What Does Today’s $715 Million HSR Grant Mean For Corridor Selection?

Oct 28th, 2010 | Posted by

In what had become the worst-kept secret in California (aside from Meg Whitman’s collapsing poll numbers), the federal government today announced $715 million in federal grant money for the California High Speed Rail project – specifically for a Central Valley segment. The Federal Railroad Administration did not specify which of the two segments – Merced to Fresno or Fresno to Bakersfield – would be chosen, but they did indicate that if the California High Speed Rail Authority board did not select a Central Valley segment as the first segment to be built, California would forefeit the money:

Szabo declined to speak to reporters about the money. But Roelof van Ark, CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, said federal officials have made it clear the money must be used in the Valley or not at all.

“That is my understanding verbally from the administrator,” van Ark said this afternoon. “He was very clear on that this morning about this $715 million, that if you do not use it in the Central Valley, then you forfeit that.”

So does that mean for the corridor selection process that van Ark laid out earlier this month? Is the Central Valley a fait accompli, as some have said?

Not necessarily. The selection criteria was about much more than matching federal funds. The criteria included assessments of operational independence, ability to be built within the federally mandated timeline, ability to form the core of the HSR system, and other considerations. Those issues, some of which are also mandated by the language of Prop 1A, will be the deciding factor should the CHSRA board these criteria.

Of course, when we discussed those criteria many commenters believed they already favored the Central Valley. I’m sure this grant will only fuel that speculation.

The grant may also fuel competition between partisans of different segments. But as I explained to SF Streetsblog today, this shouldn’t be seen as a competition with winners and losers, but as a question of scheduling the phasing of the project:

Robert Cruickshank of Californians for High Speed Rail, a non-profit that supports the project, argued the grant shouldn’t be seen by the public as competition between segments. “This shouldn’t be about picking winners and losers. This should be about picking the timeline for construction,” said Cruickshank. He said the availability of federal matching funds is one of the important criteria for selecting the first segment, but it is not the only one….

Cruickshank argued that much more energy should be spent on securing additional federal funding, a prospect that could be increasingly difficult depending on the outcome of the November 2nd election. If Republicans took control of the House or both the House and the Senate, said Cruickshank, a new transportation bill with significant money for high-speed rail could be wishful thinking. At that point, he said, the CAHSRA might need to rely on foreign sovereign wealth funds from China, Japan, or the Middle East.

“A lot will depend on what happens on Tuesday,” said Cruickshank.

Indeed it will. Today’s ceremony in Fresno ought to be repeated in Los Angeles, San José, Palmdale, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, and even Palo Alto in the coming years. But it will take additional federal funds to do that. And building a successful first segment will help make that happen.

  1. Victor
    Oct 28th, 2010 at 20:06

    And the NIMBY’s said NO Federal Money was coming, Looks like their WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! :)

  2. Missiondweller
    Oct 28th, 2010 at 21:06

    Why the Central Valley?

    It doesn’t seem to be because of the political pull of anyone there that I can think of.


    YesonHSR Reply:

    Why the Central Valley? Well first off the 220 mph right away they can be used as a test track… a very proactive city.. a construction that is a lot easier than mountain tunneling or urban sections. This will also get the excitement building as it really will be a high-speed rail section and not just an upgraded commuter line. As Robert pointed out this is just one step in getting this entire system up and running and within a year or two of groundbreaking on this section the others will need to start also if we are to get the system in service by 2020

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    It is also a republican stronghold

    James Fujita Reply:

    Pretty much agree with YesonHSR.

    I would add that “political pull” would be the WORST reason to select one area over another. We all know that the Bay Area and Southern California have tons of political pull, but that’s not a logical enough reason to build those segments first.

    Also, it would be foolish to ignore the $715M in federal grant money that we would lose if the Central Valley doesn’t get that first segment.

    jimsf Reply:

    The central valley also needs the jobs the most, especially those particular kinds of jobs, and our senators realize that. While we tend of think of boxer and feinstein as being left, ( well actually feinstein is practically a republican by SF standards) They do a lot of non headline stuff behind the scenes to represent all of cali, not just the bay and la. They have had years to establish relationships with the mayors and the farmers, had to deal with the water issues, and so forth, and Im sure that they know it would be appreciated if they brought jobs to those valley constituents

  3. Roger Christensen
    Oct 28th, 2010 at 21:11

    Tuesday’s election will also impact how many Federal dollars Los Angeles will receive for the projects they approved today: Wilshire Subway and Downtown Connector

    Ben Reply:

    This is absolutely another reason to re-elect Barbara Boxer. She’s been the leading Congressional supporter of Villaraigosa’s 30/10 Plan, holding hearings on this as Chairwoman of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee. If CA residents want to see the westside subway built (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-la-subway-20101029,0,2029181.story) and dedicated funding for HSR, it is absolutely essential to re-elect Barbara Boxer.

