SAN FRANCISCO — The federal Surface Transportation Board Aug. 12 authorized the construction of a 114-mile segment of California's high speed passenger rail project between Fresno to Bakersfield.

The section is to be the second of a larger statewide $68 billion high-speed rail line plan, which will run 500 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

The STB, an organization within the U.S. Department of Transportation with economic regulatory oversight of railroads, said in its decision that the route is environmentally preferable and in compliance with environmental conditions recommended by the Office of Environmental Analysis.

"In this decision, we accept OEA's recommendation to adopt the Final [environmental impact statement], which we find took a 'hard look' at the potential environmental impact of the project, selected an environmentally preferred route from a list of alternatives, and recommended extensive environmental conditions to avoid, minimize, or mitigate the project's potential environmental impact," the STB said in its decision.

The board added that the stretch will be subject to environmental mitigation conditions.

Also on Tuesday, the High Speed Rail Authority announced that it had selected ARCADIS U.S. Inc. to design and construct a 60-mile section through the Central Valley from Fresno to the Tulare-Kern county line.

ARCADIS was the winning bidder among five firms and could receive up to $72 million over a period of five years, according to the rail authority.

Currently, the authority expects that the rail system will be up and running by 2029, transporting passengers from San Francisco to the Los Angeles basin in under three hours at speeds of over 200 miles per hour.

The authority expects the system to eventually extend to Sacramento and San Diego.

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