Central Valley Segment Construction Timeline Extended

Nov 15th, 2012 | Posted by

According to Ralph Vartabedian at the LA Times, construction on the Central Valley segment of the high speed rail system is being pushed out by a year to December 2017:

The California High-Speed Rail Authority said Thursday that it was adding 12 months to the construction schedule for 130 miles of track in the Central Valley, easing what some outside experts have contended was an overly aggressive and risky timeline.

Jeff Morales, chief executive of the authority, said the revised schedule would have the track completed by December 2017 rather than a year earlier as set under the agency’s contracting documents. The new timetable will allow contractors to use less overtime and other practices that were expected under the accelerated plan in place earlier, Morales said.

“We are going to get lower bids, save some money and still meet all of our deadlines,” he said. “It is a good business move.”…

The aggressive schedule had been adopted to protect federal grants under the Obama administration’s stimulus program, which required all the funds to be spent by Sept. 30, 2017. Morales said the agency will still meet that deadline by spending the federal stimulus money first and then completing the later work with state funds and other federal appropriations without the deadline.

This makes sense to me. If extending the timeline by a few months means the project can be bid and built for a lower price while still meeting the federal stimulus deadline, then it’s worth doing. Critics will likely charge this is some sort of sign of weakness with the project, but in fact it’s no such thing. As construction approaches, the timeline and the costs are finalized.

What matters most is that Californians get good high speed rail infrastructure in a timely fashion within the proposed budget. We still have every reason to believe that’s what will happen.

  1. JJJ
    Nov 15th, 2012 at 23:00

    My money is on 2019.

    Emma Reply:

    Wasn’t the original plan to have the SF-LA segment up and running by that time? I knew it was too good to be true.

  2. Joey
    Nov 15th, 2012 at 23:21

    It’s not like getting the CV segment done quickly will provide any real benefit anyway. At least not until other segments are well under construction.

  3. morris brown
    Nov 16th, 2012 at 05:21

    The use of ARRA funding for the project has a deadline of Sept 30, 2017, at which time all ARRA funds have to be expended. If not expended they disappear.

    Morales is now claiming he has a new agreement whereby the Fed Funds can be spent first and the State funds at the end.

    This is in total conflict with what at least was, apparently a legal constraint, as expressed in a letter to vanArk dated May 25, 2011, which reads:

    “On the matter of using federal funds up front to postpone use of the State’s matching
    funds, we hope you will understand why this is not feasible. Both the fiscal year 2010
    appropriations law and the FRA grant commitments require matching funds as a
    prerequisite for this project to go forward. California was awarded funding based in part
    on the impressive state match promised in the grant applications. Withholding these
    matching funds would put the California’s high-speed rail project in serious jeopardy.”

    morris brown Reply:

    Just to be clear, the letter I quote from above, was from the FRA to vanArk and signed by

    Roy Kienitz, Under Secretary for Policy, US D.O.T.


    joe Reply:

    I’m sorry. The May 2011 date – it’s prior to the allocation of Prop 1A funds. The latter refers to trying to proceed WITHOUT the State approving the funds for CAHSRA.

    The Matching funds are there! The state did allocated the funding this past summer. You are confusing the availability of matching funds with how CAHSRA bills their spending.

    They have the prop 1A money in-hand and choose to bill Federal with higher priority to assure the costing occurs on time. Perfectly legal and quite common practice with fed grants at universities.

    StevieB Reply:

    Authority Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Morales has worked out a deal with the Federal Railroad Administration. The deal should save millions which blunts high cost criticism from HSR opponents.

    By avoiding the need to require overtime and weekend pay, Morales said the authority believes it can shave as much as $150 million off the cost of the project.

    Peter Reply:

    AKA “our lawyers changed their minds.”

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Yes – I would say that the contracts have had an incredible ability to morph to the facts on the ground.

    Mattie F. Reply:

    Do you have a link to the full letter? I imagine there could be a lot of devil in the details. Your quote specifically used the phrase “Withholding these matching funds”, which, lacking context, I would assume means “if you can’t get Prop 1A funds released”.

