Will SoCal Cities Try to Slow High Speed Rail?

Nov 29th, 2012 | Posted by

On the San Mateo County peninsula, a small but determined group of people were able to mobilize NIMBY attitudes to force the California High Speed Rail Authority to postpone plans to fully upgrade the Caltrain corridor to accommodate high speed rail service. Now they’re trying to do the same in Southern California, and they’ve enlisted our old friend Ralph Vartabedian to help.


Vartabedian’s latest article is an attempt to mobilize residents living along the proposed HSR route from Los Angeles Union Station to Palmdale to organize to try and slow the trains down:

Groups opposing the project say sentiment may change after upcoming environmental studies detail all of the homes, schools, businesses and other locations that could be affected. Next year, the rail authority will issue two key environmental reports that will begin the legal process of defining the exact route between Bakersfield and downtown Los Angeles.

“Just wait until they understand what it is going to do to them,” said Elizabeth Allen, a co-founder of Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Development, a Bay Area group that has sharply criticized the project.

I think he meant Elizabeth Alexis, but accuracy was never Vartabedian’s strong suit. In any case, the article is full of efforts to try and convince readers that OMG this project is going to be hugely disruptive. But if you look closely, the argument just doesn’t hold up against the evidence. He wants readers to see the Peninsula NIMBYs as heroes, but neglects to point out that their “victory” is quite temporary:

The Bay Area eventually won that demand for a “blended system,” which will sharply curtail speeds to about 110 mph or less from San Jose to San Francisco, and limit the number of peak-hour bullet trains that can operate. Essentially, true bullet train service will end at San Jose.

Of course, what Vartabedian doesn’t mention is that these limits are temporary in nature, that they exist as part of the overall phasing of the project and that eventually true bullet train service will go all the way to Transbay Terminal in downtown San Francisco.

Another voice trying to rile up members of the public, and a likely instigator for the article, is LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich:

There are no such speed limits planned in L.A. County, but Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich would like to see one.

Antonovich, whose district covers miles of the route from Palmdale to the San Fernando Valley, wants the bullet trains to use existing Metrolink tracks and limit speeds to 110 mph.

“This has to be realistic, and in these urban areas you can’t have 220-mph trains with safety and community support,” said Antonovich, who is also chairman of the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “They are completely misinformed.”

Sure you can. It depends on the design of the tracks and their location, but it’s entirely possible to hit 220 mph safely and with the support of the community. It’s not the operations of the trains that are the problem, it’s where to put the tracks, and as we’ll see even that doesn’t seem to be too problematic. I don’t exactly know why Antonovich is waging a campaign to scare his constituents, but he ought to be helping resolve concerns rather than stoke them.

Many of the concerns raised in the article are spurious or not exactly unsolvable. For example, there’s this claim that is quite easily debunked:

The line also would pass about a football-field length from the Sulfur Springs Elementary School, creating a noise and safety problem, said Michael Hogan, a school board trustee and chairman of a local rail group.

Huh? This is nonsense. At a football field’s length away, noise will be minimal. And there won’t be any safety problems since the tracks will be secured, not just sitting there for anyone to walk on. As chairman of a local rail group he ought to at least have that level of basic knowledge of high speed rail operations to not be making such obviously flawed statements.

Santa Clarita has raised concerns about the tracks’ impact on their town, but the impacts don’t look all that serious to me:

So far, Santa Clarita is not officially opposed to the project, said Michael Murphy, the intergovernmental relations officer.

But after a meeting in June, which attracted about 200 concerned residents, the City Council sent a letter to the rail authority saying it had “serious concerns.” Included in the letter was a request that the authority extend an 8-mile-long tunnel under the city by 2 miles to avoid a future development the city hopes will create new jobs, Murphy said.

About two dozen homes in the city are in the projected path of the bullet train, Murphy said. Where the rail line would emerge from a tunnel in the affluent Sand Canyon area of Santa Clarita the effects would be significant.

I don’t think a “future development” that the city is expecting really counts as the same sort of disruption as two dozen homes and a church in the path of the proposed route. Even then, it’s not uncommon for homes to have to be purchased in order to build a transportation project, whether it’s widening a freeway or building a new one. The proposed Centennial Corridor in Bakersfield would take up to 400 homes, which is significant, yet that project still has community support. And I refuse to believe that unspecified “effects” on an affluent neighborhood are worth the city of Santa Clarita opposing the project.

At least Vartabedian offers some balance to his article, pointing out that Tehachapi residents are supportive of the project:

The views are quite different an hour’s drive away in Tehachapi, where the main line of the Union Pacific runs through downtown and the town embraces its 125-year-old railroad culture.

