Five Consortiums Likely to Bid on Central Valley HSR Work

Feb 2nd, 2012 | Posted by

Tim Sheehan at the Fresno Bee reports that there are five consortiums on the short list to start building high speed rail in the Central Valley:

Van Ark said the companies have formed into five teams that the authority has qualified to compete for a contract on a stretch of the line through Fresno, from the San Joaquin River at the north end to American Avenue at the south end. The contract is expected to be worth $1.5 billion to $2 billion.

The builder teams are:

* California Backbone Builders, a consortium of two Spanish construction firms — Ferrovial Agroman and Acciona.

* California High-Speed Rail Partners, composed of Fluor Corp. of Texas, Swedish-based Skanska, and PCL Constructors of Canada.

* California High-Speed Ventures, made up of Kiewit Corp. of Nebraska, Granite Construction of Watsonville, and Comsa EMTE of Spain.

* A joint venture of Dragados SA of Spain, Denver-based Flatiron Construction Corp., and Shimmick Construction of Oakland.

* Tutor Perini Corp. of Sylmar, Zachry Construction of Texas and Pasadena-based Parsons Corp.

The project includes building 12 street overcrossings or underpasses, two elevated viaducts, a tunnel and a bridge across the San Joaquin River. Laying the tracks will be done later under a separate contract.

Some quick background on each…

California Backbone Builders (Ferrovial and Acciona): These are two Spanish companies with experience in building transportation infrastructure and other civil engineering projects. Ferrovial built the beautiful Terminal 4 building at Madrid’s Barajas airport, and Acciona built Lisboa’s landmark Gare do Oriente rail station in 1998. Together Ferrovial and Acciona have built portions of the Madrid-Barcelona AVE route and are currently working on the AVE extension north from Barcelona to the French border.

Ferrovial also operates several pieces of transportation infrastructure through its wholly owned subsidiary Cintra. Cintra is deeply involved in the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor and owns a number of toll roads, including the Chicago Skyway and the Indiana Toll Road (both of which were very highly controversial privatizations).

California High-Speed Rail Partners (Fluor, Skanska and PCL): These are three very big names in major civil engineering projects. Fluor used to be based in Orange County until a recent move to Texas, and one of their current major projects is building the new East Span of the Bay Bridge. They’re also working on Dutch high speed rail. Back in the ’90s they were part of the winning bid to build Florida high speed rail (which was sadly killed by Jeb Bush). Skanska is, among other things, working on the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project in Seattle, the Second Avenue Subway, and the PATH/World Trade Center station reconstruction project in NYC. They also built the Bothnia rail line in Sweden and were part of the huge Øresund Fixed Link project. PCL Construction has been working on the Central Corridor light rail project in the Twin Cities, and was interested in Florida’s HSR project in 2010 before another right-wing governor killed HSR there.

California High-Speed Ventures (Kiewit, Granite, Comsa): Kiewit has worked on many of the bridge retrofit projects in the San Francisco Bay as well as the T-Rex transportation project in Denver. Granite is a major construction player on the Central Coast, and led the project to trench the Union Pacific rail line through downtown Reno. Comsa has been involved in many pieces of AVE construction in Spain, including the original Madrid-Sevilla line and the route from Madrid to Galicia.

Dragados, Flatiron, Shimmick: Dragados S.A. was one of the two key partners in building LGV Perpignan-Figueres, connecting France and Spain. Dragados is also the lead contractor on the Seattle waterfront tunnel, which will include the largest tunnel boring machine ever used. Flatiron is working a lot of rail projects in California, including the Expo Line, the Oakland Airport Connector, and the Sprinter. Flatiron is also owned by Hochtief, which had some rather important building contracts in Nazi Germany, which should make things interesting given the recent issues related to California high speed rail, SNCF, and the Holocaust. Shimmick worked on the Golden Gate Bridge retrofit and a bunch of rail projects in California as well, including the new West Dublin/Pleasanton BART station, the Caltrain maintenance facility in San José, and part of BART’s Warm Springs extension. The members of this consortium may not be big names like some of the folks listed above but their experience with California rail projects is significant, making them a sleeper pick for the contract.

Tutor Perini, Zachry, Parsons: Tutor Perini is based in Sylmar and were the lead contractors on the BART to SFO project and the Alameda Corridor rail project. Parsons was also in on BART to SFO, is a “general engineering consultant” for Caltrain, and worked on the Channel Tunnel, Taiwan HSR, and the Northeast Corridor. The website indicates the consortium is Tutor Perini and Parsons, so I’m not quite sure where Zachry fits in. They’re based in Texas and have done a lot of highway projects there. They were also a partner with Cintra in the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor.

All five have an extensive background in major transportation projects, including rail. I think the first group, California Backbone Partners, is probably something of a longshot given their comparative lack of experience on California transportation projects. The others all have an extensive background, which also means they likely have their share of critics based on some of those projects.

There’s still a ways to go before a contractor is selected, and as some of these guys know, that doesn’t guarantee they’ll actually start building HSR. But if California avoids following the Tea Party down the path of opposing rail transportation projects, one of them should start building California HSR in Fresno this fall.

  1. jimsf
    Feb 2nd, 2012 at 22:35

    So which one is best?

    Nathanael Reply:

    Almost every one of these companies has a mixed record: some projects completed on time under budget and high quality, others late over budget and with defects.

    Furthermore, they all work together: every major project has been done by a consortium, and they arrange themselves in different groups for each project’s bidding. Which makes it hard to tell which one of a consortium to “blame” or “credit” in the case of each project.

    I guess I’m saying “I don’t know!”

  2. morris brown
    Feb 2nd, 2012 at 22:42

    On the Federal level, the House voted to kill any funds coming to California in the new Transportation bill.

    House blocks highway bill money from going to high speed rail

    “This Administration and the California legislature want high-speed rail at any cost, they will spend lavishly without a disciplined plan and say anything to get it done, but this amendment will prohibit highway bill money from being used on a project that is going nowhere fast,” Denham said in a statement after the amendment was approved.

    The Authority continues on its merry way, as exhibited in today’s Board meeting, ignoring the obvious — that the project won’t have further funds from the Feds for at least 2 years more and perhaps 5 years depending on final passage of HR7 ends up.

    Tim Reply:

    On what planet is the House Transportation Bill ever going to pass. It was clearly designed to fail so they could blame Obama and the Democrats…

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    Exactly! On what planet is the House a legitimate governing body? Until the GOP can wrap their tiny heads around the fact that a black man can be President, and act within their elected roles, they are worthless. Certainly not worth their government supported salaries!

    joe Reply:

    Yes, the same politicians demanding “States Rights” against the big bad federal government intrusion also choose to dictate to the State of California what is and is not approved infrastructure.

