Will Bakersfield HSR Alignment Be Put on Pause?

May 29th, 2013 | Posted by

Lois Henry at the Bakersfield Californian suggests in a recent column that the contentious decision about a Bakersfield high speed rail alignment might get punted:

The California High Speed Rail Authority will consider a recommendation by staff members at its June 6 monthly meeting to approve a rail alignment and station locations between Fresno and Shafter — not all the way through Bakersfield.

Bakersfield officials and the Kern Council of Governments had suggested in December that the authority only certify an environmental document outlining the rail’s path from south of Fresno to somewhere north of Bakersfield, such as Shafter.

The proposed alignments through Bakersfield are all highly contentious and would surely spark lawsuits, locals said.

Besides, the rail authority doesn’t have the money to build all the way through Bakersfield, they said.

“Why select a route and set it in stone when you don’t know when, or even if, you’ll have the money to go all the way into Bakersfield?” asked Kern COG director Ahron Hakimi, back in December.

If the train stopped at Shafter and tied into the Burlington-Northern-Santa Fe tracks, at least the authority would have a workable track while waiting for more funding, Hakimi noted.

It’s not clear to me what a delay will accomplish. The tracks will go through Bakersfield. Building a station on the edge of town is an incredibly bad idea, one I would strongly oppose. The station needs to be downtown and that means the tracks do too.

How those tracks get to the downtown station, how they get from one end of town to the other, those are questions worth examining. But Bakersfield does not have very many options. The current plan follows existing tracks to the extent possible, which is the minimal level of disruption while still having the HSR system benefit the city. A delay may not provide any substantially different answers or routes for Bakersfield to consider.

Ultimately a route will have to be chosen and that route will inconvenience somebody. There’s no way around it. Rather than seeking to avoid impacts entirely, the goal needs to be on finding the best route that can keep the station downtown. The current proposed route does that. I’d rather see Bakersfield and Kern County focus on getting that done. If pushing the pause button helps that happen, even if not immediately, then it’s worth doing. But not if the goal is to start entirely from scratch.

  1. Clem
    May 29th, 2013 at 21:43

    The revised DEIR introduced a new alignment through town, to reduce impacts to existing neighborhoods, hospitals and schools. This is known as the Bakersfield Hybrid Alignment, or B3. This alignment avoids the community impacts be swerving around them with sharp curves, two of them with a 115 mph speed limit.

    The 115 speed limit isn’t a problem for trains that stop at Bakersfield, but those that don’t will see their trip times increased by two minutes because of the speed restriction.

    Where do you stand on this trade-off– is a school or a hospital worth two minutes of everybody’s time who will ever ride HSR for decades into the future?

    Why does this two-minute delay not show up in any of the CHSRA’s run time simulations?

    Are they concealing other potential trip delays?

    joe Reply:

    Concealing potential trip delays? No, probably not updating the model and simulation times dynamically.

    Given Kern Co cannot form a consensus on the alignment, and given the Bakersfield City Manager’s disposiiton and City’s disengaged approach to HSR, I’d bypass Bakersfield for political/practical reasons.

    It would run through downtown Bakersfield, north of the railroad tracks, with a station behind Amtrak. It would miss Bakersfield High School, but take out part of Mercy Hospital and the city’s corporation yard that holds city vehicles.

    “It would be extraordinarily difficult and costly to replace that asset and we can’t be without it,” said Alan Tandy, Bakersfield City Manager.

    The city was hoping the state’s High-Speed Rail Authority would wait to make a decision. There are concerns high-speed rail doesn’t have the funds to complete the project so it’s unnecessarily scaring residents.

    “They don’t have the money to build it so why are they casting shadows on the values of these properties?,” said Tandy. “It’s premature and unnecessary.”

    “As Bakersfield City Council, we are going to fight tooth and nail to make sure high-speed rail doesn’t disrupt anyone’s lives in Bakersfield,” said Maxwell.

    Impossible, it will disrupt people’s lives.

    2 minutes, isn’t the issue. The City Manager has withheld CAHSR compromise offers from the council and apologized in writing. He’s argumentative and difficult. The City is unable to make recommendations and wants more data and detailed studies for all possible alignments.

    I’d put the station on the edge of town and tell them to run a bus service. Put the maintenance yard up north and leave the City alone.

    Andrew Reply:

    Right on

    Peter Reply:


    swing hanger Reply:

    Bypass Bako.

    Nathanael Reply:

    My fiancee grew up in Bakersfield for part of her youth.

    Bakersfield SHOULD have a downtown train station. However, right now, the City Manager has decided to sabotage things, because he’s a lying, manipulative jerk — and he seems to have a fair number of idiots on his side. He says he can’t replace a PARKING LOT because it would be “extraordinarily difficult and expensive”? Liar.

    I don’t want to punish the good people of Bakersfield because of the bad, stupid people of Bakersfield, but sometimes that’s how it has to go. Have a referendum, and if the people in Bakersfield vote for a downtown station, give them the downtown station, and they’ll benefit from it.

    If they don’t, blast through on the most direct route (probably through farmland), bulldoze whatever is in the way, don’t build a Bakersfield station at all, and speed past Bakersfield at 220 mph. The city can wither up and die like so many cities bypassed by the train.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The city can wither up and die like so many cities bypassed by the train.

    It’s just awful what’s happened to Ithaca since the canal boats stopping calling.