  4. morris brown
    Oct 28th, 2010 at 21:34

    The Authority has their press release on the award:


    Note this wording in that release:

    “While we recognize that the federal government has indicated a preference by specifying the Central Valley for the bulk of the award, the Authority is committed to using formal criteria in making the selection to decide where to begin building high-speed rail,” said California High-Speed Rail Authority Chief Executive Officer Roelof van Ark.

    The formal criteria the Authority will consider at its next meeting – set for November 4 in Sacramento – reflect both the legal requirements in Proposition 1A and federal law, as well as steps to maximize the benefits to the public while minimizing risks. Once finalized, the criteria will be applied to each of the four sections to determine which will launch the project in a way that makes possible the core of a statewide system – the top priority for the initial funding. A selection is expected before the end of the year. ”

    van Ark’s comments the you either use it in the central valley or you lose it, would seem to be at odds with this release.

    One thing is for sure, with out this funding, they don’t have enough funds to complete a segment, and Prop 1A demands full funds for complete segments, before bond funds can be used.

    Does one end of the Authority (PR firm), not know what the other end (van Ark) is saying?

    Clem Reply:

    At odds? I don’t see it… he says they will use a process to select the alignment. If they select something else than the CV (exceedingly unlikely) then they forgo the $715M, simple as that. They would lose face if they let the Feds select the section for them.

    Van Ark has often hinted that he would prefer that construction start in the Central Valley to ensure the highest likelihood of completion. I would not be surprised if he whispered to the Feds to earmark the money, in order to bypass the political biases of his board of directors, which is dominated by Bay Area and LA interests. There’s a new sheriff in town!

    Missiondweller Reply:

    That’s an interesting thought.

    Although the CV section has less utility, it would be easier and less complicated to complete. Perhaps a good place to start.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    This sort of situation sometimes arose under the previous SNCF statute when the board was dominated by politicians who tended to privilege their constituency at the expense of national projects. Then, the SNCF’s president would contact some good friend in the transport ministry and ask him to earmark a sum big enough to tilt the scale in his favor. Forfeiting a government gift would have been politically untenable for the politicians involved.

  5. Ken
    Oct 28th, 2010 at 23:33

    Get the middle section built first and running, then when people ask why it doesn’t stretch all the way to LA or SF, people can start pointing fingers at those obstructionist NIMBYs. Then CAHSR has an excuse to say “we’d love to move forward, but these a$$es are blocking everything we do.” NIMBYs will be forced to capitulate by mass demand.

    Brilliant move.

    jimsf Reply:

    ken-I think thats the way too. Now if they electrify it, and still use it for incremental speeds with existing equipment until build out… assuming they can legally do that, then they could also use demonstrations with hsr loaner equip…. a place for the suppliers to show their stuff?

  6. morris brown
    Oct 29th, 2010 at 05:09



    High-Speed Pork
    Why fast trains are a waste of money

    Title says it all really.

    Here is the materials for your your next 2000 word spin Robert.

    Big problem for you is Newsweek with several million readers, vs. your blog here.


    jimsf Reply:

    THat article is just a fluff piece. It doesn’t even say anything. Just a bunch of statements strung together that have no basis in reality. They didn’t even make an effort with that one. But, if it makes you feel better, since youre losing the elections in cali, and the federal money is flowing in, then so be it.

    Missiondweller Reply:

    Would you expect anything better from Newsweek?

    There’s a reason their readership is in the tank.

