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Bullet Train

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THE818NOW
November 13, 2012
Civil War veteran William Hood arrived at the mosquito-infested swamps near Bakersfield in 1874 to build a rail line that would soar through the Tehachapi Mountains, linking the Bay Area and Southern California for the first time. Hood, Southern Pacific Railroad's chief assistant engineer, assembled 3,000 Chinese immigrants with picks, shovels and dynamite. They snaked the track up treacherous mountain ridges, twisted it back and forth around canyons and punched it through sheer rock in a series of 18 tunnels - climbing 4,025 vertical feet along the way. It's a feat no one has attempted to duplicate.
NEWS
January 12, 2012
The chief executive of the state's high-speed rail agency resigned Thursday amid growing criticism of the $98.5-billion bullet train project and declining public support for the proposal. Roelof van Ark, 59, announced his departure in a major shakeup that included the replacement of attorney Thomas Umberg, a former state legislator, as chairman of the California High Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors. Umberg will recommend that Dan Richard, who was recently appointed to the board by Gov. Jerry Brown, assume his leadership role.
THE818NOW
April 30, 2013
California's bullet train agency is facing a series of new regulatory and political problems that could jeopardize its July construction kickoff, which already has been delayed more than six months. The new challenges are coming from a private railroad that controls a key right of way, a legislative committee delving into contracting issues and a powerful federal agency asserting authority over the project. The rail agency is beginning to make purchase offers for land around Fresno and says it still plans to start building this summer.
THE818NOW
May 4, 2012
State bullet train officials Thursday approved the environmental impact studies for an initial section of high-speed track to be built from Merced to Fresno, a decision that sets the stage for possible legal challenges from powerful Central Valley farming interests. Certification of the final state and federal environmental reports is a critical step before the California High-Speed Rail Authority can begin to secure government permits and award construction contracts for the first phase of the $68-billion project that would link Los Angeles and San Francisco with 200 mph trains.
THE818NOW
June 11, 2012
The California bullet train is promoted as an important environmental investment for the future, but over the next decade the heavy construction project would potentially harm air quality, aquatic life and endangered species across the Central Valley. Eleven endangered species, including the San Joaquin kit fox, would be affected, according to federal biologists. Massive emissions from diesel-powered heavy equipment could foul the already filthy air. Dozens of rivers, canals and wetlands fed from the rugged peaks of the Sierra Nevada would be crossed, creating other knotty issues.
THE818NOW
November 16, 2012
The California High-Speed Rail Authority said Thursday that it was adding 12 months to the construction schedule for 130 miles of track in the Central Valley, easing what some outside experts have contended was an overly aggressive and risky timeline. Jeff Morales, chief executive of the authority, said the revised schedule would have the track completed by December 2017 rather than a year earlier as set under the agency's contracting documents. The new timetable will allow contractors to use less overtime and other practices that were expected under the accelerated plan in place earlier, Morales said.
THE818NOW
November 27, 2012
A few hundred faithful pass through the doors of Pastor Bob Childress' sanctuary every Sunday, but he worries that sometime in the next decade a 220-mph bullet train may take their place. The future route of the train, as currently drawn, takes dead aim for the Church of the Canyons, an evangelical refuge on Sand Canyon Road in Santa Clarita with a congregation of 450. "This will be an excellent test of our faith," Childress said. California's bullet train has generated plenty of opposition in the areas around the San Gabriel Mountains.
THE818NOW
June 5, 2012
With legal challenges to the California bullet train mounting, Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday began circulating proposed legislation designed to significantly diminish the possibility that opponents could stop the project with an environmental lawsuit. Brown's office sent the proposal to a group of powerful environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, the Planning Conservation League and the Natural Resources Defense Council, hoping to win their support for the special legal protection.
THE818NOW
June 25, 2012
Gov. Jerry Brown 's request for $6 billion to start construction of the California bullet train will face a difficult vote in the Legislature in the coming days, prompting some last-minute political maneuvering that could significantly alter the structure of the project. Brown is seeking approval of a long-standing plan to build 130 miles of rail in the Central Valley from Bakersfield to Madera, creating the backbone of a future rail network that would later connect with Los Angeles and San Francisco.
