What A Real Transportation Boondoggle Looks Like

Dec 11th, 2012 | Posted by

California’s passenger railroads are doing a healthy business, shattering ridership records left and right. High speed trains across the globe routinely have high ridership and cover their operating costs. The independent peer review found the ridership projections for California high speed rail were sound. Yet many critics charge that high speed rail is still some sort of huge risky boondoggle that the state should abandon as soon as possible.

Those critics are wasting their time by focusing on railroads, which have huge growth potential and a significant ridership waiting to be tapped. No, the real boondoggle in California transportation is the freeway network. And nothing shows that more clearly than the case of the Orange County toll roads.

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The toll road concept was first floated in the 1980s by Republicans looking for a way to build more highways in Orange County while also enriching private investors. Governor Jerry Brown had halted most freeway construction in the late 1970s in order to save money as well as address the oil crisis, and although construction on those unfinished projects resumed in the early 1980s, the state made it clear it didn’t have money to build new routes. So the idea of using bonds backed by tolls appealed to the Orange County sprawlocracy.

Public opinion wasn’t unanimously supportive. Laguna Beach bitterly opposed what became the Highway 73 toll road, which destroyed the upper part of Laguna Canyon when it was built in the mid-1990s. But most others hoped that the toll roads would provide relief to the 405, the 5, and the insane backups that developed from the 1980s onward on the 55 and 91 freeways leading from central Orange County to more affordable housing in the Inland Empire.

Backers promised that no new tax money would be required for the roads, that they would pay for themselves. Hardly anyone questioned this. In Orange County in the early 1990s, it was just taken as gospel that of course people would continue to drive everywhere for the rest of human existence, and so naturally new freeway lanes would be needed to handle the load.

But that wasn’t what happened. Here at the end of 2012, it’s clear the toll roads are a colossal failure:

The roads, which rely on motorist tolls and fees from new developments in the area, have been battered by economic recessions, lower-than-expected population growth and competing public highways, such as Interstates 5 and 405, both of which have been widened and improved by Caltrans.

Wall Street ratings agencies have reduced the San Joaquin Hills toll road’s bonds to junk status and the notes for the Foothill-Eastern corridor to the lowest investment grade.

To meet expenses and debt payments, the corridor agency has refinanced the San Joaquin Hills bonds, raised tolls more than originally planned, slashed administrative costs and obtained repayment concessions from bondholders. Early next year, officials plan to refinance about $2.4 billion in notes issued to build the Foothill-Eastern tollway.

In 2011, ridership on the San Joaquin Hills, which has never performed as predicted, was only 43% of original forecasts, and its revenue was 61% of projections. The road parallels the Orange County coast, slicing south from Irvine through Newport Beach, Laguna Beach and Aliso Viejo to the San Diego Freeway.

Motorists on the Foothill-Eastern last year numbered 33% less than projected, and revenue was 75% of forecasts. Previously, the part of the corridor between Yorba Linda and Rancho Santa Margarita had a revenue surplus and ridership that was often 8% to 10% ahead of projections. The extra money was used to help shore up the finances of the San Joaquin Hills road….

“It is hard to see how they can grow their revenue to keep up with the rapidly increasing levels of debt service,” said attorney Tom Vandiver, a public finance expert at the law firm.

Vandiver described the toll road’s situation as “a time bomb waiting to happen,” adding that the economic problems could lead to a default on bond payments or a potential bankruptcy.

The LA Times article does a good job of describing the overall financial woes. But it doesn’t really get at the heart of the problem: freeway “ridership” is only going to decline as gas prices continue to rise and as the great shift away from driving continues. Freeways and toll roads in the suburban fringe will be hit hardest by these declines, as growth there stalls and instead boomerangs back into the urban cores. While the Foothill-Eastern toll road might have had a few good years at the height of the housing bubble, those times are never ever coming back. The rise of gas prices means that people will find ways to avoid the toll roads, especially since each of those toll roads lies just a few miles away from a perfectly good parallel route. And even though those parallel routes sometimes are jammed with traffic, Southern Californians are voting with their wheels and choosing them over the toll roads anyway.

