An HSR Tunnel Under Dodger Stadium?

May 1st, 2010 | Posted by

We’d heard a little bit about this proposal at the RailPAC event in Los Angeles two weeks ago – because of concerns about the Taylor Yard section of the route along the LA River just north of Union Station, there are some very preliminary discussions about moving the HSR route to a tunnel under Dodger Stadium:

The plans to build a high speed rail line near the Los Angeles River and through Cypress and Glassell Park has drawn opposition from river advocates, including Councilman Ed Reyes. So, after several years of lobbying federal officials and state railway builders, engineers involved in with the California High-Speed Rail Authority Line are looking at possibly shifting the rail line away from the river. Instead, after leaving Union Station, the train, under one scenario, would travel through a tunnel underneath the state parking now taking shape near Chinatown, Dodger Stadium and Elysian Park before emerging on the other side of the river, Reyes said today. “They are going to very careful how they come up the river way,” Reyes said at a luncheon hosted by the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum. “At Union Station, they are going look at going underground … under the Cornfield, under Dodger Stadium, under Elysian Park and pop up on the other side of the 2 Freeway or at Taylor Yard” near Cypress Park.

This appears to be a situation where the CHSRA is willing to examine the proposal as part of their alternatives analysis in order to keep the LA City Council happy, but isn’t necessarily set on actually doing this tunnel. As with other tunnel proposals, this too seems worth examining in full.

Of course, funding is also going to have to be part of that examination. HSR skeptics and critics who have been pushing the flawed State Auditor report are about to discover that report is going to rebound on them. Because of that report, it’s much more likely that things like a tunnel are going to have to have a clear source of funding identified if they are to be carried forward. Whether it’s an LA City Councilmember or a Palo Alto NIMBY, anyone who thinks they can just call for a tunnel without explaining how they’ll pay for it is going to have difficulty being taken seriously, especially by the Legislature, in the future.

Whether the LA tunnel idea will ever get to that level of seriousness is unclear:

The tunnel proposal remains just that, and no decision has been made on what the final route will be. The council office itself has not decided whether it would support the new route under Elysian Park, said Jill Sourial, the council office’s point person on Los Angeles River issues. Reyes just wanted other alternatives than the 100-foot-wide trenches and massive bridges the rail authority had been proposing, Sourial said. “Give us some reasonable alternative to just the straightest line between points A and B,” she said.

It seems to me that what’s going on here is the LA Council needs to be able to tell the folks living near the LA River – whose concerns are typically overblown – that other options were explored and that the LA River route really is the best, cheapest option for the people of California and their high speed train system.

Going back to the Auditor report for a moment, it shows a rather important double-standard that is still used by too many officials in Sacramento. The Authority is unfairly excoriated because Congress hasn’t yet delivered the long-term funding source (and because the Auditor chose to ignore the many signs that federal funding is coming), but NIMBYs and others who want to drive up the project’s cost are given a pass. If the Authority was going to be blamed for things outside its control, then why didn’t the Auditor look at the full range of factors that could pull the HSR project apart?

  1. Alon Levy
    May 1st, 2010 at 20:36

    We need to find an LA-area Richard Mlynarik to fulminate about unnecessary cost escalations in SoCal. Spokker, are you up to the task?

    Spokker Reply:

    Well I’ve had several drinks tonight so does that mean I’m halfway to Mlynarik mode?

    Seriously though, if that fucking shit pile of a river is so goddamn important cover the right of way with palm trees or something.

    If high speed rail is a big scam, then the LA River Restoration bullshit is something else. It’s not about nature. It’s not about touchy feely crap about egrets and herons. It’s about redevelopment. This article has a good deal of questions that have been asked about this silly project.

    The current LA River is a masterstroke of engineering. It is a symbol of man standing up to nature and not letting civilization along the river be wiped out every time the fucking thing decides to flood. The LA River is a Los Angeles icon. Don’t touch it. Leave it alone. Don’t even paint over the graffiti. That’s Los Angeles, man, pure and raw.


    jimsf Reply:

    The LA River is an icon. It is so LA. I remember when I first heard of it as a kid, and thought “La has a river? huh?” then I saw a picture. LOL perfect! “wow” I thought, “that is sooo freakin’ LA”

    The fact is a place as unreal as Los Angeles with it millions of people spread out in a giant “each and every one of us has our own piece and perception of paradise” reality, needs a lot of infrastructure back stage to make keep the illusion functioning. electricity, water, flood control, freight corridors .. its has to be somehwere. YOu can’t remove it. So might as well stick it all together in a place that has already been sacrificed.

    Put every thing in the river, then line it with a tree screen so you can’t see it.

  2. AndyDuncan
    May 1st, 2010 at 21:20

    As with the tunnel proposals on the peninsula, the elephant in the room is the existing rail service. If the Authority tunnels under Chavez Ravine, then metrolink and freight stay right where they are along the river.

