A decision on consultants to design a high-speed rail passenger station in Fresno, as well as a statewide operations center in the San Joaquin Valley, is being pushed off by the California High-Speed Rail Authority.
The agency’s board, at its meeting Tuesday in Sacramento, had been slated to consider issuing a request for qualifications from architectural and engineering firms to compete for a six-year contract for up to $11 million to the winning team later this year. But the issue was removed from the agenda because “some board members have questions and (our) staff will work with them to further elucidate on them,” board chairman Dan Richard said.
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.
A staff report to the authority board estimated 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.
Richard indicated that the station design project will be considered by the board’s Transit-Land Use Committee, on which Richard serves along with board member Daniel Curtin. Among that committee’s responsibilities are advising on policies and programs to “encourage smart growth around stations that will serve the local community and economy while increasing high-speed rail ridership,” to “enhance development opportunities at or near stations, ...” and advise “on station design milestones and station-area planning activities to further develop station areas to be high-speed rail ready.”
The station area plan is focused on 200 acres surrounding the station itself, a five-minute-walk radius around the station. It is the nesting doll sitting in the middle of the central business district.
Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, addressing the California High-Speed Rail Authority board
Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin thanked the rail authority board Tuesday for providing funding for the city’s station-area planning effort, the results of which she said will be presented to the Fresno City Council next week.
“The station area plan is focused on 200 acres surrounding the station itself, a five-minute-walk radius around the station,” Swearengin said. “It is the nesting doll sitting in the middle of the central business district.”
Swearengin pointed to the pivotal role that she expects the station and surrounding blocks to play in the revitalization of downtown Fresno. “We already had planning underway for the Central Business District and surrounding neighborhoods,” she said. The planning efforts, she added, are intended to ensure that “everything that moves forward with high-speed rail will benefit the city of Fresno.”
“We are intentionally looking for ways to connect neighborhoods with the station,” Swearengin said, adding that the city’s plans include developing Mariposa Street, “the historic east-west spine for downtown,” as a connection between a reconstructed Fulton Street and other downtown districts to the station.
Additionally, Fresno City Council president Paul Caprioglio and council members Esmeralda Soria and Oliver Baines presented the rail board with a resolution adopted last month by the council on a 4-2 vote to support the high-speed-rail project. “We want this board and the public to know what we are doing to prepared for this project,” said Baines, who authored the resolution. “Fresno has been first, Fresno has set the bar, and Fresno is prepared.”
In other action, the rail board approved a $36 million contract with Pacific Gas & Electric Co. for the utility to do the engineering, design and permitting work for 10 sites that will provide electricity to the authority’s bullet-train line through the San Joaquin Valley from Bakersfield to San Jose. The contract is in addition to two earlier, smaller deals – one for $500,000 in 2012 for a study to identify possible connection sites, and one for about $5 million in 2014 to identify more locations and fine-tune information for environmental studies.
“The substations are located at approximately 30-mile intervals,” Frank Vacca, the rail authority’s chief program manager. A separate contract will be required at a later time for the actual construction of the substations. In a memo to the board, Vacca estimated the cost of building the substations and interconnections at about $280 million. And once a location is selected for a systemwide heavy maintenance facility in the San Joaquin Valley – a facility coveted by Fresno, Kern and Madera counties because of the potential to provide as many as 1,500 jobs – Vacca said a power supply contract with PG&E for the facility could cost about $1.7 million.