As gas prices rise and climate change worsens, California will also be building out more alternatives to driving, especially passenger rail. Metrolink has had an Inland Empire-Orange County line for several years now and one can expect that service to improve in frequency, coverage and speed over time. That too will cut into an already weakening demand for toll roads.

While some might point to Orange County’s failing toll roads as reason for caution over high speed rail, the truth is that the two are fundamentally different because of the underlying factors of gas prices and the shift away from driving. Freeway “ridership” will only continue to decline over time, whereas passenger rail has a bright future.

This isn’t to say that toll roads are inherently flawed. There are many reasons why tolling existing freeways makes sense, whether it’s congestion management, revenue generation, or carbon reduction. But if one is hoping to pay off construction bonds with tolls, or if one is counting on increasing “ridership” to generate toll revenue, well, you’re going to find yourself screwed when the “riders” choose trains instead.

Eventually the Orange County toll roads will have to be bailed out, just as the 91 toll lanes were. OC would have been better off without them. Its transportation future, like that of the rest of the country, lies in trains and buses, not in more freeway lanes.

  1. Engineering Student
    Dec 11th, 2012 at 22:15
    #1

    Too bad we’re still being taught roads-first as an introductory course to transportation engineering. Wonder when the curriculum will catch up.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Good grief. What school is this at and who do we talk to to get it changed?

    Do they at least teach driver psychology (narrow, bendy roads == safe driving; wide, straight roads == unsafe driving). or are they from the More Asphalt School of Transportation Engineering?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    So bypassing Route 17 with I-86 isn’t a good idea? Just slap some new paint on the Quickway and call it a day?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Safety-wise, building the Interstates did not cause accidents per unit of driving to decrease, and because the amount of driving increased massively, total accident deaths went up.

  2. Derek
    Dec 11th, 2012 at 22:20
    #2

    Correction: Orange County didn’t bail out the 91 toll lanes. The toll lanes were profitable at the time of the purchase. The purpose of buying the toll lanes was to make improvements and eliminate the non-compete clause.

    And if drivers avoid a toll road such that the road is operating below capacity, it’s because the toll is too high for that time of day. That’s easy to fix.

    VBobier Reply:

    Yeah, lower the toll to attract more people, but to the people in charge this won’t work in their minds, so they charge more and get less money and less people driving on the toll roads…

    Derek Reply:

    That happens often, but not in the case on the 91 toll lanes.

    Jonathan Reply:

    And if drivers avoid a toll road such that the road is operating below capacity, it’s because the toll is too high for that time of day. That’s easy to fix.

    Derek, that’s inane. The owners of the toll road don’t want to maximize _usage_, they want to maximize _profit_.. Income from tolls.

    Derek Reply:

    The owners of the toll road don’t want to maximize _usage_…

    That depends on the owners. The current owners of the 91 express lanes want to maximize usage.

    thatbruce Reply:

    A toll road is a time-limited commodity. If it’s not being used at 9:02am, there is no income for that point in time. You can either charge higher prices (more income for when it does get used) or lower prices (more uses of the road in the same period of time, leading to more income). One of these gets people to use it on a regular basis. The other, doesn’t.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Since most of their costs (debt service) is fixed, then maximizing profit is the same as maximizing revenue. Increased usage may increase maintenance costs but in most cases they’d be better off with the revenue. It’s a fair question why they don’t approach it that way.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @Robert Cruickshank:


    Eventually the Orange County toll roads will have to be bailed out, just as the 91 toll lanes were. OC would have been better off without them. Its transportation future, like that of the rest of the country, lies in trains and buses, not in more freeway lanes.

    As Derek alludes to, the 91 Toll lanes were purchased from CPTC by OCTA to eliminate both the non-compete clause and the court case which CPTC was bringing against Caltrans for improvements that Caltrans had made to parts of the 91 covered by the non-compete clause ( widening the 91 where the 241, another toll road, joined). The only ‘bail out’ was preventing Caltrans and OCTA from having to pay a large legal settlement if CPTC won their suit under a breach of the non-compete clause.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Why did OCTA want to bail out Caltrans? This is a really poor investment decision by OCTA, which bought an asset whose value is dropping. I suppose it could be used for a future railway corridor if the asphalt were removed, and then the land on either side might have value.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @Nathanael:

    Why did OCTA want to bail out Caltrans?

