FRA has issued its Record of Decision (ROD) for the Merced–Fresno High Speed Train (HST) Project. FRA considered the information and analysis contained in the 2011 Draft EIS and 2012 Final EIS. FRA also considered public and agency comments received during the public comment period for the Draft EIS and the waiting period following the Final EIS. Based on the analysis of the Project’s potential environmental effects (both adverse and beneficial) in the EIS Documents and substantive agency and public comments, FRA selects the north-south Hybrid Alternative and the Downtown Merced Station and Downtown Fresno Mariposa Street Station alternatives. Specifically, this ROD:
FRA completed the Final project-level Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (Final EIR/EIS) for the Merced–Fresno High Speed Train (HST) Project. FRA is the lead Federal agency for this Final EIR/EIS and has prepared it jointly with the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) to meet the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
The Final EIR/EIS presents the Project’s purpose and need, and does the following:
Additional information about the HST system may be found in the California High Speed Train Program EIR/EIS and the Bay Area to Central Valley Program EIR/EIS, both of which informed the environmental analysis contained in the Merced to Fresno Final EIR/EIS.
The Merced to Fresno section of the 800-mile system is approximately 65 miles long. The alignment alternatives parallel Highway 99 through the northern stretch of the San Joaquin Valley. The station sites are in the City of Merced, where they will connect with the Merced to Sacramento section, and in Fresno, where they will connect with the Fresno to Bakersfield section. In addition, a heavy maintenance facility for assembly, testing, and commissioning of trains, train inspection and service, and train overhaul may be constructed in the Merced to Fresno Section.
FRA and the Authority began the Merced to Fresno EIR/EIS in October 2009 by publishing a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register. The Draft EIR/EIS was issued in August 2011 for public review. Comments were accepted until October 13, 2011. FRA and the Authority held three public hearings in the Project area to solicit public comment. Responses to substantive public comments on the Draft EIR/EIS are included in the Final EIR/EIS in Appendix IV. FRA published a Notice of Availability for the Final EIR/EIS in the Federal Register on April 20, 2012.
The Final EIR/EIS identifies the Hybrid alternative as the Agencies’ Preferred Alternative with the Downtown Merced and Mariposa Street Fresno station alternatives. While the potential impacts are analyzed in the Final EIR/EIS, identification of the preferred connection between the Merced to Fresno and San Jose to Merced section or “wye” is deferred. Similarly, no preferred alternative for the Heavy Maintenance Facility is identified at this time.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is a cooperating agency on this Draft EIR/EIS. The Corps is the agency responsible for issuing permits for discharge of dredged or fill material within Waters of the U. S. Merced to Fresno U.S. Army Corps 404 Notice, Attachment.
The highlights of the Merced to Fresno Final EIR/EIS, explain the alternatives under consideration, provide a summary of key findings, and next steps in the environmental process and project implementation.More information is available on the Authority’s Webpage for the Merced to Fresno Final EIR/EIS.
The Draft General Conformity Determination is open for public comment. Public comments should be provided to FRA by May 29, 2012