Each day a couple of dozen freight trains announce their arrival with blasting horns that echo for miles. Aiming to fix the apparent nuisance, city officials negotiated with the railroads several years ago for “quiet zones.” But the initiative fell apart when residents protested that they liked to hear the whistles blow.

Such sentiments bode well for the bullet train, which would run through the city’s northern boundary.

Councilwoman Susan Wiggins, part of a political clan that includes her late brother Michael Deaver, President Reagan’s deputy chief of staff, says it’s a non-issue in Tehachapi.

“I can’t think of one person standing up at a City Council meeting fussing about it.”

I’m sure that there will continue to be discussions and debates about how to best implement high speed rail in Southern California. But perhaps those discussions and debates will be more constructive and less full of fear, invective, and misleading claims than what we saw on the Peninsula. Perhaps it’s a forlorn hope. But Tehachapi’s sensible attitude could just be a harbinger of a new day.

  1. joe
    Nov 29th, 2012 at 22:34

    This article’s misinformation about the speed along blended Bay Area section shows why the Peninsula EIR has to include more than the initial Blended design.

    VBobier Reply:

    Agreed, the nimbys won’t get blended to be permanent, just temporary…

    Peter Reply:

    The main misinformation about “blended” speeds being 110 mph is that the max ever planned for the Peninsula was 125 mph, never 220 mph. So there are no “sharply curtail[ed]” speeds.

    Also, because blended is the only thing being planned right now, that’s all you need to study. At a later time, when HSR is at capacity and they want to run more trains, then they need to study full-buildout.

  2. swing hanger
    Nov 29th, 2012 at 23:53

    The attitude of the Tehachapi residents is telling- they have familiarity with railroad operations, so no fuss. With suburbanites it’s an OMG situation- trains having been up to now on the periphery of their daily lives, if at all.

  3. joe
    Nov 30th, 2012 at 06:07

    Several interesting comments in the Merc article but this one is worth noting.
    There is now a consensus that HSR will help the CV economy.

    Bullet train chief, critic have dueling views at San Jose forum

    …ringing a critical voice to the table was Elizabeth Goldstein Alexis, cofounder of Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design, a watchdog group she said was “founded four years ago in response to the chaos involved in the planning process on the Peninsula.”

    Alexis said that like much of the planning that has gone into the project, that idea is flawed.

    “A high-speed rail station is not an Embarcadero BART station,” she said. “It’s kind of noisy … It’s not a pleasant place to live, so people don’t live there.”

    She said the train will more likely turn areas surrounding Fresno into a “suburb of San Jose,” gobbling up agricultural land in favor of development when there’s an hour long commute to work.

    In Fresno/CV, I recall the argument given by the same individual to those communities was *exactly the opposite*. HSR would let companies consolidate their Central Valley’s satellite corporate offices back to HQ in the Silicon Valley/LA and cost the CV jobs.

    When in the Silicon Valley HSR will do the opposite, it will not consolidate Central valley jobs to the Coasts. HSR will provide the CV cities with access to better jobs, create local jobs and consequently gobble up farmland.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Do you really buy into this crap that CHSRA CEO Richard initially opposed the route planning?

    The whole purpose of the Purge was to bring in a toady to toe the PB party line. Why don’t they just quit touting a plan that sucks so bad; it is embarrassing they have to try to talk themselves into it.

    Just own the Moondoggle.

    joe Reply:

    “Do you really buy into this crap that CHSRA CEO Richard initially opposed the route planning?”

    No It was a ruse planned by PB long ago – like Obama’s Kenyan birth and phoney HI certificate.

    There are other sleepers waiting in the wings and when they pop up – you’ll tell us.

    As for me, Dan Richard is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Fetch the MIB neuralizer.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I thought that what the tin foil hat was for, deflection.

    Nathanael Reply:

    So, as usual, Elizabeth Alexis is a big fat liar who will say anything to sabotage rail service.

    A high-speed rail station is a less noisy than Embarcadero BART (!!!!) — BART is infamous for its noisy design, and the Embarcadero has a bazillion other sources of very loud noise — and people live right next to high-speed rail stations *all over the world*.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Isn’t one of the main functions of concern trolls?

    synonymouse Reply:

    For those outside the SF area the Embarcadero BART-Muni station is immediately adjacent to an area that has seen lots of TOD in recent years. Willie Brown hangs out there.

    Beautiful, metropolitan, bustling downtown Fresno mit hsr hauptbahnhof has a long, long way to be be the City in terms of trendy. But it is the car theft and meth lab capital.