    The above-mentioned non-compete clause blocked any additional lanes being added to the 91 where the toll lanes ran, from the profitable bottleneck at Green River/71 to the 55, and also blocked any mass transit improvements from being made in that corridor. Getting rid of the non-compete clause and law suit by purchasing CPTC’s interest in the 91 toll lanes allowed Caltrans to make improvements to the 91 lessening the impact of the bottleneck around Green River/71, allowed OCTA to make improvements to mass transit in the area, and gave OCTA an additional revenue stream.

    Even though the improvements that Caltrans made reduced the incentive for people to use the 91 lanes, lowering the revenue, OCTA still gets a larger benefit out of owning the toll lanes. The value of the 91 toll lanes as an asset didn’t really change.

  3. Donk
    Dec 11th, 2012 at 22:31
    #3

    I drive from LA to San Diego almost every week. I never take the 73. This is simply because they have widened the 405 and 5 so much that both of those options are usually pretty good in that area. So this is more of the analog to how the widening of the 101 killed Gilroy Caltrain ridership.

    Donk Reply:

    BTW, I take the train maybe once/month. This is despite the fact that there is a connecting metro station <1 mile from each end of my trip. It takes double the amount of time by train, unless I go on a Friday afternoon. The Surfliner seriously has to go faster.

    joe Reply:

    One difference between the freeway and caltrain/gilroy.

    The widening of 101 from 2 to 4 lanes undercut caltrain ridership and combined with a economic downturn resulted in eventually cutting 1 of the 3 trains. That reduction in service further cut into ridership.

    The tollway doesn’t lose a lane – it sits empty.

    Published Friday, April 13, 2007, in the Gilroy Dispatch

    Train Ridership up Countywide, But Lagging in South County

    By Emily Alpert

    ….
    Ridership was falling before we had to reduce service,” said Janet
    McGovern, a Caltrain spokesperson. In late 2005, the agency cut back
    on trains to South County, paring back from eight trains a day (four
    in the morning, four at night) to six.

    [BATN: This uneconomic service was finally cut back because VTA
    made an explicit choice to widen parallel Highway 101, directly
    undercutting the investments that the region made in the rail line,
    and providing a nice model of how San Mateo County TA-sponsored
    freeway widenings of Highway 101 further north and how SFMTA-approved
    automobile over transit priority at the Caltrain station in SF serve
    to directly undercut transit ridership and to directly encourage more
    and longer automobile trips.]

    But other factors had already reduced ridership. Improvements to
    U.S. 101 made commuting by car more appealing to some riders, said
    McGovern. Job losses in the South Bay also slimmed the numbers of
    South County commuters taking the train north for work.

  4. Matt Korner
    Dec 11th, 2012 at 22:34
    #4

    Just filling capacity by reducing tolls does not make a toll road profitable.

    Derek Reply:

    No, at least not in the short term. But a well utilized toll road is more useful to society than an overpriced one.

    Andy M Reply:

    But in a capitalist society the usefulness of infrastructure is not measured by its benefits to society but by benefits to its shareholders.

    So you can actually make money through intentional underitilization.

    Derek Reply:

    That’s easy to fix. As a condition of allowing a company to operate a toll road, require that the tolls be set just high enough to eliminate congestion, but no higher.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Derek seems to have an idee’-fixe about congestion pricing. Though, as your comment points out, he doesn’t entirely understand it ;)

    Derek Reply:

    The photo at the top of this blog entry confirms the following quote in the article:

    Retired professor G.J. “Pete” Fielding…blamed the financial problems on…six- and eight-lane highways that were larger and more expensive to build than necessary… He suggested that a four-lane road would have been adequate for many years as long as tolls were raised and lowered based on demand — so-called congestion pricing.

    Simple solution: quit overbuilding freeways, tolled or not.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Only the parts of society that don’t live close enough to the road to breathe the air pollution.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Whats a little asthma, heart disease and cancer among friends? The cars are friendly aren’t they?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Asthma is just parents lying to get welfare money, according to public health expert Michael Savage.

