HSR director promises groundbreaking will come soon

FRESNO, Calif.

At a meeting in Sacramento, the director of the high speed rail authority said the contract for construction on the line from Madera County to Fresno will be signed within days.

While construction hasn't started planning has been underway for months. Tutor Perini Construction, The major contractor for the nearly $1 billion first segment from Madera County through Fresno has set up shop in Fresno and is awaiting the final go ahead from the California High Speed Rail.

Authority Director Dan Richards says things are about to happen.

"We're really on the verge of breaking ground our organization is just about to sign the contract with the contractor," said Richards. "Right now it's logistical issues more than anything else."

The City of Fresno is gearing up. Half a dozen staff members have been added and more are expected to be hired with funds provided by the authority to both the city, the county and the Economic Development Corporation.

City Engineer Scott Mozier says the jobs involve working with the businesses impacted by the trains route through town.

Mozier explained, "Starting to figure out okay how can I reconfigure my site how can I fit everything I need to here, or, in cases where there is a full take from the high speed rail authority where are some good sites for them to move to right here in Fresno and keep them going."

Construction will start somewhere between Avenue 17 in Madera County, just north of Fresno, and American Avenue South of Fresno.

The heaviest construction will be along G Street downtown, where every business and even government buildings between the street and the Union Pacific tracks will be torn down. Richards said negotiations with property owners for the first stretch are underway.

Richards explained, "There are about 300 parcels for the 29 miles I was told by our CEO yesterday we've got offers on about a third of them and apparently its going pretty well."

The project is expected to bring thousands of construction jobs to Fresno for. Mozier notes the board has just authorized seeking additional contracts for surveying and engineering work.

Richards added, "They are looking for businesses to do some of the right of way engineering establish what are called easements for gas electric other utilities where they are where they need to go."

Which should mean more jobs for local companies that can do the work.

One legal challenge to the project remains. A Kings County dairy farmer is part of a lawsuit trying to stop the train. But Richard says he believes that obstacle will soon be removed.

The $68 billion project to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco through the Central Valley is expected to take from 15 to 20 years to complete.

Work on the first 29 mile section from Madera County through the city of Fresno is expected to start within the next month or two.

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