    Jon Reply:

    So your argument is that people who live in Fresno or Tehachapi are Untermensch who don’t deserve nice things? Or that HSR will create homeless, poverty, crime and drugs due to the presence of brutalist concrete viaducts? I can’t remember which one it is this week.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I haven’t looked in a long time. I thought the car theft capitals were in New Jersey.

    Matthew B. Reply:

    Actually, from at least one Google hit, it appears that California dominates: http://autos.yahoo.com/news/auto-theft–worst-cities-for-stolen-cars.html
    Lot’s of Central Valley cities (to be served by HSR), but also San Francisco. As for meth, Missouri and Tennessee can take that crown, apparently: http://kygl.com/congratulations-missouri-youre-not-the-meth-capital-of-the-u-s/

    I still think, though, that Jon’s critique of Synonymous’ ranting was spot on. Just because someone doesn’t live within sight of the ocean doesn’t mean they don’t deserve first world infrastructure. Ditto for people who happen to live near people who steal cars or bake meth.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I haven’t looked in a long time. Since I moved to the mountains I stopped worrying about it. I stopped locking the car too. And the house. Really should lock the house….

    VBobier Reply:

    Of course with Glaciers melting at an alarming rate at both poles, coastal cities might be moving a bit as coastlines will probably see some changes.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Let’s move the Raiders to Fresno.

    Reedman Reply:

    Environmentalists considered CAHSR such an invitation to disaster in the Central Valley that they made their support for CAHSR conditional on the REMOVAL of a planned station in Los Banos (in order to try to ensure that the CV would purposefully be too long of a HSR train ride to become a commuting suburb of San Jose/Silicon Valley).

    joe Reply:

    No. That’s not the reason.

    Los Banos is close to a wetland areas which protecting is a particular concern for “environmentalists” so the agreement was struck to reduce the chances of impacting the wetlands by removing the Los Banos Station.

    We all know the CV population is expanding. HSR or not. We also know that when people have good jobs, they can afford to protect the environment. Poverty and energy intensive infrastructure are problems – HSR is part of a solution.

  4. synonymouse
    Nov 30th, 2012 at 09:51

    Just how many voters are there in Tehachapi? And what is the income demographic? Two points to be made here: Tehachapis is obviously going to get a station(some hsr)and the Peninsula is home to some of the richest people in the country. They will wipe up the floor with the moondoggle. So cheerleaders, please continue with your futile, fruitless, but amusing jawboning about PAMPA nimbys – they will be luxuriating in their affluent blended lifestyle when Jerry and Nancy are pushing daisies.

    Critiquing Antonovich – the Boss of Palmdale, author of the DeTour and the purge of Van Ark – hilarious.

  5. Nathanael
    Nov 30th, 2012 at 10:55

    It would be interesting to know why Antonovich has joined the “fast trains will sour our milk” movement of whackadoodles.

    synonymouse Reply:

    He hasn’t; as a politician he reads the polls and recognizes the anti’s are in the majority. He is just covering his backside. Not to worry – the fix is in.

    MarkB Reply:

    Antonovich is the sole Republican on the Board of Supervisors. I’d bet the beliefs implied by his political affiliation have something to do with his “OMG! Rail! It’s so scary!” routine.

    Matthew B. Reply:

    Antonovich (whose district includes Palmdale) constantly votes against all rail infrastructure. He’s concerned that LA county funds go disproportionately to the urban districts and not his, and he wants to limit such infrastructure spending altogether. Don’t tell this to Synonymouse, though, because that would go against his theory that the Palmdale routing is some machination of Los Angeles politics trying to get a free “commuter rail” to the desert. In fact, Villaraigosa is the driving force for rail in LA county, and he couldn’t care less about rail to Palmdale, while Antonovich is completely against and it’s actually his district.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Fascinating. But then who is “Mr. Big” behind the Roundabout?

    Jon Reply:

    …how about the crazy theory that there is no “Mr Big”?

    The Tehachapi routing was decided when it genuinely looked like the best option. After they engineered it further and found new constraints that forced cost escalations, they decided to revisit Tejon. That came out a little better from a technical point of view, but I’m sure many were fearful of re-opening a can of worms with the ICS about to be granted or denied federal funding. Politically, you had Tejon Ranch, Palmdale, Santa Clarita and XpressWest in favor of Tehachapi, and no-one pushing for Tejon.