  5. CR
    Dec 11th, 2012 at 22:36
    #5

    Clarification: California’s freeway building was in decline a decade before Jerry Brown came to office, due to declining funding.

    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01944369508975618#preview%29*

  6. Tom McNamara
    Dec 12th, 2012 at 00:07
    #6

    California has, however, racked up quite a few white elephants in recent years: the Orange County toll roads, the South Bay Expressway in San Diego, BART to SFO, and the new Sacramento Airport terminal.

  7. morris brown
    Dec 12th, 2012 at 03:43
    #7

    While Robert writes this absolute non-sense


    “No, the real boondoggle in California transportation is the freeway network”,

    more reality on California High Speed Rail is posted in the Orange Co. Register. This time an OpEd from Rep Kevin McCarty, the #3 in line Californian Republican leader in the House, which is still controlled by Republicans.

    OC Register: Kevin McCarthy: High-speed rail is no ‘Field of Dreams’

    Link: http://www.ocregister.com/opinion/project-380340-rail-high.html

    —-

    You can also view video of his testimony at the Dec 6, 2012 Mica Transportation hearing at:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IASz1rwM-DQ (6 minutes).

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Yeah, from the same people who’ve been saying for years, “Americans love their cars, Americans will NEVER ride trains,” despite the fact that rail ridership has been going up pretty steadily for at least 10 years now, and despite the fact that even “dinosaur” Amtrak can claim an overall cost recovery ratio of 85%, vs. less than 50% for the road system.

    Oh, man, if Amtrak can get that last 15%, watch out!!

    Jonathan Reply:

    Doesn’t that 85% include state subsidiy payments as “recovery”?

    Paul Druce Reply:

    And is only considering train operations and not their various capital budgets, nor track fees.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I know the 85% doesn’t include capital, but are you sure about the track fees?

    Nathanael Reply:

    Track fees are operations.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “Doesn’t that 85% include state subsidy payments as ‘recovery?'”–Jonathan

    It almost certainly does, but I’m not certain that’s too important, at least not in a highway-railroad comparison. The reason I say this is that state highway departments consider Federal grants “revenue” as well. I should know; I’ve actually looked at state highway department financial reports.

    Wendell Cox tried to discolor Baltimore’s light rail line with that brush, claiming the Baltimore transit line included Federal grants as revenue. Of course, he was conveniently silent on the definition of a Federal highway grant in the accounting of the Maryland highway department. . .

  8. D. P. Lubic
    Dec 12th, 2012 at 04:57
    #8

    An important point not mentioned here about the “great shift from driving” is the retirement of the Baby Boom generation. As those people retire, they drive a lot less (which makes sense–they’re not going to work every day anymore)–which in turn is reflected in the fall in highway revenue, along with everything else like electric cars.

    The drop can be quite dramatic. I’ve been looking at the prospect of retirement myself, and while I do use my car on the job (which means I burn more gasoline than average), I recently figured that if I got out, my gasoline purchases would drop from about $200.00 per month now to perhaps $40 or even less. Multiply that by a lot of retirees, and even if their current purchases are half of mine, you have a significant drop in highway revenue.

    We need a new highway funding model, and we need trains, too. . .and a general transportation vision most of all.

    Andy M Reply:

    Of course, the financing side is going to be have to be re-adressed, but with gas prices rising it’s going to be difficult to push through further charges, levies and tolls. So I predict that whereas there may be some increased revenue, it’s not going to meet demands and so the other side of the coin will bite. If you can’t raise revenue to meet costs you’ve got to reduce costs to meet revenue. So I can imagine that infrastructure will get downsized werever capacity exceeds demands as major repairs become due or parallel/redundant roads concentrated.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I’m expecting roadways to lose their paving. Asphalt is getting expensive and it doesn’t last very long in areas which have freezing. If localities have any sense, some will go back to brick or cobblestone, but I’m expecting gravel and dirt. :-(

    Eric Reply:

    Orange County doesn’t have much freezing. They used to grow oranges there, after all…

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Freeze and thaw cycles aren’t the only enemies of asphalt or even concrete paving. Both are subject to wear from all those tires; both can become just rougher as the top surface wears down to aggregates within the paving material, and in the case of asphalt, can even become rutted.