  4. Donk
    Nov 16th, 2012 at 07:47

    This is great, but they can just as easily save $150M by taking one viaduct away.

    StevieB Reply:

    Which $150 million viaduct do you suggest be removed?

    synonymouse Reply:

    all of them.

    Derek Reply:

    Tunnels it is then.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I get the impression PB does not care that much for tunnels. It might bring in foreigners and PB does not get along very well with their backtalking ways.

    But Tutor-Saliba can pour hollow-core ok – for a price.

    StevieB Reply:

    The grade separation option available without expensive viaducts and tunnels is closing roads. Less convenient for traffic but the least expensive option. I do not think the locals will be pleased with your choice.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    On the contrary. With the latest revelations about environmental issues in the Soledad Canyon, the Tehachapi route is now full of tunnels, with the same total tunnel length as Tejon.

    Similarly, Pacheco is now tunnel-heavier than it was supposed to be.

    VBobier Reply:

    Or their afraid that tunnels would keep the Synonymouses away and out of sight…

    Jonathan Reply:

    It’s all an Evil PB Plot, to stop the Class 1s from buying up the route after the Synonymouses of the world boycott HSR, because the HSR trains aren’t named after (or run like) a classic steam-era train.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Very funny

    PB engineering is pretty much in a lose-lose situation at Tehachapi, unless you dismiss it as simply a scam to make a bunch of money, sort of a Maginot LIne on rails.

    Tunnels increase the speed but also increase the cost. They would also increase the intrinsic value for a prospective purchaser. My take, tho, is that PB’s insider contractors would prefer the easier elevateds. HSR experienced international bidders, no matter how much they lust for the easy money and vow to keep their mouths shut, are likely to tangle with PB’s notorious arrogance and hubris. You have the examples of Van Ark and the SNCF.

    My guess is that PB will quietly toss aside value engineering, go again for gold plate, and simply lie about the costs. After all Brown has shown he will believe any story he is fed by PG&E Richard.

    Interesting comments on the Altamont Site:


    Peter Reply:

    An even more interesting comment from there. The first two sentences really sum up most of your “arguments”.

    synonymouse Reply:

    As I recall Bob2 has called me a “Thomas-hater” for critiquing SMART’s doodlebugs.

    PB reads the newspapers and is no doubt supremely aware of the absolute supermajority. The machine will come up with whatever money has to go down the pit, If it takes $200bil so be it. Just raise taxes. Turning back, pausing, or rethinking is not an option when it comes to Jerry’s Legacy.

    So expect PB-CHSRA to pop the steroids when it comes to implementing TehaVegaSkyRail. No limits on the holy way to mission accomplished. That’s why it is called the stimulus.

    synonymouse Reply:

    BTW did Spokker get banned?

  5. Paul Druce
    Nov 16th, 2012 at 08:22

    I like how Robert thinks that the blown out costs and constant timeline extensions and construction delays are still “timely fashion within the proposed budget.”

    StevieB Reply:

    You stand against expert opinion, authority Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Morales said the change now aligns the contract with a high-speed rail business plan adopted by the rail authority this year that called for the first segment to be finished by 2018.

    Read more here: http://www.mercedsunstar.com/2012/11/16/2653653/high-speed-rail-planner-pushes.html#storylink=cpy

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Wow that World Class Parsons Brinkerhoff Revolving Door Big Swinging Dick Job TItle sure appeals to my Respect For Authority and My Faith In America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals and their Expert Opinions and Outstanding Track Records.

    StevieB Reply:

    Perhaps you would prefer we bring in Chinese engineers as they have the most experience measured in number of miles of track constructed.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It would improve safety over the FRA’s record.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    In 2008, the timeline was for the entire Phase 1, from Anaheim to San Francisco, to be completed by 2018.

    Peter Reply:

    Which would have been doable if the Democrats had won the Presidency, the House, as well as a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate that year. Oh wait, they did. Priorities, priorities.