    Tea bagging other States – that’s about as cowardly as it gets.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Its Federal money. I think you are confused.

    joe Reply:

    Absolutelt not confused, nut wing party demands fed money without conditions. Health care is easy counter example. In this case nuts claim they are being fiscal overlords of CA.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Exactly. And those House Republicans will be extremely lucky if they somehow keep their majority this November.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    The House will stay Republican in name only. Boehner is going to need to keep the Tea Party in line by getting votes from the Dems. Even if the Dems lose the Senate. the GOP does not have a strong hand.

    joe Reply:

    Who says Beohner gets reelected as Speaker or wants the position given his party is wacky and out-of-line.

    If the GOP tea baggers hold-on in Congress at the expense of candidates in more competitive districts, they swing right again and Majority Leader Eric Cantor becomes more representative fo the party.

    BTW, CA does not need a dedicated HSR Bill. All CA needs is Fed Transportation / Infrastructure money which the State can elect to spend as needed. CA can choose HSR because of 1:1 cost sharing with Prop1A funds.

    HSR will give twice as much economic activity per federal dollar, the bonds are issued during historically low rates, and capacity is underutilized: construction costs are low and unemployment high.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    I am almost certain that Boehner will be the next Speaker of the House:

    There’s no way that the Tea Party would allow a split vote to enshrine Pelosi. They will take Boehner in a heartbeat over moderate GOP’ers defecting in a coalition type arrangement.

    Redistricting meanwhile, isn’t going to put enough seats in play for the Dems. People don’t realize that most of your fluctuation last decade was artificial: Tom DeLay tried to gerrymander a larger GOP majority and instead created a bunch of very tenuous districts. However, the Dems who won in 2006 and 2008 in those seats tended not to be liberals, and the core of the party is now very liberal and any real gains nationwide will be purple districts turning blue….

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Depends on how many Republicans get re-elected. Running on a platform of “Cut taxes on the rich so we don’t have to extend unemployment benefits” isn’t a winning one.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    The GOP isn’t planning on using a winning platform. They will, however, run against parts of the President’s platform that are unpopular in their particular districts…

    Their strategy is keep turnout as low as it was in 2010. If that happens, there’s no way the Dems get any coattails. Obama and the DSCC are playing defense and won’t the bet the house (no pun intended) on a sweep.

    The Republicans are going to try to dissuade the fringe from coming to the polls on Election Day…every voter that stays home is a vote for the GOP….

    synonymouse Reply:

    To dissuade the fringe they would have to kill any 3rd party initiative. They will need to convince the public that Obamney is a winner, at least up to the debates. By then I assume too late.

    I wonder how they will lean on Palin and/or Paul to keep them out.

    Nathanael Reply:

    There is no chance that turnout will be as low as it was in 2010. This is the simple fact that Presidential-election-years-have-higher-turnout. Very few third party candidates have appears, which means the current anti-incumbency mood will help whoever is in the opposition in any given seat.

    And Republicans screwed themselves during redistricting. Their chances of keeping the House are low.

    joe Reply:

    If you think Bohner is DEM friendly or cooperative then WHY would Cantor not be elected instead?

    Responsible_Thought Reply:

    “House blocks highway bill money from going to high speed rail”

    What does an action by the “Get-Obama-Out-of-Office-at-Any-Cost-but-Approve-Anti-Choice-Laws Congress” have to do with the discussion thread?

    Alan Reply:

    Very little, but that’s never stopped Morris…

    VBobier Reply:

    How true…

    StevieB Reply:

    The Authority did not anticipate any additional federal funds in the next two years as indicated by the business plan. The action of the Republican do nothing House comes as no surprise. Anything not promoting the oil and highway lobbies who control Republican committee members is excluded from the House bill.

    Peter Reply:

    I like how the “Transportation Bill” is labeled “highway bill” by Denham.

    Alan Reply:

    It never ceases to amaze me how Denham allegedly represents one of the districts with the highest unemployment in the state, yet his devotion to his puppet masters takes precedence over something which would create good-paying jobs, soon.

    Besides, even if by some anti-miracle it did become law, it would be very easy to repeal next year when the Democrats are again in control.

    jim Reply:

    I assume that Mica let that amendment in so that he’d have another piece to trade away when he negotiates with Boxer.

    Alan Reply:

    Yes, sir. No way that Feinstein and Boxer will allow that to reach the Senate floor, and the House republiturds aren’t going to waste their precious little political capital fighting it in conference.

    Emma Reply:

    The GOP-controlled House will be gone by November, so I’m not too worried about that. It would be a miracle if they managed to dominate the House of Representatives after all the things they have pulled off and simply refusing to take any action regarding the recession.
    2013 will be a pro-HSR House. The real problem is the Senate where even the most generous bill gets watered down to the point where it’s almost useless. All thanks to cloture voting ensuring that the Senate is always more powerful than the House.

    Peter Reply:

    It would be even more of a miracle for the GOP to hold the House in November if unemployment continues to drop.

    VBobier Reply:

    Which is now down to 8.3%, By November 2012 the rate of unemployment could be under or at 8%.

    Pete of SD Reply:


    Sobering Reality Reply:

    The devil is in the details:

    The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons, at 8.2
    million, changed little in January. These individuals were working
    part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were
    unable to find a full-time job. (See table A-8.)

    In January, 2.8 million persons were marginally attached to the labor
    force, essentially unchanged from a year earlier. (The data are not
    seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were not in the labor force,
    wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime
    in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because
    they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.
    (See table A-16.)

    Among the marginally attached, there were 1.1 million discouraged
    workers in January, little different from a year earlier. (The data
    are not seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged workers are persons not
    currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available
    for them. The remaining 1.7 million persons marginally attached to the
    labor force in January had not searched for work in the 4 weeks
    preceding the survey for reasons such as school attendance or family
    responsibilities. (See table A-16.)

    Peter Reply:

    Unemployment rate numbers always undercount the actual number of unemployed. That’s pretty much universally known.

    VBobier Reply:

    How true, that is a fact, but on the other hand 8.3% is better then any higher amount…

    StevieB Reply:

    The important point is that the unemployment rate has been declining using the same methodology longitudinally.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    just like that TAXPAYER backed Airport in Denver that you suck money from Teacup

    Tony d. Reply:

    I like this!

    VBobier Reply:

    And November is about 9 months away, election week 2012 will be very interesting to say the least.

    Neville Snark Reply:

    Actually the response to this latest show of nay-saying suggests that the repugs have gone too far, shooting selves in le foot; see the comments:

    For the first time in while, the balance tips toward hsr. Maybe it’s getting to be true that, as one poster says, people will support whatever the repugs are against.

    VBobier Reply:

    What HSR needs is an online petition like the one against the National Komen Foundation & like the ones sent to Congress…

    VBobier Reply:

    this would be in favor of HSR, not against.

  3. morris brown
    Feb 2nd, 2012 at 23:13

    In a 72 page report titled:

    California High-Speed Rail Authority’s 2012 Draft Business Plan
    Assessment: Still Not Investment Grade – January 27, 2012

    the Authors Grindley, Enthoven, Warren et al have released a new report which to say to least is highly critical of the business plan and therefore the project.

    The report can be viewed at:

    joe Reply:

    The collation of NIMBYs who literally live near the tracks.