    So the study was sandbagged until the two options essentially looked the same, and Tejon could be dismissed. Not pretty, but not the grand clash of ward bosses that certain posters want to believe.

    synonymouse Reply:

    If Tehachapi were the”best option” I-5 would be there. The DeTour is a guaranteed money pit marked by extraordinary construction, operational and maintenance costs yet very limited traffic and general utility. A 19th century solution. The Mr. Bigs responsible are corrupt morons.

    Andrew Reply:

    What barriers if any exist for using a Tejon base tunnel for CV-LA freight? It would run at 2/5 the elevation of the Tehachapi route, and a tiny fraction of the distance.

    Andrew Reply:

    To clarify, I mean 2/5 the elevation and a tiny fraction of the distance that a freight train would now have to take to get from Bak to LA.

    Joey Reply:

    Where do I start?

    – Grades: Even if the net elevation change is smaller, a Tejon tunnel would still require significant grades. To keep costs down you would want to increase grades further as it allows more access points.
    – Axel loads: To keep the track geometry up to high-speed standards, you would have to limit the axel loads of any freight trains to far below what is routinely used on US freight mainlines.
    – Electrification: For reasons I shouldn’t have to explain, all traffic through the tunnel would have to run on electric power. This means an engine change somewhere on both ends, which adds time, labor costs, and additional equipment to maintain (and remember, US rail freight makes its money on low costs)
    – Traffic: During most of the day there probably wouldn’t be enough capacity to interline slow freights and fast HSTs. This means that freight operations are limited to nighttime hours, but then again what time does that leave for maintenance?

    synonymouse Reply:

    The optimum Quantm route at Tejon, the golf course alignment, is operationally superior to Tehachapi and still cheaper. The problem is that from the very outset the CHSRA has been loathe to go for the one choice which is outstanding. While the base tunnel is theoretically attractive the best recourse for 2012 the one the PB engineers already know is there for the taking and the building.

    That’s what makes this undertaking so frustrating when the best course is in your face and these bozos wantonly ignore it. Tejon, I-5, Altamont – they are all operationally and fiscally superior. We should be so lucky.

    Joey Reply:

    Cutting through farmland in order to put stations closer to cities isn’t that much more expensive than building on empty land. It’s just politically more difficult.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The I-5 corridor is essentially free and uncontroversial. We are fortunate the Division of Highways did the dirty work of acquiring it. A real bargain for the CHSRA and not that far removed from 99 and Bako-Fresno.

    Joey Reply:

    Land acquisition is a small proportion of costs, so what is this “free” you’re talking about? Again (for the 9001th time) farmland is cheap and the vast majority of costs are actually building the guideway and structures. And you should know that the easy answer is frequently not the ideal answer. Fresno, whatever else it might be, has more than a million people in its vicinity, and Bakersfield is not far behind. This is more than enough to justify a small cost increase and a bit of litigation to actually serve the metro areas, rather than forcing those people to drive 50 miles for station access.

    Andrew Reply:

    Thanks for the feedback. Separate tracks would solve the traffic and axel load issues. The marginal cost of adding diameter and separate tracks would seemingly be relatively cheap compared to the baseline cost of any base tunnel. As for electrification, why not electrify the entire route from Long Beach to Bakersfield or perhaps further up? The costs add up pretty fast, but what’s the alternative? The current route is high elevation and incredibly long, and trucking would seemingly be uncompetitive. But if there is truly no possibility of CV-LA rail freight thru a Tejon base tunnel, it would still make more sense for HSR to go it alone via the golf course route than to take the Palmdale detour, which incidentally sets up an even worse detail for Desert Express.

    Andrew Reply:

    “Fresno…has more than a million people in its vicinity”. People get dazzled by the number 1m, but there’s closer to 2m in the North Bay (including northern CCC) and they’re nowhere in the plan. Also, Fresno’s 1m is far less than meets the eye: it is not a population or urban scheme that will take provide much ridership, and it is not at all a destination. By virtue of being smack in the middle of both lines it would no doubt add some riders, but hardly enough even to justify stopping the train, much less the massive detour for the 99%. The next stops going north after I-5 Bakersfield should be Gilroy on one branch and Modesto or Stockton on the other. Riders from Fresno can easily connect on either end and get where they’re going.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    And the obvious commercial question, what freight? Today rail has close to zero share of the CV to LA basin freight market, it simply doesn’t make commercial sense to transfer what would be mostly time sensitive freight from truck to rail to truck for 150 to 250 miles.