    Eric Reply:

    Call me back when Cal State-Bakerfield because as successful a university as Cornell.

    blankslate Reply:

    Which would certainly happen if HSR stopped in downtown Bakersfield.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Agree. The pols are acting based on their constituents’ desires, presumably. If they don’t want anything to do with the HSR line, then fine, oblige them, the straight shot will speed the timetable up anyway.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Just move hsr over to I-5, not that far away.

    joe Reply:


    City Manager apologizes to council over High Speed Rail plans

    In his weekly memo Friday afternoon, City Manager Alan Tandy apologized to city council members for not telling them sooner about a new High Speed Rail alignment being proposed for downtown Bakersfield.
    On Tuesday, The Bakersfield Californian ran an article about the possible alternate alignment.

    Consensus on high speed rail evades local transportation group
    The agency in charge of coordinating regional transportation in Kern County is struggling to find common ground on a project that was supposed to unite the state: California High-Speed Rail.

    “If this is an attempt to portray a uniform front or position on the HSR alignment among the three cities, that is arguably not the case,” Allen wrote.

    Derek Reply:

    I’d put the station on the edge of town and tell them to run a bus service.

    I’d build the station on the edge of town and develop the land around it with condos, shops, office buildings, and one end of a streetcar line. Bakersfield’s city council can decide where to put the other end and how they’re going to fund it.

    JOE Reply:

    Well you go right ahead and do that development. Kern Co. can’t come to a consensus but you’ve apparent have an EIR and plan in hand. Go for it.

    Jon Reply:

    Off topic, but there’s some good Clem-bait in the following document:


    Quote from page 31:

    “It is important to note that the feasibility of operating DRC [Dumbarton] service on the Caltrain corridor in addition to the Caltrain and HSR blended system does not equate to having the capacity to add another Caltrain or HSR train during the peak hour. DRC service fits because it uses only portions of the corridor and does not require an end-to-end corridor operating slot.”

    Elizabeth Reply:

    You mean the prima facie evidence that if you want to do blended, Altamont is the obvious routing?

    joe Reply:

    Exactly. Cancel Caltrain electrification and use that money for HSR as was intended.

    Continue to expand HW 101 and fix on-ramp metering so traffic doesn’t pile on to 101 mid-pennisula. If that backs up on side streets, invest in tech to coordinate lights and route more traffic on secondary streets.

    COntinue to push for infill near job centers such as the 2,000 units Meno Park has to build. COntineu to push Palo to comply with housing.

    Let’s kick off some grassroots meetings in the East Bay and get them on board for doing HSR right and help maintain the bucolic peninsula lifestyle along Alma St.

    Derek Reply:

    Continue to expand HW 101 and fix on-ramp metering so traffic doesn’t pile on to 101 mid-pennisula. If that backs up on side streets, invest in tech to coordinate lights and route more traffic on secondary streets.

    Unnecessary. Simply convert all lanes on the 101 to express lanes. Problem solved. The simplest solution that works is the best, right?

    Jonathan Reply:

    Are you pathologically dishonest, or genuinely stupid? Even when your asinine claims are refuted, and you concede that they’re wrong, you come back and parrot the exact same Randroid nonsense.

    Why not just close all the lanes? There’d be no congestion then.

    Derek Reply:

    When you understand Supply & Demand well enough to read a demand curve, you’ll understand how the price mechanism can be used to prevent traffic congestion while maintaining a steady stream of traffic without overcharging anyone. I suggest enrolling in Econ 101 at your local community college.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    That’s the issue, Derek. Some people took economics beyond 101.

    Derek Reply:

    It seems that the concept of an economic equilibrium is difficult to grasp. Jonathan thinks that the moment you raise the price from $0, the lanes will go from congested to totally empty. I know he thinks that because he compared it to closing all the lanes.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    “I’m merely misreading what Jonathan said” isn’t a good defense.

    Derek Reply:

    Thank you for sharing, Alon.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Derek, you are deliberately misreading what I wrote.

    Jon Reply:

    Of course he is. If he doesn’t deliberately misread what everyone writes, how can he continue to convince himself that everyone is stupid compared to himself?

    Andrew Reply:

    Derek rules! I heart theInternet

    JOE Reply:

    It’s not Econ, it is from the North Korea School of Traffic Management Handbook. Just convert all lanes to express lanes and close off the highway. Like paying SimCity in God Mode.

    Derek Reply:

    Just convert all lanes to express lanes and close off the highway.

    The above statement contradicts itself.

    joe Reply:

    absolutely not.

    Derek Reply:

    If you say so.

    JOE Reply:

    Zombies. Just bite and convert people to zombies and you’ve solved the commute problem.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Ii have actually proposed in all seriousness that they could use the new, not environmentally cleared, 4 extra 101 lanes as a train ROW. Traffic logjam could be solved by metering/ tolling the 85 that feeds into ti.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Makes sense but:
    (1) it’s not clear that those lanes are straight enough or flat enough for train traffic.
    (2) Putting rail stations next to unpleasant, fume-spewing, traffic-choked highways reduces ridership substantially.

    JOE Reply:

    I have actually proposed in all seriousness that they could use the new, not environmentally cleared, 4 extra 101 lanes as a train ROW.

    Traffic logjam could be solved by metering/ tolling the 85 that feeds into ti.

    You are assuming metering happens in north bound Mountain View but the Embarcadero / Oregon Expressway South Bound on ramp is a major choke point on 101 and on-ramp traffic needs to be slowed down. 85 metering isn’t solving that problem.

    Metering puts more cars on surface streets – we cut across from Embarcadero to Middlefield head south to avoid that current mess. You’ll see more cutting traffic if metering is the solution. You need to get people out of cars.

    The train, I assume HSR, on 101 is going to be very expensive; require reworking the ramps at each exchange and overpass and it’s construction in a high risk, high traffic corridor.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Translation: “I drive 85 to work. Don’t toll me. Also, I want a free train.”

    joe Reply:

    Translation “I hate you, I hate you.”