    Peter Reply:

    What’s your purpose in posting this type of bunk, anyway, morris?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Why post an article that is an op-ed column by Robert Samuelson and link to it as if it was a news article? Because if he links to it as, “Robert Samuelson says …”, too many people will realize, right away, “oh, that’s just Deficit Errorist Robert Samuelson putting the same old bad table whine in an HSR bottle”.

    mike Reply:

    Samuelson is arguing that redirecting less than 1% of our total transportation spending towards a different mode will only affect a couple percent of all travelers. Shocking! He also fails to understand the difference between a capital cost and an operating cost (in his analysis of private investors). In other words, it’s pretty much standard Samuelson: tell a story based on no underlying analysis. I suspect he writes that way because he simply isn’t capable of doing the analysis, but it could also be laziness or dishonesty.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Actually, Newsweek’s circulation is in collapse and the magazine is widely reputed to be near death. They are desperately seeking partners for content creation and online reach, and are finding little.

    synonymouse Reply:

    All of the print media are in a death spiral, with the possible exception of Vanity Fair, The major dailies have become political party organs, with the WSJ the mouthpiece of the Republicans and the NY Times that of the Democratic party. That’s how they will survive.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “We are prisoners of economic geography. Suburbanization after World War II made most rail travel impractical. From 1950 to 2000, the share of the metropolitan population living in central cities fell from 56 percent to 32 percent, report UCLA economists Leah Platt Boustan and Allison Shertzer. Jobs moved too. Trip origins and destinations are too dispersed to support most rail service.”

    Translation: We screwed things up so bad don’t even think of trying to change our vision of a Happy Motoring Utopia. . .



    And now, for something on the lighter side:


    Problem is, if you give up, you change nothing. . .and that’s what we’ve done since the first oil crunch in 1973, and that’s precisely why we are in the fix we are in now. And the fix we are in now is precisely why I’ve been arguing for years that we need a lifestyle change, say to 1940 or so; what I see of it, in older cars, old radio shows and the like, and of course my old trains, doesn’t suggest that time period was the nadir of civilization or American culture. Make no mistake, we don’t need things like the racial segregation and other civil injustices that were accepted then, or even all the smoking, but there were a lot of good points, too, including what appears to be a better sense of public behavior. . .you wouldn’t normally see people dressing in clothes that would have been considered more appropriate for either a circus or a burlesque show back then.

    Oh, I did a little check on Samuelson; he was born in 1945, he’s 65–fits the current pattern of the anti-rail crowd.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Oh, and did you notice, his demographic data cuts off at 2000; that’s 10 years ago! Like Wendell Cox, he ignores the records being set by Amtrak and local transit in that last decade, along with the changes in other modes, such as bicycles.

    Let’s have a bit of fun. What do you think goes through the minds of the Coxes, O’Tooles, and Samuelsons, when they read of the Amtrak records, of the generational change, of the younger crowd arguing for rail service? I know of at least one writer who considered it “un-American,” some have called rail “socialist transportation,” and I’ve personally been called a Communist, but I’m curious to hear your commentary, too.

    What must it be like for these people?

    jimsf Reply:

    I’m curious to hear your commentary, too.What must it be like for these people

    They are either idiots who, if they knew what the railroads did for american history and the westward movement, or their bitter old liars who collect money in return for periodically spewing the same tired rhetoric.

    Either way they totally suck.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I have to agree with the bitter, angry, and scared part. It shows in the language used, it shows inthe general writing style, it shows in the arguments used. What a shame; I was taught to respect older people because they had been around more, and had seen things I didn’t see. Looks like those people are the ones now over 90.

    I’ve got similar attitude problems with some of my relatives, and my wife does with her family, too. It’s curious, we both seem to generally get along better with people either very, very much older than us, or with people under 20. Neither of us fits well with many in our own generation. Both of us are in the mid-50s range.

    I’ve had at least two other people tell me I was born in the wrong time. Who knows, maybe it’s true!

    jimsf Reply:

    (wow I never finished my sentence up there) Whats really happening, that I didn’t want to believe but now seems so blatant, is that aging, white middle class america see the country changing in too many ways at once. They are scared to death of brown people. Thats just a fact. Too the younger people its normal. Middle America, god love them, have had a lot to deal with from they’re perspective in the last 30 years. As the 70s closed, Reagan came in on a promise of returning america to its 1950s hey day. Thats why he got elected, they thought this was there chance to bring it all back. Of course it didn’t happen, and the country kept moving forward, and faster, with tech, and crime, and the gays, and the boat people, etc etc, and out of a culminating fear and desperation, the culture wars exploded and we have been fighting those wars ever since. The tea party today, looks exactly like, a rehashed moral majority that we marched against in the 80s. This crap never ends. These people who are parading around screaming about the gubbmint telling folks what to do are the same people who never do anything BUT, try to shove their “values” down everyones throats adn tell them how they may and may not live. Its the same people.
    some of you werent around in the “family values” days. yes family values = throwing your kid out onthe street, family values means taking food away from poor moms, family values, in the reagan era of excess meant, “look at me and all my expensive crap as I dangle it under your nose” with disgusting programs like “lifestyles of the rich and famous” fuck the rich and famous. Pardon my rant but these people made me sick then and they make me sick now and make no mistake they are the same people telling the same lies to the american people. The republicans shamelessly trick and use the conservatives because its the only way they can ever win, and the conservatives fall for it every time and with every passing decade, the future of american politics becomes increasingly bleak. I remember exactly two, thats two moments of true political hope in my adult lifetime, the day Clinton got elected (after 12 years of reagan bush) and the day Obama got elected. And here we are again. SSDD.
    My dad always used to say that humans have not really progressed from the cave at all.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:


    Your assessment sounds very much like mine. And perhaps ironically, there is a lot from the past I would like to bring back (but I hope it shows that I want only the good stuff!)

    I am particularly interested in your comment that the true conservatives have been used, abused and betrayed by so-called conservative politicians. Now, I consider myself to be properly old-fashioned. I am a Catholic, and in the pro-life crowd. But I have no use at all for the Repugnant Ones, even on the abortion issue.

    The Repugnant Ones made a big show of a right-to-life constitutional amendment during the Clinton administration. This was sent to Clinton for signature, which would have been followed by ratification by the states. I do wish Clinton had not vetoed it (I think we deserved the chance to vote on it), but I also think this was theater by the Republicans to “show support” for the religious conservatives.

    Some show! From January 20th of 2001 to January 20th of 2007, the Repugnant Ones controlled both houses of Congress, and the Presidency, too. Where was the effort to try again for a right-to-life amendment, with a “born again,” “Christian,” “good old boy” all-American President? Yeah, right. . .

    Now, not everybody here is going to agree with me on my pro-life outlook, which is partially morality driven, and partially doubt driven in what I consider a scientific sense (do we really know a fertilized egg is not an independent life?) But you tell me, what am I supposed to think of a political organization that made all that noise about what many would consider a very important moral issue–and then, when they had real power to do something with it, neglected it? What am I supposed to think of that same organization when it pops off with “Drill, baby, drill!” and the reserve figures I see for this country, if we lived on our own oil exclusively, indicate we would exhaust that oil in only 17 years at current consumption rates? What am I supposed to think of that same bunch when they want to keep building roads and lock us into cars, despite the security problems with the fuel supply that 17-year figure and the current import figure and the oil war business all seem to shout out?

    Sorry, Republicans, you lost me years ago.

    jimsf Reply:

    It would be one thing if everyone everywhere was mad and we really through everyone out and started fresh…. but that isn’t whats going to happen, this is all just the same show, another rerun. Once you’ve seen it a few times you know.
    I wish with all my heart that there was a way to free california from us politics completely. We need to be our own nation period. Americans don’t want us and washington knows they need our economy. Time to drop the dead weight and make our own deals with japan and china, the pacific rim, mexico.. etc. Then we’d be cookin with gas with all burners.

  7. TomW
    Oct 29th, 2010 at 06:00

    Actually, you should build in teh setions with the *least* political pull when you have the money (like now), so the sections with teh most political pull continue to lobby for money for ‘their’ bit, helping complete the system :-)

    StevieB Reply:

    Peninsula high speed rail received first funding.

    San Francisco – San Jose HSR Corridor: rough FY 2010 awards, a $16 million grant will improve San Francisco’s 4th and King Street Station by reconguring tracks and signals, elongating platforms, and modifying the building to accommodate future high-speed rail service on the San Francisco – San Jose segment of the California high-speed rail corridor.

    San Francisco still has the political capability to garner federal funds.

    Clem Reply:

    Hey Tony, I would like to point out that this $16 million grant was awarded for the San Francisco – San Jose segment.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    In other words, literally piss away the public’s tax money on Bob Doty’s limitlessly insane plan to terminate Caltrain service short of Transbay at a massively oversized, inutile, two blocks of developable urban space wasting, OUT OF SERVICE TRAIN PARKING LOT Olde Tyme Railroading catastrophe.