    Andrew Reply:

    I was using ‘CV’ as shorthand for any location from tejon north that could potentially take advantage of a tejon base tunnel. And of course I was implicitly including S-N freight, not just N-S. Goods coming in thru the port of LA/LB are not time sensitive.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If the aren’t time sensitive it doesn’t make sense to spend billions of dollars to cut a few hours off the transit time.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    @Andrew, there is no economic justification for a base tunnel for freight. When LA was the manufacturing center, well just maybe. Now products for Nor Cal and PNW come from China mostly direct into local ports. N-S and S-N traffic is greatly diminished. In any event you would spend a minimum of 2 hours at each end of the trip with an intermodal operation with drayage and transfer which would more than account for time savings of an expedited train. Door to door trucks can do two trips for every one a train makes.

    Andrew Reply:

    @last two comments
    I’m thinking more in terms of energy consumption, not time. Ie, would energy savings on N-S freight over the lifetime of a base tunnel make it worth doing that as opposed to a higher elevation route for hsr (in the fantasy world of tejon routes, that is).

    synonymouse Reply:

    “Land acquisition is a small proportion of costs”

    That is precisely why the CHSRA should exercise the nuclear option with the Tejon Ranch Co. Eminent domain is intended for this purpose. Tejon stands out as superior in every respect. It was criminal to can Van Ark for responsibly doing the job he was paid for. Current CEO Richard should be ashamed for pimping tainted Tehachapi.

    The mountain crossing is by far the most pricey element of the CHSRA project. It is 10 times the order of magnitude of the botched Central Stubway. Even if it turns out to be the only part of the project that is built it will have been a major accomplishment and an asset good for centuries

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    andrew, spend a few billion on windmills or other solar technologies. Along with the billions to electrify the rest of the tracks from the ports to the local yards.
    Syn, for the 9 gazllionth time going over Tejon doesn’t serve the half million people in Palmdale and doesn’t get anyone to or from Las Vegas.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Screw Vegas; we can build better at Anaheim, which is smart enough to deploy light rail instead of dysfunctional gadgetbahn monorail. And keep the gambling monies instate.

    Bako-Fresno can easily be served via a spur from Tejon and the service to LA will even be faster. That would probably helpful to have the UP connection in construction of the Tejon crossing anyway.

    Consider the I-5 Valley section is not that long – roughly on the order of the proposed tri-city Ohio semihighspeed rail linking Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. AFAIK there were very few stops in this scheme. I would start out with trying an I-5 median design – BART has done this successfully – and cost it out.

    Joey Reply:

    @Andrew: you can justify stopping at Gilroy but not Fresno (with 10 times the population within the city limits)? Or even stockton, which is smaller than Fresno and Bakersfield?

    And can you point me to one example of an existing high speed rail line which completely ignores intermediate cities?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You never know who Mr. Big is, His black helicopter whisks him away before anyone can see. Or if they do see Nancy Pelosi uses her mind rays on them to make them forget.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Re Antonovich, it’s a little more subtle than that. Mike is now Chair of Metro and has suddenly taken an interest in rail, after 31 years in office and being on the Metrolink Board and slept through most meetings. He fired fellow Republican Najarian from Metrolink, replaced him with Ridley-Thomas who helped derail measure J, and fired Jacki Bacharach from the LOSSAN Board. He spouts at events about connections to airports, and wants to run trains from Lancaster to San Diego. He seems to gloss over the fact that the Metrolink route from Palmdale to Sylmar is the rail equivalent of Angeles Crest Highway and completely incompatible with modern rail operations. Metro did a study that said as much and that there is minimal room for improvement however much you spend. He is Chair of Metro until the middle of next year and I think termed out as a Supe a year later. The rest of the Board can’t wait for that. Incidentally, when he was first elected in 1981 he advocated a monorail along the 101 freeway to downtown from the valley, and is still remembered by some as “Monorail Mike”. An interesting career which has seen plenty of investment in roads in his district but also an “overnight” extension of Metrolink after the Northridge earthquake.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Updating myself, Mikey lost a vote today to extend his own term limits so that he could serve 44 years. The two opposing votes are termed out in 2014, Antonovich in 2016. He could force another vote when they are gone. I think he has delusions of grandeur, apres moi le deluge. Only Mike can steer us through the upcoming crises (which of course he has watched fester these 31 years). And elected unopposed, such is the power of the office. 20th April 1653 comes to mind….

    joe Reply:

    wikipedia says “only five monarchs reign[ed] in the Kingdom of England or its successor states for 50 years or more,

  6. Nathanael
    Nov 30th, 2012 at 10:57

    Incidentally, the original plan involved running the trains through a four-track cut (shared with Metrolink tracks) for practically the entire length of the San Fernando Valley. This cut could be covered wherever the localities felt like it. So what’s the problem? Did some politico manage to prevent the cut from happening?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    No it couldn’t. You can’t just throw a concrete slab on top and call it a day.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I know covering a trench is expensive, but it can still be done anywhere it’s desired.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    ripping out the old walls, which won’t be designed to carry the load, and putting in new walls… not even at Palo Alto real estate prices will that ever be done. Times Square, the Ginza, Picadilly Circus maybe but not suburban anywhere.

