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Page & Turnbull Accelerates Nation’s First High-Speed Rail Station in California 

New state-of-the-art transit hub in Fresno to revitalize historic train depot as a world-class ultramodern transportation center 

SAN FRANCISCO – As the nation invests billions of dollars in the launch of high-speed rail systems that advance fast, efficient, and safe city-wide connectivity, the architecture and historic preservation firm Page & Turnbull is at the forefront of this unprecedented movement as the architect behind the preservation and rehabilitation of Fresno, Calif.’s historic rail station for use as the first component of the intermodal high-speed rail commuter station. 

A prime project of the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority), the nation’s first high-speed rail system, the Fresno high-speed rail (HSR) station is among the three-segment, Phase 1 work of the Authority’s California Rail High Speed Rail program, that, in all, seeks to “connect the megaregions of the state, contribute to economic development and a cleaner environment, create jobs, and preserve agricultural and protected lands.” Eventually, California’s HSR system will link more than 800 miles of rail, by way of up to 24 stations. 

The new world-class transit hub in Fresno promises to revitalize the city’s long-shuttered historic train depot as an ultramodern transportation center, says Page & Turnbull, reinvigorating the municipality’s core and offering a national and global model of a state-of-the-art, high-capacity rail station. 

“The historic depot will be an iconic and economically vital part of Downtown Fresno and of the high-speed rail system,” said Page & Turnbull president Peter Birkholz, AIA, LEED AP, DBIA, principal lead for the project, in the Authority’s spring 2024 publication, Investing in California Small Businesses, available at this link. Birkholz added the transformation of the historic train depot in the heart of Downtown Fresno and Chinatown at Tulare, H, G, and Fresno streets, “adapts a building that once served steam-driven railways to become a new type of station that will efficiently and sustainably transport passengers around California.” 

Among Page & Turnbull’s renovation work on the station, says Birkholz, are accessibility updates, plus upgrades to meet modern fire and life-safety codes and structural and seismic standards, along with the rehabilitation of key architectural features of the historic Queen Anne-style depot, built of red brick with a slate bellcast hip-roof and cupolas. 

Birkholz noted in the Authority’s Investing in California Small Businesses publication, the new HSR hub will connect the historic transit depot’s former passenger and freight train stations, as realized through extensive, preliminary site surveys and 3D modeling. Attention to strengthening the buildings’ structural and seismic integrity is a priority, potentially through discrete structural approaches that will preserve the buildings’ original brick walls, such as the integration of obscured concrete columns. 

About the Fresno HSR station 

A historic and architectural landmark that’s listed in the National Register of Historic Places, Fresno’s historic train depot originated in 1872 as the Central Pacific Railroad station and was later developed into the Southern Pacific Depot, whose service ceased in the early 1970s, including the historic passenger depot, freight depot/railway express agency building and Pullman Shed.  

As a part of the Phase 1, 119-mile Central Valley segment of the California HSR system, that also includes Northern and Southern California segments, the 65-mile project section between Merced and Fresno link the Central Valley and the Silicon Valley with stations in downtown Fresno and downtown Merced. In all, the Central Valley segment will connect San Francisco to Los Angeles in less than three hours, with service expected to begin in 2027.  

Financing for the Fresno High-Speed Rail Station Historic Depot Renovation and Plaza Activation Project includes $20 million from the $1.5 billion Federal grant program, Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE).

More information on Fresno’s HSR can be found at https://hsr.ca.gov/high-speed-rail-in-california/station-communities/fresno/.

About the California High Speed Rail Authority 

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) is responsible for planning, designing, building, and operating the first high-speed rail system (HSR) in the nation. When complete, the HSR system will encompass an 800-mile span from Sacramento to San Diego, including an anticipated 24 HSR stations, where arriving and departing trains will travel at some 200 miles per hour. Phase 1’s 520-mile segment consists of the San Francisco/Merced to Los Angeles/Anaheim section of the high-speed rail system. Future work on Phase 2 will incorporate extensions from Merced to Sacramento and from Los Angeles to San Diego, completing remainder of 800-mile system. For more information, visit https://hsr.ca.gov/about/high-speed-rail-authority/.

In addition to Fresno’s HSR, Page & Turnbull is the preservation architect for the HSR Business Case for San Jose’s historic Diridon Station. The firm also served as the preservation architect for the award-winning revitalization of the 1926 Sacramento Valley Station and the architect for the rehabilitation of the award-winning 120-year-old Livermore Railroad Depot in Livermore, Calif. 

Images credits: All renderings and animations are conceptual and subject to change. Courtesy California High-Speed Rail Authority