    How will property values be affected? Although no official property impact studies have been conducted, it is likely that the value of any residential property within sight or sound of HSR will be adversely affected. Depending on the width of the right-of-way in certain areas, some eminent domain takings will occur, for which there will be compensation, initiated by CHSRA. Other loss of property value will be considered in the EIR, but compensation for that loss may have to be pursued through the filing of an inverse condemnation lawsuit against CHSRA by and at the expense of the property owner.

    morris brown Reply:

    Just to be clear. does host the reports of this group on their website. The last I heard, none of the Authors are members of CC-HSR. I am not either for that matter.

    Reality Check Reply:

    But they’re all members of the really-rich-old-white-guys-who-just-happen-to-live-near-the-tracks club, aren’t they?

    synonymouse Reply:

    “all members of the really-rich-old-white-guys-who[would]-just-happen-to-live-near-the-tracks”

    Pretty good description of the Tejon Cartel, dontcha think?

    joe Reply:


    Except for the rich part – they are wannabees who live near/butt up against the tracks.

    Again, read their FAQ. How can anyone conclude they don’t by property next to the 150 year old ROW.

    joe Reply:

    One author lives 0.2 miles from the tracks.

    joe Reply:

    Another lives closer, on a narrow lane perpendicular to the ROW and El Camino Real.

    Responsible_Thought Reply:

    Is anyone planning a response to the stupid NIMBY diatribe? Or are the self-serving lies to be left on the record.

    Peter Reply:

    We’ve already pointed out the previous self-serving lies by these same NIMBYs. I can’t be bothered to read 70+ pages of lies. Others get paid to counter that kind of shit.

    Responsible_Thought Reply:

    Can you tell me where on the Internet I can find a set of specific responses to NIMBY papers?

    And when the responses have been made, are they in comments on a webpage like this or are they actually presented to the same place where the NIMBYists file theirs: i.e., with decision-makers?

    And who exactly is getting paid to counter the NIMBYists?

    Peter Reply:

    I believe some of Enthoven & Grindley’s papers have been debunked on this blog.

    No idea whether anyone has submitted said debunkings to decision-makers.

    Authority staff are paid to respond to crap like this. Also, if you go to the bottom of this thread, there was a post by morris brown about a debate between Grindley and someone from the Mineta Institute. I haven’t listened to it, no idea what they said.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They must be worried that the smell of diesel exhaust will be eliminated. It be just awful with out the particulates too.

    VBobier Reply:

    Oh yeah, their poor oil stocks will fall… How tragic, not.

    Nathanael Reply:

    And they’ll have more, better, and faster rail service. How horrifying.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    They like the smell of smoke in the morning? Why, there’s a good answer to that, and I would heartily approve of it–bring back steam engines!

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Of course, just the idea that it would be steam would be anathema to some people. It would have to be more “modern,” as in diesel. What they would need would be a diesel that acts a lot like a steam engine. The diesel best known for this would be an Alco. Alco’s PA passenger units were the most stylish, but are rather hard to come by. Perhaps a road-switcher would do, in this case an ex-Santa Fe RSD-15, a type nicknamed the “Alligator” for its long, low nose.

    Ex-ATSF 851, later Green Bay & Western 2407, being started for the first time in 15 years at the Illinois Railway Museum, Union, Ill.:

    On exhibit at “Diesel Days” at the Illinois Railway Museum:

    It still needs a bit of work, though:

    Walter Reply:

    I really don’t understand the FUD machine on the Peninsula. A 70+ page tirade on how bad the project is? Who the hell do they think is going to read that?

    morris brown Reply:


    You write “Who the hell do they think is going to read that?”

    Many of the legislature, especially their staff, LAO, State Auditor, Peer Review Group — many of the persons who ultimately affect the project.

    joe Reply:

    Well know we have an answer as to why HSR Critics have been consistently wrong about the facts – garbage in – garbage out.

    Nathanael Reply:

    You make a true point. It is, sadly, true that some people in government read ignorant rants by demented bullshitters and take them seriously.

    If this were not true, we would not have a Republican Party.

    Responsible_Thought Reply:

    Mr. Brown, yes, unfortunately, with substantial issues to address, our taxpayer-funded decision-makers will have to be temporarily distracted by the screeching nonsense. But that’s democracy, and that’s still a good thing, despite the costs to the taxpayer; for the same reason, I don’t think it’s fair when people attack crackpots who show up at City Council hearings to talk about contrails and UFOs. Gadflies and nuts keep the democracy machine going.

    Do tell us: do own property adjacent to the tracks?

    Peter Reply:

    His house is across a “lane” from the tracks, IIRC.

  4. Alon Levy
    Feb 3rd, 2012 at 00:08

    Armchair critic questions:

    1. Did those firms need to qualify to bid, or are those all the firms that have offered to bid?

    2. In Spain, how many bidders do they usually get per segment? I’m asking specifically about Spain, but any country that doesn’t do design-build and that has reasonable construction costs (e.g. not Germany) would work.

    3. Do those firms have black marks coming from multi-bidder contracts? For example, Skanska overcharges New York, but that’s because it’s the only bidder on many projects; it does not have leeway to do it in California.

    And one non-armchair complaint: why start in the north end of the ICS instead of in the south end, which gets closer to IOS-South?

    Andy M. Reply:

    “2. In Spain, how many bidders do they usually get per segment? I’m asking specifically about Spain, but any country that doesn’t do design-build and that has reasonable construction costs (e.g. not Germany) would work.”

    I’ve been following the development in Spain over the last 10 years or so and my observation is that new lines are subdivided into chunks of varying lengths, and the contracts for each chunk awarded individually. The limits of these sections often depend on the particular nature and challenges of that area. So maybe a bridge or a tunnel (even a short one) would be a contract all to itself, whereas longer sections requiring just earthworks can have mileages in double digits. So I guess that all bidders enter offers for each section individually and contracts are then awarded section by section. In terms of timing, contracts for difficult components such as tunnels and major bridges are awarded first so that work can start on these first so the whole line is more or less finished at the same time.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You (and Joe downthread) misunderstood my question. It’s not about subdividing a portion of the project into little segments, but about how many different companies bid on each contract.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    Well, the LA Expo project has not gone well. Don’t know why.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I haven’t heard of much in the way of problems with the LA Expo project.
    (1) NIMBYs caused an awful lot of trouble and delay and late change orders, particularly near one high school.
    (2) There was some serious trouble with the signalling contractor; signalling integration with the Blue Line was not working right and took a long time to fix.

    As far as I can tell, that was it; everything else went smoothly. This reflects badly on the signalling subcontractor for LA Expo, certainly, but the rest seems to have gone well.

    Peter Reply:

    “why start in the north end of the ICS instead of in the south end, which gets closer to IOS-South?”

    One reason is that they’re recirculating the Fresno-Bakersfield EIR, while they’re likely to certify the Merced-Fresno EIR within the next couple months.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    why start in the north end of the ICS instead of in the south end, which gets closer to IOS-South?