    God only knows where they manage to find retarded holdovers from the 19th century who are solely into parking trains out of service all day nstead of serving passengers, occupying 8 inch high platform tracks, at stations designed to have the slowest train access and slowest passenger access, but by God they do somehow.

    Die, Caltrain.

    jimsf Reply:

    Snce amtrak no longer has the operating contract, I can agree. die caltrain.This bs of cutting service to the bone, and raising fares, killing jobs, leaving passengers without, and then giving the contract to the union busting scum. To hell with caltrain.
    There needs to be a new agency that will start now from scratch, and work with hsr for full compatibility. Im used to seeing one hand not knowing what the other one is doing but on a project of this magnitude it does border on criminal

    Clem Reply:

    Did I miss the operating contract getting awarded to someone else than Amtrak?

    jimsf Reply:

    yep. they hired those other guys. I think the old metrolink guys…. luckily we got metrolink. Amtrak, thanks mainly to ou unions, is extremely safety conscious. The employees look out for each other.

    jimsf Reply:

    wait im not sure about that contract item… its what I heard but I need to double check

    jimsf Reply:

    no im thinking of vre.

  8. Chris G
    Oct 29th, 2010 at 06:04

    I think the Central Valley first is a brilliant move. First off, once that piece is built the reasons to keep building the rest continue. In this political climate if they built SF-SJC or something near LA you and i and everyone else can easily see them saying oh well we don’t need the rest.

    The Central Valley allows them to get up to max speed. The shorter sections first would top out in the 120-150 range. Not bad and enough to change the market, but when you can get 220 first, it will be a piece to help grow it here and elsewhere.

    Jack In Fresno Reply:

    All I can say is Yay!

    Victor Reply:

    I agree, CV is brilliant, Of course the actual 1st segment should be Fresno to Bakersfield(about 108 miles) and not Merced to Fresno(about 55 miles), But of course It depends on how far the money will go as to which segment really gets the go ahead, Me I like the longer segment, Both figures are from Google Maps and are on a CA-99 highway alignment for a distance figure and in no way represents the actual mileage of the actual trackage. 108 miles or so seems like a better distance to show to the Nay Sayers that HSR is HSR and not some warmed over Amtrak train…

    Peter Reply:

    They wouldn’t just connect Merced to Fresno, they would actually go beyond Fresno to the south. Whereas Fresno-Bakersfield would not actually connect to Bakersfield.

    StevieB Reply:

    Which ever central valley segment is built first the next logical build is the adjoining segment. Once Merced to Bakersfield is built the question becomes do you first build north toward Gilroy or south toward Palmdale.

    Emma Reply:


    would there be the possibility to build towards north and south at the same time? I don’t know much about construction.

    mgimbel Reply:

    It all depends on funding.

    Victor Reply:

    Well I’d rather have the longer of the two, Which ever that is in their estimation.

    Walter Reply:

    What’s the snag on the last 13 miles from Shafter to Bako?

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Another 12 mile elevated viaduct.

    Peter Reply:

    “elevated viaduct”

    A viaduct is already elevated.

    Joey Reply:

    Yes, but this one is extra elevated ;)

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Of course the actual 1st segment should be Fresno to Bakersfield(about 108 miles) and not Merced to Fresno(about 55 miles)

    Merced-Fresno appears to be the least controversial segment in terms of alignment and property impacts.

    And having that in place increases political momentum for the SJ-Los Banos line.

    Clem Reply:

    I doubt you could build the Los Banos wye if the SF-CV Program EIR is still being litigated. That’s nevertheless an excellent theory… “facts on the ground”, Israeli-style

    Titus Andronicus Reply:

    I agree with the pro-CV sentiment. But I still would have liked to see a Merced-West segment built first. Lucky drivers on I-5 could see with their own eyes what HSR would look and sound like, and if impressed, maybe spread some word-of-mouth support. Or at least the train could sit on the bridge and look ominous.

    Loren Petrich Reply:

    Could service be phased in as the segments get ready to go? A Central-Valley segment would have to be connected to the SF and LA areas by buses, but that’s already done with the San Joaquin trains. That will require about 2.5 hours by bus on each end. However, the train will take a bit less than an hour.

    Building out to Gilroy and Palmdale should also be relatively non-contentious, though it will require some tunneling. It’s about 1.5 hours by express bus or express regional rail at each end, about as much as the Gilroy-Palmdale train. The 3 hours of bus time should shrink to a little less than an hour for SF – LA completion (a bit more than 2.5 hours).