    There’s zero reason to tunnel from Burbank to LAUS. The cost of such a tunnel could pay for the river revitalization project several times over. Hell, you could probably buy enough bottles of Evian to pour into it and turn the LA Seasonal Drainage Wash into the mighty river LA has always dreamed of.

    Why is the authority even entertaining this idiocy? I know they have to study “reasonable” alternatives, but this is not a reasonable alternative.

    Joey Reply:

    With that kind of money you could probably put the tracks in a fully covered trench, more them away from the river, restore the river, and redevelop the entire area!

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    [blockquote] As with the tunnel proposals on the peninsula, the elephant in the room is the existing rail service. If the Authority tunnels under Chavez Ravine, then metrolink and freight stay right where they are along the river. [/blockquote]

    We have a winner!

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They have to study it to identify and document the the fatal flaw(s).

    Peter Reply:

    Exactly. An important part of the EIR process is taking public comments and finding reasons for why they wouldn’t work. That’s just part of the game.

    Studying something practically infeasible like this is frequently done to make a political point. Just look at how they’re continuing to study tunnel alignments on the Peninsula and under San Jose. If the Peninsula makes no sense, then San Jose SERIOUSLY makes no sense for a tunnel. But they’re continuing to study both, just so they can say “Look, we studied it, and this is why it doesn’t work.”

  3. political_incorrectness
    May 1st, 2010 at 23:27

    Whoever is asking for this, I’d like to see their wealth in cash, pour gasoline on it all and burn it to demonstrate their ideology of wasting tons of money. If all alternatives have to be explored in analysis, fine, just doesn’t mean it will be carried over for final EIS.

  4. Roger Christensen
    May 2nd, 2010 at 08:51

    I suppose you could put me in the Fuck the LA River Shithead Camp. Councilman Ed Reyes tends to babble on and be full of himself. Who could have thought that Taylor Yard would have a NIMBY problem?

  5. YesonHSR
    May 2nd, 2010 at 10:26

    It WAS a railroad yard GEES..and not that great an area(lived near there 20 yearsago) NO tunnels this insane stuff has to stop

  6. Missiondweller
    May 2nd, 2010 at 11:03

    “Because of that report, it’s much more likely that things like a tunnel are going to have to have a clear source of funding identified if they are to be carried forward.”

    This is a great point and every time NIMBY’s want a tunnel somewhere (especially on the peninsula) we should just say “great, how do you intend to pay for it?”

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Yep. If there’s a concern about identifying funding, that will mean every piece of the project will be closely scrutinized, especially higher-cost alternatives like tunnels.

  7. HSRforCali
    May 2nd, 2010 at 11:07

    If LA wants a tunnel, I suggest they pay for it themselves using their own Measure R funds or some other funding source. As with all other tunnel proposals, funding should NOT come from the Authority, it should come from local sources.

    But hey, I guess a tunnel would at least shave a couple of minutes off the travel time! :)

  8. Victor
    May 2nd, 2010 at 11:42

    Considering the water table nearby is just right at the surface in the Los Angeles River(It’s the only part of the river without a concrete bottom) nearby to Taylor Yard near Dodger Stadium and Griffith Park, I’d think a Tunnel would only flood and flood and flood, So sure why not build the tunnel and invite the river in while You are at It, After all the river really wants to do is change Its course.

    Nathanael Reply:

    It’s a proposed tunnel *under parking lots*?

    Waste of time. Build an elegant elevated structure. You could even design it to be “boxed in” with development if you like, like one of the new stations on London’s East London Railway.

  9. rafael
    May 2nd, 2010 at 15:03

    O/T –

    oil prices could be heading back into triple digit territory, if not this summer then quite possibly the one after that – unless the economy fails to recover quickly enough and the huge commercial real estate bubble bursts. Oh joy, another mountain of synthetic derivatives backed by dodgy real estate and even dodgier credit default swaps.

    Even if this second bubble bursts, the underlying long-term trend in oil prices is still firmly up. This is a direct result of the resumption of rapid structural growth in China, India and a number of other emerging economies. Cheap oil really is gone for good and not just because of one malfunctioning blowout preventer off the Louisiana coast. This is why the US needs to invest heavily in electric transportation, especially rail, now.

    For California HSR, that means alignment alternatives that would add a lot of cost to a project that is already struggling to secure funding should not be studied in excruciating detail.

    morris brown Reply:


    You write above

    “For California HSR, that means alignment alternatives that would add a lot of cost to a project that is already struggling to secure funding should not be studied in excruciating detail.”

    I’m surprised at your statement, since I always took your writing to want the best possible project.

    So then, I am only asking, not putting any words in your mouth

    Do you support the bills now floating around that would exempt at least part of this project from CEQA?

    Andrew Reply:

    Turning over every pebble doesn’t result in the best possible project, it results in a lot of wasted time and money.

    Peter Reply:

    Wasted time is part of the NIMBY agenda. Delay, delay, drive up costs and then argue that it’s cost us too much so far so nothing should be built.