    For the same reason they started the ICS way out in the Valley, instead of near a metropolitan area.

    This was also how BART extension projects were built. BART-SFO began at Millbrae and worked north. That way, if “unexpected” cost overruns occur….

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Don’t forget the chance that the courts will rule that initial construction has to include electrification. That would probably give us only Merced to Fresno for the current federal grant dollars…

    Peter Reply:

    Eh, the likelihood that the suit filed by Kings County and local opponents will survive to the merits phase is VERY low.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    See the problem is that there could still be an injunction by an aggrieved party (remember the Prop 8 case with Imperial County) after the bonds are appropriated that would argue specific projects are not “usable segments”.

    The current lawsuits don’t have nearly the same force of law because there’s no injury in fact yet. The real legal fight becomes once the money is actually appropriated by the Legislature. BART and Metro have a deal…and I wouldn’t be surprised if every other jurisdiction in the state (except those who are cozy with BART and Metro) try to get on that injunction.

    Morris, of course, will assume that means that everyone else opposes the project, when the opposite is true. The jurisdictions threaten legal morass so that they get a better deal….

    Peter Reply:

    Semantically, your first statement is incorrect. There’s no such thing as “an injunction by an aggrieved party”. A court issues an injunction against one party at the behest of another party.

    Personally, I don’t believe that AB3034 requires electrification. I don’t see how California’s rules for statutory interpretation/construction will lead to electrification being a required part of a “usable segment”.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Yes I know you went to law school, Peter….

    I agree that there is a small window within AB 3034 to not electrify IF a very fast diesel train could use it instead. (I know it sounds illogical…)

    But the problem for the Authority is that such a technical distinction is a finding of fact and has to be done at the trial level. Which means appeals, and delays…and delays. Meanwhile if the money is impounded, not one is getting paid. So eventually, the grants will be reworked and in case, same result happens….

    Peter Reply:

    Whether a fast diesel would qualify would be an issue of fact, indeed.

    However, the underlying issue of whether electrification is required or not is an issue of statutory interpretation/construction, which is an issue of law. That can be disposed of without a trial. If AB3034 does not require a ‘usable segment’ to include electrification, end of case.

    I know why you (and people opposing the project) believe that electrification is a prerequisite, and I, after having read the statute, respectfully disagree.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    Are we gving up on this being a good-for-the-environment project?

    Peter Reply:

    What? No, the discussion is about whether electrification of the ICS is a prerequisite for releasing bond funds. Electrification would be a prerequisite for running high speed trains.

    VBobier Reply:

    @ Arthur Dent: I doubt those for the project are giving up on the “good-for-the-environment”, rather the rail only has to be usable, not wired. Copper is expensive to replace If stolen while not energized & that would take people to guard 24/7 while not energized, conversely when energized, any thieves that try & steal said copper will be fried beyond a crisp & I’d think AB3034 doesn’t mention more than usable for a couple of reasons, theft & vandalism. I was in Security for over 10 Years, so I should know this would be very vulnerable to theft & vandalism without electricity and that would be expensive to guard 24/7… But then who’d pay for guards to guard unenergized & complete HSR tracks? And more importantly where would the money for this come from? Steel rails are not only super heavy, but not worth bothering with, as todays rails are welded together & are known as ribbon rail for a reason. I agree with others who are more learned like Peter about weak cases by Nimbys & other HSR opponents(sore losers who need to get a life).

    joe Reply:


    Seat of the pants guess.

    I assume any award will be challenged in court if the stakes are high enough. So my guess is the CAHSA keeps the stakes low and options open. They’ll try to maintain maximum flexibility and award bids for immediate work and, if possible, select more than one team.

    “Do those firms have black marks coming from multi-bidder contracts?”

    I doubt black marks are allowed but a claim for fantastical cost efficiency in the absence of evidence or presence of counter evidence (cost overruns elsewhere) should factor into a decision.

    I also hope experience in CA isn’t heavily weighted. I would prefer to not penalize a team for lack of experience in CA if they performed well elsewhere. The benefit of adding competition outweighs the risks.

    Emma Reply:

    I rather have a fully experienced foreign state-owned contractor than those hopeless, wasteful American newbies that could easily cause the construction cost to skyrocket or delay. And all because we want Americans to do the job.

    We are at a point where we have to decide between our utopia of a HSR line that is 100% made in California but costs $100 billion or a system that makes sense and costs less than $50 billion.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    You got a waiver to spend those Federal dollars on a foreign contractor?

    Emma Reply:

    Well, that would be the same waiver that allows multinationals to join the bidding. What’s the difference between California Backbone Builders and Ferrovial Agroman and Acciona? It’s the same Spanish companies but they are hiding behind brands that sound “American” (USA, USA, USA!). That’s how they fool Congress and they still don’t get it.

    joe Reply:


    Alon Levy Reply:

    Skanska is Swedish.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They have the skills to bilk Americans down pat. They get sued by New York City and New York State fairly regularly.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    And yet they’re still awarded contracts.

    (Mind you, we’re talking about a company that stars in a subplot in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Next, in which it offshores production to factories in Vietnam with child labor but still jacks up the prices to Swedish customers.)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    See my reply to Andy M. above. I’m not asking about the size of each contract, but about how many companies bid on each contract.

    Emma Reply:

    Construction costs in Germany are still more reasonable than here so I really don’t know what makes you think that.

    Sobering Reality Reply:


    Looks like design build teams to me.

  5. Paulus Magnus
    Feb 3rd, 2012 at 07:29

    Wasn’t the final business plan due out on the first?

    Peter Reply:

    I’m guessing they’ll be recirculating a new draft to take Brown’s “suggestions” into account.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Last I heard PB was having difficulty with some of them. Something about how they aren’t sure how to make this design Brown found for rolling stock work:

    Peter Reply:


  6. Tom McNamara
    Feb 3rd, 2012 at 08:21

    I’ll be shocked if Flatiron isn’t the winner. Current leadership doesn’t want the sort of imperialist arrangement Cintra planned for the TransTexas Corridor.

    Metro sued Tutor-Perini over the Red Line so I think they are blacklisted.

    Flour ditched California probably also puts them in a hole.

    Granite probably also has a very good chance, they just don’t have rail experience.

    Gut tells me we are going to end up with PB pulling Granite and Shimmick together into some sort of mega-sortium before this is all said and done.

    William Reply:

    The companies that make up California High-Speed Ventures have built many highway projects through out the bay area. For design, they have partnered up with HNTB, so no need for PB.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    The irony is that I think PB is unshakable from the project because:

    They were the master planner for Taiwan High Speed Rail. That’s an important distinction because the Taiwanese modified Shinkasen technology to hold heavier trains. When you consider that regular ol’ Shinkansens are not FRA compliant, that makes the weight issue (and the seismic one) loom a little larger.

