CHSRA Puts Grapevine Alignment Back on the Table

May 4th, 2011 | Posted by

Over a week ago, we heard it through the grapevine that the California High Speed Rail Authority was again studying the I-5/Grapevine alignment to connect Bakersfield to Los Angeles. There was some extensive discussion in the comments to a post a few days back as well, but only now am I able to get to this myself.

Basically, the Palmdale to Burbank section is facing increasingly high costs as it becomes clear that a lot more tunneling will be needed in the Soledad Canyon area along the CA-14 corridor. And that is causing the Authority to explore the Grapevine alignment again:

The Grapevine alignment had previously been discarded in favor of a route through Soledad Canyon over the Tehachapi Mountains crossing further to the east. That route would pass through Antelope Valley to Palmdale and on to Los Angeles. In earlier studies, the Grapevine route was dropped from consideration due to seismic issues and perceived high costs along I-5.



But after further study, the Authority operations committee is suggesting a new look at the I-5 corridor that could cut costs of this leg of the statewide system by “billions,” according to a staff report.

Further study of the Soledad Canyon option through the Antelope Valley found the need to build long tunnel sections and elevated structures, “substantially” raising costs from earlier estimates, according to the report.

Given that outcome, it seems reasonable to explore the Grapevine alignment again, if only to get a better sense of the cost comparisons. The Grapevine alignment also involves a lot of tunneling, so I’m not really sure it’s all that much cheaper. And it has its own environmental and logistical challenges, as the Bakersfield Californian makes clear:

The Grapevine alternative — shelved in 2002 but resurrected in a California High-Speed Rail Authority staff report set for board review Thursday — came as a shock to Lebec’s Tejon Ranch Co., which worries that such a route could endanger the ambitious mountain village community it has been planning for years.

“We relied on (the rail authority’s) decision many years ago and now we’ve gone forward with our project,” said Joseph Drew, senior vice president of real estate for Tejon Ranch….

Drew, the Tejon Ranch executive, pointed to what he described as an extreme engineering challenge of ramping up bullet train tracks as far north as the intersection of the I-5 and Highway 99 in order to overcome a sharp upward slope at the foot of the Grapevine.

He also expressed concerns that such a route could disrupt a careful accord the company has forged with environmental groups that, in exchange for Tejon’s promise not to develop in certain areas, have pledged not to fight the company’s mountain village project.

I’m not sure this is a huge issue, but something to consider.

More important is the possible impact on system ridership and revenues of cutting out Palmdale. While people like Rich Tolmach claim that sending trains where people are is somehow bad, half a million people live in the Antelope Valley, with that number projected to double to 1 million by 2020.

Any study of a Grapevine alignment therefore needs to include a study of ridership and revenues. While the Grapevine might be slightly cheaper in terms of capital cost, it could be much more costly in terms of lost revenues.

And that should include a study of lost ridership if the DesertXpress project, which has been planning to link to the California HSR line – and therefore to downtown Los Angeles. The earlier ridership study conducted by the Authority in the late ’00s did not take into consideration riders bound to or from Las Vegas, since the notion of connecting to the DesertXpress line at Palmdale wasn’t yet on the table. It is now, but as KCET reports, a Grapevine alignment threatens that link:

“It is outrageous to think that after all the studying and all the evidence that points to the fact that the route through the Antelope Valley is the most economical, sensible and efficient route, the CHSRA would even consider changing the route,” [Palmdale] City Manager Steve Williams pointed out in a statement. “It is absurd to make this kind of investment without including the Antelope Valley, which currently makes up 10 percent of the ridership.”

Also at stake is the city of Palmdale becoming a major transportation hub for Southern California. “When you combine high-speed rail with the High Desert Corridor [highway], DesertXpress rail [to Las Vegas] and the Palmdale regional airport, it will have an immense positive economic impact.”

Palmdale has a point. The purpose of HSR is to move people. To sell tickets. To get Californians to ride trains. It’s worth spending a little bit more money in the construction phase if it will help carry more riders. That’s not an abstract ideal. It’s a necessity, given the fact that the HSR system has to cover its own costs. The more riders, the better.

In addition to the questions about the construction cost and the hit to ridership and revenues of a Grapevine alignment, there’s also the concern about precedent. We know that Peninsula NIMBYs would love nothing more than to send the HSR trains over the Altamont alignment – they’ll happily dump trains and tracks they don’t want onto Pleasanton and Livermore, even if it screws over the large population and economic center of San José. Already the Peninsula NIMBYs are using the Grapevine study as a reason to demand the Authority now revive Altamont. That’s a pretty flawed comparison, but the Authority does need to consider that angle.

I’m not opposed to a Grapevine alignment, and certainly not opposed to a study of the route. But that study needs to be comprehensive, and needs to prioritize the question of lost ridership. If it costs a little bit more to send the trains through Soledad Canyon but will attract a LOT more riders, it’s worth doing.

  1. MGimbel
    May 4th, 2011 at 21:10
    #1

    This should be an interesting debate. Was anyone able to listen to the audio from this part of the meeting? My computer wasn’t able to play it.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Reading that article you linked to this is just opening up another can of NIMBY worms.. first the luxury housing developer then that wildlife group and of course the pissed off city of Palmdale and to think all this is just a possible study yet it will cause a lot of news drama. I did look at authorities website a presentation and found any interesting item regarding both of the alignments basely doing some kind of phased implementation just like in the peninsula utilizing the Metrolink right away and how it’s so much faster via the grapevine that state Route 14.. guess we will hear more tomorrow .

    BruceMcF Reply:

    It may be that phased implementation tends to knock out one of the Tehachapi pass alignments they were studying.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Yes ..the Metrolink route thru the canyon to Palmdale..takes an hour vs 30 via Tejon SantClarita

    BruceMcF Reply:

    I was thinking that one of the two remaining alignments did not run directly to the Metrolink station so would be more expensive to connect up in the case of phased implementation.

    I’d thought the canyon route had been set aside in the last round, leaving to to consider. If the phased implementation makes one of those less likely, it might be useful to still have two options on the table.

  2. Derek
    May 4th, 2011 at 21:18
    #2

    Maybe DesertXPress and the city of Palmdale can work together to come up with an incentive to reconsider the Antelope Valley alignment.

    Walter Reply:

    If the Grapevine isn’t prohibitively expensive, then maybe the Cajon Pass isn’t either. DX is going to get virtually all of its ridership from SoCal (obviously, that’s the whole point). If they can pull off building over Cajon, they’ll sacrifice a meager amount of Bay Area ridership for what amounts to the best solution for LA, IE, OC and SD.

    This is even more feasible now that the Authority is considering a station in San Bernardino. This connection would be just 40 miles, albeit 40 very expensive miles.

    Joey Reply:

    It doesn’t have to be either/or. Especially since the section track from Barstow to Mojave would be relatively cheap (this is in a world where we don’t have to worry about nonsensical transfers). NorCal and the northern/western parts of the LA Basin would be served via Mojave (depending on the specifics, it might even be faster from LAUS to go this way), and the IE and SD areas would be served via Cajón. The Cajón route could also serve some expresses from NorCal to the IE/SD, bypassing the slower parts of the LA Basin.