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THE818NOW
June 14, 2013
California's bullet train agency won a key legal ruling Thursday, obtaining an exemption from regulatory oversight by the federal Surface Transportation Board for construction of the first segment of the rail system that would run 220 mph trains from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The ruling is among several barriers it has successfully navigated in the long-sought start of construction, though the state still must secure a deal with powerful freight railroads, obtain a key permit from the Army Corps of Engineers and prevail in a lawsuit that alleges the rail plan violates a 2008 voter-approved bond measure.
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THE818NOW
May 28, 2013
The state bullet train agency is pushing full throttle to start construction of the important first phase of the California high-speed rail system in as little as six weeks, prompting scrutiny of the state's selection of a construction company with the worst technical scores among bidders. Tutor Perini Corp. won the competition to build the first 29 miles of the high-speed rail route on a low bid of $985 million, even though its design quality, safety plan and engineering, among other factors, ranked at the bottom of five teams seeking the work.
THE818NOW
May 28, 2013
Dan Richard, chairman of the California high-speed rail authority, said Wednesday at a congressional hearing in Madera that the agency had reduced the risk of future cost overruns, but the project's price tag could increase in the future. "I am not going to sit here and promise that there will not be [cost growth]," Richard said. Richard was one of six witnesses called by the House rail subcommittee chairman, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Atwater), who has been harshly critical of the agency's plans and what he contends is lack of compliance with a voter-approved measure that provided $9 billion for the system.
THE818NOW
May 3, 2013
The California bullet train agency on Thursday defended its bidding criteria for selecting the winner for its first construction contract, saying that the process held down prices and was handled properly. The California High-Speed Rail Authority has come under fire from critics who assert changes to the bidding criteria could jeopardize the quality of the project. The authority tentatively chose a team led by Sylmar-based Tutor Perini to build a 29-mile segment of track through Fresno even though it had the lowest technical score.
THE818NOW
April 30, 2013
California's bullet train agency is facing a series of new regulatory and political problems that could jeopardize its July construction kickoff, which already has been delayed more than six months. The new challenges are coming from a private railroad that controls a key right of way, a legislative committee delving into contracting issues and a powerful federal agency asserting authority over the project. The rail agency is beginning to make purchase offers for land around Fresno and says it still plans to start building this summer.
THE818NOW
April 19, 2013
A lawsuit alleging that approval of the high-speed rail system's first sections in the Central Valley violated state environmental laws was settled Thursday, eliminating a legal obstacle that could have delayed construction. A Sacramento County Superior Court judge approved an agreement that calls for the California High-Speed Rail Authority to further reduce the project's effects on farming operations, preserve agricultural land and provide additional compensation for landowners.
THE818NOW
April 19, 2013
State high-speed rail officials acknowledged Thursday that they changed their rules for selecting a builder for the bullet train's first phase in the Central Valley, a shift that subsequently made it possible for a consortium led by Sylmar-based Tutor Perini to be ranked as the top candidate despite receiving the lowest technical rating. The California High-Speed Rail Authority announced last week that the Tutor Perini-Zachry-Parsons joint venture was the top-rated contender among five bidders seeking to build the initial 29 miles of track between Madera and Fresno.
THE818NOW
March 27, 2013
The California bullet-train project has collided with farmers, political conservatives and wealthy suburbanites who would like to see the $68-billion system killed. Now it is facing tough criticism from an unlikely quarter: within the ranks of high-speed rail's true believers. Some longtime backers of the project are objecting to political compromises that they say undermine legal safeguards for the massive investment, notably a design that would move passengers between urban destinations faster than air travel, as well as requirements intended to prevent a half-built system.
THE818NOW
January 28, 2013
Construction of California's high-speed rail network is supposed to start in just six months, but the state hasn't acquired a single acre along the route and faces what officials are calling a challenging schedule to assemble hundreds of parcels needed in the Central Valley. The complexity of getting federal, state and local regulatory approvals for the massive $68-billion project has already pushed back the start of construction to July from late last year. Even with that additional time, however, the state is facing a risk of not having the property to start major construction work near Fresno as now planned.
THE818NOW
November 27, 2012
A few hundred faithful pass through the doors of Pastor Bob Childress' sanctuary every Sunday, but he worries that sometime in the next decade a 220-mph bullet train may take their place. The future route of the train, as currently drawn, takes dead aim for the Church of the Canyons, an evangelical refuge on Sand Canyon Road in Santa Clarita with a congregation of 450. "This will be an excellent test of our faith," Childress said. California's bullet train has generated plenty of opposition in the areas around the San Gabriel Mountains.
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