    In other words, you can get foreign firms to design the rights of way, but once they realize how heavy the trains are going to be…look out.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Hmm, according to my calculations, the Taiwan “shinkansen” (700T) is actually lighter than a similar Japanese shinkansen (N700) on a per-car or per-meter basis: 503t for 12 cars (304m total) versus 715t for 16 cars (404m total)…

    Anyway, it seems inconceivable that they’ll build CAHSR without an FRA waiver to at least european standards (which is apparently what the 700T is built to).

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I thought the 700T was built to Japanese standards, but the tracks are European.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    In other words, you can get foreign firms to design the rights of way, but once they realize how heavy the trains are going to be…look out.

    Damn straight!

    Unique American Conditions!

    Stupid ignorant foreign civil engineers: they probably don’t even calculate in slugs and furlongs.

    Jim in scruz Reply:

    Granite did the Reno bypass and trench. They also seem to be pretty popular in the central coast (SF to SB). I’m trying to remember the last time I heard of them catching grief about a project.

  7. Gianny
    Feb 3rd, 2012 at 10:10

    Where are the Chinese, Japanese, Korean, French and German builders?

    Peter Reply:

    Probably waiting for the bigger contracts.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    More like, willing to sacrifice the little stuff to Talgo/Amtrak in exchange for getting a larger scale bid.

    Emma Reply:

    Exactly my question. From what I see they are all going to be expensive and CHSRA didn’t even bother to look for more affordable alternatives. No surprise here, honestly.

    If they even dare think about picking Tutor Perini, Zachry, Parsons, I’ll turn anti-HSR for good.

    synonymouse Reply:

    It all depends on who funnels the most money under the table to the Pelosi patronage machine.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    That’s where all your problems start — Political machines don’t run on money, they run on patronage. Loyalty is more important than dollars.

    synonymouse Reply:

    You make a good point and one that I recognized after the posting. I should have added “and other consideration” after money.

    On the other hand, as pointed out by the Tony Spilatro-Joe Pesci character in “Casino”: “With the Bosses it’s always about the money.”

    Emma Reply:

    Very good point. That’s why we created the Authority to ensure that it doesn’t drown in lobbying and unions sucking billions out of the project for “benefits” rather than actual construction and maintenance.
    Too bad the Authority is too stupid to get anything done. Maybe we should pay the manager more so that we will attract leaders that actually kick butt instead of making one stupid decision after another. What about that crazy guy? Trump.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    The Authority was created on the farcical premise that bypassing institutional memory and comity will provide results that make the unions and lobbyists obsolete.

    You know, “blow up the boxes”.

    People don’t seem to understand– Schwarzenegger actually thought that government was restricting the normal flow of behavior… Brown realizes you can’t replace a process with nothing… in politics, economics (and physics) something always fills the vacuum.

    LA Metro always creates separate construction authorities for their rail projects. And when these things go way over budget or have technical issues, the construction authority doesn’t take all the grief. So the fact that we are event discussing the Authority as if it were some non-state actor is already a mistake.

    The authority was always understaffed because Arnold always thought he was one move away from signing some major trade deal to bring “jawbs, jawbs, jawbs”.

    Love him or hate him, Brown has all the players in the room talking to each other. (OCTA and Sandag, of course, are defiant in protest…) That’s something Arnie’s smoking tent could never do….

    Emma Reply:

    I like Brown’s enthusiasm but I think he’s fighting for HSR because it is HSR, not because it is a good plan. The current plan is a horrible plan which won’t get us HSR.

    Back to the Singaporean model. In Singapore, political leaders get wages that rival those of CEOs. It had a very interesting result on the efficiency of the government. Now since those leaders hold office for the country AND their own interest, they propose far more cost-effective programs. On top of that, the high wages made lobbying and corruption (whatever the difference is) nearly impossible.

    Jonathan Reply:


    the current plan is a plan which might get us HSR. What you seem to advocate is a plan which lavishes money on the ends, first. Now _that_ is a plan which is guaranteed to not spend a single dollar on actual HSR.

    Donk Reply:

    Just FYI, LA Metro does not always create a separate construction authority for their rail projects. LA Metro always opposes the creation of construction authorities. They are created by local politicians who want to speed up a particular project. This was the case with the Pasadena Gold Line and the Expo Line. The ELA Gold Line did not have a construction authority. I don’t think the Crenshaw Line does either.

    Interestingly, the ELA Gold Line and the Orange Line Conoga BRT line were both built directly by Metro, and they were built far more efficiently than the Expo Line and Pasadena Gold Line.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I suspect that lines entirely within the City of LA are easier to get built without a separate Construction Authority. Somebody should check, but do Construction Authorities get powers which Metro does not have, which avoid complex intermunicipal agreements?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Since the Citizens United decision they don’t have to funnel it under the table, they can do it right out in the open.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    …SYN…Do you actully live here in San Francisco ??you must be one misareble lonley thing with your opinion…kinda like the 20 repubs that live in this great city

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ Emma

    Parsons is a distinct possibility, albeit obvious and cozy.

    You can expect anything from directors who are oblivious to a 40 mile dogleg. And suffering from similar gradient and tunnels.

    Emma Reply:

    I’m expecting the worst as always. So I guess they will pick Parsons.

    William Reply:

    I don’t think it is realistic to think any foreign construction company would win, or even bid for the project, unless it had already established itself and had actually finished some major projects in the US.

    However, foreign design companies can and should join the bidding teams to bring in their HSR design experiences.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    ^ This. This will involve spending Federal Dollars.

    joe Reply:

    Dear subject matter expert;

    BART FAQ sez:

    Q: I thought the BART budget was tight; where will BART get the money for new cars?
    A: The new cars will not impact BART’s operating budget for the foreseeable future. Funding through 2018 for the first 200 cars will come largely from the federal government. This federal money is restricted for use on capital projects only and cannot be used to pay for daily operating expenses such as regular maintenance or fares. BART and other regional agencies are working to secure funds to cover the remaining 500 cars needed to fully replace the fleet, as well as up to 300 additional cars to accommodate ridership growth and provide more seating. It is essential to obtain this capital funding to avoid having to buy cars with operating funds in the future.


    As you may know, BART is getting set to lay out an enormous amount of cash on a new fleet of 775 rail cars, and the price tag keeps going up. Matier & Ross prick up their ears today at hearing that not only will the new cars cost something like $5 million apiece, but all that money will be spent in foreign countries. Of the five companies that bid for the work, none of them are located in the U.S., and the three finalists are in South Korea, France, and Canada.

    Gag Halfrunt Reply:

    On the contrary, using Federal funds does impose local content requirements and does mean that not all the $5 million per car will be going abroad. “Buy America” requirements also increase costs.

    From the Chronicle column that SFist linked to but didn’t quote:

    And although bidders are required to use at least 60 percent U.S. materials and parts, federal law prohibits BART from specifying where in the country the final assembly work will be done. So it can’t demand that the cars be put together in the Bay Area, or even in California.

    That means BART staffers will first be traveling to Canada, France or South Korea to oversee the work, then possibly to the East Coast, where each of the three finalists has an assembly plant.