    Matthew B. Reply:

    DesertXpress could be built to Victorville as planned, and then connect to Palmdale in a second phase in order to connect to LA via trackage rights on the upgraded Metrolink route: http://www.the-signal.com/section/114/article/44125/

    If the trip from LA to Palmdale on Metrolink tracks takes 1 hour rather than the CAHSR projected 27 minutes, I don’t think that would completely destroy the viability of DesertXpress to LA through Palmdale. The only loss would be Northern California connections to Las Vegas, which could be accommodated later.

    Matthew B. Reply:

    This of course assumes that DesertXpress trains could be approved to run on Metrolink tracks.

    Caelestor Reply:

    Don’t go all-in at once, you only need LA-LV for now. Norcal-LV, with the convenience of train travel, can be accomodated with a short extension btwn Bakersfield and Mojave reasonably.

    My opinion that unless DX runs direct to LA via Palmdale, it’ll be bankrupt quickly, still stands though.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Forget Las Vegas. Its reign is over. The whole country is legalizing gambling. Waste of the taxpayers’ money.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They won’t be using taxpayer money to build it.
    Las Vegas is a large city. People who live in Las Vegas have myriad reasons to go to Los Angeles. Or I know you might find this hard to believe, Fresno. Two million people buy lots of things which means the sales reps from California need to visit. And the technician who services the stuff the sales reps sold.
    It’s Disneyworld for adults. The local gambling hall is never going to compete with that. And while a large fraction of it’s patrons come from California a larger percentage come from places like Chicago and New York. The local gambling hall can’t compete, in January, with the weather in Las Vegas.
    Las Vegas is a destination for reasons other than gambling. It is the only place certain conventions can be hosted. Which makes it attractive for other large conventions.

    Andy M. Reply:

    But are people visiting Las Vegas from Chicago or New York likely to use the Desert Xpress in significant numbers?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    It depends on whether it connects to an overflow airport.

  3. Herbie
    May 4th, 2011 at 21:26
    #3

    My fantasy HSR alignments have always had the Las Vegas HSR line splitting at Barstow: the south branch would find a way through the Cajon Pass to either LA or San Diego, the west branch would go through Mojave and Tehachapi to Bakersfield and SF. Palmdale may just be out of luck.

  4. Clem
    May 4th, 2011 at 21:38
    #4

    But what about saving a whole ten minutes for everyone traveling to or from the LA Basin… is that not excellent for ridership and revenue? Serving Palmdale wastes ten minutes for every passenger who isn’t either boarding or alighting at Palmdale.

    As a side benefit, it opens up the opportunity of meeting the same SJ – LA travel time via Altamont as is currently planned via Pacheco…

    joe Reply:

    “It is absurd to make this kind of investment without including the Antelope Valley, which currently makes up 10 percent of the ridership.”

    A 10% cut in ridership seems a steep price.

    flowmotion Reply:

    I’ve never heard a real justification of HSRA’s projection that the Palmdale station would generate such massive ridership.

    The airport isn’t doing anything. A DesertXpress connection seems to be more of a railnerd fantasy than a ‘plan’. And even predictions of massive sprawl development seem pretty unlikely.

    joe Reply:

    I don’t know what model says is the area from which users will drive to the Palmdale station to use HSR. It’s serviced very inefficiently by LAX. I drive from the bay area to get to Mojave.

    As a bookkeeping exercise, the HSR ridership will be cut 10% using grapevine without any new station – where they’ll gain riders and how? they’ll need to find ridership.

    I will say that the cost to build and the cost to operate have different success criteria.

    CAHSRA needs to build a system that will meet time requirements (expectations too) and produce revenue to operate the system.

    That means investing into a system that costs more to build but produces more revenue during operation is a successful system as defined by Prop 1A.

    MGimbel Reply:

    Palmdale gets cut, but then Santa Clarita gets a station.

    Caelestor Reply:

    Really, the choice of Grapevine depends on whether or not Palmdale will be a bustling population center in the future. It does have a fair amount of residents, but in my opinion the area may decline in the future (it’s in the middle of nowhere).

    Andy M. Reply:

    But an HSR could change that.

    Infrastructure has a significant effect on future development. In the longer term perspective, any town that get HSR is likely to grow and any towns that is bypassed is likely to stagnate. The debate about HSR routings and stop locations is basically a debate about which places are going to grow and which aren’t.

    Anthony Reply:

    Palmdale/Lancaster WOULD GROW with HSR. Housing is generally affordable because of the location and the long commute back in Los Angeles. I used to live up there. I would use HSR to get back into LA. It would become the bedroom community it should have always been. Its too remote for any kind of real investment in terms of a large job creator. But having HSR would drop unemployment up there long term and I could see it easily growing from just over half million to over one million inside of a decade just based on affordable housing and access to HSR. It already has services and retail to handle more than million people. Plus there more sub-divisions that could be build to contain that many people. Don’t say HSR will contain sprawl that’s a Environmentalist fantasy, it will expand population where its located. I would certainly move back to AV because of home prices.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Its debatable whether that’s a reason for a Tehachapi alignment or a reason for a Tejon alignment.

    From Palmdale’s perspective, its a reason for preferring any Tehachapi pass alignment over any Tejon pass alignment, no matter how expensive, but the funding of the corridor is dominated by people living outside of Palmdale, and the impact to the state as a whole and to the nation of more people living in Palmdale could be argued on the net cost side.

    egk Reply:

    Or all the towns near the line could grow by providing effective transfer service to the line. What is true is that Palmdale – by being moved to within the LA orbit will grow disproportionately. Bakersfield, however, is – even with hsr – too far. Choosing the Grapevine sacrifices this potential growth (Sta. Clarita is already in the LA orbit).

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Not really. The choice of Grapevine depends on the project risk of going through the Tejon pass versus the cost and project risk of the alignments connecting Palmdale to Sylmar. If the balance lies with the Tejon pass, then there are more capital efficient ways to improve intercity service to Palmdale itself.

    flowmotion Reply:

    As a bookkeeping exercise, cutting 10 minutes off the trip to LA will result in higher ridership projections from Bakersfield and other Central Valley cities.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes. For much of the induced demand, just having the intercity trip in under two hours and at high frequency is sufficient: there are more competing intercity transport options the Bay to LA, so the elasticity of demand with respect to transit time is likely to be higher for those trips. However, there would be some impact.

    Underlining that if taking Palmdale off is a negative, its a net negative that is smaller than the gross loss in patronage at Palmdale, making it all the more likely that the ridership impact could be mitigated cost-effectively by adding strategic Express bypasses on the Metrolink corridor.

    The main game is the project risk and the capital cost. The extra cost projected for Palmdale southbound implies that its a closer comparison than it first appeared. And where some of the cost inflation is from meeting objections along the corridor, having an alternative corridor that takes Palmdale off the HSR trunkline puts the Authority in a stronger political bargaining position from Palmdale to Sylmar than having no alternative corridor.

    Joey Reply:

    Reducing trip times also increases ridership. It takes complex modeling to figure out which would be a more significant factor though.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    It doesn’t take complex modeling to work out that at the order of magnitude of ridership impacts we are talking about, the capital cost and project risk factors will dominate.

    Clem Reply:

    It won’t be a 10% cut in ridership. The lack of a Palmdale station will not remove these people’s need to travel. Some of them will traipse to the next HSR station and Bako. Many of them won’t, but not all 10%.

    And Palmdale, statewide 10% of ridership? Give me a break. They show Palmdale pulling nearly the same ridership as LA Union Station, and nearly twice the ridership of the mighty city of San Jose. This is Palmdale, population 150k. Smell test anyone?