    Asphalt can also be subject to softening under a hot summer sun. If this is at a place where you have a lot of stop-and-go action, such as at an intersection, you can get some quite amazing corrugations in the surface. I’ve seen some that must have been six inches high. It may not take long, either; a road with an intersection near my office was repaved last year, and part of it had to be stripped and repaved in less than six months due to severe corrugations, at least partially caused by all the truck traffic that stops and restarts at this intersection.

  9. Paul Druce
    Dec 12th, 2012 at 07:52
    #9

    To be fair, part of the problem is that the 241 was supposed to be extended all the way to San Clemente and thus allow a bypass of some of the worst congested elements of the I-5; hard to blame them for underperformance when they are only a partial segment (though even that does well since it is so much more convenient for RSM than taking surface streets to the 5)

    Paul Druce Reply:

    And it should also be noted that the roads pay for their upkeep quite handily: what they have a problem with is the debt for financing their construction and CAHSR would be in the exact same boat if it tried to pay for all of its construction costs.

    trentbridge Reply:

    And there’s substantial housing going in along the 241 route which will increase usage in the next five years. For example:

    From OCMetro:

    In another significant signal that the regional economy is strengthening, construction is underway on the first of what may ultimately be 14,000 new homes and apartments east of San Juan Capistrano on one of the last and largest parcels of undeveloped land in Orange County.

    and LATimes:

    Toll Bros. will partner with builder Shea Homes to construct more than 2,000 homes and apartments in the Baker Ranch development in Lake Forest.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    There’s only one type of toll road that is profitable, it’s called a bridge.

    You can’t expect to do the type of loss-leading development that freeways allowed in the post-war period with turnpikes.

    Paul Druce is softpedaling things about the 241: If you had started with express lanes on the 91, the 241/5 interchange at the county line and and extended the 133 north, you could have worked your way across to build chokepoints to the major employment centers that served new housing near the foothills. However, because property taxes in California are artificially low, development patterns tend to rely too heavily on impact fees which in turn engenders sprawl that comes too much, too easy, too soon.

    That’s why the resistance to building the 241/5 interchange was a well-coordinated effort to use Coastal Commission rules to make such a connection impossible and thus toll roads to nowhere. This is further corroborated by Metrolink reducing service on the Inland Empire line due to lack of demand.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You can’t expect to do the type of loss-leading development that freeways allowed in the post-war period with turnpikes.

    The New Jersey Turnpike Authority was committed to contributing, in nice round numbers, a billion dollars to the Acesss to the Region’s Core project. Most places in the world can’t toll the road between the 20 million people in metro New York and almost everything south of there.

    ,,, on the other hand the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was committed to contributing, in nice round numbers, 3 billion. Ya can’t cross the Hudson River south of Nyack/Tarrytown without paying a toll to the Port Authority. Discounted off peak electronic toll is $7.50 if I remember correctly. Can’t cross the Hudson, without paying a toll to someone, until Albany. In nice round numbers, 150 miles north of the Statue of Liberty.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    …and lets not forget the Delaware Turnpike. four bucks to go less than 12 miles….

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Nonsense, there are plenty of actual highways which are profitable toll roads.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Oh sure…if you are talking about the Indiana Toll Road or Florida Turnpike that are intercity in nature. Sure you can get a profit on paper, which is really just a form of transfer payments that compensate for the lower taxes that road users in those states might pay for things like vehicle registration or gas taxes.

    The Orange County roads are metropolitan highways that do not move people from one Metro area to another. Thus, drivers always have spare capacity in the form of side streets, other freeways, mass transit, bicycle lanes to choose from (and in the OC obviously do). Try that between Sausalito and San Francisco or Annapolis and the Eastern Shore and you’re shit out of luck….

    VBobier Reply:

    I think none of them are in California…

  10. Mike
    Dec 12th, 2012 at 13:58
    #10

    I’m just not seeing how this is any kind of horrible boondoggle; instead I’d say it’s a colossal public victory. There’s no public money in the projects. The public is not on the hook for the performance of the roads, private bondholders are. Maybe the roads go bankrupt, and the bondholders take over. So what? Bad for them, good for the public.