    Dear SF and Peninsula residents, HW 85 is already metered at 101 in South County. It has been for over a decade.

    Adding a meter on 85 N would favour N 101 traffic and make my drive easier – much easier – but it’s a bad idea, doesn’t solve the problems in PAMPA and I oppose it.

    Slowing the metering lights in Palo Alto etc. would worsen my commute but I think it helps reduce congestion and encourages alternative transportation – I favour it.

    We do ride for free. Employers pay for VTA and Caltrain so the free ride comment is right on.

    I just need a train post 8AM so those of us in South County that parent can use the train.

    That need makes me a very very bad person. So selfish.

    joe Reply:

    BTW do Toll 101. It can pay for Caltrain and extended service to South County. Great idea – I missed that one. Thanks.

    Andrew Reply:

    Richard rules

    Elizabeth Reply:


    Bottlenecks were inevitable result of increasing flowthrough capacity of 85 (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/10744) intersection used to suck but it effectively metered the 2 lanes of highway 85 traffic that merged onto the 4 of 101. They “fix” the bottleneck, add some of Derek’s induced traffic and voila – there is now a bottleneck that will get “fixed” and then in the next boom cycle we will have to expand the 5 miles north of that to fix the new mysterious bottleneck.

    joe Reply:

    I don’t use the new 85 N but I’m pretty sure the 101/85 North merge is not engineered for heavily metering like 87. The one lane would backup and block the Shoreline exit ramp and that combined traffic would then back up to 101 S ramp and el Camino Exit on 85 and so on. I think that’s why your suggested was not implemented in the latest re-design.

    I’d would restrict the car pool ramps 24×7. and de facto reduce merging on the left side of 101. That should help 101.

    101 Southbound congests at Oregon Expressway due to heavy traffic merging at that ramp. Also too many on ramps along that stretch South are poorly metered to avoid side street backups that anger residents (these backups are common along heavily metered 85 as I am told).

    Given the Facebook (6K new workers) and pending new google development (4K new workers) and most of the new housing units going up along 101 in Menlo Park, I don’t see 101 fixed by modifying 85.

    The current 101 expansion will work for a while but as you noted, 5 years out the problems will return. I can support tolling 101 both ways since public transit offers alternatives. VTA 22/522 and Caltrain can absorb 101 commuters who will want to avoid the toll. 85 has no public transit alternatives.

    Also, Palo Alto has got to own up to traffic induced their development along the el camino.

    I’d offer this solution, re-connect Willow Rd to Sand Hill road with a overpass along the creek where it was disconnected. That new route into the core would relieve University Ave traffic and Embarcadero traffic heading N. It also takes cut through traffic off El Camino.

    Before http://goo.gl/maps/cohus
    After http://goo.gl/maps/12yKl

    Elizabeth Reply:

    The point is that what previously looked like a fail was actually performing an important metering function.

    joe Reply:

    It was a fail.

    This current design is far better because it separates car pool onto a dedicated lane and also routes all Shoreline / Google traffic off 85 on a dedicated ramp prior to merging on 101. The old design had car pool drivers and shoreline exits all hitting 101 and mixing with shoreline 101 off ramp traffic. Then car pool would swing over to the 101 car pool lane.

    The goal of Caltrans is not to choke traffic so as to clear the Palo Alto sections of 101.

    BrianR Reply:

    Could you please clarify where those ‘4 extra 101 lanes’ would be located that can be used for a train ROW? As far as I am aware the 101 corridor is pretty much built out along the peninsula. Obviously you know it’s not like the I-5 with luxuriant wide grassy medians. Do you really mean removal of 4 existing traffic lanes? However it’s done it would have an enormous impact on everyone’s commute for a long time. It would require an entire reconfiguration of the 101.

    I understand that Palo Alto thinks it’s being asked to take it up the ass because of the proposed removal of 1 lane of traffic for about 3 miles on Alma. In comparison think about the number of drivers throughout the bay area using the 101 everyday. Are you not concerned with how they would be impacted? Maybe you are not but I think they would be pissed and in numbers they would far eclipse the “concerned citizens” of PAMPA.

  2. Andrew
    May 30th, 2013 at 03:27

    There IS NO Downtown Bakersfield. Might as well cut our losses there to support the downtowns we DO have, by providing faster hsr service via I-5. This doesn’t mean bypassing Fresno; it just means putting Bakersfield’s station close to I-5 (at the light blue dot):


    This also eliminates all the impacts described above. And for a good portion of Bakersfield’s population, this West-side station location would be equally or more convenient than the location “downtown”.

    I’m all for downtown locations, but this one just doesn’t make sense to me.

    wdobner Reply:

    There may not be a downtown Bakerfield, but there definitely is a center of population to Bakersfield. Placing the station on the edge of the city means that those passengers from the opposite side of the city have even less incentive to utilize the HSR line. Even with a P&R, largely automobile dependent station there’s a catchment area of some finite size. Why discard those potential Bakersfield passengers from the Northern and Eastern sides of the city who might drive downtown for a trip to Fresno or Merced, but are unwilling to go the 15 miles further to a cornfield station off I-5?

    This HSR system will live or die by its local passengers on the IOS. If we optimize it for express traffic at this stage and bypass potential passengers then we only have ourselves to blame when we run empty trains over Tejon and project opponents get the ‘train to nowhere’ killed before construction on the northern mountain crossing can begin.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    …because they pass by it on their way to I-5 if they are going anyplace other than Fresno?

    Andrew Reply:

    ” there definitely is a center of population to Bakersfield” — good point; it’s way WEST of downtown.

