After nearly two decades of planning and negotiations, the California high-speed rail ("HSR"), the nation's first dedicated high-speed rail line, is now a reality. In a vote of 21-16, the California State Senate approved Senate Bill 1029 to fund the HSR, and the bill was signed earlier this month by California Governor Jerry Brown. Senate Bill 1029 authorizes the state to begin selling the $4.5 billion in bonds approved by voters in 2008, which includes $2.6 billion (matched by additional federal funds) allocated to commence construction of the 130-mile stretch through the Central Valley, as well as $1.9 billion in bonds for regional rail improvements in Northern and Southern California.

The HSR's construction will necessitate that the California High Speed Rail Authority (the "Authority") commence acquisition of rights-of-way, which may impact private property located within the proposed routes (see interactive route map here). Once the precise route is determined, the Authority will appraise any property located within the width of the right-of-way and initiate eminent domain (condemnation) proceedings to compensate each property owner for lost property. In some instances, the Authority will conduct a relocation impact analysis to determine if the property owner will be required to move and should be compensated for relocation costs.

The Authority has already initiated various stages of the environmental review process for every section of the HSR as required by the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA") (42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq.) and the California Environmental Quality Act ("CEQA") (codified at Pub. Res. Code § 21000 et seq.). Four of the nine segments of the HSR are currently in the Draft EIR/EIS stage. Those segments include San Francisco to San Jose, Fresno to Bakersfield, Palmdale to Los Angeles, and Los Angeles to Anaheim. The Draft EIR/EIS for the Fresno to Bakersfield route was released on July 17, 2012 for public review, and the public comment period will end September 20, 2012. The Final EIR/EIS for the Merced to Fresno route is currently awaiting approval by the Authority's Board of Directors. For background information on the HSR, please visit our previous client alerts.

Rights-of-way must be purchased prior to actual construction, which is slated to begin in 2013. As the HSR gains speed, property owners within the HSR's planned routes will likely be faced with condemnation questions. The Authority has published a guide, available here, that gives a general overview of its proposed eminent domain procedures for the HSR. Please visit Stoel Rives' eminent domain/valuation page if you have specific questions for our attorneys.