Fresno leaders are pinning at least part of their hopes for the revitalization of the city’s downtown on an economic boost from one of the first passenger stations on California’s planned high-speed train system.
This week, the California High-Speed Rail Authority is expected to begin its search for engineering and architectural consultants to draw up plans for that station, as well as for a statewide operations control center that will be located somewhere in the San Joaquin Valley.
The rail authority’s board of directors, meeting Tuesday in Sacramento, is being asked by the agency’s staff to seek statements of qualifications in anticipation of awarding a six-year contract for up to $11 million to the winning team later this year.
The Fresno station site will straddle the existing Union Pacific Railroad freight tracks at Mariposa Street, on a block bounded by G, H, Tulare and Fresno streets – an area for which the city is developing a master plan to make the most of a station in the heart of downtown. The rail authority is contributing to the cost of that planning effort.
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This work … to create and design the station itself will increase the potential to attract and capture foot traffic and increase the residential population in downtown Fresno.
Melissa DuMond, director of planning and integration for the California High-Speed Rail Authority
“This work with our station cities to create and design the station itself will increase the potential to attract and capture foot traffic and increase the residential population in downtown Fresno,” Melissa DuMond, the rail authority’s director of planning and integration, said in a memo to the board.
The report estimates that the Fresno station would occupy about 120,000 square feet and cost about $80 million. The consultants hired to draw up the design and construction plans would begin work in early 2017 and finish by the middle of 2019.
The first 520-mile, $64 billion phase of the statewide high-speed rail program is planned to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco with electric trains traveling at up to 220 mph by way of the San Joaquin Valley.
Construction on the first stretches of the system in the San Joaquin Valley is underway in Fresno and Madera counties, and work is poised to begin in the coming months in Kings, Tulare and Kern counties as the rail authority acquires the land it needs for the right of way.
The authority hopes it can begin commercial operation of high-speed trains on the line between Bakersfield and San Jose – a segment expected to cost about $20 billion – by 2025.
In other countries with established high-speed rail lines, including Spain, passenger stations are not only start-and-stop points for travelers, but many also feature shopping and dining destinations. Most are built in established downtown districts and serve as hubs for local and long-distance trains as well as municipal subway and bus services, and are credited by nearby merchants for generating additional foot traffic for their businesses.
While Fresno knows where its passenger station will be, rail agency spokeswoman Lisa Marie Alley said no site has been chosen for the operations control center, except that it will be somewhere in the San Joaquin Valley. It will be the main control center with direct, around-the-clock monitoring and control of the high-speed train system across the state, including dispatching trains and crews.
DuMond’s memo to the rail board indicates that the operations center would be about 30,000 square feet and cost about $20 million to build.