    Emma Reply:

    Did we even choose who is going to build what? Why is everything taking forever? Is the authority working part time or something? I bet a dozen graduate students getting a fraction of their wages could have done a better job.

    Peter Reply:

    That’s what the construction bids are for, that are due in mid-January.

    JJJ Reply:

    The dems never had a filibuster proof majority.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    yes they did…hence ObamaCare was passed without a single republican vote

    wu ming Reply:

    that was passed through reconciliation, which only needs a simple majority, same as bush’s tax cuts were.

    there was a brief window of time between when al franken was finally certified in july 7, 2009 as winning the minnesota seat and before ted kennedy died in office on august 25, 2009 (six weeks, but given kennedy’s health his attendance was spotty, as was robert byrd who died in june of 2010), and then again briefly between september 25th, 2009 when kennedy’s temporary successor paul kirk was appointed until february 4th, 2010 when scott brown won the special election to fill kennedy’s absence, where democrats actually had 60 votes.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Will Rogers was heard to say “I’m not a member of an organized party, I’m a Democrat”. Getting Democrats to do anything is like herding cats.

    The Republicans also had majorities in both houses and the Presidency during the Bush Administration and see how much they got done. Abortion was made illegal again. Same sex marriage was banned nationwide and the departments of Commerce, Education and Energy were dissolved.

    wu ming Reply:

    republicans had to pass things by simple majorities most of the time; democrats had to overcome filibusters most of the time.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    It first passed the Senate using 60 votes over the filibuster. Then Kenedy died before they could reconcile the House and Senate versions so the house passed the Senate version and THEN used reconciliation to put in the compromises.

    And as you said, the Dems did have a filibuster proof majority, my statement was correct.

  6. Reedman
    Nov 16th, 2012 at 09:28

    FYI. Train accident in Texas yesterday. Four dead, 17 injured.



    Jonathan Reply:

    Tragic, but largely off-topic. In the US, FRA rules require HSR lines have to be fully grade-separated.

  7. Emma
    Nov 16th, 2012 at 10:56

    I actually love the ideas of deadlines because I am not sure anymore if all the delays are to anyone’s benefit. So far, the longer we wait the worse the solutions.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “The worse the solutions” is the zeitgeist of the CHSRA. Remember the goal is to waste as much money as possible.

  8. synonymouse
    Nov 16th, 2012 at 12:37

    The GOP is really thru – the way they are turning on Romney. I thought Mitt was using kid gloves with the “gift” remarks. The reality is that the Pelosi patronage machine and Daley patronage machine are now in the WH.

    And another Repub lost in California. I hope you guys luv your new “soft” demo dictatorship.

    My take on the Fiscal Clip is that there will tax increases all around and yet another round of stimulus giveaways. The GOP will want some “gifts” for their favorite constituents too.

    Occurred to me if you raise the tax on the rich 20% and the dollar inflates 20% you are pretty much back tg square one. Ritchie Rich stealth strategy. Nonetheless the affluent should want some more gold in their safes.

    synonymouse Reply:

    This is assuming the wealthy are reporting the same income but that figure buys 20% less.

    joe Reply:

    Inflating currency by 20% rocks!!!
    Our debt is borrowed and paid back in US dollars.
    That inflation reduces our debt oh masterful genius of race-baiting gol-standard politics.

    In academics, advancement in a field happens with death and retirement – same in politics.

    Bush ’88 won 400 electoral voters with 60% of the white vote.
    Romney lost with 60% of the white vote.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    f you raise the tax on the rich 20%

    They would still be lower than the were when Saint Ronnie was President.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The 20% figure was simply hypothetical.

    Raising taxes is easy; it is cutting spending that is hard

    Derek Reply:

    Do a cost-benefits analysis of all large expenditures, sort the list from greatest to least net social benefit per dollar spent, and cut from the bottom up. Easy peasy!

    joe Reply:

    Which is exactly what supply side economists claim to have done – which is why what sounds like a fantastic idea is actually quite difficult. So refer to a process to conduct the cost-benefit analysis. What do you have in mind since this analysis is what is debated since Ronnie Ray-Gun ran for President.