    Go w/ I-5 for Bkrsfld.

  3. Travis D
    May 30th, 2013 at 04:57

    I think the big issue is cost.

    I love the idea of downtown stations but there is a price for everything. It might cost an extra billion or more to run through downtown Bakersfield. Is the downtown station worth that price?

    That is a point worth debating. In this particular instance I think exploring other station sites might be worth looking into. It might not even need to be way out in the sticks. Is there any other location within Bakersfield proper that might be easier to access? Maybe a station close to the 58-99 interchange with the tracks running down the median of 58 out of town?

    Just exploring possibilities here.

    Clem Reply:

    Cutting through downtown Bakersfield does involve building about ten miles of viaduct, close to 100 feet high in some places. An absolute orgy of concrete pouring.

    Roger Christensen Reply:

    Another consideration is the value of a HSR to local Amtrak transfer in Bakersfield and having a single rail hub.

    joe Reply:

    Anoither consideration that Bakersfield and Kern Co are incapable of planning for this proejct nor capable of even understanding what to ask for within their own governance let alone cooperate between cities and Co.

    They don’t know what they want. They don’t know how to find out what to want.

    They can’t function let alone collaborate. The de facto strategy is to be non-functional and extract as much as possible by putting the proejct at great risk and blame HSR for any changes to the City.

    That’s why I prefer HSR bypass dowtntown and steer clear of the dysfunctional City and Co.as much as possible.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “They don’t know what they want. They don’t know how to find out what to want.”

    Naah. The majority do not want hsr at all at this juncture. This is why you have Bay Area media running critical stories on hsr. Ordinarily they would scrupulously avoid offending the bosses and going against the party line. Typical media strategy – exploit the demographic majority opinion and still retain favor by editorially and ultimately supporting the kumabya and politically correct bs.

    Moonbeam won’t be around forever – there is still the slightest chance this thing may go back before the voters if the opposition approaches three quarters of the electorate. It would take many millions in saturation propaganda to overcome the negative and the SoCal water grab might get implicated and complicate or poison the politics. Bit of uncertainty here.

    J. Wong Reply:

    They might not want it now, but if they saw it, they would want it.

    Most people operate this way. “Would you want this (hypothetical) X? Naah.” Which makes one wonder about the future of Apple. The IPod and the IPhone and the IPad came about because Steve Jobs wanted them, no matter what, and once other people saw them, they wanted them to. But if the marketing folks had gone out and asked people would you like to buy one before they existed, they would have come back with the answer “No”.

    sgv railrider Reply:

    I totally agree. People look at the big cost and automatically say no. It’s always too expensive. We have to look ahead. How much longer do we have to widen the freeways/roadways (6 lanes each way)? How much is this costing the taxpayers? The airports are at or almost at full capacity. Do you want more airports? We just have to face the facts that California population will reach 50 million in the near future. We need an alternative form of transportation to move people.

    Nathanael Reply:


    Bakersfield is a very unpleasant place, but it doesn’t have to be. They’ll want a downtown rail station if they want to have a downtown, though.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Steve Jobs would build the DogLeg?

    ho ho ho

    synonymouse Reply:

    nyuk nyuk nyuk is better

    JOE Reply:

    My philosophy (empirically learned from dealing with friends, students, employees) is that Bakersfield cannot be helped if it doesn’t (City and Co) recognize it has a responsibility in making and owning decisions.

    They currently want CAHSR to fund many detailed studies and present a wide selection of options from which they may or may not find any acceptable.

    Whatever is done will be forced on Bakersfield de facto since the city has no plan for it’s city recognizes HSR is happening for ad long as Mr. Tandy and Co are in charge.

    I guess is okay to push something on the City since we need the system built and could careless about their feelings BUT they’ll fight and delay the project at a time when it needs to finish or lose funds. Bakersfield and Kern Co will cause problems, waste money and distract from other efforts.

    Best to use this obstacle as a teaching moment and plan for a greenfield county station with bus terminal and use state power to take that land.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    That’s why I prefer HSR bypass dowtntown and steer clear of the dysfunctional City and Co.as much as possible.

    Finally! Sensible talk about San José from “Joe”.

    Eric Reply:

    The San Jose area has three times the population of Bakersfield and much more investment capital. Therefore much harder to logically justify bypassing.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    and they will have lovely fast frequent BART service to Fremont if Altamont was built.

    Joe Reply:

    Hipsters know San José is uncool. Like, who would ev-er want to go there?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There aren’t going to be local Amtrak trains running to Bakersfield. The main reason Amtrak trains leave Bakersfield is to carry passengers to Fresno and points north. Once those passengers are on high speed rail the reason for having a train run through the itty bitty stops along the way disappears.

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    There might eventually be a local train running along the East side of the valley, at least as far as Fresno, and connecting with the high speed train at both ends. There is no better public relations for a railroad company, at the local level, than a nice passenger service on its right-of-way, and the Union Pacific might eventually see things that way. I believe the freight railroads are as well accepted by communities in the Chicago area as they are, because of their excellent commuter service. And the public chips in for what is fairly expensive urban right-of-way upkeep and improvement.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @Peter Baldo:

    Once the HSR network is in place, there isn’t likely to be a FRA passenger operation in the lower CV, unless one of the Amtrak cross-country trains gets rerouted.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    No there won’t. Take the annual ridership of Corcoran which was 21.117 in fiscal year 2012. Mutliply it by ten. that’s 211,170. Divide that by 365 to approximate daily ridership. That 578.5, round that to 580. Thats boarding and alightings so that’s half of one train a day. Do the same thing with Wasco. You might have enough demand for two short trains a day. Two short trains a day, the people in either get on the Super Shuttle bus that picks them up at their door and comes whenever they want it to.

