Calif. high-speed rail: Recognized for sustainability efforts, receives award

The below Dec. 8, 2020 news release is from the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) announced today it has received national recognition with the Envision Platinum rating for its sustainability efforts. The Envision Platinum rating is the highest-level award from the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, and the award is the first time a program the size and complexity of the state’s high-speed rail project has earned such an honor.

“We are proud to have achieved Envision Platinum for the high-speed rail program. This recognizes the Authority’s progress on delivering a sustainable transportation system for California,” said Meg Cederoth, the Authority’s Director of Planning and Sustainability. “We’ve sought to reflect California’s sustainability ethic while laying the foundation for carbon-free travel. This recognition is a validation of the Authority’s ability to deliver sustainable infrastructure.”

“Sustainable infrastructure is a broad idea made very specific through the Envision verification process. This robust, third-party review of sustainability performance against 64 different issue areas illustrates how the California High-Speed Rail Authority is delivering on its commitment to provide current and future generations a system that protects and restores social, environmental and economic sustainability in its delivery and on into operation,” said Melissa Peneycad, Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure Managing Director.

The Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure is a non-profit organization founded by the American Public Works Association, the American Society of Civil Engineers and the American Council of Engineering Companies. To earn the Envision Platinum award, projects must demonstrate sustainability through a third-party project verification process and a comprehensive independent peer-review process conducted and overseen by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure. The evaluation assesses the program’s performance across 64 sustainability criteria addressing a wide range of indicators including community quality of life, mobility, collaboration, planning, sustainability management, materials, energy, water, economic prosperity, environmental impacts, air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and resilience.

The high-speed rail program’s key sustainability achievements included:

  • Stimulating economic prosperity and development throughout the state by providing nearly 3,000 full time jobs, with an emphasis on job creation for people living in historically disadvantaged communities.
  • More than 100 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions reduced by transitioning travel away from automobiles and planes.
  • Exceptional performance in achieving greenhouse gas emissions reductions and preparing for climate change by:
    • Achieving net-zero tailpipe emissions during construction through carbon sequestration projects;
    • Including electric vehicle charging and hydrogen-fueling infrastructure at rail stations;
    • Reducing heat island effects by implementing vegetative shading, green roofs and choosing highly solar reflective materials at all rail stations and operations and maintenance facilities;
    • Implementing climate adaptation techniques in planning and design, including design criteria that incorporate climate change projections;
    • Incorporating climate hazards into system risk analysis.
  • Leadership and commitment to social equity and justice. The project’s executive sponsors and all firms involved in this project have demonstrated a deep commitment to sustainability and have strategies in place to ensure pay equity, fair and equitable work environments, and to attract and retain diverse workforces.
  • Use of renewable energy. Traction power will rely on renewable energy. High-speed rail stations and other system facilities will be zero-net energy, and in many cases will supply more than 100% of annual energy needs with on-site renewable energy.
  • Targeted reductions in the net embodied carbon of materials used on the program.
  • Net reduction in air pollution emissions during project system operations compared to the existing systems and eliminating pollutant sources in the design of the system.

The Authority highlighted its significant commitments to designing, building and operating a sustainable and environmentally responsible high-speed rail system in its annual sustainability report

Image above: California High-Speed Rail Authority

Published by Alan Kandel