    Is using Keynesian economics in the analysis verboten?

    Derek Reply:

    Externalities are ignored by supply side economists. This makes them incapable of conducting proper costs-benefits analyses.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Supply-side economics, Keynesian economics, and externalities have approximately zero to do with one another. The right-wing hacks have consistent views on all three, but then you have Greg Mankiw supporting supply-side economics and also Keynesian stimulus and advocating externality taxes.

    Joey Reply:

    And doubtless you have the required background in economics as well as a few citations to go with that claim?

    wu ming Reply:

    speaking of the collapse of the republican party and high speed rail, cathleen galgiani is creeping up on tom berryhill in the 5th state senate district. given that the margin is just 1,642 votes, and the majority of uncounted ballots are in san joaquin county, i’m willing to bet she wins it, padding the democrats’ supermajority in the state senate.

    Travis D Reply:

    If it irritates you I’m in favor of it. I hope you don’t mind.

  9. datacruncher
    Nov 16th, 2012 at 13:16

    OT but related: In Bakersfield, Caltrans has selected the preferred route for extending Freeway 58 in northwest Bakersfield. This $570 million phase would build about 2 to 3 miles of freeway, removing 310 residences and 121 commercial properties. Further phases would build a new freeway all the way west to I5.

    Interestingly, there seems to be little concern from the city and locals about the impacts on the existing neighborhood from noise, land purchases, pollution, etc.

    There are also concerns about losing the project’s 2006 earmark funding. So Caltrans now wants to break this section into 2 phases to spend the funding portion from the earmark first and quicker so it is not taken back by Congress.

    JJJ Reply:

    This is insane….and was option C actually a proposal to build a brand new highway directly adjacent to 99? WTF?

    datacruncher Reply:

    Yep, one option was to build a stretch of Freeway 58 adjacent to Freeway 99.

    Bakersfield has a large amount of freeway/highway/street widening either underway, planned or recently completed.

    If you are not familiar, the city of Bakersfield maintains a website that shows it all. Here is a map of all of the projects and then use the menu for details.

    Peter Reply:

    How many acres of “precious” farmland would that take up?

    Jonathan Reply:

    “Roads, Good. Trains, Bad.”

    Peter Reply:

    Maybe they can finally reduce the planned viaduct heights on parts the HSR alignment through Bakersfield. Cue hate messages vis-a-vis Tejon and bypassing Bakersfield.

  10. Reality Check
    Nov 16th, 2012 at 15:57

    In California’s Central Valley, farmers fight in their fields and court to block high-speed rail

    The farmers and the county here are suing to block the first 29 miles of high-speed rail from coming through the exact center of California, and a Sacramento judge on Friday is expected to rule on their request. It’s a possible preview of battles to come in the Bay Area if the project moves forward.

    The farmers argue the project doesn’t meet standards set by California’s environmental laws. While the lawsuit may be a long shot, the state concedes the case could cause delays that would force it to give back federal funding and essentially send the project back to the drawing board.

    But the courtroom wasn’t the first battleground in the farmers’ last stand against high-speed rail in Madera County. The sheriff has been called to cool heads after some claim farmers have pulled guns on state planners who have come out to study the land in advance of construction.


    The state says the law gives its contractors the right to get on the land when they want, but some farmers disagree. The property owners along the route said they have chased the engineers into town in pickup trucks, forced them to destroy the film in their cameras or spotted orange-vested workers peering into their barns with binoculars.

    “Typically, city folks aren’t welcome on their property in the middle of the night,” said Anja Raudabaugh, executive director of the Madera County Farm Bureau. “They are lucky they haven’t been shot. … It’s getting really ugly down here.”

    Jeff Morales, CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, said his contractors have been lawful, respectful and fair and that the process has been “very smooth.” He said they’ve hired many local surveyors who know the community and are not “city slickers.”

    Morales is looking forward to creating a plan with each property owner but can’t yet under the law.


