CHSRA Cleared to Begin Property Acquisition

Jan 14th, 2013 | Posted by

Before you can start construction on high speed rail, you’ve got to own the right of way. And today the California High Speed Rail Authority was given approval to begin buying it:

The state’s Public Works Board on Monday cleared the way for the California High-Speed Rail Authority to begin negotiating for property in Fresno and Madera counties needed for high-speed train tracks.

In a meeting that lasted less than 10 minutes, the board — which includes the directors of the state’s Finance, General Services and Transportation departments — voted 3-0 to approve the formal selection of 356 separate parcels by the rail authority….

Rail authority officials can now start making offers to owners whose property is targeted for the first stage of construction. Those parcels are either in the path of the tracks themselves or will be affected by related construction, including overpasses to carry city streets and county roads over the tracks or the relocation of Highway 99 between Ashlan and Clinton avenues.

It’s one of those entirely unexciting bureaucratic approvals that is also an important step forward in getting high speed rail ready for construction. The hard part is still to come, of course, when it comes to land acquisition. Not all property owners are going to be willing sellers, although this first segment from Madera to Fresno is going to be easier on that front than it will be further south near Hanford. But the CHSRA now has the authority it needs to begin buying land and, if needed, start eminent domain proceedings.

It’s been over 30 years since high speed rail in California was a gleam in the eyes of Adriana Gianturco, Jerry Brown, and a few early adopters in the Legislature and around the state. After decades of starts and stops, after gas prices and carbon emissions have soared, California high speed rail is on a path to finally begin construction here in 2013.

  1. Andy M
    Jan 15th, 2013 at 03:38

    Great, looking forward to seeing real progress on the ground soon.

  2. Jo
    Jan 15th, 2013 at 06:20

    All in all, a very important and productive week for CAHSR. Besides getting approval to finally begin buying land, bids are due to be submitted by Friday, and the Amtrak/CAHSRA agreement to buy trainsets I believe will be announced Thursday. I always thought that the NEC and California needed different trains, that is higher profile trains for the NEC, and low profile trains for California – which I think is the way to go for California; but I still have confidence that good trainsets will be selected. I do not think they will make the same mistake that they did with the Acelas.

    VBobier Reply:

    I’d call the Acelas just a proof of concept, now if both can get the waivers, then Real HSR Trains can be bought.

    Andy M Reply:

    I guess it make sense to piggy pack the CAHSR order on an NEC order, so benefitting from economies of scale and pooling of knowledge/skills/parts etc. And furthermore, with Amtrak likely to have troubleshot and bugfixed the new train before California gets its first unit, CA should pretty much be able to put it into productive service very much from delivery.

    Jo Reply:

    Good point. Also, hopefully, CAHSR will be able to finagle some extra federal funds towards the purchase. And perhaps – Amtrak can even learn from CAHSR about making enhancements to the NEC. All in all – it will help both CAHSR and Amtrak.

    joe Reply:

    The attacks on CA’s HSR include pitting NEC vs CA. Morales knows this risk so he’s building allies.

    Any purchase in this political climate is BFD. Linking HSR to NEC’s long term HSR plans in the same request for information and probable purchase (paperwork) is a smart move by Morales.

    This RIF undermines the divide and conquer strategy. All for or all against.

    Hand wringing over the purchase is silly since there’s nothing to hand wring over.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Successful rail operators that seek to deliver value to their funders (ie the taxpayers) and customers (ie the taxpayers) “divide and conquer” the hell out of their procurement.

    Exhibit A: RENFE.

    Siemens, Alstom, CAF, Talgo, Bombardier.
    A half dozen different contemporary train designs. Multiple vendors.
    Zero joint procurement with Amtrak. Or with JR-East. Or with SBB. Or with the Buenos Aires Metro.

    Otherwise, you know, you end up being a hostage of the contractors and vendors. Game the monopoly procurement and you’re set for life. Too big to fail!

    Exhibit A: CAHSRA=PBQD.

    joe Reply:

    Where did anyone read there would be sole vendor selected?

    You presume too much about a future acquisition.

    The TBD acquisition must competitive and can award multiple selections and include down selections. It can also procure different items.

    All this is TBD once the RFI is analyzed justifying and documenting that approach.

    Recall a few weeks ago the problem was CA was going to have a unique, incompatible system. Now the problem is a HSR Frankenstein.