  8. Emma
    Feb 3rd, 2012 at 10:11

    Simple: The one that can do the job the fastest at the lowest cost.

    VBobier Reply:

    Picking the lowest doesn’t always guarantee that the bid will always be the lowest, cause sometimes the real lowest bid is really one notch up from the bottom.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Yep. Lowballing bids and then “doing it wrong” to compensate is very common. A good board has to disqualify bids which are clearly implausible.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Ask Denver airport about lowest bid and poor pavement construction:

    Emma Reply:

    That’s just an example of how to pick the cheapest contractor without using your brains which happens all too often in politics.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    You worked on it toll…SO much for Realll AAAAmerican values teacup.

    BMF from San Diego Reply:

    History of providing safe and reliable infrastructure should be a criteria!

    Nathanael Reply:

    That should probably be the top criterion. As I said above, it’s actually hard to assess because every one of these companies has been involved in many consortia, some of which did good work, some of which did bad work, and figuring out what part of the credit/blame attaches to each company seems rather complicated

    Though, seriously, anyone want to do the analysis in detail? Please do!

  9. Reality Check
    Feb 3rd, 2012 at 12:39

    Thomas Sowell, senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution:
    California’s high-speed rail example of getting nowhere fast

    Spain is about the same size as California and has a similar population density — and population density is the key to the economic viability of mass transportation, from subways to high-speed rail.
    Spain’s high-speed rail system is not even covering its operating costs, never mind the enormous costs of setting up the system in the first place. One reason is that half the seats are empty in the high-speed trains of Spain.
    An economics professor at the University of Barcelona says that Spain “has not recovered one single euro from the infrastructure investment.”
    The only reason for even thinking about building a high-speed rail line between Fresno and Bakersfield is just to get the project underway with federal money, making it politically more difficult to stop the larger project for a similar rail line between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

    In other words, they are going to start wasting money out in the valley, so that they will be able to waste more money later on, along the coast. This may not make any sense economically, but it can make sense politically for Brown and Obama.

    Reality Check Reply:

    So, Robert, are there no web pages or links or FAQs that definitively and convincingly settle whether or not Spain (and other) HSR lines and systems around the world are covering their operating costs? It’d be a good thing for this blog (and others) to link to if there are.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:


    I do need to update it though, AVE didn’t appear to make money in 2011 and Freya is, by all accounts, losing money hand over fist.

    joe Reply:

    And we have American Airlines going bankrupt. Thank god they can eliminate pensions, move maintenance overseas and cut wages. Profit is coming.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    You realize, yes, that the Hoover Institute marches lock step with other conservative/libertarian think tanks?

    Sowell’s not exactly what I would call an “expert” on this topic…other than he probably lives near the tracks….

    nslander Reply:

    One of Sowell’s many inspired pieces:

    synonymouse Reply:

    This is a very curious article in that it attacks environmentalists as “green fanatics” who would oppose hsr in the bookends. Of course these “environmentalists” dovetail very well with the “NIMBY’s” of PAMPA and elsewhere so reviled the the CHSRA foamers. There’s some sophistry there.

    Everything about the CHSRA is politically determined, which is why it will prove extremely difficult if not impossible for Brown and Richard to cut costs from the scheme. Van Ark and PB had correctly recognized that returning to Tejon would be highly beneficial both in terms of costs and schedules. Overruled politically by LA and the sanctified Tejon Ranch.

    Same situation on the Peninsula where you know great savings could be achieved with Ring the Bay, altho inferior from every other point of view. So you have Richard, with exquisite ties to BART, MTC and PB, coming up against presumably Feinstein weighing in for SF and the TBT and Simitian, Hill, etc. weighing in for Caltrain and/or the “blend”. Richard has Kopp, Heminger and Diridon on his side. This could get very ugly.

    Point being, genuine “savings” are going to be very hard to come by. Gawd, I wish someone would wake up Moonbeam and make him read the Quantm study.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Point being, genuine “savings” are going to be very hard to come by

    Hey, something on which I can agree with Mr Mouse without any reservations!

    The blindingly obvious fixes (well, undoes of cretinism) that would save tens of billions are completely off the table. Ignore that man behind the curtain, because, whao, LOOK OVER HERE, we value engineered 17¢ savings in Visalia by using a cheaper shade of concrete dye!

    Jonathan Reply:

    In reality, there are no savings from Ring-the-Bay with BART. None at all.

    To make it appear as if there are savings from Ring-the-Bay, you have to first propose spending $1.9bn on tunnels and construction, solely in order to keep a badly-designed $0.1bn station exactly _as-is_. (Thanks to Clem for spelling this out). Or the $bn for miles of viaduct into Diridon Intergalactic, also for the sole reason of not having to bang agency heads together to agree on a global (trans-agency) optimization of the rail corridor.

    That’s insane. And Brown is smart enough to see that, and not play ball with it. The only reason to doubt that is that Brown put Dan Richard in charge of CHSRA.

    Clem Reply:

    You seem to have assumed that reality matters.

    egk Reply:

    “Spain is about the same size as California and has a similar population density…”

    Except that California’s economy a third larger than Spain’s, California’s population growing much faster than Spain’s and Californians travel about twice as much as the Spanish.

    You know what is really an important indicator of travel infrastructure needs?
    Travel demand and travel demand growth.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Does Spain have a Bell?

    Peter Reply:


    joe Reply:

    Hoover Institute! Home of Rumsfailed, Condi Rice and a host of wing nut welfare pundits.

    Stanford Newspaper not only supports HSR but wants the station in Palo Alto. Stanford sees benefit to the local economy, jobs and affordable transportation.

    morris brown Reply:


    The Stanford Newspaper is a student publication and certainly does not reflect the position of the university. The station would be mostly on Stanford land and Stanford certainly does not endorse the project or the station. Get your fact right please.

    joe Reply:

    Dear Morris;

    Stanford supports rail so enthusiastically they give out free rail passes to their employees!! They support HSR and Caltrain and other alternative transportation not just because allows them to grow and pass EIR without having to pay, say 3.5 M in blackmail money to cash strapped Menlo Park for “Traffic Mitigation”

    Stanford also finds rail brings in talented staff who sadly cannot afford 1M 1,100 sq ft bungalows.

    The silly notion that University is scared about some property infringement is fantastical. There is no greater infringement than the local cities refusing to allow them to expand their campus.

    HSR and improved Caltrain would easily let Stanford expand without adding parking and make commuting into and out of the University easier – new grade crossings.

    If you ever paid attention, you’d know major employers along the Caltrain WANT rail and support HSR.

    Whatever made you think business cared about your NIMBY values.

    StevieB Reply:

    Stanford has no official view of support or opposition to high speed rail. The university opposes a high speed rail station in Palo Alto because they feel it would increase automobile traffic although they acknowledge the economic and travel benefits of a station.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Do you have a link saying that Stanford opposes an HSR station in PA? Because, even with the garage mahal structures planned, it would be a net benefit to Stanford transit users (e.g. students).

