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What’s the latest on California’s high-speed rail project?

The California High-Speed Rail Authority will conduct a series of community meetings beginning next week to give updates on the bullet train’s Los Angeles to Anaheim Project Section, part of the first of two phases.

Spanning about 30 miles, the section would connect Los Angeles Union Station to the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center along the existing Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo rail corridor.

During the five meetings, to be held March 30 through April 8, rail authority staff will provide information on refinements to grade separations at railroad-street crossings, safety improvements and proposed project features including communication towers. The staff-recommended alignment, which will be carried forward in a draft environmental document, will also be shared.

It’s the latest step in the plan to transport riders between Southern California and San Francisco in about three hours.

The project is proving to be more time-consuming and tens of billions of dollars more expensive than estimated when California voters approved the funding measure in 2008. At that time, the estimate was $33 billion.

Here’s the latest on the status and future of the high-speed rail.

Q: Where is the project as far as construction?

A: Construction has been underway for the last couple of years on more than 119 miles of the system from Silicon Valley to the Central Valley, with expected passenger service in 2025. A timeline for building south to Anaheim has not yet been determined, but passenger service is scheduled to start in 2029. Phase 2 would connect Los Angeles Union Station to San Diego and Merced to Sacramento.

Q: Would construction for the Los Angeles to Anaheim Project Section impact local communities?

A: Since the section would be built using the existing Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo rail corridor, the impact on urban communities may be less than to those in rural areas where new rail paths will be paved.

“I don’t have specific numbers of homes or businesses that may be affected, but I would imagine there would be some impact to some communities because obviously we would have to widen the rail corridor in some areas,” said Adeline Yee, a spokeswoman for California High-Speed Rail. “Part of the refinements was trying to reduce the right-of-way impact to the corridor so we would take fewer properties away – that was always the goal, was to have as minimal an impact as possible.”

Q: How much will rides cost?

A: Fares are expected to average $89 from San Francisco to Los Angeles or Anaheim, and $30 for a trip from Los Angeles to Anaheim, according to the rail authority’s 2016 business plan based on 2015 dollars. Fares ultimately would be determined by a private operator, within parameters set by the rail authority.

Q: How much will the system cost to build, operate and maintain, and how will it be paid for?

A: Phase 1 from San Francisco to Los Angeles and Anaheim is estimated to cost $64.2 billion to build and funding has yet to be identified for the entire scope. Part of it would be covered by system revenues. The train is expected to pay for itself once it’s built, with revenues taking care of all operations and maintenance costs, as is consistent with similar systems internationally, according to Yee.

“Our system will eventually be operated without a subsidy, meaning taxpayers will not be splitting the bill once the system is in operation,” she said.

Q: Is a private investor being sought?

A: “We do feel once we are environmentally clear that would condition us to be ready for private investment to come in,” Yee said.

The rail authority’s goal is to have a draft Environmental Impact Report for the project section ready by November 2017 and the final document done by June 2018.

Contact the writer: 714-796-7762 or jkwong@ocregister.com or on Twitter: @JessicaGKwong