    The combination of the NEC and CA HSR into one Federal RFI and possible acquisition doesn’t mean everyone must to buy the same thing from the same vendor. It makes the politics far more difficult for HSR opponents to pit the NEC against CA’s system.

    Technical details are TBD.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You’re not getting what the problem is. California’s teaming up with Amtrak isn’t going to be enough to make the procurement unique or compatible with anything. When rolling stock orders follow international standards, there’s no need for this bundling. California doesn’t have the NEC’s unique needs, and can and should just order a Velaro/Zefiro/E6/AGV/Oaris/AVRIL/HEMU-430X.

    joe Reply:

    What is there to get?

    The problem is there isn’t any problem yet. None. It’s all fabricated.

    They are opening a Request for Information.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    So far they’re talking about joint procurement. If they were sending RFIs together but made it clear the orders are for lines with different needs, different cost structures, and different opening dates, then it’d be fine. But at least the press releases talk about joint procurement, which is wrong.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Naah – Moonbeam wants the Feds to buy up TehaVegaSkyRail because neither California nor Nevada can afford such a money pit for long. Only an entity that can afford ceaseless decades of war in far-flung hellholes can underwrite the Moondoggle for the same eternity.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Replace buy up with assume at liquidation.

    Derek Reply:

    California high-speed rail cost figures coming in, but no one will see them yet
    By Mike Rosenberg,

    But you won’t see the bid prices yet — and neither will the officials planning the project. They’ll be filed away in sealed containers, with the supporting documents locked up in fireproof cabinets… bullet train officials say they will keep the price portion of the bids sealed in separate envelopes, like at the Oscars, while they analyze the quality of the proposals. That process, already delayed from November, could take another two months and is meant to keep state officials from being biased toward the firms with the cheapest bids.

  3. Reedman
    Jan 15th, 2013 at 09:14

    A bit off track (pun intended):

    The phrase “train robbers” usually means stealing things that are on a train,
    but it can also mean that you have actually stolen the train —-

  4. synonymouse
    Jan 15th, 2013 at 09:49

    Cox trashes Deserted Xprss:

    This scheme is so flaky it probably will be funded.

    Your Amtrak neo-Acela trainsets will establish the top speed at 160mph, canceling the Prop 1A travel time proviso. Be interested to see how Moonbeam, CEO Richard and Villa will scam that one.

    Maybe they will define Gilroy as the SF Bay Area milepost zero.

    Derek Reply:

    Your Amtrak neo-Acela trainsets will establish the top speed at 160mph…

    Amtrak’s vision is for 220 mph service, not 160.

    From your linked article:

    Promoters expect people to drive 50 to 100 miles to get to the station and then get off the freeway, park, and board the train for the final 175 miles to Las Vegas.

    San Bernardino is only 40 miles from Victorville.

    VBobier Reply:

    Essentially Yer correct, please forgive the nitpicking, Google Maps says, it’s either of the following:

    40.2 mi, 39 mins
    In current traffic: 40 mins
    I-215 N and I-15 N
    (minor details can be found at Google Maps)


    42.1 mi, 48 mins
    In current traffic: 54 mins
    I-215 N, I-15 N and US-395 N
    (minor details can be found at Google Maps)

    Although I’d only take the 2nd route if I had to.

    Joey Reply:

    Amtrak’s vision, at this point, consists of little more than lines drawn on a map with no consideration for how best to spend money on increasing speed. For the per-km costs they are proposing, Japan is building primarily underground maglev.

  5. synonymouse
    Jan 15th, 2013 at 12:06

    So there would be two versions, a slower one for the NEC and a faster one for the CHSRA?

    VBobier Reply:

    No syno, Just one that will do 220mph or can’t You read?

    synonymouse Reply:

    The logic of this escapes me. Ordinarily the purpose of a going out to bid for equipment to a new and custom design is to meet your needs precisely. Adding on the capability of 60mph extra is certainly going to cost more, to acquire and likely to operate.

    If you are going to settle for less than tailor-made why not just shop for off-the-shelf that comes closest to your specific requirements and seek a variance, dispensation, indulgence, call it what you want, from the FRA? You would know what you were going to get, as it would already be in real-world operation, and you would have a track record of what others paid for it.

    If you go to a new design you are always running the risk of a nasty surprise, namely all the bids coming in high. It happens some times. And if you are going to link your new design closely to an existing design, why not just go straight with that manufacturer and negotiate the price directly? Bidding can get nasty – you could end up with Ansaldo Breda.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Or Hyundai Rotem.