    They get trains now because it makes sense to stop the train that’s full of people who want to get between Fresno and Bakersfield. The reason to run that train goes away when all the people who want to get between Fresno and Bakersfield are on the HSR train.

    jonathan Reply:

    Clem writes:

    Cutting through downtown Bakersfield does involve building about ten miles of viaduct, close to 100 feet high in some places. An absolute orgy of concrete pouring.

    Sonds like a wonderful opportunity for “value engineering”, then. Surely CHSRA could bypass “donwtown” Bakersfield; put in light rail from “downtwon” to the HSR station, and still come out cheaper than the concrete-fest.

    What does the DEIR say about the noise from these monster viaducts?

    Peter Reply:

    A lot. They’ll be building a lot of soundwalls, specifying a maximum noise level for trains of 90 dB for procurement, implement special trackwork for turnouts, etc, and conduct additional noise analysis after final design.

    Mac Reply:

    Peter , in the last DEIR, they actually eliminated soundwalls in some areas. The 81,000+ people in the area that live within .5 mile of the “preferred” 10 to 12 mile elevated alignment don’t have much faith that they will get appropriate mitigation. The reality is that some window film, caulk and a bit of cash may be the only mitigation deemed “necessary”, “reasonable” or cost effective. Why would the area want such an alignment when there are other possibilities? It isn’t even logical. Who wants to be a prisoner in their own home because it is too noisy/ intrusive to enjoy their outdoor environments?
    The people who live in the area are the best ones to determine what alternatives would work the best—however the Authority (and others as well) like to think that they know best and that Bakersfield citizens don’t have the mental capacity to contribute potential solutions. The Authority doesn’t seek collaboration, they just want the Bakersfield area to give in and simply agree with them. Sad.

    joe Reply:

    The people who live in the area are the best ones to determine what alternatives would work the best—however the Authority (and others as well) like to think that they know best and that Bakersfield citizens don’t have the mental capacity to contribute potential solutions.

    Bakersfield City Gov has been out to lunch – not even returning comments to CAHSRA alternative alignments until the local paper broke the story.


    That’s why faith is lost – they have a government that refuses to govern.
    The residents deserve a responsive government and instead have cowards who offer no leadership, just finger pointing and passive aggressive attempts to extort money from the project.

    Even Kern Co cannot agree on a preferred alignment so the whole area is dysfunctional. Of course it’s all the fault of CAHSR Authority.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    That’s what happens when you put people who think government is bad in charge of the government.

    swing hanger Reply:

    It behooves the authority that they adopt a set of sound standards through mixed and residential neighborhoods (if not done so already), and stick to them- and as Peter mentioned, build sound deadening infrastructure (it exists) and acquire rolling stock that has low noise features. Otherwise, and I subscribe to this, just bypass the city center and build a parkway station on the outskirts, next to the shopping mall or whatever.

    Peter Reply:

    If you’re referring to the “hybrid” alignment, then there’s no need for as much soundwalls, because the trains will be going much slower through Bakersfield than in the Bakersfield-North or Bakersfield-South alignments due to tighter curves. Lower speed –> less noise –> less noise mitigation needed.

    Mac Reply:

    Yes Clem, 10-12 miles of elevated viaduct (up to 90′ elevation) is absolutely ridiculous. All “alternative alignments” are within a few hundred feet of each other….even this “hybrid” alternative that is supposedly “preferred” (at least by the Authority, not by Bakersfield)
    The Authority simply doesn’t listen or respond to specific questions, suggestions or plan ideas from communities in the valley (aside from Fresno). There is no “collaboration” despite what the Authority’s PR people say. The Authority has refused to look at any other alternative station sites for years, despite local outcry for further study. Believe what you will…but the reality in the south valley is a far cry from what is depicted here on this blog by those who live outside the area.

    joe Reply:

    even this “hybrid” alternative that is supposedly “preferred” (at least by the Authority, not by Bakersfield)
    There is no preferred alternative. None at the city of country level. Kern Co has no consensus. Bakersfield has no alternative.

    CA HSR Authority has a job to do and the City has a responsibility to involve itself and make recommendations. If the City continues to do nothing and issue Andaman then it is simply asking the Authority to step into the vacuum and build a rail system per the voter mandate.

    datacruncher Reply:

    Shouldn’t we first remember that the Authority originally listened to Bakersfield and Kern County’s choice of a downtown station.

    The Kern COG first produced a study in 1993 that stated a preference for a downtown Bakersfield station over other sites even knowing some of the potential impacts.

    The city and county later battled over a site near the airport or a site downtown and the city’s preference of a downtown station was eventually the choice presented by the area to the Authority.

    The elevated viaduct was not some imposed secret or unknown fact related to the expressed preference of a downtown station.

    Kern COG’s own consultant said in a 2003 study that a downtown station and alignment would require elevated structures. In fact they even talked about a possibility of building triple decked structures for the BNSF then HSR then the planned Centennial Freeway at the top level. Take a look at the study and impact analysis.

    As I’ve said before, if Bakersfield residents did not know what their leadership was working on with HSR then they need to hold those leaders accountable. Many of them are still the current council, city manager and others who originally were for a downtown alignment and station. Apparently no one in Bakersfield is willing to direct their anger at those local leaders responsible for the past decisions made in the name of the area. I doubt anyone ever will and those leaders will get let off the hook while people talk about how horrible the Authority has treated Bakersfield.

    The reality is there was collaboration. But after years of work dating back to 1993, the Bakersfield area said wait we’ve changed our minds about what we want. Bakersfield’s recent flip-flop is the problem.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Bakersfield’s recent flip-flop is the problem.