    Joey Reply:

    Palmdale metro is closer to 500k, but the point still stands.

    Matthew B. Reply:

    Much of the benefit of connecting Palmdale can be achieved by upgrading the Metrolink tracks to provide a 30 minute ride to a San Fernando valley HSR station where riders can transfer.

    James M. in Irvine Reply:

    Exactly. Metrolink can be a feeder from Antelope Valley, and Ventura County, too. A quicker transit time with modest upgrading for Metrolink will more than make up 10% in the long run.

    Jim

    Joey Reply:

    Bringing the current hour+ trip to 30 minutes would require A LOT of upgrades, none of them particularly cheap.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    All of them substantially cheaper than the trunkline HSR equivalent, and with all of them incremental improvements to an existing transport service.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The model assumes high ridership at Palmdale coming mainly from commuter trips to Los Angeles. So while the HSRA expects Palmdale to generate a large number of trips, it’s not expecting it to generate a large amount of passenger-km or revenue.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Quite: which is why expressing it in percent passenger miles would be more appropriate.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    10 minutes time saving might not be 10%, but in a simple straightline approximation of a what is really an S-curve, if a 3hr route typically attracts 40% of a combined air/rail market, and a 2hr route 70%, that means, that means the midpoint is about 55%, and +/-15% from +/-30min. So 5% patronage gain from the 10 minutes saved would not be an unreasonable expectation.

    And the CA-HSR line is not the only sustainable intercity transport option possible ~ upgrading the Metrolink corridor to Rapid Rail could well get half of that Palmdale traffic. Upgrading an existing ROW to include express bypasses and support most cost-effective transit times with electric active tilt trains is substantially cheaper than building the HSR trunk line.

    That would, of course, be a Grapevine alignment with Palmdale overlay.

    If the Grapevine had the prospect of saving billions on the baseline estimate, that could justify spending the money on the detailed assay of the geology along that alignment, to bring the project risk of committing to it down to reasonable bounds.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    It might well be. That’s why the study needs to take a look at the pluses and minuses of each alignment.

    Does saving 10 minutes attract more riders and revenue than stopping in Palmdale? It’s a good question to ask and answer.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Does saving 10 minutes attract more riders than stopping in Palmdale?

    Is it worth adding 10 minutes to all trips, in order to serve Palmdale?
    Is it worth adding 1hr to Sac-SF, in order to serve Gilroy?

    Good grief. You can’t even manage cocktail-napkin level of cost/benefit analysis.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Is it worth adding 1hr to Sac-SF, in order to serve Gilroy?

    You are assuming that once HSR trains arrive in Sacramento nothing will ever be done ever again to anything anywhere.

  5. Alex M.
    May 4th, 2011 at 22:18
    #5

    Getting 220mph HSR tracks through the Tejon would be the engineering marvel of the decade. I’d like to see how they propose doing it.

    Joey Reply:

    With tunnels.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Well, if roughly for every 25 miles shorter you save 9 minutes how many miles shorter and thus how many minutes faster would I-5 be over 99?

    Joey Reply:

    I think I calculated once (roughly) that I-5+Grapevine would save about 25 minutes and 99+Grapevine would save 12 minutes. But now they’re saying that the Grapevine would only save 9-10 minutes, so I might be a little off.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I have a suspicion the engineers are being cautious and conservative with the 9 minute figure.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I suggest you could make a decent argument for I-5 if there were a “brainiac” means of dealing with the overpasses for cheap. And a reasonably high speed half grand junction at what I’ll christen “Bako Jct.” north of Tejon. You would dump Modesto etc. north but gain Sac via I-5 directly. Worth it for the starter.

    Joey Reply:

    You’d probably have to switch to rail corridors north of Manteca. The I-5 alignment through Stockton and Sacramento is not ideal for high-speed rail.

    Joey Reply:

    Keep in mind, I’m not necessarily saying that this is a good idea, I’m just speaking hypothetically.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Hope not an active UP line.

    Joey Reply:

    There aren’t many other options.

    William Reply:

    On a side note, the initial plan for Sacramento HSR station is a stub-end east-west station with trains coming from east. Does anyone think it might be better for it to be a north-south station, leaving potential for extension to Redding open?

    Joey Reply:

    Redding is not really a place you want to run real HSR to. Simply not enough population north of Sacramento to justify the cost. Anyway, what alignment would you use to get a north-south connection through Sacramento?

    J. Wong Reply:

    They’re not proposing to revisit the Central Valley alignment, just the Bakersfield/LA alignment over the Grapevione. So don’t hold your breath about them using the I5 alignment (which I don’t think would be a good idea anyway).

    Donk Reply:

    Revisiting the Central Valley alignment? Hell, then why not just throw all of our previous studies out and restudy the Amtrak central coast corridor and the LOSSAN corridor through San Diego.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There’s these people in Michigan who have a high speed PRT proposal which would eliminate all the questions about frequency and local versus express options. Everybody would have an express because everybody would have their own private pod zipping along at 225. Then there’s vactube technology which hasn’t been studied. SF to LA in 15 minutes kinda thing.

    Joey Reply:

    Actually, remeasuring, it looks like I overestimated the difference between I-5 and 99 (both with Grapevine). Depending on the specifics, the difference could be as little as 5 minutes if you skirt the cities and avoid slowing down (but still serve them with either greenfield stations or station loops). Given that it’s probably about 4 million people we’re talking about here, this seems like a better solution.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The trunk alignment should go through Bakersfield and Fresno, so how fast an express bypass would be is a question for when the trunk alignment gets close to capacity.

    Just looking at relative populations is neglecting the impact of transit time, transport alternatives, and availability of local alternatives on ridership ~ an underserved 4million within one to two hours of substantially higher order central places on either end of the trunk is going to have larger share of the existing transport market and a larger proportion of induced ridership than a transport market like the Bay to LA.

    The Bay to LA through the Valley skipping Fresno and Bakersfield would be like the Barcelona / Madrid HSR line (img) skipping Zaragoza, Lleida and Tarragona.

    Alex M. Reply:

    You’ve just derailed the thread.

    Alex M. Reply:

    Of course, but it’s not that simple.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I can see the argument for 99, especially if it turns out I-5 is more difficult and expensive than one would hope. But I still contend Sacramento should be in from the beginning.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Why go to Sacramento instead of the Bay? San Jose is a larger Urban Area than Sacramento, never mind San Franisco / Oakland at about twice the size.

    Alex M. Reply:

    Um, Synon, I’m talking about the Tejon pass here, not the Central Valley.

    Anthony Reply:

    Gotthard Base Tunnel 1996-2010 DONE! That is with some minor cost overruns and delays but its finished and tunnel finishing it underway. I don’t know why people are concerned with difficulty and expense all the time. Are people going to get rich off this, YES and why not? Its your fault, you keep voting for a Capitalist based economy. As long as that exist somebody somewhere will overcharge and under deliver. This is especially the case if this involves Bechtel or some other huge multi-national construction company.

    All this hemming and hawing over which direction is goes it basically meaningless.

    Alex M. Reply:

    1996 to 2010 is 14 years. We’d have to start digging now, and something like that would be politically impossible.

    StevieB Reply:

    Service through the Gothhard Base Tunnel is not scheduled to start before 2017 to the time goes up to 21 years.

  6. Brandon from San Diego
    May 4th, 2011 at 22:22
    #6

    Clem is right. And Robert, I think you’re on the wrong side of this discussion.

