LA Times Looks At Engineering Challenges for Tehachapi Pass HSR
Ralph Vartabedian has been rather quiet on the high speed rail beat for the Los Angeles Times since the State Senate voted to release the voter-approved bond funds for construction back in July. His usual and frequent attacks on the project have almost totally ceased. I’m sure that’s just a mere coincidence. But Vartabedian is back today with an article on the engineering challenges of the Bakersfield to LA segment of the project, particularly through the Tehachapi Pass.
Vartabedian’s article is actually fairly informative, even if there’s some concern trolling in there about the costs of building this section and the fact that the tracks will run through a seismically active landscape:
The probability of an earthquake occurring as a train is going over a fault is “very small,” Gillam said. Some experts, however, say the probability is not inconsequential, considering high-speed trains are expected to be running as frequently as every five minutes in each direction.
Stephen Mahin, director of the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center at UC Berkeley, said the bullet train’s operating plan suggests a “strong probability” that a train could be going over a fault if it ruptures. But good engineering can reduce the risks.
Of course, Vartabedian could have mentioned that high speed trains have been operating in the very seismically active country of Japan for nearly 50 years without being negatively impacted by earthquakes. (Tsunamis generated by the quakes are a different matter.) But at least he did include a lot of information and some quotes that together make it clear that these are challenges that can be overcome, rather than reasons to abandon the project entirely. So it’s nice to see that Vartabedian is no longer using his position as an LA Times reporter to overtly attack the HSR project.
The rest of the article is worth reading for more details of the engineering challenges. It’s not a technical document, of course, but it does a reasonable job of setting the stage for the long process of designing and eventually building this crucial missing link in California’s passenger rail system. Because Merced to Los Angeles is likely to be the Initial Operating Segment of the HSR system, building rail through the Tehachapis is essential to getting high speed rail up and running in California. Going under Pacheco Pass will be a more straightforward and easily solved engineering challenge, but the Tehachapis are the missing link, and I am looking forward to seeing it closed in the near future.