The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CAHSRA) approved the Final Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) for a14-mile track segment between Burbank and Los Angeles -- the first such clearance for the Los Angeles Basin, and only the second for all of Southern California.
The segment will run from Hollywood Burbank Airport -- which would be the first high-speed rail to airport connection in the U.S. -- to Los Angeles Union Station.
“Today’s approval represents a historic milestone and brings us closer to providing the first high-speed rail system in the United States,” said Authority CEO Brian Kelly. “We appreciate the continued support and collaboration with local and regional agencies and stakeholders as we work together to improve transportation in California.”
Unfortunately, this is merely another step in the convoluted environmental and public review process -- one of the key drivers of cost overruns and delays plaguing U.S. passenger rail and transit construction. With the EIR/EIS in hand, CAHSRA will now need to secure a full clearance under the California Environmental Quality Act for 300 miles of the 500-mile alignment between San Francisco and Los Angeles/Anaheim.
Compare that to federal and state highway expansion: these projects often benefit from categorical exclusions that statutorily assume no impact, thus requiring none of the environmental review and impact analysis that passenger rail projects must undergo.
“Rail Passengers is pleased to see California take another step closer to operations on this important project,” said Jim Mathews, Rail Passengers Association President & CEO. “However, the fact that we are still at this stage of development 14 years after California’s voters approved the project illustrates the need to streamline passenger rail development in the U.S. With $103 billion in rail funding authorized over the next five years by the Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act, we must be more nimble in advancing projects to construction.”