The so-called record of decision issued on November 9 covers the 37km section from Shafter to Bakersfield in the Central Valley and brings it a step closer towards construction.

The decision is the first major environmental action taken under California’s newly granted powers under the federal National Environmental Policy Act (Nepa).

California originally envisaged a 320km/h line connecting San Francisco and Sacramento with Los Angeles and San Diego, but these plans were scaled back earlier this year by the governor of California, Mr Gavin Newsom, due to spiralling costs and poor oversight. The line is now due to run from Avenue 19 in Madera to Poplar Road near Shafter and 191.5km are currently under construction, with plans for the Shafter - Bakersfield section currently being developed.

In order to finalise the environmental document and gather comprehensive feedback on the plans for the Shafter - Bakersfield section, CHSRA held more than 100 stakeholder meetings, 17 additional public and technical working group meetings, and 15 monthly regulatory agency coordination meetings.

The section extends from Shafter east towards state highway 99 and an existing Union Pacific line, then south into Bakersfield, ending at a station located at F Street in central Bakersfield. This builds upon analysis done previously in the region, narrowing down the specific alignment route that was most amenable to the local communities.

The document is a Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement issued under Nepa, which evaluates potential environmental effects of the Locally Generated Alternative, the alternative developed through city and state collaboration.

A Supplemental Record of Decision, the associated federal approval document, has also been issued. This federal approval is similar to the action CHSRA’s board of directors took in October 2018 under the state’s California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for the segment.

The supplemental record of decision was signed by CHSRA CEO, Mr Brian Kelly, and is the first of several environmental documents expected to be released within the next 12 months. In 2020, CHSRA will release all six remaining draft environmental documents for public comment, on a schedule to complete the process ahead of the federal grant completion deadline.

CHSRA says this will keep it on track to complete environmental clearance on the full 836km San Francisco - Los Angeles project.

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