    Peter Reply:

    That was the most cogent comment you’ve ever written. Thank you.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Thanks be to you. I needed that. I have been in a funk the past few days. That Aaron Swartz story was discouraging as hell, emblematic of all the bad news recently.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Nothing that won’t be fixed by declaring a Republic of Greater Cambridge and deporting Carmen Ortiz to Alaska.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Yeah. It’s the sort of thing I saw coming, since I’ve been following the corruption of the federal “Justice” system for a couple of decades now. If it’s any consolation, things genuinely are better in most of the state courts.

    When the moral of the story is “never, ever call the federal police”, you know we have become the USSR.

    On the plus side, the USSR had a great train system.

    Derek Reply:

    If you are going to settle for less than tailor-made why not just shop for off-the-shelf that comes closest to your specific requirements and seek a variance, dispensation, indulgence, call it what you want, from the FRA?

    Isn’t that what they’re doing?

    joe Reply:

    I think you get it.

    One does not simply walk into Mordor nor does one’s government simply buy train-sets.

    The upcoming RFI and eventual Acquisition are covered by Federal Laws. Even off-the-shelf purchase must follow the laws and regulations.

    2.101 Definitions.

    “Acquisition” means the acquiring by contract with appropriated funds of supplies or services (including construction) by and for the use of the Federal Government through purchase or lease, whether the supplies or services are already in existence or must be created, developed, demonstrated, and evaluated. Acquisition begins at the point when agency needs are established and includes the description of requirements to satisfy agency needs, solicitation and selection of sources, award of contracts, contract financing, contract performance, contract administration, and those technical and management functions directly related to the process of fulfilling agency needs by contract.

    “Acquisition planning” means the process by which the efforts of all personnel responsible for an acquisition are coordinated and integrated through a comprehensive plan for fulfilling the agency need in a timely manner and at a reasonable cost. It includes developing the overall strategy for managing the acquisition.

    “Adequate evidence” means information sufficient to support the reasonable belief that a particular act or omission has occurred.

    synonymouse Reply:

    My contention is that Brown, Pelosi and the rest of the California congressional cabal have the kind of clout to take extreme liberties with the FRA, DOT, etc. and get away with it. Including effectively buying off the shelf, of course, using a different and “compliant” description. As if the obsequious LaHood would dare overrule Pelosi.

    Look at what BART gets away with. They fixed it for Bombardier. Jerry and Nancy can write their own trainset shopping list and pull whatever strings as required. The patronage machine pulls that kind of crap on a daily basis.

    See Kimiko Burton

    StevieB Reply:

    The Goals and Objectives of Amtrak Vision for the NEC include the NEC Upgrade and NEC Next Generation High Speed Rail programs. The latter envisions 220mph 435 seat high speed train-sets. Recently it was announced that buying extra cars for existing Acela train-sets would not be pursued and instead 32 high speed train-sets would be purchased.

    Joey Reply:

    The NEC isn’t going to need anything close to 200mph for a long time (compare: CAHSR which as much of the environmental work done with the NEC vision which is still in the concept stage). In any case, the most cost effective way to get time savings out of the NEC for the foreseeable future is to speed up the slowest sections rather than trying to push the top speed even more.

    Derek Reply:

    [citation needed]

    Peter Reply:

    Metro-North and Connecticut DESPERATELY need upgrades to boost average speed.

    Joey Reply:

    Metro-North also needs to let go of the notion that all trains traveling at a maximum of 75mph is a good thing. That may also mean letting go of the notion that their uncoordinated morass of a schedule is the most convenient thing for passengers.

    Joey Reply:

    If you insist. here and here.

    Derek Reply:

    Your first link writes:

    The important thing is to build the projects with the most benefit measured in travel time reduced or reliability gained per unit of cost

    Bingo! It didn’t say the most cost effective way to achieve time savings is always to speed up the slowest sections.

    Joey Reply:

    Now you’re putting words in my mouth. I never said always. And yes, time saved per dollar spent is the metric to use, but on the NEC, this largely means eliminating slow sections and small speed restrictions in otherwise medium to fast zones, rather than building entirely new greenfield alignments (though in some cases, for instance the Shore Line north of New Haven, this will eventually be necessary).

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    citation needed]

    How about you nominate one mile of the NEC which will require 200mph commercial operation within the service lifetime of any train acquired in the next decade?

    joe Reply:

    200 could be in the plan for NEC in 2020 and you’d just whine that the speed isn’t “required”.

