The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CAHSR) announced on Saturday that it has received a grant of nearly $202 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation to expand the construction of the high-speed rail system in the state. This is one of the largest pieces of federal funding awarded to the project in its history and a sign of the strong partnership between the state and the federal government.
The grant will fund six grade separations in Shafter
The grant was made through the federal 2022 Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program, which is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in 2021. The grant will fund the design, right-of-way purchases and construction of six grade separations in the city of Shafter, about 18 miles northwest of Bakersfield in Kern County. A grade separation is a roadway that is re-aligned over or under a railway to eliminate hazards and improve safety.
The six grade separations will separate car and pedestrian traffic from current freight trains and future high-speed rail trains along Poplar Avenue, Fresno Avenue, Shafter Avenue, Central Avenue, Lerdo Highway and Riverside Street. These grade separations are the first to be funded outside of the active construction underway along 119 miles in the Central Valley, signaling a strong federal commitment to advance the nation’s first 220 mph electrified high-speed rail operating segment between Merced, Fresno and Bakersfield.
The project aims to create a clean, electrified high-speed rail system by 2030
The California High-Speed Rail project is the largest and most ambitious infrastructure project in the state, aiming to create a clean, electrified high-speed rail system that will connect major urban centers and regions across the state. The project is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create jobs, spur economic development and provide a fast, reliable and affordable alternative to driving and flying.
The project has faced many challenges and delays over the years, including cost overruns, legal battles, environmental reviews and political opposition. However, under the leadership of Governor Gavin Newsom and CAHSR CEO Brian Kelly, the project has made significant progress in recent years, clearing environmental hurdles along 422 miles of the Bay Area to Los Angeles segment, completing several construction milestones and securing more funding from various sources.
The Biden Administration has been a staunch supporter of the project since taking office in 2021, restoring $929 million that was revoked by the previous administration, approving several environmental documents and providing more grants through various programs. The latest grant of $202 million is the largest award the Authority has received since the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in November 2021.
Construction on these grade separations is anticipated to start in August 2025
According to CAHSR officials, construction on these grade separations in Shafter will hopefully begin in August 2025 and be completed by August 2028. The Authority has also begun advanced design work to extend the 119 miles under construction to 171 miles of future electrified high-speed rail from Merced to Bakersfield. The Authority plans to open passenger service on this segment by 2030, followed by connecting it to San Francisco and Los Angeles in subsequent phases.
Governor Newsom said that his administration and the Biden-Harris Administration are in “lock-step” when it comes to building innovative, clean transportation projects for the future. “These dollars signal our shared strong commitment to advance clean, electrified high-speed rail into the heart of some of the largest and fastest growing cities in California by the end of this decade,” Newsom said. “I welcome the federal government’s continued support for this major infrastructure project for Californians.”