    If there’s anything “bad” about these toll roads, it’s their environmental impact. But as far as having been financed by private investors betting on toll revenue, the public is the big winner.

    swing hanger Reply:

    re. environmental impact, just looking at the picture of that toll road, it’s remarkable the massive swath of land such infrastructure gobbles up, as opposed to a high speed rail line, which likely takes up a quarter or less of ROW space.

    Nathanael Reply:

    That is the most notable thing. Expressways take up stupidly large amounts of land. A high-speed rail line takes up less width than your average American city street (which are quite wide by international standards).

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Nathanael’s comment reminds me of an incident during my abortive attempt to promote a modern interurban instead of a 4-lane highway in the eastern part of West Virginia some years ago.

    Part of my effort included a small paper–about 17 pages–comparing the construction and operating costs of a road and this interurban. Included in there was a drawing comparing the relative widths of the two, drawn to scale (I have a little engineering background); dimensions were based on AAR practice for slopes and 15-foot track centers, with poles set between the tracks, and the road was based on the cross section of the highway department.

    I gave a copy of this paper to one of the highway engineers, who thumbed through it, and stopped at a page. He motioned to another engineer to look at something, who in turn gestured to a third man for a look as well.

    I’ll admit to having a big ego, and so I went to them to see what caused such curiosity. It was that drawing. What floored me was one of them saying to me, “I didn’t realize the difference in width [between a railroad and a 4-lane highway] was so great.”

    This was from professional civil engineers. . .who presumably have also worked with railroad grade crossings. . .and I am the rankest of amateurs. . .sheesh!!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Out of curiosity, what road is this? If I remember correctly, you said it was built, so I’m just curious to see what the alignment is and where the interurban would’ve passed instead.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    It’s West Virginia Route 9, which runs between Paw Paw in Morgan County and the boundary between West Virginia and Virginia east of Charles Town, Jefferson County, at a place called Bloomery, which is named for an old iron furnace there. Intermediate towns include Berkeley Springs (Morgan County), Hedgesville, Martinsburg (both in Berkeley County), and Kearneysville (the latter pronounced “karnysville”) and Charles Town, (both in Jefferson County) This road continues into Virginia as Route 9, and joins the famous Virginia Route 7 outside of Leesburg, Va.

    Original construction of the road as an auto route dates to the 1920s, and this is the road that was treated to a partial replacement. This partial replacement runs westward from the state line to Martinsburg; originally it was intended that it would have continued at least to Berkeley Springs, but horrible finances have shelved this portion of the project. It had a fair amount of controversy in the 1980s and 1990s, largely on environmental grounds. Another controversy revolved around the choice of an asphalt vs. concrete road surface If I’m recalling this correctly, the original specification was concrete, then changed to asphalt, then back to concrete. A local asphalt company got into a tizzy about this, apparently thinking it had a contract or potential contract when the specification was changed.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Virginia_Route_9

    http://www.transportation.wv.gov/highways/Highways-Projects/WV_Route_9/Pages/default.aspx

    http://www.transportation.wv.gov/highways/Highways-Projects/WV_Route_9/Documents/WV9-Status-2010-07-01.pdf

    Charles Town is historically significant as the site of the trial and execution of John Brown, the abolitionist who attempted to start a slave rebellion in nearby Harpers Ferry. Martinsburg is the site of the “Stonewall Jackson Locomotive Raid” in 1861, in which the famous Confederate general tore up the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad between Harpers Ferry and Cumberland, and then decided those locomotives at Martinsburg would be useful for the South, so he had them shipped down the Winchester Pike (now US Route 11, paralleled by I-81) to Winchester, where a rail link still existed to move the engines south to Strasburg, Va., and then east to Manassas, Va. Martinsburg is also well-known as the site of origin of the first national labor uprising or strike in 1877; the roundhouse and shop buildings there, the post-Civil War replacements for structures burned by Jackson in 1861, still exist and are under slow restoration by a special agency in Berkeley County. Berkeley Springs is known as a warm spring that dates back to Indian days, and of course, George Washington supposedly took a bath there.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    http://www.wvmetronews.com/index.cfm?func=displayfullstory&storyid=39058