    The line could also be completed to one of SF or LA before the other.

    This connector-bus/train approach will be useful for Sacramento until the line can be built out to there. That connector would require about 2 – 2.5 hours, as opposed to the CAHSR train taking about 45 minutes.

  9. BruceMcF
    Oct 29th, 2010 at 10:26

    If they are using the seed money for their matching funds for the $715m and they get agreement to use the ARRA funds without match, they need to include Fresno and which direction they get to north or south is a lot less critical, since then with another incremental Federal grant they can unlock the main tranche of AB3034 funds.

    The grant puts a big weight on the table in favor of the CV under the already declared criteria, but it does not choose between the two CV segments, so the Federal DoT has not completely pre-empted the segment selection process.

  10. Emma
    Oct 29th, 2010 at 10:42

    As long as Obama is in charge, we will see federal money. But the polls show that the midterm elections will push us back into the Bush-era. I doubt that those car-loving Republicans would vote for a bills that funds HSR, despite the fact that it would reduce the moeny spent on highway construction, expansion and maintenance.

    I have always been in favor of the CV section. First the torso, then head, arms and legs.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The money should be spent first in LA-south, where most of the people, money, automobiles and smog are.

    The San Joaquin Valley(including Sac)Central could very well remain in an economic funk for decades to come as we are likely heading into prolonged retrenchment and austerity. Remember FDR launched the New Deal against a backdrop of no federal deficit and no expensive foreign wars. Conditions are radically different today and a policy of cutting government spending will be implemented shortly. As it is even the Repubs cannot restrain themselves from lavishing money on the military. So it won’t be “guns or butter” but “guns or hsr”.

    An impoverished San Joaquin Valley will not produce the passenger volume needed for an hsr. The emphasis should always have been on SF-LA. Tolmach is correct.

    Peter Reply:

    The Central Valley is a very close second for worst smog in CA (in the US even, not quite sure). HSR won’t do much to reduce smog in LA, that’s where local public transit can have the greatest effect. In the CV, however, it can make a nice dent in the intra-valley travel which is where a very large portion of the passenger miles come from in that area. Tolmach’s lunatic plan wouldn’t do squat for that.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Au contraire, a significant part of Valley smog is due to agricultural burning and other farm uses. I guess if the hsr induced sprawl wiped out farm land maybe than could reduce some smog. But a median I-5 alignment presumably would make the Farm Bureau happy.

    Variations on the general Tolmach idea would serve Bakersfield-Fresno and Sac. But the piece de resistance(sorry about no accents-don’t know how to get them on this querty keyboard)of folly is of course the Loopy detour. At least look into Rafael’s at grade crossing of Tejon and lay off the UP, please.

    Peter Reply:

    So you’re saying the traffic on 99 and I-5 don’t contribute a significant amount to the smog in the CV? Wow, you’re an optimist, I would have never guessed!

    synonymouse Reply:

    Stop-and-go in town traffic is a bigger contributor to smog than rural freeways. And mass transit in the Valley is having a really rough time now – Sac in particular has had to raise fares and cut service.

    Trucks on rural I-5 and 99 are big polluters and the UP would argue that diverting that shipping to freight rail is uber-green. And of course we know PB-Palmdale is hostile to the UP, otherwise the former would be working out Tejon instead of deviating in, under, and around the Loop, UP’s bailiwick.

    Eric M Reply:

    Actually, the cows in the central valley cause the most pollution in the state!

    synonymouse Reply:

    I saw an item recently that disputed the cow-methane connection but failed to read it. Maybe somebody picked up on it.

    Spokker Reply:

    We need high speed cows.

    jimsf Reply:


    Those are california’s happy cows. SAve the cows!

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Sometimes I think Paul Dyson of RailPAC is right that we should do Bakersfield-LA first. It would be a usable segment and complete a crucial missing link. Unfortunately, the environmental review and engineering weren’t far enough along to qualify it for ARRA funds.