    Peter Reply:

    Building “the best possible project” does not require studying dead-end alternatives that are only included to satisfy political needs.

    You don’t need to exempt parts of the project from CEQA in order to eliminate alternatives.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If they don’t do the study the various factions can then sue to delay the project because they didn’t do the the study.

    Peter Reply:

    They only need to study “reasonable” alternatives. They can cut off studying an once they can show that it is unreasonable. Or they can continue working on “unreasonable” alternatives to serve political goals. Which is why they continued looking at the Gilroy trench option, and why they reopened the San Jose tunnel alignment. They know it won’t be feasible, but they’re doing it anyway.

    Of course, people will sue if they think a “reasonable” alternative was unreasonably rejected. Or if they think that by suing they can win even a small delay or score political points.

    At this point, the choice to study an alternative or not is a very political exercise, as is the final choice of alternative.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Once they have a detailed study in hand they can get the lawsuits thrown out expeditiously. Don’t do the study the lawsuits go ahead delaying everything…

    Peter Reply:

    True, that is an additional benefit.

    rafael Reply:

    @ Morris Brown –

    no, I don’t believe CEQA should be suspended. Doing so killed an earlier effort to implement shinkansen service between LA and San Diego. The absence of a meaningful environmental review process also led to a recent act of sabotage against the new Sapsan service in Russia. In a democracy, you can’t ram projects down people’s throats, you have to consult them.

    However, as others here have pointed out, CEQA doesn’t mandate that absolutely every idea be studied for ever and ever. My argument is simply that those which quickly prove unaffordable should not be pursued. In plain English: anyone who wants a tunnel anywhere except the mountain crossings and downtown SF needs to present a reasonable concept for how the delta could be funded.

  10. EJ
    May 2nd, 2010 at 15:35

    Kind of funny how whenever the subject of tunnel comes up, suddenly you’re concerned about funding.

    Spokker Reply:

    We’re all concerned about funding, which is why this blog was pimping the 100 representatives’ letter to the president and some petition that asks $4 billion for HSR.

    We’re concerned. Opponents are “concerned.”

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    What Spokker said.

    Further, I’ve never actually said I oppose all these tunnels. What I oppose is people demanding a “tunnel or nothing” approach, or a “give me a tunnel but don’t expect me to pay for it” approach.

    If someone wants to put HSR in a tunnel and supports finding a local funding source, I’m down with it. I would likely be a very strong supporter of a ballot measure to create a local funding source for a Peninsula HSR tunnel.

    Peter Reply:

    Or a supporter of tunnels that are technically required (like through mountains).

  11. Anthony
    May 3rd, 2010 at 23:51

    Who wants a tunnel? I sure don’t I want the straightest route possible. With all these extra additions and change in routes, we’ll need tilting train sets!

    This is what happen when you don’t have Top Down rule, people with money and/or influence aways make their presence felt. There is no reason why we can’t start this thing on time (2012), on budget and have it finished early (2018) without the interference.

    Its going to be slightly painful but it will get done, I want OPTIONS not the illusion of choice that Conservatives always want to push.

  12. bixnix
    May 4th, 2010 at 00:31

    The existing proposed routes from the 2009 alternatives analysis document don’t look all that great. Looking at the alternatives from LAUS to I-5, they already involve viaducts, trenching, and/or property takes. I think Ed is right to see if they can come up with something better. A full-bore tunnel is probably too costly, but perhaps a cut-and-cover tunnel or trench on the west bank and through the Cornfield would be worth considering? Both sections have no structures. While burying the tracks is costly, the alternatives aren’t cheap, either.

    Note – I believe that the line in the article about tunneling underneath “state parking” is a typo – it’s supposed to be the “state park” i.e. the Cornfield.

    rafael Reply:

    There would be no need to mess with the state park at all if the LA HSR station were at the river’s edge, just south of the freeway. Note that LA Metro already has tail tracks out to a yard there, perhaps the existing subway lines could be extended to reach a new at-grade transfer station just beyond LAUS. There might even be room for Amtrak Pacific Surfliner/Metrolink platforms as well, especially if the number of HSR tracks is kept to a minimum by scheduling 100% of trains to run through LA rather than terminate there.

    Let’s face it, LAUS is a head-end station in a very awkward location. Yes, it’s an established transit hub with a historic station hall, but so was King’s Cross in London. No commuter rail customers there are mourning the move to the nearby refurbished St. Pancras International, which was made possible by investments in the High Speed 1 line.

  13. Alek F
    May 4th, 2010 at 09:30

    “LA River is an icon”?? Give me a break! The LA River is an ugly flood-control channel with graffiti all over! And a high-speed rail line can definitely run along it, without ruining river’s “aesthetic” view. Those environmentalists make no sense whatsoever. Quit whining, and let’s get the high-speed rail as fast as possible! Enough of those endless NIMBY oppositions and absurd delays.

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