The California High Speed Rail project is moving along through the area, according to officials briefing the public in a virtual community meeting recently.
At a Sept. 22 online event, the Rail Authority’s regional director, Garth Fernandez, gave a review of Phase 1 of the project, the 520 miles between San Francisco and Los Angeles. There is currently 119 miles under construction between Madera and Poplar Avenue (between Wasco and Shafter). He said in this section 72% of the structures have been completed, 73% of the right of way built and 90% of the property purchased. The project has employed 8,600 people.
Miguel Moro, CEO of California Railroad Builders, the contractor building Construction Package Four, gave an update on local progress. Construction Package Four is the 22 miles between the northern Kern County line and Poplar Avenue. He said that a number of viaducts – land bridges – were completed: Peterson Road, Poso Creek and Pond Road. Kimberlina Road and the Wasco viaduct are slated to be completed by the end of the year. In addition, the Merced Avenue and Combs Road overpasses, called grade separation structures, are well underway. Highway 46 will have an improved four-lane underpass, as will Poso Avenue. The tunnel underneath the High Speed Rail right of way to access the Amtrak platform also is nearing completion. He emphasized that Amtrak service will not be interrupted and will continue to serve Wasco. The goal is to have Construction Package Four completed by March of 2023.
As far as south of Poplar, a contract for design has been awarded, and once the final design is completed, property acquisition will begin. In answer to a question of when that will happen, he said that it would be a year or two in the future
More information is available on the High Speed Rail website or by contacting Augie Blancas at [email protected] or 559-720-6695.