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  • Writer's pictureWTS Sacramento

Recap - May 2021 Lunch Program

On Thursday, May 27th, 2021, WTS Sacramento virtually welcomed California High Speed Rail Authority’s (Authority) Melissa Figueroa, Chief of Strategic Communications, and Margaret Cederoth, Director of Planning and Sustainability, who discussed the California High Speed Rail project - the first of its kind in the United States. Student Outreach Coordinator, Yaqeline Castro, also discussed the Authority’s collaboration with students via the “I Will Ride” program.

High Speed Rail (HSR) demonstrates its value as safe, fast, and clean travel in countries around the world, and the Authority is proud to implement this infrastructure in California. The HSR will connect California’s large cities and economies, from San Francisco to Los Angeles with stops at major cities in between. A separate entity, Brightline West, is also planning a privately funded line that will connect Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Construction of 119 miles of HSR is currently underway between Madera and Bakersfield, creating more than 5,500 construction jobs, and employing 609 small businesses. To date, the California HSR project has created 60,000 jobs, with $11.4 billion in economic output.

Gaining support and investment from government leadership, as well as the public, has been a challenge, so the Authority works diligently to inform people of the benefits of HSR and the progress being made via the press, media, and newsletters. Over the next 15 months, the Authority aims to gain further environmental clearance, complete negotiations with the Federal Railroad Administration, and procure appropriation of the remaining Prop 1A funds from the 2021 Budget Act.

Among those benefiting from the HSR project will be students enrolled in California universities. The Authority established the “I Will Ride” program to build student partnerships and provide networking opportunities between students and transit leaders. The program aims to inform, engage, inspire, and connect a diverse group of students. In addition, the Authority has implemented the Central Valley Training Center to train people to work on the nation's first HSR.

The HSR has a strong focus on sustainability, with five key areas:

  1. Economic Development and Governance

  2. Energy and Emissions

  3. Natural Resources

  4. Sustainable Infrastructure

  5. Station Communities and Ridership.

One primary focus is centered on ensuring the HSR construction processes and practices reduce emissions and deliver sustainability value. Another current focus of the California HSR program is achieving 100-percent renewable energy operations. Last year, the HSR Program received the Envision Platinum 2020 Award, the highest award from the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure. This award reflects a unique achievement for such a large-scale project, and validates the Authority’s commitment to achieving sustainable outcomes.

It is often said, “Where California goes, the nation follows.” WTS Sacramento is excited to see the future of transit in California and the nation!

Thank you to Melissa, Margaret, and Yaqeline for your illuminating presentation on the California High Speed Rail!

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