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The final environmental impact report is now complete for the section of California’s high-speed rail project that would travel between San Jose and Merced.

The report, issued Feb. 25 by the California High-Speed Rail Authority, is the final environmental impact report and environmental impact statement for the 90-mile leg of the project, between the Silicon Valley and the Central Valley.

The authority’s Board of Directors will consider the final document for approval during its two-day board meeting April 20 and 21 in conjunction with the proposed approval of the preferred alternative alignment. If approved, this project section will move closer to being “shovel ready” for when pre-construction and construction funding becomes available, according to Anthony Lopez, spokesperson for the high-speed rail project.

“This environmental document is the culmination of years of analysis and stakeholder engagement and an important milestone in advancing high-speed rail between Silicon Valley and the Central Valley,” said Brian Kelly, the authority’s chief executive officer. “Connecting these two major economic regions will change the way people travel throughout the state and foster more equitable employment and housing opportunities. We remain committed to environmentally clearing all 500 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles and Anaheim and advancing design statewide.”

A conceptual image shows a California High-Speed Rail train making its way through the Central Valley. When complete, the system will span approximately 500 miles between San Francisco and Los Angeles. (Image courtesy of California High-Speed Rail Authority)

In the so-called San Jose to Merced Project Section, Lopez said high-speed rail trains will travel through or near the cities of Santa Clara, San Jose, Morgan Hill, Gilroy and Los Banos. The proposed preferred alternative alignment would include the upgrading of existing rail lines between San Jose and Gilroy and constructing a new high-speed rail alignment, with more than 15 miles of tunnels, through Pacheco Pass in the Diablo Range.

By reducing travel times and integrating the high-speed rail system with other modes of transportation, Lopez added this section of the statewide high-speed rail system will tie California’s regions together through public rail and transit.

The proposed preferred alternative for the San Jose to Merced Project Section includes high-speed rail stations at San Jose Diridon Station and in downtown Gilroy, offering links with regional and local mass transit.

The proposed preferred alternative will modernize and electrify the existing rail corridor from San Jose to Gilroy, allowing for both high-speed rail and electrified Caltrain service to South San Jose and Southern Santa Clara County.