High-Speed Rail

Rail authority will start making first written offers for land between Fresno, Madera

Some property owners in Fresno and Madera counties will start receiving within days the first written offers from the California High-Speed Rail Authority to buy their land.

The rail agency needs to buy all or portions of more than 350 parcels to prepare for building its first 29 miles of the proposed statewide high-speed train route. Several owners of residential and commercial property between Madera and downtown Fresno will be among the first recipients of offer letters from the authority's right-of-way agents.

The agency is in negotiations with a team of construction companies to begin building the line between Avenue 17, near Madera, and American Avenue at the south edge of Fresno, in hopes of awarding a contract in June and beginning work this summer. But the rail authority cannot begin any construction, demolition or utility relocation until it owns the property.

Earlier this year, the rail authority identified about 75 parcels that it hopes to buy by the end of September, and nearly 130 parcels that it expects to need by the end of this year.

The parcels are either in the path of the railroad itself or would be affected by related work, including overpasses to carry city streets and county roads over the high-speed tracks.

A land-acquisition plan provided to purchasing consultants in January indicated that the rail authority expects to buy about 100 parcels in their entirety -- mostly smaller lots where the acreage left over from the railroad work would be practically useless. For other parcels, the authority would buy only the portions it needs for the route.

Construction is expected to take two to three years.