    James M. in Irvine Reply:

    Would it be cost prohibitive to design the walls as load-bearing to start with? Might be a good selling point, and provide reinforced strength for earthquakes or mishaps in the trench.


    adirondacker12800 Reply:


    Jonathan Reply:

    Yes, it would be prohibitive. No, it would not provide additional earthquake strength.
    Covering a trench causes additional vertical loads, at the cover-attachment points.
    Earthquake loads aren’t really vertical it’s more about side-to-side movement.

    (Think of earthquake-retroffitting a house. The only vertical strengthening is for structurally-deficient cripple walls, adding a sheer wall. More work, and more expense, goes into reinforcing houses against moving sideways on their foundations, especially when those foundations are built down a hill. Or to reinforce a brick chimney against a wooden house The vertical load is in compression; ti’s the sideways load, due to different masses vibrating at different frequencies, which can cause the chimney to act like a wrecking-ball.)

    Ask a structural engineer to be sure. You now, those incompetent-by-RM’s-definition PB guys. ;)

    BMF of San Diego Reply:

    Further, a cover trench = tunnel. A tunnel needs ventilation. Ventilation needs a power source. That means additional elements to design-in… And will come with added costs.

    Nathanael Reply:

    First of all, side walls in a trench are designed to carry loads from the side — they’re retaining walls. They’re not designed to carry “roof” type loads.

    From what I’ve seen, retrofitting a cover on a trench of this sort doesn’t usually involve removing the old walls, it involves basically building a bridge over it; a separate set of foundations outside the trench. So what? It’s been done. Any community which wants to PAY for it can do it.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    which communities are going to be willing to pay for it? I’m not going to pay for increasing property values in Palo Alto when the money could be spent getting both of us better service.
    Wikipedia says the 2010 Census found 26,493 households in Palo Alto. A billion divided by 26,493, in whole dollars is 37,746. 37,746 at 5% over 30 years is how much? Assuming they could do it for a billion?

    joe Reply:

    PA should be able count on some cost-sharing solution but it has to be practical, negotiated in good faith and rules consistently applied for HSR along the entire ROW.

    IMHO Trenches might not be feasible in PA given the low elevation, water table and close proximity to the Bay.

    Historically the bau area creeks disappeared before reaching the bay. The flowed to the flat lands creating a “fen” without clear channels – humans routed water to the current creeks but this is artificial and prone to flooding.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Along the Caltrain route Palo Alto is less than 4 miles long, and 3 of our 7 crossings are already grade separated. The town just commissioned a rail corridor study and the main conclusion was that residents wanted grade seps.

    South of Oregon Expwy it makes sense to elevate the track over the two nearby cross streets (Charleston and Meadow) and to add a new ped crossing. This will actually prevent the ‘takings’ of nearby homes. House values in this part of town are less stratospheric and after a lot of shouting this is where we will end up. Regional Caltrain funds or HSR funds should be able to cover that. This is where we had a rash of suicides so we ought to get these separated sooner rather than later.

    The north side of town is a different question. The three existing crossings all go under the tracks. So trenching the tracks entails not just creating two new seps but redoing 2-3 existing ones. And the north end of town is a creek, so now you’re trenching quite deep, and of course trains need a lot of vertical clearance.

    Meanwhile we’re calming down a bit here. So I wouldn’t be surprised if we just put those last two roads under the tracks, leave them at grade the whole way, and be done with it. Expanding to four tracks in 20 years will require some modest r/w widening here and there but life will go on.

    You may want to ask your same question about Menlo Park though. They are only 1.5 miles wide along the tracks, they have four crossings, none separated. They could go under their 4 crossings with a trench about 0.8 miles long, and maybe solve the creeks issue Joe mentions. If they extend the trench another 0.7 miles north it could go under Atherton’s two crossings.

    Maybe less than $1B would build this. I don’t think the statewide HSR authority will do it but I could see the Bay Area’s MTA offering a 60% match if the towns find the rest of the money when Caltrain is maxed and we want 4 tracks for the whole route.