    “It’s gonna destroy what I got,” said Curran, who grows four varieties of grapes, alfalfa, wheat and barley, and raises cows. “It’s just a big-ass gorilla, and they tell you what they’re gonna do, and they don’t care what you think.”

    Morales said the state will fix and even replace torn-up irrigation systems. Many of the property owners will be able to continue farming their remaining land.

    Supporters say they desperately need the jobs the project will bring to the depressed area, where unemployment has recently hovered around 15 percent. The local construction union said the bullet train could single-handedly provide paychecks to 70 percent of its unemployed and underemployed workers.

    Others, like downtown Fresno property owner Chris Mathys, are eager to unload vacant land.


    Peter Reply:

    And we haven’t even gotten to Kings County yet, where some farmers are looking forward to a repeat of Mussel Slough. Good times are coming.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Ergh… Why are they looking forward to it again? If it comes to shootout, the farmers are guaranteed to lose…

    VBobier Reply:

    Yep, a lot of deputies today are former military, I know what that training can do & the farmers would lose, badly. So the farmers may as well cry uncle & give up, now.

    Peter Reply:

    Oh, they may win the “shootout”, given that I doubt that surveyors are usually packing, but it would be very difficult for the farmers involved to protect their property after they are arrested for first degree murder.

    Roger Christensen Reply:

    When everyone cheers the Mussel-Slough-2nd-Ammendment Option they don’t know their history. Though regarded as local heroes, the farmers lost.

  11. Reality Check
    Nov 16th, 2012 at 16:27

    Rod Diridon to Chair US HSR Advisory Board, Headline Rail Conference in Los Angeles

    swing hanger Reply:

    Got a chuckle from the notice at the bottom: “journalists are welcome”

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yay. I’ve always wanted the US to spend $100 billion where it could make serious good – cutting NEC travel times by half an hour.

  12. Travis D
    Nov 16th, 2012 at 18:23

    So it appears the good for nothing farmers of Kings County lost their precious little court battle to inflict their ideal dystopian hellhole future on the rest of us.

    I’m dancing. If only there was some way to now take their land without compensating them.

    Roger Christensen Reply:

    They lost the injunction. Not the court battle. Yet.

    Peter Reply:

    Looks like they were betting heavily on this preliminary injunction. Why else would the executive director of the Madera County Farm Bureau have been crying?

    joe Reply:

    Brown also wants a massive water project in the CV which benefit farmers.

    I bet this “poor farmer” story turns around into a small number of malcontents as the “environmentalist” and “Preserve our farms” takes a back seat to the political necessity of the water project and a quid pro quo with HSR.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The massive water project is a ruse to send water to Palmdale so they can build another LA.

    San Joaquin Valley agriculture is in an inevitable decline as the population is made to double, triple, quadruple, you get the idea. But before it gets to that point overseas money will have bought up a bunch of it.

    joe Reply:

    CV Ag is in trouble due to air pollution reducing net plant production, soil salinization (which happens over time in semi-arid, water irrigated systems), limited access to quality freshwater (over pumping ground water) and climate change increasing the heat related damage to crops and reducing snowpack runoff.

    Your problems with the CV center on the demographics – wrong type of people.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Syn: I’m surprised that you haven’t picked up on this obvious stratagem; the HSR project is a cover for a water project. These massive concrete structures you abhor will actually be aqueducts (with a fake railroad across the top) to carry water from north of Sacramento to SJV farmers and the Antelope valley. Why do you think they are starting in the CV? It’s obviously not for passenger transportation so it must be for something else.

    Peter Reply:

    Made me LOL.

    wu ming Reply:

    brown will be fought much harder on the peripheral canal, and by a lot of the same people who are big fans of the HSR project.

    joe Reply:

    No. That’s too simplistic.
    There are environmental problems with the current system that this proposed project project can address. It’s also ag business vs smaller farmers. The ag business that oppose HSR want the water.