    The purpose of HSR is to provide statewide travel. Palmdale, at most, is a local or regional stop. Heck, I suspect only a limited number of trains would stop there, whereas every north-south train would use the Grapevine.

    Further, DesertExpress is not quite a real project without any capital funding. If it does become reality, they can connect at Bakerfield, which, because it is a larger city, should merit more stops anyway. All regionals should stop there.

    Assuming capital costs between the two alignments, I support the Grapevine alignment. The technology exists to cross faults underground – if need be – so long as those crossings are close to being perpendicular.

    VBobier Reply:

    I drove along SR58 through the Tehachapis, One section is a like a tall & very steep V shaped gorge made of sedimentary rock(sandstone maybe) and yep there’s a rail line there next to SR58 and several Tunnels, But I’m not sure If It’s a UPRR line or a BNSF line. If It’s not a current RR line, Then DX should have no trouble, Otherwise Good Luck.

    VBobier Reply:

    That should say: A few months back I drove along SR58 through the Tehachapis,…

    Joey Reply:

    The RR line through the Tehachapis is UP (though BNSF has trackage rights). It’s also supposedly at capacity…

    Alex M. Reply:

    Turns out those tracks are actually the busiest freight tracks in the country.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I wonder how much of that freight is going straight north and south and how much switches east at Mojave.

    Clem Reply:

    I suspect only a limited number of trains would stop there, whereas every north-south train would use the Grapevine.

    Well, even if only a few trains stop there, every north-south train would “use” the Palmdale detour. Even the whiz-bang SF – LA super express. Delayed ten minutes for NOT stopping in Palmdale.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    We are in violent agreement.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Yes, the purpose of HSR is to provide *statewide* travel. Emphasis on the term “statewide.” It’s NOT to simply move people from downtown SF to downtown LA. It’s to move Californians more easily around the state. That includes the millions of people living in the Antelope Valley and the San Joaquin Valley.

    I’m not saying it has to go through Palmdale. I am saying that straight lines are not the best way to build rail systems if they miss all the people. The purpose of HSR is to carry riders.

  7. joe
    May 4th, 2011 at 22:23
    #7

    NIMBY’s were too clever. They nail HSR to the peninsula and Pacheco.

    Linking HSR to an blended, electrified Caltrain and stopping HSR in San Jose highlighted the benefit of the Pacheco alignment to both urban areas and the cities inbetween.

    Limiting HSR to SJ was walked back at Pelosi’s request but the expectation is out there – Caltrain will be electrified by the HSR project’s blended approach per CAHSRA’s comment.

    Moving HSR off the Pacheco Alignment to Altamont means not using HSR to co-invest in electrifying the Caltrain corridor from San Jose to Redwood city. That’s is going to cause friction in both San Jose and SF Which will want the improved service.

    No there isn’t additional money to throw at Caltrain when the HSR pot can solve the problem. Money’s too tight and any move will be a total fail on the part of the Pennisula reps who swore they were saving Caltrain.

    The 4 track service will be delayed BUT part of the EIR.

    Joey Reply:

    The cost of electrification from SJ to RWC is nearly a triviality in the context of the greater HSR project. And under sane leadership (hypothetical, of course, but then again this is in the context of Altamont), finding the funds for this would not be difficult, even if no Prop 1A money could be used.

    joe Reply:

    How much is a triviality? Is it enough money to stop SJ form laying off cops? Or a 12.5B additional cut that will decimate our 30 kids in Kindergarden schools – are you even a CA citizen?

    Money is an object and again the NIMBY’s and Altamount advocates are working against themselves if they want to claim “it’s cheaper but you’ll need to spend billions more on Caltrain – oh and San Jose suxs”.

    If the money was trivial, the Reps would NOT have paraded to Menlo Park’s Caltrain station to pronounce they have solved Caltrain’s problems. “Oops my bad” isn’t reelection material.

    Joey Reply:

    Billions? HIGH estimates for the total cost of CalTrain electrification were close to ONE billion. So the additional cost would be closer to $500m or below (under reasonable circumstances this should be closer to $200-$300m). You probably want to throw high platforms in there, but again, the cost is quite small.

    joe Reply:

    Only a billion. My paper sez more. Like 1.5B.

    Joey Reply:

    Which paper would that be?

    joe Reply:

    “The San Jose Mercury News reports that the proposal would cost $1.5 billion to electrify the two Caltrain tracks ….”

    Where’s the hundreds of millions coming from and when would Caltrain get electrified with the altamont alignment?

    Joey Reply:

    Ideally that’s money that *isn’t* going to BART to SJ.

    Clem Reply:

    Full corridor gold-plated electrification is $784M. The rest of the money is for a new fleet of trains which is coming due anyway. It just happens to be conveniently book-kept under the electrification project.

    joe Reply:

    Gold-plated would fix the alignments. I doubt there’s any change to some of the most dealy alignments along the corridors – PA’ Charlston for example with trains running 5 mph.

    The Three Reps publicly claimed “mission accomplished” in Menlo Park – moving HSR to Altamont would be very bad politics for them. Bad economically for their districts. Bad for their citizens who have a old ROW.

    So moving the alignment is going to be very very hard. Even the NIMBY reps will fight it.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The teachers are indeed an investment in future productivity, similar to the electrification of Caltrain, but the spending on teachers for one year is not equivalent to the capital cost of an upgrade like Caltrain electrification, its equivalent to one years service on that investment.

    The open question is whether that could attract Federal funding and what the local share would be. $1.5b with half funded locally would be a debt service of $37.5m at 5%; $1.5b with 20% funded locally would be a debt service of $15m at 5%. Funding at a state level at a 20% state match would be more efficient in a total public finance perspective, since more of the increase in economic activity would be captured at the state level than at the local level.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Altamont is simply a better route. The choice of Pacheco was political. What else is new.

    Tony D. Reply:

    You are more than entitled to your opinion (even if it’s wrong).

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Different opinions based on the same facts is natural, because people take different values to the question.

    However, people are not entitled to their own facts.

    J. Wong Reply:

    All decisions involving humans are political. Sheesh.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If it’s trivial why haven’t they done it?

    Joey Reply:

    Focus on more lucrative and less useful projects.

    Clem Reply:

    Don’t play dumb… have you heard about a little system called BART?

    Clem Reply:

    Get a sense of proportion please. You know, millions and billions are different by more than just one letter.

    William Reply:

    Well, some see serving San Jose, Gilroy on the mainline more important than serving Tracy, Modesto, Livermore on the mainline. I am of the former so I support Pacheco pass.

    One thing to think about: to have a good frequency of trains serve both SF and SJ downtown with a split at Fremont/Union City, it means 2X trains will need to go through Altamont than Pacheco, which, if Altamont need to be leveraged for Commuter service, will not have much capacity left on a 2-track system for the commuter trains, which necessaries at least some 4-track sections.

    To avoid this, trains to San Jose might need to operate as “Mini-Shinkansen”, with timed coupling/de-coupling at Fremont. This would need 2X drivers than Pacheco mainline, and introduce additional complexity over operation that CAHSR doesn’t need at initial phase.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    it means 2X trains will need to go through Altamont than Pacheco, which, if Altamont need to be leveraged for Commuter service, will not have much capacity left

    No, you have it backwards. With an “overlay” the CHSRA is proposing duplicate infrastructure that will be nosebleed expensive and very under-utilized.