    This photo is between Kearneysville and the crossroads called Bardane, looking east. The railroad that is visible is the former B&O line, and is the route of MARC commuter trains and Amtrak’s Capital Limited.

    http://www.triadeng.com/Documents/Route-9_web.gif

    This photo is about midway between Berkeley Springs and Martinsburg, looking east to the latter town. This section is much hillier than the portion east of Martinsburg, at least until crossing the Shenandoah to head into Virginia. There are some other photos of this road you may want to check on this site:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/dougtone/7940827774/

    Some old stuff is still around if you know where to look; this is on Route 9, east of Berkeley Springs:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/38915448@N05/5163548238/

    Route 9 (old alignment) as South Queen Street in Martinsburg; the church steeple at left is St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. Beyond, headed west, are the town square with the courthouse and a 1970s vintage library, and beyond that an underpass under the Baltimore & Ohio.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/roadgeek/7728288266/

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    That sign looks familiar:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/38915448@N05/5158401601/

    Approaching Hedgesville; went right past this on the way to an audit today (Dec. 13) in Berkeley Springs. The Baltimore & Ohio listed Hedgesville as North Mountain in its station list. The station there was actually in a store that was next to the tracks. This store is still standing, though long abandoned.

    http://photos.igougo.com/pictures-photos-p601716-Country_Church.html

    This is a house in Berkeley Springs; we are looking down Route 9 eastward into the town. The house is now something of a tourist attraction.

    http://photos.igougo.com/pictures-photos-p601729-Berkeley_Castle.html

    Have fun with the photos and other things.

    Derek Reply:

    A high-speed rail line takes up less width than your average American city street…

    Is that more or less than 100 feet?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Much less.

  11. D. P. Lubic
    Dec 12th, 2012 at 19:51
    #11

    Off topic, but included in the keeping-an-eye-on-the-competition file:

    http://www.ecogeek.org/automobiles/3835-road-trains-could-allow-greener-driverless-travel?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+EcoGeek+%28EcoGeek%29

    http://www.volvotrucks.com/trucks/NewZealand-market/en-nz/newsmedia/pressreleases/Pages/pressreleases.aspx?pubID=14543

    http://www.businessinsider.com/volvo-successfully-tests-road-train-2012-12

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Also off topic, but a cool blast from the past–movie footage of the NYC’s M-497, the famous jet-propelled RDC:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pB-PGnF-B0

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uK0UzjBzV30

    A “re-enactment:” :-)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJ5l_LHexdM

    Finally, simply because it showed up while fooling around with this, footage of the Bombardier “Jet Train:”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mueMepjBgyw

    A Canadian HSR site:

    http://highspeedrail.ca/

  12. joe
    Dec 12th, 2012 at 20:41
    #12

    Poor Morris is being fleeced.

    A 5,000 a month Boondoggle for Menlo Park NIMBYs.

    http://www.almanacnews.com/news/show_story.php?id=12677

    Menlo Park fires high-speed rail lobbyist
    Council decides to look for other representation

    With a few members declaring themselves unimpressed with the return on their investment in lobbyist Ravi Mehta’s Capitol Advocates firm, the Menlo Park City Council voted 3-1 to terminate his $5,000 a month contract.


    Mr. Cline later suggested that Menlo Park explore sharing Palo Alto’s new $15,000 a month lobbyist since the two cities maintain similar positions on high-speed rail. “My experience is that you get what you pay for,” he said. “It depends on what level you want to play at … for big issues like CEQA, (the redevelopment agency), it’s going to cost more.”


    5k for Menlo park and 15K a month for Palo Alto. That’s a lot of pot-holes waiting to be filled. 20K just to be in Sacramento to repeat a line from green eggs and ham. “We do not want HSR, Sam I Am!”

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Ho, ho, ho, ho .ho!!!

    VBobier Reply:

    Ditto, Merry XMAS all! Morris enjoy Yer fleece…

  13. Reedman
    Dec 13th, 2012 at 16:37
    #13

    If the Oakland BART Connector can operate at the level of these “boondoggle” toll roads, it will be a major triumph. The toll roads took no private money to build, and don’t need unionized civil servants to operate — they are fabulously efficient compared to the Oakland BART Connector.

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