    Nothing will satisfy you – never has and never will.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It all depends on what the plan includes. Personally, I think the NEC does need 300 km/h service, but it’s a lower priority than bypassing the worst and easiest-to-get-around parts of the Shore Line, fixing station throats, fixing Elizabeth and Metuchen, grade-separating New Rochelle, and getting rid of Metro-North’s 75 mph limit.

    For example, take the Providence Line. Current Acela scheduled travel time is 46 minutes northbound and 36 southbound. Getting it down to about 25 minutes in each direction is fairly easy and requires little concrete; if trains skip Back Bay and Route 128, make it 20. But it requires modernizing the MBTA’s rolling stock and operations, so there’s still a nontrivial cost, to say nothing of the cost of acquiring 300+ km/h trains. It’s worth it if it’s the difference between a trip time of 1:30 and 1:45, but not if it’s the difference between 3:00 and 3:15.

    And if the worst curves are not fixed, then a Pendolino achieves much better average speeds than even the mildly-tilting E6, since there’s only enough room to accelerate to 300 km/h on a handful of segments. Even if the worst curves are fixed, the curvier portions of the line would be faster with a Pendolino than with a 300+ km/h train, but there would be enough long straight stretches for the faster train to make it up. In contrast, there is no reason for CAHSR to use a tilting train. Even if it gets an N700-I or E6, it’s likely going to get it without tilt, just as the N700s running purely on the Sanyo Shinkansen don’t tilt.

    Clem Reply:

    In short, fix the slow bits first, even if that means using a tilting train. The NEC is a different kettle of fish, and requires different technical solutions than California. A joint procurement (even a joint RFI) with Amtrak is a step in a decisively wrong direction.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    the most cost effective way to get time savings out of the NEC for the foreseeable future is to speed up the slowest sections rather than trying to push the top speed even more.

    Same with California HSR … and pretty much any other transportation mode and system in the universe.

    Sadly for us, maximizing spending rather than optimizing performance is the sole driving motive of CHSRA’s mafiosi. Spend 10 billion tax extra dollars building detours and having trains and passenger piss around waiting and queuing at catastrophically ill-conceived stations, then be “required” to operate at infeasible speeds to “make up” for the entirely self-inflicted handicaps.

    It’s a win-win synergy!

    Joey Reply:

    May I ask which detours you are talking about specifically?

    Clem Reply:

    The same clear economies of scale explain why you should purchase a Porsche to shop for groceries.

    VBobier Reply:

    Why when I have a very useful and paid for 1999 FORD Escort zx2 Sport Hot Coupe, it’s fast enough and does what I need as it is good enough to get Me from point A to B… I get 30mpg and the DMV fees are below $100 currently, unless I’m late for some reason… Tilt steering is My next part to equip the car with, then work on the car a/c after I replace two tires and get an oil change…

    synonymouse Reply:

    Perhaps your Escort is sorta an Acela and the Amtrak-Moonbeam hsr vehicle is more a Bugatti Veyrol.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Serious question: what’s the difference in price between 350 km/h trainsets and Pendolini?

    Neville Snark Reply:

    Slightly ot: Pendolini, in my (UK) experience, have to be made a little narrower than normal trains because of the tilting; as a result they feel slightly cramped, and I don’t think Americans will like that. We need wide. Maybe the company can make special US sizes, or maybe they do already. I’ve ridden various trains in Europe but not a Pendolino.

    Peter Reply:

    Maybe both California and the NEC could purchase the UIC-compliant Kawasaki efSet, with tilting for the NEC, and without for California.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    It is bat shit insane to tie California HSR to either the rail-historical infrastructure of the NEC or to the catastrophe that is Amtrak.

    It’s a green field project. The best feasible technology and equipment and practices should be used. There’s quite literally no reason not to do so. (Choosing the worst possible consultants to “design” it kind of shot that in the head, though, didn’t it?)

    There should be absolutely no relation to a legacy shitstorm of incompetence happening way on the other side of the North American continent, no more than CHSR should joint procure with Moscow-Petersberg or London-Glasgow or Sydney-Melbourne.

    Anybody who even suggests that California HSR should be tied to Amtrak or the NEC in any way needs to have his oxygen quota reduced to zero, immediately.

    Derek Reply:

    It’s a green field project. The best feasible technology and equipment and practices should be used.