    Joey Reply:

    The incremental cost of 4 tracks in some areas would not be huge. Even if you had to have four tracks all the way from Pleasanton to Livermore, it wouldn’t be a huge deal. Plus, the intercity trains and the “commuter” sets will be operating at about the same speed – circa 150mph, through most of the Tri-Valley area, except for one or two additional stops. A decent schedule could allow this to work with two tracks for most of the route.

    egk Reply:

    Just to give you a sense how crazy that is in the real world, you do realize that ALL the high speed traffic in western Germany between the southern cities (Stuttgart/Mannheim/Frankfurt…something over 15 million people) and the Rhein/Rhur cities (Cologne, Dusseldorf, etc. another 10 million) goes through a two track section that has three commuter stops on it? This is in a country with a long rail history and where rail ridership is an order of magnitude above that in the USA.

    If we ever get to the 32,000 daily riders over either Pacheco or Altamont that the Frankfurt-Cologne HSR line has today, we will be lucky.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I am simply amazed this is even a discussion. There’s no comparison between the need to serve San José and, say, Livermore and/or Tracy. San José simply has to be on the mainline. It would be absurd for it not to be. It’s about 3rd in importance behind downtown LA and downtown SF.

    Winston Reply:

    The East Bay has more people than Santa Clara County and has a less centrally located airport. San Jose is worth serving with a branch (as is Sacramento) but it is not a great market.

    William Reply:

    If you take out population in Oakland that’ll be serve by San Francisco station, south Contra Costa county that’ll be served by San Jose station, I doubt you can say that having a station in San Jose is serving less people.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Livermore HS/BART station would be a lot more convenient to people in Alameda County than SF Transbay. Even from downtown Oakland a slightly longer but vastly less sardine-packed BART ride out to the eastern boonies via Dublin Canyon would beat fighting one’s way across or under the Bay and thence to Transbay.

    Just because something looks closer on a map doesn’t mean than it’s

    BTW Two can play that game. What happens if you “take out the population” of Palo Alto, Mountain View, Milpitas and perhaps even Sunnyvale, all of whom would have more convenient HS stations available to them than Diridon Hyperdimensional?

    PPS Fun fact to know: the ridership experts of PBQD predicted, in their expert and entirely disinterested and ethical SFO BART ridership analysis of 1996, that people would drive from <a href="http://maps.google.com/maps?&q=pacifica&&ll=37.634626,-122.416878&t=h&z=13"Pacifica, get off the freeway, find and park in the San Bruno BART commuter parking structure, tyhen pay to ride BART one stop to the airport rather than drive an extra half mile to the huge airport parking lots! That’s exactly the sort (same house, same call) of skilled modelling and professional alternatives analysis we’re dealing with with Los Banos HSR.

    Winston Reply:

    If you’re going to have HSR meet BART int the tri-Valley, it would be best to run HSR in the median of 580 to the East Dublin station then have it travel (elevated) elevated to 680 and run alongside 680 toward Fremont. This would give a much shorter BART ride or drive to the station AND would allow a commuter train overlay to serve Livermore and Tracy (ala e-bart). It would be cheaper than extending BART to Livermore and provide a far superior product.

    William Reply:

    If we have HSR station at Palo Alto, Mountain View, or Milpitas, then it is even more convenient for East Bay residents to catch a HSR train, just a drive through a bridge away, or, when Dumbarton Rail start running, a train ride away.

    Winston Reply:

    There is no reason why someone anywhere in Contra Costa county would trek down to San Jose to take HSR with a Pacheco alignment. It is just faster to go to Oakland and fly.

    William Reply:

    Fremont is closer to San Jose than Oakland

    Winston Reply:

    Fremont is also not in Contra Costa County. Of course with the Altamont alignment someone in Fremont would have a very nearby station. With Pacheco they’re a hair closer to San Jose’s (under utilized and money losing) airport. This is important because one of the big advantages HSR could have is serving people who aren’t well served by airports.

    William Reply:

    Sorry, I was thinking north of Santa Clara county is Contra Costa. Fremont is in Alameda County, my mistake.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    It’s bad enough that Oakland isn’t included. (It should be, in a later phase.) But what the Peninsula NIMBYs seem to want is something that wouldn’t serve Oakland or SJ. In fact, if they had their way, it wouldn’t be built at all.

    William Reply:

    Capitol Corridor already have a long list of improvement between Oakland and San Jose they like to implement.

    I whole-hearty supports upgrades to Capitol Corridor so it can run at >79mph, but not at the cost of Pacheco mainline.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    I am simply amazed this is even a discussion.

    This isn’t a “discussion”. It’s a bunch of dimwits spouting transparently wrong — deliberately mendacious, in fact — and completely meaningless slogans, with zero grounding in economic or technical reality.

    Slogans like:

    San José simply has to be on the mainline.

    “simply”. “mainline”. “é”.

    These things signify nothing.

    Nobody — nobody — is talking about not serving San José (The Capital of Silicon Valley, so it’s said … at least by the Civic Fathers), even if it did make perfect economic sense not to do so. Nobody is even talking about providing “downtown” San José with the level of service that is appropriate to it: the real alternatives — not the bullshit strawman you keep bleating on about — would have scored of economically trains running right to to the hollowed-out freeway-loving core of the 400lb gorilla of sprawburbs.

    Joey Reply:

    Interestingly, the CHSRA lists SF as the largest station by ridership, and then Anaheim. LA is behind that, and I’m not sure where San José ranks. Decide for yourself whether or not to trust the numbers, but be consistent.

    Also, what’s with this “must be on the mainline” business? It’s not like no one runs two trains to serve two destinations.

    Joey Reply:

    Also what’s with the sudden hostility? As I recall, you were not too long ago rather neutral on the Altamont vs Pacheco issue?

    Caelestor Reply:

    Probably he values the project being built ASAP before it gets derailed by Congress or something.

  8. JJJ
    May 4th, 2011 at 22:54
    #8

    In a perfect world, we’d get both.

    Personally, I lean towards Palmdale because of the added ridership + the link to las Vegas. If we want a HSR network, having trains running from Fresno to Vegas non stop (for example) would be a fantastic use of tracks.

    Also, this piece of news was NOT the only one that popped up today.
    Looks like Fresno will be getting the tracks on the west side of the UP (slightly worse than east side), and the station will be at grade. Also, the viaduct may turn into a trench.

    http://www.fresnobee.com/2011/05/03/2375048/fresno-high-speed-rail-routes.html#storylink=omni_popular

    datacruncher Reply:

    Yep, I mentioned that last Friday on a post at the bottom of this thread
    http://www.cahsrblog.com/2011/04/peninsula-nimbys-admit-they-just-want-to-kill-hsr/

    You can read and see more details in the board materials.
    http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/2011_May.aspx
    Looks like the tracks might be at grade in Fresno except for a 1.5 mile trench under Hwy 180 and a couple of shorter elevated sections. There are also changes north and south of Fresno.

    The UP gains a benefit in Fresno because at-grade HSR will eliminate street crossings at Shaw, McKinley, Olive, Tulare, Kern, Mono, and Ventura. The under/over passes built will include the UP tracks crossings also.

  9. Donk
    May 4th, 2011 at 22:55
    #9

    Where did this 10% estimate come from? I don’t believe this number. And plus, just because it doesn’t go thru Palmdale doesn’t mean that this 10% number goes to zero. People will still drive from the AV to the 2000 space parking garage in Santa Clarita or take Metrolink or the bus to get to the Santa Clarita stop.