    But triple level above grade bent-tastic viaducts with a freeway on the top? No problem; but on the contrary Fucking Awesome!!!

    Mac Reply:

    Datacruncher, I hear you. Perhaps the Authority listened a decade ago, as you say. However, they stopped listening not long after that. If you read the analyses, you see that the “opinions” or recommendations were never meant to be written in stone. In fact 3 sites were reviewed…all 3 were agreed to be possible by the Authority (based on 2003 facts)
    There were no environmental studies yet done to assess true impacts of a downtown station. The current airport had not yet been built (now complete). It assumed certain freeways/alignments would be built. The Golden State Freeway is off the table and the Centennial Freeway which is now in EIR stage has NO alignment that goes through the downtown area. It will be a traffic nightmare to locate the station downtown, as access is incredibly poor. Yes, there was mention of elevated tract in downtown if the Truxtun site were chosen (I believe up to 3 Miles). Now we are looking at 10-12 miles from one end of town to the other. The Golden State station would have been at ground level, and the airport at possibly a slight elevation.
    It is nonsensical to insist that a downtown location is best given all of the variables that have since changed. In looking at your documentation, you will note that the general public actually preferred the airport location….and the Downtown Business Association preferred the Golden State route, even then.
    When the EIR came back showing all the negative impacts.. the Authority REFUSE to revisit/study the other 2 station locations in any subsequent DEIR. That is the bottom line. They don’t seem to care which is the best fit, the least impactful environmentally, or even how much it costs;they just want to build something as fast as possible . Its all about keeping that federal funding that is but a drop in the bucket for overall cost of a functioning system…..no matter what the cost to the citizens who will be stuck with such greed laden decisionmaking. And sadly….no matter if the system is ever linked to the LA basin. The HSRA still thinks it is worth tearing up the valley and destroying the Bakersfield area even if the IOS is never complete. It was voiced at the congressional hearing last week by Richard.

    datacruncher Reply:

    I would disagree with you on some of that. My interpretation is the Authority continued to listen to Bakersfield area leaders. It was when the public expressed misgivings a couple of years ago that regional leaders suddenly started saying it was all the Authority’s doing. But maybe it was local leaders who were not listening to locals instead.

    It wasn’t a lack of knowledge of impacts by city leaders. In that previous 2003 document, representatives of the city of Bakersfield listed no cons to a downtown site at Truxton. Yet the Bakersfield DBA listed as cons to the Truxton site: “Site would require HSR to be elevated” and also “Many potential noise impacts to local land uses”.

    Apparently the city and county didn’t listen to DBA (or the public) because a Q1 2006 update on the Bakersfield Vision 20/20 site says “The City, the County and Kern COG have reached consensus on a downtown location for a high-speed rail station.” That is roughly the same time as the Authority’s 2005 Program Level EIR stated a preference for downtown indicating to me alignment/station collaboration in 2005 between the Authority and local leaders.

    There were also things like this 2009 article about a scoping meeting in Bakersfield. So discussions still happening then. The local newspaper included images of elevated tracks both near the Centennial Parkway/Kern River and downtown near 99. No local leaders were quoted as concerned about it then?

    And then Kern County had Shafter’s Fran Florez on the HSR board from 2002 to 2010. Shouldn’t she have been representing local interests and concerns during that period?

    My frustration about Bakersfield pointing fingers at the Authority is current leaders in the region who were in power for over a decade are pretending they knew nothing about impacts and the public and local media is letting them get away with it. Those leaders knew what was happening for a long time.

    Yet many like you say it is only the Authority that didn’t listen? Looks to me like Bakersfield area leaders didn’t listen to the public and yet are paying no price for that.

    If the public in 2003 wanted an airport location but the regional leaders instead pushed for downtown, then why aren’t those local leaders considered bad guys too for ignoring the public about the airport location?

    I also think you mean the current Bakersfield airport terminal was not built in 2003, the airport itself has been at the current site for decades. Some supporters of an airport station saw HSR as a way to use BFL as a “Southern California” airport alternative to LAX instead of Palmdale. They dreamed of a large terminal complex with HSR feeding flights at BFL. But then that means what about the impacts of many more flights operating at the airport to serve SoCal residents not just local Bakersfield needs?

    Although you feel that the Authority has only worked collaboratively with Fresno, I would say that is because that city’s preference has been consistent. My research indicates the city of Fresno has been on record as supporting an alignment near the UP ROW with a downtown Fresno station since at least 2001. The earliest studies in the late 90s looked at 4 routes near Fresno: west of 99 with a greenfield station; UP; BNSF; and west of the city with a station near the airport. It was the UP/downtown station Fresno alternative that won out and has retained support.

    Consistency means Fresno-area concerns and decisions about HSR could be analyzed and made on both sides of the discussion such as west side or east side of the UP tracks, shifting from a 60 ft viaduct to at-grade, exact station site in downtown, mitigation needs, etc.

    It really is too bad that Bakersfield leaders may have kept the public in the dark about what they were discussing with the Authority, that appears to me to have helped create the animosity there. As I’ve mentioned to you before, Bakersfield residents really need to be directing at least some of their anger toward local leaders who made HSR decisions on the area’s behalf but still remain in power today. Those local leaders are being allowed to rewrite the history of their involvement.