    StevieB Reply:

    Stanford resists local high-speed-rail station.

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    Stanford’s actual statement is a letter at the end of this document:
    This is over a year old, so things may have changed. I haven’t heard anything more recent.

  10. Mark
    Feb 3rd, 2012 at 13:24

    Anybody but Tutor. Their track record on large infrastructure projects is sketchy and we don’t need change orders after change orders that bilk the taxpayer of tens of millions of dollars at a time.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Mmmmm … change orders …. arrrrrccccccghh …. drool …….

    Nathanael Reply:

    OK, so Parsons also has an exceptionally bad record, notable even to me. Tutor and Parsons together? Seems like a dreadful combination.

    I’ll agree with this: Tutor/Parsons looks like the worst choice.

  11. Emma
    Feb 3rd, 2012 at 14:31

    To me, this isn’t even a debate because we shouldn’t start with the Central Valley in the first place. If will actually save us billions if drop the federal funding and start from scratch with a HSR plan that has the endpoints and efficiency in mind. Not this fantasy HSR that is 90% above or below grade as if we could afford it.

    And HELL NO to Parsons.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Repeat: it’s a different “Parsons” from PB. One that is boundlessly incompetent, with a long record of technical failure (Caltrain downtown extension Transbay rail “design” being right front and centre to show you the skills of this examplar of America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionalism), but a different record of failure from PBQD’s.

    HELL NO to both of those rent-seeking negative-value incompetents, but perhaps not for the precise reason you believe. (They’re in the same equivalence class of professionalism, but that doesn’t make them identical, revolving doors, cartels, lobbying against free markets, and “fraternal collegiality” aside.)

    Nathanael Reply:

    This Parsons has a much worse record than PB. PB *has* been involved in projects which went well (given sufficient oversight).

    This Parsons — well, I’m having trouble finding a single project they’ve worked on which went well! That’s quite exceptional.

  12. Emma
    Feb 3rd, 2012 at 16:10

    Here is what we should do. Since the Business Plan intends to ask Californians for more funds anyway, why don’t we put this decision back to the ballot. It’s a presidential election year so the voter turnout should be fairly high (for American standards). Ask for another $10 billion and this time ask whether it should go to the endpoints or be pumped into the Central Valley in hope something happens.

    Emma Reply:

    From the little information I got, Flatiron seems like a good fit for the endpoints. Living in San Diego, I use the Mission Valley Light Rail or as we call it: Green Line.

    They also built the 22 mi. North County Transit District (NCTD) Sprinter for $222 million by converting an existing freight line to commuter line.

    Again, it seems to be the kind of contractor I had in mind when it comes to re-designing LOSSAN into an HSR corridor. Even speeds at “only” 120 mph would result in a corridor that is able to compete with the airlines and cars. I don’t know why some HSR supporters reject this idea claiming it would turn the project into a Rapid Transit Commuter Rail. Since when is LA-SD commuter rail?
    Even if we started planning now, the section would be ready by the end of the decade and provide additional revenue as opposed to Central Valley which will be useless for two decades.

    VBobier Reply:

    Put the money up then, Miss Moneybags…

  13. morris brown
    Feb 4th, 2012 at 05:30

    For those who are willing to see the truth about the Moonbeam Express (aka The Train to NoWhere)

    subtitled Separating Myth from Reality.

    Peter Reply:

    morris, when I randomly read a single page and find a lie, that can hardly be the “truth”.

    Page 3 claims that high speed rail systems all over the world are heavily subsidized. That’s bullshit. Rail systems in general are subsidized, but HSR services within those systems make a profit, and are often used to subsidize slower services. The graph used is even titled “Annual Public Subsidies for Rail Systems”, not “Annual Public Subsidies for High Speed Rail Systems”. Bullshit.

    Peter Reply:

    Well, maybe it wasn’t intended to be a factual statement.

    Responsible_Thought Reply:

    They don’t care about lying. All they care about is keeping the tracks out of their neighborhood.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The tracks are in their neighborhood and were there before their neighborhood was there.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Ah, prepared by the Assembly Republican Caucus. Yes, fair and balanced.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Morris, I’ve asked you before, and I’m going to ask you again–what is your alternative? What do you propose as a way to handle future traffic? What do you propose as a way to reduce traffic fatalities? What do you propose as a way to deal with the oil problem, which I regard as a serious national defense issue?

    And speaking of the oil problem, what is your position on local and regional transit, such as an electrified Caltrain, light rail, etc.? I mention this because I’ve seen exactly those same arguments and others used against local bus service, light rail lines, and Amtrak service.

    I was also raised to respect others–and was told that if I had a criticism, I shouldn’t just criticize, but have an alternative to offer. My mother taught me that, as did my instructors in school. I was told that to not offer or have an alternative was to be like a cry-baby, or a spoiled brat, who made a fuss if he or she didn’t get what they wanted. Now, you don’t want me to call you on that, do you?

    Really, I want to know what you think about these other issues. I’m really hoping there might be something interesting there, even if it’s a link of some sort!

    Tony d. Reply:

    Folks like Morris and Syno don’t have an alternative; they want nothing! No rail, whether high-speed or conventional. All they care about are there selfish needs: high property values and the ability to take midday naps with no noise. Thankfully in the end their opinions won’t matter. Some of us may disagree on how HSR eventually gets implemented (whether it’s building the ICS or at the “bookend” urban areas), but one thing is certain: DOING NOTHING IS NOT AN OPTION!

    synonymouse Reply:

    On the contrary I want to build hsr, just not Stilt-A-Rail.

    Tejon – I-5 – Altamont – Dumbarton to SFO. Hold Ring the Bay – electrify Caltrain to the TBT instead.

    The TEhachapi dogleg is sheer idiocy, but of course that’s exactly why it will go thru. It is the contemporary iteration of BART Indian broad gauge. Fiascos are a way California celebrates how rich it is.

    Tony d. Reply:

    Any Altamont HSR alignment will go from CV to SJ, not over (or under) the Dumbarton, thus avoiding your precious PAMPA. Caltrain would still need to be upgraded from SJ to SF. sorry.

    Clem Reply:

    I don’t see the logic there. Dumbarton is the perfect place to build a new rail crossing… Either a bridge next to the highway bridge, or a tunnel next to the water tunnel. No geotechnical surprises. All options avoid the rich parts of PAMPA.

    Tony d. Reply:

    Well, if an initial Dumbarton bridge or tunnel line can be implemented WITHOUT sacrificing a direct line to Diridon/SJ, then I’m down. But Caltrain would still need to be upgraded from SJ to SF. How would precious PAMPA deal with that?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    San José, Capital of Silicon Valley, has already done the sacrifice.

    synonymouse Reply:

    In the past Clem has made an eloquent argument in favor of hsr all the way to the TBT. I can certainly see the advantages provided you can deal with the apparent operating limitations of the station design.

    IMHO the best argument in favor of direct hsr to San Jose using Altamont is enabling really fast service from SJ to Sac.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Ferociously expensive and doesn’t avoid all the NIMBY parts of PAMPA.