    I am sort of on the fence on this one because I don’t want to slow down the project by changing gears. But what might make the most sense if Tejon is $1B+ cheaper would be to build along Tejon and then propose an “overlay” into Palmdale like they are doing with Altamont. An improved Metrolink corridor is good enough for a connection into Palmdale and this also gets you into Lancaster and the intermediate stops.

    I am not concerned about the DesertXPress – that is not our problem.

    joe Reply:

    I share your view, changing gears can slow the project but if the route is becoming more expensive, HSR needs to look around.

    The ridership model assumes station location issues along an alignment are mitigated by driving. That assumption was a criticism by UCB.

    So the question is whether the santa clarita ridership is already factored into another un-moved station and does Palmdale draw from areas not serviceable by grapevine.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The 10% came from the same place the BART to SFO estimates came from.

  10. John Burrows
    May 4th, 2011 at 23:05
    #10

    If the I-5/Grapevine Alignment would save up to 9 minutes travel time from San Francisco to Los Angeles, then the trains would not have to hit 220 mph to make the trip in 2hr-40min.

    I don’t know how much of the initial SF to La section could be run at top speed, but it takes 1 hr to travel 186 miles at 186 mph and 51 minutes to travel 186 miles at 220 mph—a difference of 9 minutes. So if the places where the trains could do 220mph amounted to less than 186 miles, then a top speed of 300 kmph or 186mph would do.

    Donk Reply:

    I am getting tired of people talking about this 2:40 trip time nonsense. Does this really matter? The only way they are really going to be able to test the trip time is after the whole thing is built, and it isn’t like CA is going to take the money back at that point. The bond money will be spent out long before construction is finished, since the proposed plan was to have private funds come in at the end.

    So lets stop spending so much goddamn time talking about the trip time. The goal should be to get the trip time down to the lowest number possible. We shouldn’t talk about adding on Altamont or slowing the train in the Peninsula because we just saved 10 minutes by routing through Tejon. If we save 10 minutes by running through Tejon, lets put those minutes in our pocket and then keep on trying to cut minute elsewhere.

    Clem Reply:

    So lets stop spending so much goddamn time talking about the trip time.

    OK, so let’s stop spending so much goddamn time talking about speed. Who needs that?

    Quite the contrary, trip time is the single most important service quality metric that you need to carefully budget system-wide to guide sound infrastructure choices. A minor speed restriction in one area may cause over-engineering in another area to make up the lost time. Time is the currency of the design optimization of the entire system.

    Donk Reply:

    You missed my point. Let me restate the sentence:

    So lets stop spending so much goddamn time talking about the trip time, in the context of the requirements of Prop 1A.

    Everybody has their panties in a bunch about this.

    Joey Reply:

    It’s not like it’s the law or anything…

    Andy Chow Reply:

    The law can be changed, but the physics and economics can’t.

    Even as China wants to build the biggest and fastest HSR, they are now starting to slow down the trains and lower the fare prices to get people onboard. Apparently a lot of travelers (who earn low incomes) want to save money rather than time and that running HSR trains at very high speed are very expensive because they require much more energy.

    Joey Reply:

    True, though running at very high speed doesn’t reduce travel times by a lot.

    Eric M Reply:

    The Chinese are slowing the trains because they are realizing the underlying infrastructure was not built to high enough standards as it should have been. 220mph trains will cause the need for replacement far sooner than 186mph on the poorly built systems, along with wearing down the train sets faster that cause for much higher maintenance.

    Eric M Reply:

    The excuse of trying to get more people on is just that, an excuse to cover up the real problem I stated above.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    The 2:40 thing is geeting alot of press concering all of these options when actually the proposed timetable has only 6 trains running that fast..in the AM/PM peak running mostly non-stop SF-LA with one stop in SJ ..if that means we need to slow down top trips to3hs saving Billiions and actully getting a high speed rail system open by 2020 its worth it

    Joey Reply:

    Low acceleration at very high speeds means that 350km/h barely saves any time over 300km/h anyway.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    There’s not a lot of saving in “not having to hit 220mph” systemwide, if the speed profile hits 220mph in places where it needs to do so.

  11. synonymouse
    May 4th, 2011 at 23:31
    #11

    Interesting info about Tejon seismic history:

    http://www.altamontpress.com/discussion/read.php?1,57660,57683#msg-57683

  12. Risenmessiah
    May 4th, 2011 at 23:32
    #12

    Van Ark is just covering his bases for the inevitable fight coming with the city of Los Angeles. He wants them to be prepared for the significant help they might have to chip in to get HSR to Union Station. Given that Metro has lots of other capital projects, van Ark needs to prove that there is NO WAY to get the tracks from Bakersfield south without spending 10 billion or so. He knows the City wants Palmdale and is counting on costs being lower than Palmdale. If that changes, then the gig is up and L.A. will have to really flex its muscle. (Side note, former HSR Board member Richard Katz is Disney’s lobbyist for their Santa Clara project but also a Metro Board member…hmmm)

  13. Tony D.
    May 4th, 2011 at 23:33
    #13

    The train has left the station in terms of primary HSR routing for the Bay Area/Central Valley!

    Re-visiting the Grapevine would not set a precedent re: Altamont because we’re talking about two totally different beasts. It’s one thing to go with a Grapevine alignment that bypasses Palmdale but still serves LA directly; it’s quite another to hypothetically choose Altamont over Pacheco AND COMPLETELY BYPASS SAN JOSE AND SILICON VALLEY! (and no, a spur would probably never be built from Fremont to SJ) Besides, all the recent talk of integrating HSR/Caltrain from SF to SJ is all about the chosen Pacheco Pass alignment, and no amount of “wishing” by some on this site is going to change that. Sorry, and welcome to reality!

    Joey Reply:

    and no, a spur would probably never be built from Fremont to SJ

    Do you have any proof for this? The CHSRA themselves considered SF and SJ termini the “base case” for Altamont.

    Donk Reply:

    Well, as a SoCal resident, I wouldn’t support building a leg out to San Jose if they build the Altamont route. They will have BART. We are building a subway to Westwood. We are not going to be selfish and ask the rest of the state to build a HSR line for us from Union Station to the West Side that duplicates the Purple Line and Expo Line.

    Once they build the line from SF to LA, the next legs should be SD and Sacramento. Maybe after that they can consider building from Fremont to San Jose. So to all you Altamont supporters – lets go ahead and do it – I don’t care one way or the other – but don’t expect us to immediately pay for the San Jose leg as well.

    Joey Reply:

    Ideally, we would have that HSR spur and NOT BART. Especially since the Altamont leg is likely to cost much less.

    Donk Reply:

    Sure, but even if they build HSR to San Jose, improve ACE, and improve the Capitol Corridor into San Jose, they are still going to want to build BART. There is no stopping BART.

    joe Reply:

    Is HSR with the Altamont alignment going to have stops as frequently spaced as BART? Is that what CA has to pay for- a new commuter line?

    Joey Reply:

    The high-speed segment could be upgraded to allow commuter oprerations relatively easily. Neither the number of high speed trains or the number of commuter trains per hour will be incredibly high, and you’ve only got 3-4 intermediate stops to deal with. It’s even conceivable that this type of operation could be run on two tracks with no delays. Even if a short 4 track section were necessary though, it would still be a lot cheaper than BART.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    BART would probally never give that ROW up for HSR use

    thatbruce Reply:

    Who currently owns that ROW (Fremont to San Jose) ? BART or VTA?