    Eric M Reply:

    That will be the last connection because the Bakersfield to Palmdale has the most engineering involved and construction will start last and take the longest.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Could be there is the option of Tejon coming back from the dead.

    thatbruce Reply:

    Even if there were an Environmental Review in process for Tejon (which there isn’t), and funds earmarked for it (which there aren’t), constructing Tejon would take a really long time, using the examples provided by other grand base tunnels. You could probably get a route along the coast considered, surveyed, environmental and other hurdles out of the way, and then constructed before Tejon finishes.

    synonymouse Reply:

    We don’t know how long it would take to do base tunnels because the appropriate studies were never done. Ditto for an optimized mostly at grade crossing of Tejon that could get the ruling gradient down to 4%, manageable by existing hsr equipment.

    A successful private entrepreneur would never have tolerated such a gratuitous dismissal of this manifestly superior alignment. Another example of the blatant stupidity and political corruption for which California is so notorious. Enough to make Jesse Unruh blush. The Golden State has become the dumb blonde state. They might as well have put Homer in charge of route selection. D’oh!

    Peter Reply:

    “We don’t know how long it would take to do base tunnels”


    Channel Tunnel: 50.45 km, 6 years construction
    Seikan Tunnel: 53.85 km, 17 years construction
    St. Gotthard: 57 km, 21 years (projected) construction

    Oddly enough, it would appear that the Channel Tunnel was the easiest to construct, since most of the tunneling was through relatively soft chalk marl.

    We could expect at least 6 years, and up to 21 years, as a relatively safe estimate. The entire system including Bakersfield-Palmdale would be up and running by the time tunneling would be completed on your base tunnels.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Six years would be perfectly acceptable for a permanent and ideal solution to the escape from LKA challenge. And the at-grade approach definitely merits closer examination.

    The Loopy route is a duplication of a third rate existing UP line and it cannot even be used for freight. If you are going to build for passenger alone go for an altogether new route, especially when electrification can handle the grades that are too steep for freight. It is important to factor in the many less miles of track and catenary to maintain and energize as well as shorter mileage for the trainsets. Not to mention the faster schedules.

    Peter Reply:

    I agree that six years would be acceptable. But that’s the bottom limit, and was primarily possible, if I understand it correctly, because the “rock” they were tunneling through was so soft. No other tunnel of similar length has EVER been completed in ANYTHING close to the same timeframe. I would be surprised if it “only” took 10 years to complete your base tunnels.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Ten years is ok too. If you are going to upgrade the Loop line the UP should be in on it as the real passenger potential is long distance, ie. Amtrak Bay Area to Flagstaff and points east. I actually took the San Francisco Chief to Flagstaff in February of 1971 in a roomette. I remember waking up around 1 am. I think because we were going so slow. I said something like “Aha, this must be the famous Loop!” One of the most pleasant rr trips I ever took. I remember there was a lot of snow on the ground at Flagstaff transferring to the bus to Jerome.


    I Boehner gets traction the feds gravy train will be derailed and the hsr will be spread out over a number of years, so 10 won’t seem so long.

    Peter Reply:

    I’m not sure how building a new, roughly parallel, passenger-only alignment qualifies as “upgrading the Loop”. Upgrading the Loop would be up to UPRR, not having anything to do with the CHSRA.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I meant to say forget about hsr at Tehachapi; upgrade conventional rail there in conjunction with the UP. The hsr should exit the LA basin via Tejon.

    It will be interesting to what the UP has to say, if anything, about the proposed exact CHSRA alignment at Tehachapi.

    Peter Reply:

    “It will be interesting to what the UP has to say, if anything, about the proposed exact CHSRA alignment at Tehachapi.”

    If you consider a shrug to be interesting. It’s not even within a few hundred feet of their ROW, IIRC.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    Surprisingly, according to a St Gotthard engineer, the boring progressed as planned through hard compact rock but was far slower than expected in what he called “high plasticity” zones. TBMs seem to get stuck if the rock is too soft.

    Peter Reply:

    And on the Seikan tunnel, the TBMs got stuck in super-hard rock. They then had to switch to explosives.

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    Syn, I really think you should drop the Tejon obsession. The Tehachapi alignment is clearly easier albeit longer which may be a small price to pay. If 40 years in the future, we get bold with infrastructure again, we can consider a Tejon base option and I would add, make it freight capable as well. An alternate route out of LA at that time for freight may not be a bad thing. But for now, let’s proceed with Tehachapi.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    My impression of the Channel Tunnel was that it was a heck of a job. The big problem was water; apparently the rock in the bottom of the channel was much more badly decomposed and fractured than test borings had indicated, and the water came in in copious amounts, requiring much more in the way of cast-iron lining than had originally been budgeted for.

