Notice of Intent by the Secretary of the California State Transportation Agency (“CalSTA”) relative to a proposed long-term leasehold agreement between the California Department of Transportation (“Caltrans”) and DesertXpress Enterprises, LLC, which does business as Brightline West (“BLW”), for BLW to lease property for compatible use of State highway rights-of-way not otherwise disposed of or in use, for its proposed privately funded high-speed passenger rail line between Apple Valley, California and Rancho Cucamonga, California, within the existing Interstate 15 alignment (the “Cajon Pass Project”).
AGENCY: California State Transportation Agency
ACTION: Notice of Intent
SUMMARY: Per the authority granted under California Public Utility Code section 7551.1 (“Section 7551.1”), the Secretary of CalSTA intends to take delegation action relative to Caltrans executing a long-term leasehold agreement with BLW, concerning State highway rights-of-way not otherwise disposed of or in use, within the existing Interstate 15 (“I-15”) alignment.
Under the proposed Right of Way Use Agreement, Caltrans will lease to BLW, and BLW will lease from Caltrans, property within the median of the existing I-15 corridor right-of-way for the Cajon Pass Project, to connect clean, electrified, high-speed rail service from the initial Apple Valley terminus in San Bernardino County, into Los Angeles County, with a station to be constructed adjacent to the Rancho Cucamonga Metrolink station, thereby providing connectivity to the Metrolink system. The Cajon Pass Project will also include a new commuter rail station near the northern end of the Cajon Pass.
DATES: CalSTA will accept written and electronic comments on the proposed action of a long-term leasehold agreement over State highway rights-of-way with BLW for the Cajon Pass Project for a 15-day period after this notice is posted, or until 5:00 p.m. on March 23, 2023.
ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by the following methods:
California Department of Transportation, District 8 Office
464 West 4th Street, 6th Floor
San Bernardino, California 92401
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: For general information, including information on how to comment, you may contact Emily Leinen at California Department of Transportation, District 8 Office, 464 West 4th Street, 6th Floor, San Bernardino, California 92401, or by telephone at (909) 383-4657.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: If you wish CalSTA or Caltrans to withhold your street address, except for the city or town, from public view or from disclosure under the California Public Records Act, you must state this prominently at the beginning of your written comment. CalSTA and Caltrans will honor requests to the extent allowed by law. CalSTA and Caltrans will not consider anonymous comments. All submissions from organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or businesses, will be available for public inspection in their entirety.
Background Information: Under Section 7551.1, the Secretary of CalSTA may grant every railroad corporation, whose primary business is the transportation of passengers, the rights-of-way for the location, construction, and maintenance of its necessary works and for every necessary adjunct thereto over any portion of highway owned by the State of California, which is not otherwise disposed of or in use, for passenger rail service. Under California Government Code section 13982, the Secretary of CalSTA may designate in writing the authority under Section 7551.1 to Caltrans.
BLW proposes to construct privately owned and operated electrified high-speed passenger rail projects between Southern California and Las Vegas, Nevada. The first project will connect Apple Valley, California with Las Vegas, Nevada on 170 miles of track (the “High Desert Project”). The High Desert Project will be constructed primarily in the I-15 corridor right-of-way on an alignment that will largely run in the I-15 median. A Right of Way Use Agreement for the High Desert Project was completed on June 19, 2020, between BLW and Caltrans (under delegation of authority from CalSTA).
Studies performed by BLW forecast that the BLW rail system will provide more than 35,000 jobs during construction and approximately 1,000 permanent jobs during operations, improve safety, eliminate 400,000 tons of CO2 per year, and support $10 billion of economic output, while improving quality of life and providing an additional transportation option for the region.
BLW is also cooperating with other relevant stakeholders who are exploring a possible high-speed rail connection between Victorville and the Palmdale Metrolink station, in conjunction with the proposed High Desert Corridor rail alignment (the “Palmdale Project”). (Caltrans does not have existing highway right-of-way in the Palmdale Project proposed rail alignment.)
The parties believe that construction of the Cajon Pass Project will serve the important purposes of increasing passenger rail transportation within Southern California, including interconnectivity between systems, and promoting the region’s mobility, safety, and air quality goals. In pursuit of those goals and separate from and in addition to any agreements and discussions related to the Palmdale Project, the parties propose this Right of Way Use Agreement for the Cajon Pass Project. BLW has asked that the Secretary of CalSTA grant State highway rights-of-way to BLW, which are not otherwise disposed of or in use, for its passenger rail service. State law requires BLW to pay fair market value for all rights-of-way granted by the Secretary of CalSTA.
Following this Notice of Intent process, the Secretary of CalSTA intends to delegate the Section 7551.1 authority to the Director of Caltrans to move ahead with completing negotiations and executing a lease agreement to allow BLW to use existing State highway rights-of-way along the I-15 alignment for private passenger rail service. The Right of Way Use Agreement would then be considered for signature by the parties. The terms and conditions of the contemplated long-term leasehold are set forth in Attachment A, Right of Way Use Agreement Related to the DesertXpress High-Speed Rail System Apple Valley to Rancho Cucamonga Project.
[Posted March 8, 2023]