    “Now, in his second incarnation as governor, Brown is determined to complete this work. Advocates of the canal have some strong arguments. Drawing water from the delta’s southern intakes, as happens now, alters the natural flows of the region and creates problems for fish; pulling water from farther north would alleviate the problem. Also, the levees that allow the area to exist are susceptible to earthquakes and could collapse in the Big One; taking water out before it gets to them would protect the water supply. And finally, the water needs of Southern California are real and compelling.”

    But the lion’s share, more than two-thirds, would go to farms in the Central Valley, where farmers with outsized political influence have a big interest in the outcome.

    With this project, Brown has the opportunity to adjust California’s historic relationship to water. As he does so, he should keep these principles in mind: Moving water is not a sin, but using it to favor big farms over family farms is unacceptable. And protecting Southern California’s water future is commendable, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of the delta’s.

    synonymouse Reply:


    With the supermajority now inviolate the Peripheral Tunnel is a done deal. It is a real estate development project, just like RoundaboutRail. Villa owns Brown – it is that simple. Eventually LA will come after Hetch Hetchy as well.

    Government by a handful of corrupt morons, and stubborn ones at that.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The farmers want to impose an “ideal dystopian hellhole future”? And I have been called melodramatic. Now the Ayatollah that’s another story.

    French TV shows stuff you don’t see on the ‘Merican tube. Like how half of the port of Athens has been sold to Chinese interests and AFAIK they just kicked the unions out the door. The resident economic expert at France 2 is calling for a devalued Euro and debt forgiveness on the order you would expect for, say, the Central African Empire. So Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Ireland are headed in the direction of third world banana republics.

    ericmarseille Reply:

    No Synonymouse they’re not.

    Our economies are too intertwined to allow this ; only Greece can allow itself to be a banana Republic, for it was already when it joined the European Union (it was in fact a political choice, it didn’t meet the criteria, but it sent a very strong signal to the Eastern Bloc that Europe wasn’t meant to be only Western Europe), and also because it represents only 2% of the European economy.

    Spain and Italy are in the “too big to fail” group.

    BTW, Greece was already a potential basket case in 2008 and 2009 when “The Economist” and the “Wall Street journal” were crowing its “potential” and “achievements” through “deregulation” and all that crap…

    I once worked with a Greek national ; he told me : “You French people are really cretins, you do PAY your taxes, when we Greeks cheat and cheat the revenue service all day!”

    Any country where evading taxes is glamorous or building the smallest chapel on a ground exonerates its owner from taxes is a basket case no matter what its (temporary) economic performance is.

    Greece is renowned in Europe as a country of f….ers, as is Bulgaria and, generally, the Balkans, and to a lesser extent Italy (Combinazione)…The rest of the EU plays mostly by the rules.

    And don’t tell me I’m racist, I’m partly of Greek origin and my name is Greek.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Forget the race card – that’s just a political tool.

    When it comes to dealing with our gangsters like Pelosi and Brown your archetypical Greek tax-evader would be perfectly well suited and prepared. Our crooked politicians simply exempt themselves from the laws they write. Or have recourse to the standard legal evasions all the other one-percenters use.

    I see Italy in deep trouble, especially the Mezzogiorno. Already coping with a sagging industrial economy they are being invaded by hordes of illegals thru Lampedusa who don’t even look to be from North Africa.

    And speaking of the Maghreb, Algeria should be a workers’ paradise by now. But it is stuck with a a backward ideology that by comparison makes the mindset of your legendary Greek tax evader seem practically Swiss.

    Eventually the Arabs are going to get their hands on nukes and the Levant will never be the same.

    On a lighter note, a “brand-new” double-ended PCC:


    Jonathan Reply:

    Gangsters? Pelosi and Brown? They’re a bit old to be carrying submachine-guns in violin cases.
    And there’s absoutely no evidence that they ever did, or were involved with organized crime.

    Synon, you got anything but hyperbole to substantiate that?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Some rob you with a six gun, some with a fountain pen.

  13. robert
    Nov 16th, 2012 at 19:26

    CHSRA wins in court today!

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