    The French turned out to be better prepared. Part of this was because the test borings had indicated worse rock conditions on the eastern end, and so the French TBMs were built for this; it was said that their TBMs were practically rock-boring submarines.

    Equally interesting was the comparison in locker room facilities for the employees at each end. The Brits built a typical locker-room type facility, while I understand the French went in for a structure that was almost two stories high, with the upper section with plenty of glass; the diggers’ clothes would be hung in this space, where the sun would dry them, and generally give the place a wonderful fill of natural light. As might be typical of the French, one of their engineers commented that the British had Charles Dickens design their locker facilities, while the French had commissioned Jules Verne. . .

    thatbruce Reply:

    A successful private entrepreneur would never have tolerated such a gratuitous dismissal of this manifestly superior alignment.

    What, and miss out on the kickbacks from the Palmdale developers? ( You do remember your theory about Palmdale developers unduly influencing the route selection, right? )

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Indeed, a successful private entrepreneur would never discount the patronage originating in the Central Valley based on a stereotype view of the HSR as replacing a point to point air shuttle … and if they gave full weight to the potential transport market on both corridors, they would certainly go up the Bakersfield / Fresno axis.

    Once going up that axis, the time difference is minimal and the Tehachapi is the lower project risk, so a private entrepreneur would likely pick that one.

    Peter Reply:

    No reason to be consistent when you have no intellectual integrity.

    Peter Reply:

    Well, we know that van Ark first wants to connect the CV with either LA or SF. I have the feeling that one of the major tunnel sections will be next in terms of construction.

    thatbruce Reply:

    Looks like NJ Transit have some suitable dual mode (electro-diesel) engines on order, if people want to quibble about an existing FRA train using the new tracks in the interim but not the overhead. Pity about them being single-ended though.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Those dual-mode engines have nearly twice the maximum axle load of HSR trains. Beefing up the tracks to let them run would be expensive and pointless.

    thatbruce Reply:

    Hrm, yeah, that’s true. Nevermind.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    I have heard otehr professionals in rail transportation say the same thing; however, to enable a freight connection.

  11. Spokker
    Oct 29th, 2010 at 15:05

    Off topic, but does nobody want to talk about who they voted for? Is it a taboo question to ask or something, similar to asking how much money someone makes?

    jimsf Reply:

    I eat politics for breakfast. mmmm. I voted straight harvey milk democratic club ticket, from top to bottom, fed to local, with one exception.

    Spokker Reply:

    Hell yeah. *high five*

    Liberal all the way. We’re taking California all the way to dissolution! Maybe Mexico will take us back.

    jimsf Reply:

    And I’m not liberal by day. I’m more union labor, anti illlegal immigration, tough on crime blah blah blah, but when I get into the booth, that all goes out the window cuz you gotta throw everything you got against the right to keep them at bay so I just do it and hope it doesnt bite me in the ass later.

    jimsf Reply:


    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    As you all can imagine, as a member of the California Democratic Party Executive Board and the vice-chair of the Monterey County Democratic Party, I voted a straight Dem ticket. My vote on the ballot propositions can be found here – whereas Courage Campaign members were evenly split on Prop 27, I voted yes.

    Jerry Brown is very likely to be elected governor on Tuesday, and Barbara Boxer is likely to be re-elected to the US Senate. However, Nancy Pelosi may lose her speakership as the Democrats may lose the House, and if so, it would be a devastating blow to not just HSR, but mass transit – the teabaggers HATE mass transit and will do everything in their power to kill federal funding for it.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    I am no longer voting absentee ballot. I want my vote counted on election day, and, not later when those sent in by mail are only necessary for close decisions.

  12. Scott Mercer
    Oct 31st, 2010 at 20:59

    If they were to build a Central Valley segment all the way down to Palmdale, the Metrolink system could link up there. There is also some talk of the Desert Xpress to Las Vegas building out to Palmdale. That way you go could go from Merced to Los Angeles by train, no buses, only one train transfer at Palmdale. Or you could go on Metrolink as far south as Oceanside, then transfer to the Coaster to San Diego. Full train service, Merced to San Diego, without Amtrak being involved at all! Or, you could go Merced to Las Vegas! (IF the Desert Xpress is actually built.)

    It seems to me that Palmdale could become a very important rail hub in the future!

Comments are closed.