Multiple Victories for High Speed Rail: Groundbreaking January 6 in Fresno

December 15, 2014 - California’s High Speed Rail project scored a slew of victories in recent days, supported by the State Building Trades, as the long-awaited transportation improvement gained tremendous momentum to move forward.

Groundbreaking: The High Speed Rail Authority has announced that it will begin sustained construction on the first phase of the project in Fresno, covered by a project labor agreement, and will commemorate that milestone with a groundbreaking ceremony there on January 6. Governor Jerry Brown and State Building and Construction Trades Council (SBCTC) President Robbie Hunter will participate.

Phase 2 Bidding: The Authority also announced that it has selected a bid for the Fresno-to-Bakersfield second phase of the project that is well below the anticipated cost. It identified Dragados/Flatiron/Shimmick, which bid $1.2 billion, as the “apparent best value.” Previous cost estimates for this phase were between $1.5 billion and $2 billion.

Obstructionist Lawsuits Rebuffed: The federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) ruled that opponents’ lawsuits attempting to use the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to stop construction were invalid, because state and local regulations denying rail operations “are categorically preempted as to any rail lines and facilities that are an integral part of rail transportation,” by the federal Interstate Commerce Act. The STB further found that the Authority approved the project after an ample review of its environmental impacts and transportation merits. SBCTC had joined in urging the STB to reach this finding.

SBCTC President Robbie Hunter commented: “Three great successes for High Speed Rail in a matter of days means we are definitely making this happen. High Speed Rail is coming to California, bringing tens of thousands of good construction jobs, a needed boost to our economy, a long-overdue modernization of our overtaxed transportation system, and real environmental quality improvements. Every Californian will benefit. All to be constructed under an agreement between the High Speed Rail Authority and State Building Trades affiliates.”

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