Watch: CHSRA Releases 2023 Retrospective

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
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The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) on Dec. 27 celebrated “a year of progress” with a video retrospective of its top 10 milestones.

California high-speed rail is currently under construction along 119 miles in the Central Valley, where there are more than 25 active job sites. This segment will initially serve as a test track for high-speed trains. Additional advanced design is proceeding on stations and the 52 miles of extensions into downtown Merced and downtown Bakersfield. The full 500-mile system is slated to extend from San Francisco to Los Angeles/Anaheim; 422 miles have already been environmentally cleared (see map below).

According to CHSRA’s video presentation (scroll down to view), its “2023 Top 10 Moments” cover:

1. Awards. Among its recognitions in 2023, CHSRA earned the WTS Recognition Award–Employer of the Year from the international chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar for “exemplary efforts to encourage advancement of women’s careers,” and an award for excellence in advancing diversity and social change from the American Planning Association’s (APA) California–Northern Section.

2. Record Outreach. Across the state, CHSRA said it held and hosted a “record number” of outreach events in 2023—covering topics from small business diversity and how to do business with CHSRA to previewing upcoming procurements—that reached thousands of future riders and workers statewide.

Preliminary 3D modeling sketches for CHSRA’s high-speed trainsets were released Oct. 27. (Screen Grab Courtesy of CHSRA Video)

3. Construction to Operations. As the high-speed rail program “moves from construction to operations,” CHSRA said design has advanced on train interiors and four future Central Valley stations. In October, CHRSA showcased preliminary 3D modeling sketches and a virtual simulation of its trainsets as well as updated Central Valley station designs; the joint venture of Foster + Partners and Arup are designing the Merced, Fresno, Kings/Tulare and Bakersfield stations that will serve passengers on the initial 171-mile segment of the project connecting Merced to Bakersfield. Also in 2023, CHSRA selected Arup as sustainability program manager.

4. Helping in a Historic Flood. “Authority staff and contractors worked together to aid Central Valley communities impacted by flooding caused by last winter’s historic rainfall,” CHSRA reported.

The Avenue 9 overcrossing in Madera County, Calif., opened in November. (CHSRA Photograph)

5. Completion of 10 Major Structures. In 2023, 10 structures were completed along the first 119-miles of construction. The Avenue 9 overcrossing in Madera County was the 10th structure and opened in November; the 177-foot-long, 66-foot-wide overcrossing was designed and constructed by Tutor-Perini/Zachry/Parsons and will take traffic over the future high-speed rail tracks.

6. Job Creation. According to CHSRA, 10,000 labor jobs were on the books by early 2023 and has now reached 12,228.  

Construction workers on the Wasco Viaduct. (CHSRA Photograph)

7. Labor Milestones. CHSRA marked 10 years of partnership with the state building and construction trades for Labor Day 2023. Also in the fall, it entered into an agreement with 13 rail operating unions. This agreement, CHSRA said, will cover an estimated 3,000 workers who will operate and maintain high-speed trains, facilities, and stations. Running the 171-mile, Merced-to-Bakersfield section alone is slated to create nearly 400 operating jobs.

8. Construction Package 4 Nearing Completion. The southernmost 22-mile stretch of construction known as Construction Package 4 is nearing completion, according to CHSRA. This segment—bounded by a point approximately one mile north of the Tulare/Kern County Line and Poplar Avenue to the south (see map above)—includes construction of at-grade embankments, retained fill overcrossings and viaducts, aerial sections of the high-speed rail alignment, and the relocation of four miles of existing BNSF freight rail tracks. This will be the first segment finished, and the Authority reported that many of its structures “are already benefiting communities, separating current traffic from busy railroads, even in advance of high-speed trains beginning to move along the corridor.”

(CHSRA Image)

9. Future Procurements. “Steps are under way to buy the nation’s first 220-plus mph electrified trains and begin work for the track and systems,” CHSRA said. The Board of Directors in August approved the release of a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for trainset procurement, and the release of a Request for Proposal (RFP) is expected during first-quarter 2024. Additionally, the Authority issued a design services RFQ for track and overhead contact systems for the initial 171-mile segment.

10. Federal Grant Awards: The California high-speed rail project received major grants in 2023. In June, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded CHRSA $20 million through the RAISE (Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity) program to renovate, modernize and preserve the historic passenger depot building in Fresno, Calif., in anticipation of the future high-speed rail multimodal station. In September, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) awarded CHRSA nearly $202 million through the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) competitive grant program for the design, right-of-way purchases and construction of six grade separations in the city of Shafter (Kern County); construction is anticipated to start in August 2025 and wrap up in August 2028. Capping off the year, CHSRA received $3.073 billion from the FRAs Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Program in December to advance work in the Central Valley. It will help fund six electric trains for testing and use; design of train facilities; design and construction of the Fresno station; final design and early works, including right-of-way acquisition and utility relocation on the extensions to Merced to Bakersfield; and construction in the Central Valley.

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