    Clem Reply:

    AND COMPLETELY BYPASS SAN JOSE AND SILICON VALLEY!

    Willful ignorance? Denial? Or some really good pot? You be the judge.

    Alex M. Reply:

    He says San Jose and silicon valley should be served and you say he’s on drugs? Really?

    Joey Reply:

    No, he says San José won’t be served and Clem says he’s on drugs.

    Alex M. Reply:

    That’s what I meant…

    Reality Check Reply:

    C’mon folks. Let’s not be (or act like) dopes. Altamont includes SJ. When Tony D. and others seemingly (pretend?) not to understand this, it gets a little old. Altamont includes a lines SJ as well as to SF (via the Dumbarton Bridge corridor).

    joe Reply:

    By passing San Jose is a significant risk given the NIMBY arguments about lack of money and building what we can afford.

    People in San Jose are not stupid. They’re not going to watch the train bypass them and expect a spur to be built in this horrid economic climate.

    Donk Reply:

    Yes exactly. It is either Altamont or San Jose. Not both. Personally I don’t care – I travel from LA to the Peninsula relatively often and would be perfectly happy taking BART from Fremont to San Jose, or taking HSR to RWC/Palo Alto and Caltrain from there to a local stop. I would probably end up taking the Purple Line or Expo line to get to Union Station in LA also, so same difference.

    Clem Reply:

    It is either Altamont or San Jose. Not both.

    A very nice distillation of the broken rationale of the Pacheco Brigade… HSR can’t be built into San Jose because BART will offer good service. Oh, and for good measure, Overlay! Overlay! Overlay!

    Donk Reply:

    You are pretty good at turning peoples’ words around. Did I ever say that BART offers better service than HSR? All I said is that I don’t want to spend my tax dollars on HSR to SJ if Altamont is chosen. We have more important needs in this state.

    Joey Reply:

    We have MUCH more important needs for the region, the state, and the nation than BART to SJ. Having standard gauge rail instead is much more useful and less expensive.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    It may not completely bypass Silicon Valley, but it does bypass the SJ urban area, in pursuit of a second station in the SF/Oakland UA.

    Joey Reply:

    Who said anything about an Oakland station?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Nobody. SF-Oakland is the name for the Urban Area ~ urban areas are not defined by political boundaries, but by population density ~ they need one or more census blocks with over 1,000 people per square mile, and then additional connecting census blocks with population density between 500 people and 1,000 people per square mile.

    The two biggest urban areas in the Bay are SF-Oakland CA and San Jose CA. The Altamont alignment bypasses the SJ urban area entirely unless it goes down to San Jose and then back up the east bay.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    SJ urban area?

    Which mall or fleamarket are you specifically talking about?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    This is always an interesting exercise.

    From this image, and not cheating by knowing the answer, try to work out where the downtown (the Throbbing Centricle of the Bustling Hub of the Capital of Silicon Valley) might be located.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Urban areas are determined by census counts, not by aerial photography.

    Caelestor Reply:

    You REALLY want Pacheco, don’t you?

    tony d. Reply:

    ALTAMONT LIVES! At least in the minds of some here.
    Its not so much that I want Pacheco; its more of a case of
    Pacheco being chosen nearly three years ago and serving
    Directly the largest city in NorCal and economic engine of the state (perhaps world).
    I guess you can also accuse me of the following as well:
    “You REALLY want to win World War II, don’t you,” but hey, its your world.

  14. Alon Levy
    May 4th, 2011 at 23:51
    #14

    The argument about connecting to Las Vegas holds less water now than it did a year ago, when DX seemed ready to break ground any minute. The more DX is delayed, the more it makes sense to build for LA-SF first and then, if there’s service to Vegas, connect it through whichever option is the most convenient.

    Another issue with the Grapevine vs. the Tehachapis is that in a world of partial funding, the Tehachapis would stop at Palmdale and the Grapevine at Santa Clarita, and Santa Clarita offers a much shorter legacy track connection to LA. In such a case, the phase 0 time saving would be much larger than 10 minutes.

    Caelestor Reply:

    If it comes down to putting a station @ Sylmar vs. Palmdale, the former wins hands-down. Santa Clarita Valley has a greater catchment area.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I hadn’t realized that is what the spokesman quoted in the Fresno business paper meant when he said that the Tejon toute would enjoy a better Metrolink connection at Santa Clarita.

    I would have to assume Santa Clarita is pleased with this development.

    Donk Reply:

    Maybe they can build an intermodal station right next to Magic Mountain. They can have a cross platform transfer to Revolution or Viper.

    (Sorry, lame joke, it’s late)

    Wad Reply:

    Magic Mountain is relatively isolated from the rest of Santa Clarita. It would be a challenge to reach it.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    True, but it’s not the worst place in that region for a station, especially with Newhall Ranch (maybe?) getting built.

    Wad Reply:

    The theme park site would be pretty bad. It’s on the west side of I-5, cut off from much of the city, and Magic Mountain’s traffic flow is lousy because it is hemmed in by hills. Traffic is pretty bad on normal operating days; making it Santa Clarita’s train station compounds the problem.

    The hilly terrain makes a beetfield station nonviable, so the HSR must go near or possibly in one of the freeways. Newhall near I-5/SR-14 would be good for the suburban character of Santa Clarita, but the heart of the city is near where the mall and city hall is.

  15. William
    May 5th, 2011 at 01:53
    #15

    If anybody is interested, here is the link to CAHSRA’s original study of Bakersfield-LA alternatives:
    http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/assets/0/152/d43ec27c-3b97-4131-b74b-8b2ad25081d2.pdf
    Page 2 shows the picture of all the studied alternatives.

    datacruncher Reply:

    That also shows potentially how Bakersfield to the Grapevine might work without changing the current Fresno/Bakersfield planning. Pass thru Bakersfield east/west as it also would for Tehachapi (keeping the current downtown station plan) all the way to the UPRR. On the east side of Bakersfield swing south following a Hwy 184 alignment to Wheeler Ridge at the base of the Grapevine OR head for Tehachapi. So they could continue with the current Fresno/Bakersfield plan and downtown Bakersfield station but then add either alignment to SoCal.

  16. Anthony
    May 5th, 2011 at 08:42
    #16

    This is sort of ridiculous on the surface. Just build the thing. If it goes through Palmdale/Lancaster people will use it. Like they rather drive down from there into the Valley or into the West side. Having made that drive for over a year myself at one time, I would welcome a high speed option out of an area that doesn’t have many to start with.

    I also don’t understand why an Auto Train is not being talked about, especially up the 99 as it would give many people options when considering a location to live.

    Donk Reply:

    Just a guess, but I would think that a auto train is more of a freight train than a HSR train, and it would have considerably different grade requirements, weight, and platform/loading requirements. You would probably have to build separate stations and reroute the whole system.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Auto train would require special stations for loading and unloading and custom designed cars to handle weight restrictions and HSR speeds. It would also be a fairly niche market.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Auto train lets people avoid 800 miles of a 1200 mile trip. By the time you load the car onto the train and unload the car from the train, for most trips in California, you could have driven. Even on the East Coast it’s a niche market. It’s connecting the 50 million people in the Northeast with the 20 million people in Florida. They fill a train a day.

    thatbruce Reply:

    Seasonal snowbirds.

