The California High-Speed Rail Authority announced that it will issue a Revised Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR)/Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Fresno-to-Bakersfield section of the high-speed train project. The revised environmental document should be released next spring.

According to the High Speed Rail Authority, this additional analysis of alternatives in the Fresno to Bakersfield section will not impact the construction schedule.

In response to stakeholder, agency, and public feedback on the high-speed train alignment that bypasses Hanford to the east, the Authority will re-introduce an alternative route, along with an alternative station location to serve the Kings/Tulare region along that portion of the Fresno to Bakersfield section. The Authority will also investigate improvements to the existing Fresno to Bakersfield alternatives.

“Our job is to oversee and provide the best possible high-speed train project for California. We encourage the public to take advantage of this additional step in the Fresno-to-Bakersfield environmental process by continuing to review the current Draft EIR/EIS and provide additional comments next year on the revised document,” said Roelof van Ark, CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. “Construction will still begin on schedule in Fresno next year.”

The Hanford West Bypass alternative was identified in the 2005 Statewide Program EIR/EIS, and including this alternative is consistent with input from regulatory agencies.

Rather than issuing a Final EIR/EIS for the Fresno-to-Bakersfield section in January as previously scheduled, the Authority will now use the coming 5-6 months to further engineer the additional Hanford West Bypass route and new station alternative, conduct the additional environmental analyses needed, seek “value engineering” opportunities to reduce costs, and make other necessary revisions including those based on comments received through Oct. 13, 2011, after which a “Revised Draft EIR/Supplemental Draft EIS” will be issued for public comment.

Subsequent construction packages are scheduled to begin in mid to late 2013, after the Fresno to Bakersfield section environmental review has concluded.

Planned construction is composed of approximately 140 miles dependent on the alternative selected, and has an estimated contract value of nearly $6 billion. Constructing the backbone of the state’s high-speed rail segment is anticipated to generate tens of thousands jobs over the span of construction.