the Draft Business Plan begins to lay out, for the first time, the next steps in how we will advance the program toward construction in Northern California after environmental clearance is complete.

We’ve never been better positioned to realize the dream – zero-emission high-speed rail travel from the Bay Area to the Central Valley and on to the Los Angeles Basin. Onward!

A Note of Thanks to Senator Jim Beall

I want to thank retiring State Senator Jim Beall for his tremendous contributions to high-speed rail, public transportation and the region. Senator Beall served as an ex officio member of the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors and as Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee.

A consummate advocate for combating climate change and investing in infrastructure, Senator Beall’s legislative achievements include the passage of Senate Bill 1, which is providing more than $50 billion in transit and transportation funding across the state over the next 10 years – one of the largest investments in public transportation in California’s history. Thank you, Senator Beall, for helping us bring modern, climate-friendly transportation to California.

We hope you will stay engaged and involved as we work to bring high-speed rail to Northern California. Visit hsr.ca.gov for more ways to connect.

– Boris

 

This Technology is for the Birds

 

 

Not one bird. Those are the marching orders for the engineers tasked with designing high-speed rail electrification systems that won’t harm California condors, golden eagles and other raptors that grace our skies.

Phase I of California’s high-speed rail system will run from the San Francisco Bay Area to the Central Valley, then south to the Los Angeles Basin. The system will run zero-emission trains that are powered by 100% renewable energy. When designing the electric infrastructure, engineers realized the standard overhead catenary systems (OCS) that power most high-speed rail trains would not be safe for our federally- and state-protected bird species. Although birds like the California condor mainly favor a coastal habitat, their range – and that of other large raptors — extends into areas where the high-speed rail system will be built.

A standard OCS system consists of grounded poles spaced every 50 meters or so, with live wire strung between them. This setup, while harmless for small birds, would create a problem for California condors and other large raptors that may be tempted to perch. With wing spans up to 9.5 feet, the birds can potentially touch both the live wire and the grounded pole while perched, creating a lethal electric circuit.

The solution: “live loop anti-perching”

Julian Bratina, one of the engineers on the California high-speed rail project, is working on new technology to solve the problem. He and his colleagues first researched electric rail systems all over the world to find an OCS system that addressed the problem with large birds perching. Eventually they realized the combination of large, fully protected bird species and overhead catenary systems was somewhat unique to our state.

So Bratina and his colleagues created a novel design concept, “live loop anti-perching”, that would ensure big birds can perch in ways that keep them safe. They’ve created two prototypes that could be deployed depending on the habitat and size of the bird. By strategically blocking certain perching positions, the engineers have designed a cost-effective, practical, long-lasting alternative to standard OCS designs. Watch this video to see more about the proposed design concept.

Building a mega-infrastructure project in a sustainable, responsible way presents a wide array of design challenges. When finished, the project will support California’s most ambitious climate goals, helping to protect the habitat of raptors and humans alike.

 

Small Business Spotlight: Sagent Marketing

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? When Anne Staines launched a small business out of her Sacramento home in 2004, she asked herself that very question.

“My answer was to start a marketing agency that provides marketing support only for socially and environmentally positive programs,” said Staines, President, CEO and founder of Sacramento-based Sagent Marketing. “I wanted to start an agency that has a positive and empowering work culture, supports and nurtures our team, and delivers measurable results to clients.”

Staines’ first challenge – attracting talented people who would be willing to work from her backyard pool house. She figured her passion for marketing and advertising and 25 years of experience would help her convince potential employees that she could provide them with a better place to work than anywhere else.

Read the full story in the Small Business Newsletter.

 

 

Partner Update: Caltrain Electrification Project

Courtesy: Caltrain

 

Caltrain made significant progress electrifying the peninsula train corridor in 2020 — pouring foundations, erecting poles and stringing catenary wires. It’s all part of an effort to modernize the rail corridor and lay the foundation for future high-speed rail travel between San Francisco and San Jose.

The Authority is considering two alternatives for the 51-mile segment of the high-speed rail system that will connect Salesforce Transit Center in San Francisco and Diridon Station in San Jose. Both alternatives call for a “blended” system, meaning high-speed rail trains will share tracks with Caltrain’s new fleet of electric trains. The Authority partnered with Caltrain on electrification of the peninsula corridor and is contributing $714 million toward the $2 billion total project cost.

As of the end of 2020, Caltrain had installed more than half of the 2,500 poles needed to electrify the system. Electrification of the corridor will continue throughout 2021 with the arrival of the first electric trains to begin testing on site later this year. The project is expected to be completed in 2022.

More information on Caltrain’s electrification work, including a virtual reality tour of the new Caltrain electric trainsets, can be found at calmod.org.

Southern California Regional Update

February 2021

 

Looking Ahead to Environmental Milestones in Southern California

 

In February 2020, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) released the draft environmental document for Southern California’s Bakersfield to Palmdale project section. The Authority had just completed a cycle of in-person community open houses in Lancaster and Bakersfield, then pivoted to virtual meetings after the March 17 shelter-in-place directive from California Gov. Gavin Newsom due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As with many areas of state and local government, the pandemic required the Authority to shift methods from traditional in-person meetings to virtual outreach. Authority staff utilized a variety of methods to engage stakeholders and the public. These included switching to virtual webcast open houses, creating stand-alone websites with supporting documents and explanatory videos, hosting telephone town halls, holding virtual office hours and targeted listening sessions, and conducting virtual public hearings to accept verbal comments. The Authority continued to engage with the community and stakeholders with the release of the Draft Environmental Impact Report/Statement (EIR/EIS) for the Burbank to Los Angeles project section in May 2020. In addition, the Authority held a virtual open house meeting and a stakeholder working group meeting in June 2020, and a five-hour virtual public hearing in July 2020.