    Mac Reply:

    I do understand your view. And I am not saying that local leaders are entirely blameless.
    But studying an alternative alignment (not just one that is but a few feet from the other alignments) has been repeatedly rejected by the HSRA for years now. There WAS time to study alternatives. The HSRA just didn’t want to. Even if would mean a BETTER plan/alignment, with fewer environmental impacts.
    I see that you have done research on what seems to be available online on this Bakersfield issue. However, what “appears” to be so, isn’t always so. The Bakersfield Vision 20/20 was never meant to be a formal plan. A lot of the statements/ideas in that report came from questionaires filled out at small public events. It was more of an informal group of volunteer brainstorming sessions about the community in general -culminating in the form of a report . It was never meant as any sort of formal plan.
    With regard to “scoping sessions”, I will tell you from personal experience..that these were almost a complete waste of time for anyone who had ideas or serious questions about the plan. Consultants were unable to answer any questions about impacts, alternatives etc prior to release of the DEIR. They flat out refused even to give their “best guess”. They said that it would ALL be in the DEIR and that the DEIR would take our fears away. Please! They loved to point out the picture of the pretty train and show us the 3 alignments on the map….but details…NO.
    They basically pat people on the back and said that the proposed plan and the 3 similar alignments were great…. They did not want to hear any negative feedback. They did not have the answers to questions. When asked, they stated that they would “get back to you”…and never did. I went to every “scoping meeting’ in my local area 2009-12…and it was the same thing. Even when the same consultants were there..they STILL played off answering questions.
    Often, WE would inform them of discrepencies in their reports..and staff would simply say, “oh, that isn’t really my area, but I will take that information back to my people”…and of course “get back to you”. The same old broken record. There was never any collaboration with the public. NONE. Each consultant knew their area somewhat…and said that consultants never really met as a group (other than phone conferencing), so it was difficult getting the full picture. Not much of an excuse in my book.
    They were not familiar enough with the DEIR to even help look for answers when it did become available. When Dan Richard came on he apologized to the public, stating that it was unfortuate how we had been treated….but basically it was too late to do anything about it now.
    Well, sorry..but that just flat out stinks. It doesn’t matter who blames who…..build an appropriate station/alignment for Gods sake.

  4. Paul H.
    May 30th, 2013 at 10:47

    Put it downtown, Bakersfield will be grateful one day. HSR stations do not belong on the outskirts of a city, especially a city like Bakersfield that has no other major towns around it.

    Keith Saggers Reply:


    Eric Reply:

    So one day Bakersfield can pay to build a branch loop through downtown. It won’t be so hard, speeds will be lower because only trains stopping in Bakersfield will take the loop. In the meantime, the rest of us should not have to pay for an extremely expensive ROW diversion.

    jimsf Reply:

    its not a diversion.

    swing hanger Reply:

    HSR stations do belong on the outskirts of a city, when environmental or operational (curves) restrictions demand it.

  5. Keith Saggers
    May 30th, 2013 at 11:08

    CHSRA June 6 2013

    Litigation to be discussed in closed session

    John Tos; Aaron Fukuda and County of Kings v. California High Speed Rail Authority, Sacramento Superior Court Case No. 34-2011- 00113919

    Town of Atherton v. California High-Speed Rail Authority, Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, Case No. C070877

    CHSRA Validation Action; Sacramento Superior Court Case No. 34-2013-00140689

    Peter Reply:

    That’s listed every month. The list has gotten a lot shorter, though.

  6. Keith Saggers
    May 30th, 2013 at 11:21

    As part of the construction of the Initial Operating Segment (IOS), work will begin on closing the gap between Bakersfield and Palmdale, through the Tehachapi Mountains. Environmental clearance to begin work on this section could be possible in early 2014. California has set $4 billion aside to construct this segment and will aggressively seek matching funds.


  7. trentbridge
    May 30th, 2013 at 12:58

    I would guess that a 737/Airbus 320 passenger plane departing San Francisco International, landing at San Jose Norman Minet International, then onto Fresno/Yosemite Airport, Bakersfield Meadows Field, and then Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, before arriving Los Angeles International would be unable to complete this trip in two hours and forty minutes and yet some politicians bitch that a train that replicates this route and stops at all major urban areas is a wasteful public works project with limited economic benefit. Hmm. Perhaps these same politicians can mandate that all intra-state flights have a “passenger request” stop button at each seat so people can request the pilot lands at these intermediate airports en route. There’s way too much focus on LA-SFO travel alone without considering that the enormous benefit of serving the communities in between.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Good way of explaining the point.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Yes, it is wasteful when you do it with a train or a plane. There is not enough demand a Bakersfield to justify service. Must more efficient to have them drive to an airport. I don’t see how this is contradictory at all. It is not worth spending 60 billion to serve the travel needs of a few people in between the population centers when they are already served. Granted HSR would be better than the current service, but not worth the 60 billion cost.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    if they have an airport to fly to.

  8. Alon Levy
    May 30th, 2013 at 14:43

    Ultimately a route will have to be chosen and that route will inconvenience somebody.

    Yes. And insofar as there’s no effect on others (which there might be due to increased travel time, or on the margin cost), it’s up to Bakersfield’s people to make that decision. If there’s so much local-level democratic deficit that the local officials can’t be trusted with that decision, then do a county-wide referendum including a county-wide tax to fund any cost increases in case the voters choose the more expensive option. It might be irrelevant if the rest of the state judges an extra 2 minutes of travel time not worth the downtown stop, but if not, then not everything should be left to the technocrats.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “a county-wide referendum”?

    anathema – could undermine the fix

    12 miles of elevated is so BART-Becthel. And so Maginot Line-Great Wall.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    So if the people the of Connecticut and Rhode Island want to come up with cost difference between 75 miles of ROW through the hills and valleys of central Connecticut and the 60 miles of HSR between Springfield and New Haven versus 75 miles of HSR across the plains of coastal Connecticut it’s okay bot otherwise not?

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    Please explain

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s from this.