  17. tony d.
    May 5th, 2011 at 09:14
    #17

    Robert (or anyone),
    With a possible Grapevine alignment and HSR-light from SJ-SF, how much is phase 1 costing now?
    Are we looking at, say, in the ballpark of $30 billion?

    Elizabeth Reply:

    We specifically designed our analysis to allow people to play around with their own numbers. We even anticipated a phase 1 – lite (San Jose – Sylmar (now Santa Clarita)).

    The only differences now would be:

    1) The fewer aerials in CV bring down cost by a couple of billion.
    2) There are some costs included for SF-SJ (we had 0) and maybe some to upgrade Metrolink (we had 0).
    3) The Grapevine may lower costs by several billion, but we don’t know if we really fully costed the Bako-Palmdale – Sylmar so this is unknown .

    Call it $40 billion (without Transbay and 4 tracks/ grade seps on the Peninsula, without Merced, without tunnels into LAUS). Very rough though – would like to see some more updated figures all along the way.

    Donk Reply:

    I doubt they will lower their total cost estimate.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Here is the link to our estimate. http://www.calhsr.com/uncategorized/what-will-high-speed-rail-cost/ We also have a spreadsheet so that you can do your own armchair pricing.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    From our document, as to why we thought the Authority should be transparent about the true cost:

    “These large increases in project capital costs will likely mean large reductions in the scope and scale of the project. Without understanding how expensive the original project really is, policymakers, the HSR board and the public cannot be full participants in the discussion that is happening internally at the Authority about how to prioritize planning and construction.

    To date, project planning has been driven more by deadlines than the long‐term needs of California. Whatever we decide to build should give us the biggest “bang for the buck” and should not necessarily just be the original plan, truncated on all ends.

    Our purpose for calculating current costs is to highlight the importance of understanding these costs prior to making substantial policy decisions.”

    Grapevine anyone? Palmdale’s shock that it is being reconsidered? If the Authority had been open with local participants about how the cost, impact and risk of the original alignment had increased, people would understand why it is under consideration. They might not be happy, but they would not feel blindsided.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Is Grapevine going to be cheaper? Laying track on the ground across the high desert is a lot cheaper than boring a tunnel through mountains so that you can lay track. Laying track inside a tunnel is more expensive than laying it in the open air.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Evidently there is at least a 7 mile tunnel envisioned in the Tehachapis.

    And did the engineers find the geology of Tehachapi was not as favorable as thought?

    thatbruce Reply:

    Someone was citing poor geology in Soledad Canyon, the bit between Palmdale and LA, not the bit between Palmdale and Bakersfield. You can see some of this geology in old Star Trek episodes.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I said it before and I’ll say it again – that estimate is worthless. There’s no explanation in that document of how you all arrived at your projections. There’s no detailed economic forecasting of materials costs, of labor costs, of land costs. Will Chinese inflation continue? Will American deflation continue? Will labor costs remain static, rise, or fall? Bids on major projects have been coming in low for the last few years. Will that continue? What about steel costs? Concrete?

    A genuine cost estimate would look at all that stuff. You didn’t do that. You guys simply pulled a number out of the air. Which is your right, but you should be honest about that. Why should we take that analysis seriously?

    Clem Reply:

    A genuine cost estimate would look at all that stuff. You didn’t do that. You guys simply pulled a number out of the air.

    A damning indictment of the CHSRA, if I’ve ever seen one!

  18. StevieB
    May 5th, 2011 at 09:57
    #18

    The board of the rail authority approved spending $70,000 to study for 4 to 6 months the Grapevine alignment to determine if it should be included in the environmental report as an alternative. The long time would allow outreach with the stakeholders along the route. The Cajon Ranch company owns 16 miles of the route along I-5 and is opposed to the alternative.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Re Cajon Ranch Co.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Unless the few are billionaires. I guess that makes the Cajon Ranch Co. nimbys of the first order.

    At least the nimbys of PAMPA are defending their houses – the Cajon Ranch interests are developers and speculators. Nimby is not illegal but gate-keeping is. Tejon is the only direct escape route north out of the LA basin. If the State is not willing to go to bat for the CHSRA and exercise eminent domain here what hope does the CHSRA have of getting help from the guvmint when it goes to them later asking for assistance with operating subsidies.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Seems reasonable to study it. I hope the study is comprehensive.

    I assume you meant the “Tejon” Ranch company, which has had longstanding (and in my mind, totally absurd) plans to build a big housing development near Lebec along I-5.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    http://strubelim.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/TRC_map.png

    Alex M. Reply:

    Holy crap.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Is that for real? That’s huge – even Tehachapi goes thru it.

    The map sure shows how much of a dogleg Tehachapi represents – that’s only 25 miles?

    StevieB Reply:

    I did mean land magnate Harry Chandler’s Tejon Ranch. It seems the stakeholders are not the determining factor in inclusion of the Grapevine route in the environmental report but rather the feasibility and cost advantage over the alternative.

    synonymouse Reply:

    It is not known whether there would be any significant construction time differences between Tejon and Tehachapi. My supposition is that the engineers would aim for a sweet spot between construction time and construction cost. In other word you could drill faster if you used more TBM’s but at what extra cost, if any. The details should be very interesting.

    Unlike Tejon the Tehachapi route is not going to be usurped by anybody and it does have a strong easterly orientation. Has anybody queried the UP whether it has considered any improvements to this bottleneck? If you are going to blow serious bucks on electrification blow it on Tejon. Shorter route means less wire to energize, more tunnels means fewer masts, etc. Tehachapi is more appropriate for a diesel upgrade.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Not so outrageous. Give it 50 years.

    http://www.goodplanning.org/Master-Plan/default.aspx

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    The study amount is $700K, not $70K.

    “would allow outreach” is an odd phrase. What — have they not been given a fair chance to do outreach? Several milllion dollars is not enough?

    Speaking of which, how’s that outreach for small businesses going? Anyone listen to the Exec-Admin committee? Oops.

  19. Alex M.
    May 5th, 2011 at 10:06
    #19

    Changing to Tejon now would slow the project down a lot for a savings of 10 minutes. I’m not sure it’s worth it. Like Altamont, the technical feasibility of Tejon is debatable, considering the elevation and seismic activity. Not to mention that our version of a Gotthard Base Tunnel is not an option here.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Is it certain that it would slow the project down at all? Where is the completion of the planning of the Bakersfield/Sylmar sections on the timeline?

  20. Jack T.
    May 5th, 2011 at 13:28
    #20

    Has anybody considered the possibility of putting a station where the I5/HWY138 interchange is now. I know it’s empty but it would make a good side connection to Lancaster/Palmdale. HWY138 is mostly flat and open land. Right of way is already reserved. A train going back/forth to the Palmdale airport from this station could travel 300 mph. It’s the long term planned extension anyway of the highway to hell desert corridor.

  21. observer
    May 5th, 2011 at 14:26
    #21

    Bruce McF: The local funding contribution is use of the ROW. What do you think – the ROW is a gift to HSR?

    Actually.. that’s a great question! I wonder what the value of the ROW is at the going rate for HSR ROW these days? …. Probably priceless given how violently CHSRA and Roberts little blogger clan here are coveting it.
    I’d say you’ve got it backwards – for use of the row it will probably be worth: Electrification + grade crossings + station remodels + multi- hundreds of millions in rent per year – is what CHSR will owe Caltrain for use of the row.

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