The Authority continues to engage with the community throughout the Southern California region as the Palmdale to Burbank project section Draft EIR/EIS is due for release in the third quarter of 2021 and the Los Angeles to Anaheim project section Draft EIR/EIS is due for release by the first quarter of 2022. For the time being, all meetings and engagements are being planned online and/or via teleconferencing or individual calls unless there is a significant change in the orders from Gov. Newsom. The Authority continues to seek ways to safely engage the community during these unprecedented times and will continue to provide updates on all focused outreach efforts.

 

ARTIC Station in Anaheim lit up at night

On Dec. 15, 2020, the Anaheim City Council approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City of Anaheim and the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) addressing future high-speed rail operations at the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC).

The MOU highlights both parties’ commitment toward introducing high-speed rail operations, reaffirming the Authority’s commitment to connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles/Anaheim, delivering high-speed rail to Southern California. Phase 1 of the Authority’s project will connect San Francisco to Anaheim at ARTIC.

ARTIC is a state-of-the-art station featuring Metrolink, Amtrak, regional buses, and local transit services and is ideally located near a number of tourist attractions that will incentivize high-speed rail ridership, including Disneyland, Anaheim Convention Center & Arena, Angel Stadium of Anaheim and Honda Center.

This MOU opens the door to more cooperation between the Authority and the City of Anaheim to integrate high-speed rail to the ARTIC station, including:

  • Commitment of personnel;
  • Participation in recurring meetings;
  • Exchange of necessary technical information; and
  • Good-faith negotiation of more detailed agreements when needed.

This joint effort will guide improvements associated with high-speed rail to promote economic development, encourage station accessibility and enhance regional mobility in Anaheim. Adding high-speed rail tracks upgrades this shared urban rail corridor by improving safety and operations for all users.

The ARTIC station is located within the 30-mile rail corridor in the Authority’s Los Angeles to Anaheim project section which connects Los Angeles Union Station with ARTIC along the existing Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo rail corridor, currently used by both passenger (Metrolink and Amtrak) and freight rail providers.

 

Update on Rosecrans/Marquardt Grade Separation

On Dec. 3, 2020, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro) Board recommended an authorization to execute a contract for management of construction support services on the Rosecrans/Marquardt Grade Separation project to PreScience Corporation, a certified small business in Aliso Viejo, Calif. PreScience Corporation provides Construction Project Management and Inspection Services for the public and private sector throughout the state.

The intersection of Rosecrans/Marquardt Avenue and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway is an at-grade rail crossing located in the City of Santa Fe Springs. The intersection has been rated by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) as one of the most hazardous grade crossings in California. More than 112 trains and more than 45,000 vehicles use this crossing each day. This level of traffic and the configuration of the crossing has led to a high rate of incidents.

The project, scheduled to begin construction in December 2021, will grade separate this intersection from the existing diagonal at-grade crossing and substantially enhance the safety and traffic flow on surface streets. It will also improve the efficiency of train movements along the rail corridor, with the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing vehicle idling through the elimination of railroad gates made possible by grade separation.

This project will also incorporate the requirements of the Positive Train Control (PTC) program, the future California high-speed rail, and other operating expansion and capital improvement plans. The Rosecrans/Marquardt Grade Separation Project is one of the prioritized projects on the Advance Investment Memorandum of Understanding between several Southern California agencies and the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority), with $76.7 million from the Authority’s State_Investment_Southern_California funding going toward the project.

LA Metro is leading the project in cooperation with the City of Santa Fe Springs, City of La Mirada, BNSF Railway, California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), Amtrak, CPUC, Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Metrolink and the Authority. Construction is expected to be completed by July 2024.

 

High-Speed Rail Joins LA Metro’s Employers Panel, Career Fair

In a response to changing times, lead engineers on the California High-Speed Rail project continue to connect with students statewide through virtual platforms. California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) Chief Engineer Scott Jarvis spoke to workforce development students at the LA Metro Employers Panel and Career Fair co-hosted with the Los Angeles Trade Technical College. Jarvis was one of four speakers in a rail/rail maintenance breakout session with members of Union Pacific Railroad, HNTB and Hatch LTX.

This was the fifth annual employers fair hosted by LA Metro, and the first time that the program was held virtually. With a full morning of breakout sessions and keynote speakers, LA Metro and Los Angeles Trade Tech were able to offer more than 50 students the opportunity to chat with industry professionals and locate pathways to careers in transportation. LA Metro is well recognized for their pathways and student development programs. Students in attendance were part of LA Metro’s summer internship Transportation Career Academy Program and entry level pathways initiatives.

Alongside the other panelists, Jarvis discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the overall California High-Speed Rail program and hiring practices. He continued by providing some insight into the job opportunities with the program and broke down the differences in the jobs between the State and contractors all working together on high-speed rail.

Jarvis has been one of many at the Authority who have joined students in discussions about professional development while providing updates on the Authority’s progress to build high-speed rail in California.

 

Southern California Firm Engineers Success

California High-Speed Rail is benefiting from decades of engineering expertise at IDC Consulting Engineers, Inc. (IDC) under the leadership of principals Dr. Xiaoyun Wu and Dr. Wendy Li.

Founded in 1995 by Wu, IDC and its small team of 20 experts have been hard at work, from meticulously checking the design of the Hanford Viaductin Kings County, to the LINK US project for Los Angeles Union Station.

The Hanford Viaduct required double-time days, careful calculations and powerful computers when verifying the designed interaction between the track and structure. “It has been one of the most rewarding experiences,” Wu said. “We are making history.”

Read the full story in the Small Business Newsletter.

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