    Clem Reply:

    Trenching under creeks is not possible.

    joe Reply:

    A few storms and we get this:

    In Palo Alto, Oregon Expressway was closed because of flooding at the Alma Street underpass. But the deluge spared areas of the city that flooded in February 1998, the last big El Nino year. While water levels in the four creeks passing through the city rose steadily Sunday morning, none — including the narrow channel of San Francisquito Creek under the Chaucer Street bridge — reached flood stage. However, residents in South Palo Alto braved cascading rain to rake mountains of leaves clogging storm drains. Ponds of water partly covered several streets and parking lots.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Trenching under creeks is not possible.

    It’s done all the time. Under creeks, rivers, major estuaries. Most people call them tunnels. Sorta kinda like how most people would be a trench with a cover over it a tunnel.

    Jonathan Reply:

    “covered wherever the localities felt like it”? You man, wherever they were willing to pay for the covering? ;)

    Matthew B. Reply:

    Sounds fine to me, actually. How many freeways are tunneled at state or federal expense purely for aesthetic reasons? Downtown LA, Hollywood, and Santa Barbara for example are looking at freeway caps. Each city is going to be responsible for coming up with the financing and I don’t see anyone screaming about how that’s unjust. Why is rail different?

    Joey Reply:

    Where in Santa Barbara? 101 is predominantly at or above grade.

    Matthew B. Reply:

    Sorry, Ventura: http://la.curbed.com/archives/2012/07/101_freeway_cap_with_retail_and_more_planned_for_ventura.php
    doesn’t change the point, though.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “You man, wherever they were willing to pay for the covering? ;)”

    Yes. Thank you for the correction. :-)

  7. Lionel
    Nov 30th, 2012 at 16:13

    Regarding “Of course, what Vartabedian doesn’t mention is that these limits are temporary in nature.” I hope it is true that the blended approach is a temporary solution, because I do not think it will work very well for HSR. But take notice that the HSR and Caltrain are about to enter into a new memo of understanding that seems to state the the blended apprach is permanent! See http://www.greencaltrain.com/2012/11/caltrain-and-high-speed-rail-authority-bringing-agreement-up-to-date/

  8. VBobier
    Nov 30th, 2012 at 19:12

    OT: The vote is getting closer to 66.67%, Measure J is now 0.65% away from passing…
    I’m still hoping for passage of course, it’s going to be down to the wire on December 4th 2012 when the final tally is supposed to be released…

    J – MTA SALES TAX CONTINUANCE – Los Angeles County CA

    J Votes Percent
    YES 1,870,783 66.02%
    NO 962,972 33.98%

    BMF of San Diego Reply:


    VBobier Reply:

    Why? Do You think that there are too many Yes votes or not enough? In any case if one wants a recount, one pays for it out of their own pocket.

    VBobier Reply:

    OT: As of 12/02/2012 The vote is getting closer to 66.67%, Measure J is now 0.56% away from passing…

    J Votes Percent
    YES 1,893,340 66.11%
    NO 970,611 33.89%

    It may not pass, but this is interesting, there is lots of support for this measure, hopefully after prop 13 is amended for realistic local tax needs, then this could be revisited once again and this time Victory will be assured…

  9. D. P. Lubic
    Nov 30th, 2012 at 20:50

    Off topic but too cool not to share–a promotional film from General Electric featuring the Tropicana Juice Train, making its way from Florida to New York. Talk about high speed rail–in this film the 1,200-mile trip takes about 2 1/2 minutes!


    Behind the scenes:


    Main engine construction:


    Export locomotive “kit:”


    Have fun.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Also off topic, but perhaps of interest, a promotional video by a member of NARP, touting the new service to Norfolk, Va., to start on Dec. 12:


    Test train from a few days ago:


    What would I be without steam? One of my favorite roads, a real time traveler, the East Broad Top of Pennsylvania–only 90 minutes from my house–sadly inactive this year, but might be back the next. . .



  10. joe
    Nov 30th, 2012 at 21:20

    Lawyer complains – somewhat irrationally – that voting to release Prop 1a and get billions in ARRA funds could have been instead used to fund his court system. It couldn’t.

    Neil L. Shapiro: Money for high-speed rail, but not enough for courts

    I like Bill Monning, currently a member of the California Assembly and soon to be state senator,


    On June 15, Monning voted in favor of AB 1464, the bill proposing the state’s budget for fiscal year 2012-2013. That bill, when signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, cut the funding to California’s court system by roughly $300 million, setting off a cataclysmic chain of staff and service reductions locally and around the state.

    Then, on July 5, he voted in favor of SB1029, which authorized the sale of the first $4.6 billion in bonds for a high-speed rail system.