    The bridge is impossible now. You couldn’t even build the highway bridge today.

    As long as you’re building a tunnel, fergodssake just build the Second Transbay Tube.

    Clem Reply:

    Do you even know PAMPA geography? The Dumbarton spur goes through poorer neighborhoods of East Palo Alto and Menlo Park, and avoids all the affluent parts of PAMPA by a wide margin. NIMBY, perhaps, but they lack the deep pockets of their cross town neighbors.

    A tunnel would be fine. The Bay is very shallow. There is one being bored right now, 15 feet in diameter, $300 million for 5 miles. The TBM is going as I type this. By the time it’s done next year, any geotechnical risk will have been retired. Build another, 25 ft x 2 bores. Compared to $100 billion it’s a drop in the bucket.

    synonymouse Reply:

    A tunnel would not need to be painted.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Except for Burlingame, @syn, you forgot Burlingame, who are also very affluent, if not quite as affluent as Atherton.

    Neville Snark Reply:

    The question ask Syno/Morris is whether they’d go with more or less the present plan if was either that or nothing. I Syno would grudgingly (very) take it but not without fighting tooth and nail for his proposed adjustments. I don’t know about Morris.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Definitely nothing – BART would have been better off turned down the first time and done later right.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “Definitely nothing – BART would have been better off turned down the first time and done later right.”

    That’s fine if you think, or better still, know you’ll have a second chance. I haven’t seen that in my experience. I got turned down on the light rail project I tried to promote, along with some other things, and at this stage, it looks like forever. Indeed, on a couple of other heritage rail projects I was involved in, it positively is forever (tracks torn up, bridges dismantled, at least one tunnel sealed, the rest hiking trails).

    Forever is a long time.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Unfortunately 5’6″ is(relatively)forever. A couple of years delayed and SP & Bechtel would likely have lost the urgency to sabotage BART.

    Similarly San Francisco would have gotten along just fine without the Embarcadero Freeway. Ditto for Urban Removal in the Western Addition.

    Stopping the misguided is in reality a positive action not negative. The Tehachapi-Tejon scandal is appalling – it is apparent Jerry Brown is not aware of it, has not been apprized of its significance or has been totally hoodwinked. All you have to do is look at a blinking map. Major order of savings in construction, operating, and maintenance costs and a faster schedule. If Brown has not seen fit to examine this key decision carefully and intelligently there is no hope the new leadership at CHSRA is any better than the old. I mean even PB understands Tejon is better.

    Nathanael Reply:

    BART could be converted to standard gauge. Done right it would take less than six months of rolling shutdowns.

    The loading gauge is more permanent, however.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I like it. HSR on BART tracks in Livermore.

    Tony d. Reply:

    What is it with you and BART anyway? Are 300,000+ daily riders really that wrong?

    synonymouse Reply:

    BART’s success is not due to the superiority of its design but to the robust nature of electric railway technology and the fortune in civil engineering spent on it.

    Paint the blinking ugly gray cars or shrinkwrap them. Distribute free ear plugs. Grind the rails; add some resiliency to the trucks. Do something; do anything.

    J. Wong Reply:

    “see the truth” yes, if you’re willing to overlook the untruths, some glaring and some hidden. For example, “voters lied to (court ruling)” even you @morris have to admit that is a blatant lie.

    Ah, it’s the Republicans and Diane Harkey so we know how much truth we can get out of them.

  14. Paul Dyson
    Feb 4th, 2012 at 11:55

    We should probably bring back the crew that built Stonehenge for the ICS. It has similar value. It will keep future archaeologists busy wondering about the significance of the alignment (religious, astrological, sacrificial etc). Ah, a landing strip for UFOs!

    Peter Reply:

    I thought that was the purpose of the Transbay Terminal, with the trainbox actually to be used to store the fuel for the UFOs?

    synonymouse Reply:

    No, the TBT basement will be used to store the raw aluminum beercan cars BART will be deploying on its broad-gauge March out Geary to the Sea.

    After “shake and bake” scavengers are done with Borden to Corcoran I dunno how much will remain for future archeologists to examine.

  15. jimsf
    Feb 4th, 2012 at 13:30

    Is there any information on where the construction will begin… at the north end of the ics, the south end of the ics, or at several locations at once? Or will that depend on the contractor chosen?

    Peter Reply:

    Through Fresno.

    datacruncher Reply:

    Based on the RFQ these companies responded to and the preference of the hybrid route thru Madera County, this contract is planned to cover construction roughly from Avenue 17 on the north edge of Madera to American Ave south of Fresno. We’ll have to wait for the RFP to see what they will actually be asked to bid on.

    But supposedly some separate small contracts are to go out to bid for initial work in Fresno this year.

  16. J. Wong
    Feb 4th, 2012 at 14:03


    Should It Take Decades to Build a Subway?” The problems with transportation projects in the U.S.

    And for the tin-foil brigades, the Tea-Party is against all green transportation projects because they believe it’s a conspiracy for a “One World Order” by the U.N.: Activists Fight Green Projects Seeing U.N. Plot

    VBobier Reply:

    On subways, It depends on how deep they are at, deep enough & TBM’s are required, & they aren’t exactly fast, cut & cover is faster, but highly disruptive to those built up areas that they would go through & they are pretty shallow in depth below ground.

    That all started with Woodrow Wilson and is mentioned in the One World Order(Politics – Wiki).

    Nathanael Reply:

    Tea Partiers haven’t figured out that they’re pawns of the bankers and the military-industrial complex yet, I see.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I agree

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I’ve seen something like this first-hand. Heard some old guy, with a honking big pickup, say he would never buy anything like a hybrid or an electric car–nothing electric at all, because it was socialist, or government involvement or something, never did hear that part. . .

    I have to say I don’t get it. It’s just a different powerplant for the vehicle, and one you can, in some cases, plug right into the wall outlet in the garage.

    I wonder if the John Birchers aren’t right about fluoridation of water (and other things in food and water) having adverse impacts over time. Ironically, it seems the John Bircher types are the ones most affected, i.e., the most crazy!

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There’s a theory floating around that the drop in crime we’ve seen over the past decade or so is because we aren’t pumping lead into the atmosphere – from leaded gasoline.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I’ve read about lead in the brain leading to problems with violence. That includes historical references to the civilization of Rome, which had the highly advanced technology of plumbing–with lead pipes.

    Supposedly, before lead was outlawed in gasoline, a location near a busy intersection in a city could have an atmospheric lead count approaching that of a location near a smelter. If that was true–whew!

    By any chance, do you have a link to this theory of the decline in crime today, courtesy of less lead in the air from cars?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Not an authoritative one. There’s some links in this though, I didn’t follow them.

  17. morris brown
    Feb 4th, 2012 at 15:29

    Yesterday (Feb 3, 2012), on KGO radio was a debate on HSR between William Grindley and Stanley Feinsok (Mineta Institute.)

    Here is a link to the debate (34 minutes) on YouTube:

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