    To which all I’m going to say is that a) Connecticut gets more than 100% of the benefits of inland HSR through Hartford because of the increased trip times over I-95, and b) the increased trip times mean that even if Connecticut is willing to fund the cost difference it may not be a good idea.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    No they don’t. Everyone has longer trips so the comparatively small market between Hartford and Providence has shorter trips. And it costs more.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s for Hartford-Boston mainly, not Hartford-Providence. There’s also some benefit for trips from Hartford to New Haven and points south but it’s only a few minutes (ex recto I’d guess 8), nothing like with Boston.

    (Hartford-Boston can eventually be done via Springfield, but Boston-Albany is the last leg of the east-of-Hudson triangle that’s going to be built.)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    To Albany is going to get built. There’s too much on the western side of the Berkshires to not build it. It’s the place New Englanders want to go that doesn’t involve a train that goes into Manhattan.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Alon, do you have any evidence that the FRA will approve Shinkansen to run on the same tracks and ROWs as freight? I know there’s movement towards permitting UIC-approved rolling stock. BUt Shinkansen don’t meet the UIC (or EU TSI) standards, do they?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No. That said, the FRA said it’s in contact with both European and Japanese vendors regarding rule changes, and its document talks more about American experiments with crash energy management than about the UIC.

    The Talgo AVRIL is UIC-compliant, though of course single-source specs are not a good idea.

    Joe Reply:

    Referendum is written by ….?????

    There is no con census and little action by city officials to provide information or study the alignment.

    A referendum requires coherent thought which is lacking so a vote on a referendum does not solve the citys problem.

  9. Jon
    May 30th, 2013 at 17:18

    Assuming Bakersfield is not bypassed, why not follow 7th Standard Road east to the UPRR, then follow the west side of the tracks into downtown? There’s a deadzone between the tracks and the freeway that could host HSR with few residential impacts. You’d have to move the station to Chester Ave or Union Ave, with no connection to Amtrak, but as others have noted the San Joaquins are unlikely to be still running after HSR starts operating.

  10. jimsf
    May 30th, 2013 at 18:12

    They should stick to the bnsf row all the way in, at grade, with grade separations . Keep it simple. If you lose a couple minutes, passengers arent going to care at all. So long as they are having a quality on board experience.

    jimsf Reply:

    and there’s room to stretch out that second curve

    jimsf Reply:

    And the row is wide enough to add the two hsr tracks, and there are hardy any grade crossings and most of them are already separated. simple.

    Joey Reply:

    The FRA mandates some large and probably unnecessary separation between freight and HSR tracks. I’m not sure how much it is.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I am pretty sure the FRA does not mandate any separation (well, beyond the standard 15 feet).

    However, the freight companies insist on a very large and unnecessary separation.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    No it doesn’t. The freight railroads say it needs 30 feet or a concrete wall.

    Nathanael Reply:

    CSX was demanding 50 feet. Absurd.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Well, with the (pretty much accepted) regularity of American freight trains derailing, blowing up and demolishing lineside infrastructure, perhaps 50ft is a prudent number.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Not any more. I’m sure part of that was tax assessors all up and down the line got out the really sharp pencils and began calculating what the reassessment would be from the time CSX bought the land from Conrail to today. If you have been arguing for years that the land that doesn’t have tracks on it is nearly worthless and should be assessed that way you can’t turn around and say that the land is vitally important to your business. Not without your tax bill being recalculated.

    Joey Reply:

    IIRC, UP insisted on large separation but BNSF didn’t, and was even willing to let HSR use part of it’s ROW, but that was shot down by the FRA who insisted on larger track separation. I could be wrong about this though.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Hmm. I hadn’t heard that.

    thatbruce Reply:


    My recollection is that the larger separation was for high speed areas. Where both FRA and HSR are running at the same low speeds, a smaller separation was required.

    Mac Reply:

    I heard something similar. Part of the decision to go with the BNSF is because of the shared ROW…thinking is would be cheaper. Then within the last 2 years, a decision was made that a wider separation was needed. So benefit of going with BNSF vs. UP based on savings with regard to ROW is gone.

    Jon Reply:

    Apparently they decided that it wasn’t safe to send HSR through the refinery that straddles the BNSF tracks. And that curve is way too tight for HSR speeds.

  11. jimsf
    May 31st, 2013 at 06:26

    And by the way bakersfield does have a downtown and its right here and the obvious place for the station is the convention center. I know the big city elitists cant be bothered with their giving up their precious two minutes of extra travel time… but too bad.

  12. jimsf
    May 31st, 2013 at 06:38

    I hate to tell you but the way bfd is built out, there is onlu one way youre gonna get from shafter into downtown and thats the bnsf row. politically you will never get the train through all those brand new subdivisions any other way.

    Joey Reply:

    I might believe you, but the evidence suggests that you are wrong.

    The main political fight in Bakersfield has been over the downtown alignment, not over the few tract homes that would have to be taken near Greenacres. In fact, property takes for infrastructure projects (usually freeways) are commonplace. The affected parties are compensated of course.

    The existing curve at Greenacres has a radius of about 800m/0.5mi, good for maybe 150kph/90mph. That’s a very significant slowdown. If the property takes necessary to widen that curve were really an issue, then everyone would be advocating a bypass of Bakersfield.

    joe Reply:

    The main political fight in Bakersfield has been over the downtown alignment,

    Specifically, the fight is over responsibility – Bakersfield wants none.

    They are asking for detailed studies of all alignment options and don’t even promise to select one after that work is done.

    Bakersfield is also in disagreement with the County about the alignment – no consensus exists.

    So the fight is over doing something – they don’t want to do anything yet.

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