    If you decide that you want a judicial system that works instead of an expensive train to move people rapidly from Bakersfield to Merced, be sure to let Bill Monning know. I just did.

    Of course, Luis Alejo and virtually every Democrat voted exactly as he did, while Sam Blakeslee and virtually every Republican voted the other way.

    And why were we treated worse than others? Because for years our court had the wisdom to put away some of its money each year to fund longer-range projects, like upgrading its website to at least late 20th century standards. Sadly, and as it has demonstrated repeatedly, our vaunted Legislature eschews such fiscal prudence. So it punished those who engaged in it by cutting their funding and forcing them to spend their saved infrastructure improvement funds on trying to maintain a semblance of daily operations.

    Their isn’t an agency in the State that hasn’t a similar sob story – it’s not HSR’s fault. It’s the 2/3 super majority required to raise revenue.

    If the State advocates wants more funds – it has to raise revenue.

    Why not propose decriminalizing non-violent drug use and reducing case loads which will save the State funding and let the courts put violent people behind bars?

    VBobier Reply:

    That wouldn’t be a bad idea, I wonder how many are in favor of that vs opposed?

    Miles Bader Reply:

    I’ve got a better idea: Lawyer tax.

  11. joe
    Dec 1st, 2012 at 18:29


    Hewlett-Packard’s $11 billion Autonomy fiasco was preceded by many red flags
    Long before Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) paid $11 billion for what turned out to be its disastrous purchase of Autonomy, a handful of industry experts were raising red flags about the British software company’s accounting practices and claims of continuous growth.

    HP said this month that it only recently discovered what it characterized as fraud and other problems that made it realize it spent billions of dollars too much on the deal. But a vocal group of critics — albeit a minority at the time — were sounding alarms about the company as far back as 2007.

    With sales of their computer gear faltering, HP’s leaders had desperately hoped to transform the company with Autonomy’s products.

    In an interview with CNBC two weeks ago, Meg Whitman, who had been on HP’s board when the deal was announced in August 2011 and became CEO in September, a month before the Autonomy purchase was finalized, said “I regret that I voted for this deal but we are where we are.”

    Even some top HP executives were concerned about the price. Among them, an HP representative confirmed, was its Chief Financial Officer Cathie Lesjak, who urged the board not to do the deal.


    apologies to DRUNK HULK.

    synonymouse Reply:

    MegaMeg also supports Moondoggle Part Deux aka the Peripheral Tunnel aka Nueva LA in Palmdale.

    VBobier Reply:

    Thank You Dr. Smith

  12. joe
    Dec 2nd, 2012 at 06:56

    Is CARRD consulting for the Giants? The arguments and delay tactics are quite familiar.

    Parking and traffic “are the concerns we are focusing on now,” he said. “For the record, we are not opposed to the Warriors’ arena. We just want it done right.

    As to whether the Giants’ concerns might expand with time, as the Warriors fear, Baer was noncommittal.

    Privately, the team [Giants] has made no secret that it would rather see the arena built at Pier 50, south of AT&T Park. The Warriors think the Giants are using the traffic issue to slow the approval process and push the arena down to their preferred spot. They also think Baer is still miffed that the Warriors decided to go it alone on an arena plan rather than hook up with the Giants.

    The Giants think the Warriors are trying to steamroll their project through City Hall without adequate vetting to meet their self-imposed deadline of having an arena open for business by 2017.
    “It’s a little ironic for the Giants to be using the clarion call of traffic problems, given the enormous help with infrastructure the team got when they built AT&T Park,” Johnston told us.

    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/matier-ross/article/Giants-express-worry-about-arena-traffic-4083865.php#ixzz2DuHFMDyq

    Same old crap.

    Peter Reply:

    Nah, this is standard CEQA concern trolling. If it’s not parking and traffic impacts, it’s impacts to bird migration.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Parking is very very much standard abuse of the environmental study process. CEQA and NEPA were not intended to protect parking.

  13. Keith Saggers
    Dec 2nd, 2012 at 11:22

    130 years after the frog war with Virgil Earp officiating the Colton Flyover is finally being built at the busiest flat railroad junction in California

  14. Derek
    Dec 2nd, 2012 at 11:27

    The Mission of LOSSAN

    Discusses TAP cards and system compatibility, issues with the Surfliner keeping its schedule, the goal to cut the running time between Los Angeles and San Diego to 2 hours, and high speed rail:

    Connections by Surfliners to improved service coming to the San Joaquin Valley by 2018 and future High Speed Train service needs to be planned now so Californians and visitors to the State can travel about without being dependent on the auto.

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