    I disagree that that the best feasible technology and equipment should not be used when it isn’t a green field project.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I suspect there is a lot more to the Amtrak-NEC connection than just a pooled bid for trainsets. Moonbeam figures to federalize the whole damn thing as who else would want to buy it or into it. The foamers have been instructing me to not even think about class one involvement. Who else is there? Branson? His thinking would be precisely the same as the SNCF. So no go.

    We left the greenfield long ago. That is when we progressed from hsr to TEE thence to AmBART. Even Kopp sees this.

    Richard is 100% correct. It is indeed insane to enmire California in East Coast legacy rail when we are building anew. Granted there are standard gauge existing lines at the ends but in between it should be state of the art. Just buy off the shelf. Anything we design is apt to be mediocre at best. Look at BART garbage. We cannot design, debug and perfect something like the PCC nowadays because we simply have no up to date electric rail transit industry. That is only overseas. We’re underdeveloped, ghetto, by comparison.

    If there ever were a case where a collective bid on a standardized design were advisable, it would be BART. The tv complains BART is jammed with riders but can’t obtain any new equipment for 4 years. Maybe if dumbass Bechtel had used specs compatible with the ancient NYC subway system there would be enough business to keep construction ongoing. BART is mostly NYC 19th century 3rd rail dc subway, just stupid broad gauge.

    But the CHSRA really does need to greenfield because it is going to be going at least 160mph rather than BART’s measly 80mph at best. This is a new thing, not an urban subway. But PB wants to BART-Bechtel it all the way. At least with maglev they couldn’t pull that reinvent the wheel shit.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    I disagree that that the best feasible technology and equipment should not be used when it isn’t a green field project.

    That’s not what I was intending to say, and I suspect you know that.

    3.5m wide 330kmh double-deck low-floor-entry (say, and I am saying it) trains delivered circa 2025-2030 with zero FRA legacy BS requirements might be appropriate to “green field” California HSR but, despite being a best technical solution all other things being equal, are unlikely to be appropriate to the Amtrak (shudder) North East Corridor any time in the next many decades.

    Certainly the NEC should (but is guaranteed not to) operate in the best and most cost-effective way with the best and most cost-effective equipment that the global industry can deliver subject to the legacy infrastructure and constraints of the NEC. For California HSR to be constrained by NEC history is insane. But that’s what they’re doing — just look at the beyond-fucking-awful Transbay Terminal in SF which amounts to Amtrak NY Penn Station done even worse, or the PBQD operating plan for CHSR which is Amtrak on steroids. Simply unbelievable. Simple inexcusable.

    joe Reply:

    You can submit a response to the upcoming HSR Request For Information and your personal response must to be accepted and reviewed.

    Maybe cut and paste this insight.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Agree with RM et Syn. We need to keep ATK 3,000 miles away from CA HSR. There is no common interest in the procurement process for NEC replacement stock and CA HSR trains. It is simply empire building on Amtrak’s part.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Ditto. Simply groan inducing. But inevitable, in hyper-political US infrastructure development.

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    The way things seem to be going, California will have a green field project only between Merced and Bakersfield, and eventually Palmdale. For a long time, the ends will be whatever we have now. Until 2030, the overall California system may be slower and less functional than the NEC.

    William Reply:

    I think these expensive parts can be shared between a 150 mph and a 200 mph trainsets:
    – traction motor, transformers, and related power equipments; what’s the possibility of changing all NEC power to 60HZ 25kV AC?
    – bogie, especially if Amtrak chose to use the air-spring type tilting mechanism
    – on-board computer and control equipments

    I am think the difference would be in the line of 757 & 767…

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:


    Don’t forget wheels.

    Wheels can be shared!

    They both have wheels!

    Lots of wheels. Many more wheels than related power equipments.

    Economy of scale. Through wheels.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Serious question: what’s the difference in price between 350 km/h trainsets and Pendolini?

    It’s hard to say, since train procurement contracts can vary so much (spares, maintenance, options vs new contract, local political demands, exchange rates, kickbacks, etc, etc, etc.)

    But here’s a recent-ish Pendolino announcement:
    ~ CHF 250m (~ USD 270m) for 8 (option on an earlier order) tri-voltage 250kmh trains. (~ USD 34m each,

    In August 2010 a new order of 50 360kmh trains from Bombardier by Trenitalia was repotted as coming in at EUR 30.8m per train (~ USD 41m)

    Clem Reply:

    Another data point:

    The same money buys either:
    1120 very high speed (380 km/h) train cars, or
    560 very high speed train cars + 1100 lower speed (250 km/h) train cars.

    Speed is expensive.

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