HSR Construction May Be Delayed To 2014

Aug 13th, 2013 | Posted by

Factors outside the control of the California High Speed Rail Authority may cause the start of construction to be delayed to early 2014:

The hold-ups include delays in getting a construction company under contract and a lack of key federal permits, according to the Los Angeles Times. The delays could push up costs, ballooning the price tag beyond the current $68 billion estimate….

The project also lacks approval for key sections, such as the bridge over the Fresno River. That section requires a full study of how a bridge will affect the river’s flow.

Other impacts on rivers and waterways will also need study, in some cases requiring supplemental environmental studies, approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a plan to offset damage to wetlands.

“Those are normal-course-of-business permits that the Authority is working to obtain,” said Authority spokeswoman Lisa Marie Alley.

The federal permit approvals could come more quickly than the article implies. And those permits could have been ready sooner were it not for efforts by Republicans in Sacramento and in Congress to obstruct the project.

Still, we’ve already seen HSR critics and opponents cite these latest obstacles as yet another reason why the HSR project is supposedly a bad idea, even though these issues are not the fault of the Authority itself. These same issues would crop up and delay a Hyperloop, were anyone to ever decide to actually fund it. This is what happens to major infrastructure projects in the United States, where things like permit approvals and environmental studies are not coordinated between the responsible agencies.

The Obama Administration has done much to help address these issues, helping the California HSR project negotiate the minefield of federal regulations. The Surface Transportation Board could have been a huge obstacle but instead has proved an asset to the project.

While no delay is welcome, and the timeline for completion becomes tighter, it’s also the case that construction in the Central Valley is not a particularly difficult challenge given the straightforward geography. The project is still on track to be completed on schedule.

  1. Useless
    Aug 14th, 2013 at 07:24

    Doesn’t this affect the federal construction grant which stipulates that the construction starts by 2013?

    StevieB Reply:

    The federal funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) requires the funds be used by a certain time not that construction start this year.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I would not worry about the ARRA funding or construction.

    Worry about public reaction when it totally and utterly underwhelms. I think the Feds are.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Musk will be saying I told you so.

    StevieB Reply:

    Elon Musk will be saying, ‘don’t build trains, buy my car’.

  2. Reality Check
    Aug 14th, 2013 at 07:45

    KQED Forum (SF Bay Area, FM 88.5)
    Wed, Aug 14, 2013 — 9:00 AM
    Beyond Hyperloop: Dreams and Realities for the Future of Transportation

    On Monday, Tesla Motors and PayPal co-founder Elon Musk revealed his concept for a set of giant tubes that he claims could transport passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 35 minutes. Is it a pipe dream or the future of travel? We’ll also get the latest on self-driving cars, space elevators and other ideas for the future of transportation.

    Host: Dave Iverson

    Damon Lavrinc, transportation editor for Wired Autopia
    Daniel Sperling, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis
    Thilo Koslowski, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, Inc., a technology research and advisory company

    More info:
    Elon Musk Releases Design Proposal for ‘Hyperloop’ (News Fix)
    Promise and Perils of Hyperloop and Other High-Speed Trains (NOVA)

  3. trentbridge
    Aug 14th, 2013 at 10:10

    I’m thinking that the LA Times isn’t getting an invite to the ground-breaking ceremony, after all. They are no exactly in the cheerleading section.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The LA Times is simply appealing to their readership, which now mostly opposes CAHSR.

    You’ll be able to detect a change in their editorial stance supporting the megaproject if they turn on the Tejon Ranch Co. and advocate a revision in the mountain crossing. I would not hold your breath.

    Meantime it is all systems go on a workfare-welfare project mostly benefiting contractors, unions and real estate developers. Where they are going to get all that subsidy money is your guess – Jerry Brown will be hard pressed to come up with the money for BART-Amalgamated’s juicy raise. Not to mention AC Transit.

    Travis D Reply:

    Correction, they are appealing to their corporate masters who oppose HSR.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Quite the contrary. Their “corporate masters” are the Tejon Ranch Co. and Palmdale real estate developers.

  4. Keith Saggers
    Aug 14th, 2013 at 12:02
  5. synonymouse
    Aug 14th, 2013 at 12:33
  6. jimsf
    Aug 14th, 2013 at 15:43

    OT-Amtrak officials announced today that it set an all-time monthly ridership record in July, with more than 2.9 million passengers riding its trains.

    The milestone was the second time in just four months that it set a monthly record. Previously, it’s busiest month ever was March, when it had just over 2.8 million riders.
    “Amtrak is delivering record ridership across the country and serving as an economic engine to help local communities grow and prosper,” Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman said in a statement.

    The passenger-rail provider reported year-over-year ridership increase of 4.8 percent for July, with gains in its long-distance, short-distance and Northeast Corridor routes.
    Want more transportation news? Click here.
    According to a Brookings Institution study released earlier this spring, Amtrak has set ridership records for nine of the past 10 years. Amtrak officials say they’re on pace to meet or exceed the annual ridership record they set last year of 31.2 million passengers.
    The increased ridership comes at a pivotal time for the rail provider. The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, which reauthorizes Amtrak and sets federal passenger rail policy, expires in September. Some House Republicans will likely try to reduce federal funding for Amtrak’s long-haul routes, which are not profitable.

    Amtrak has advocated for the continuation of those routes, portraying them as an integral part of the rail network.

  7. John Burrows
    Aug 14th, 2013 at 21:06

    Some not very important information—Except possibly for San Jose boosters looking for a chance to celebrate this Friday night.

    From US Census Bureau estimates:

    Population of San Jose, July 1, 2011————————————967,487
    Population of San Jose, July 1, 2012————————————982,765
    Population increase for the year—15,278

    If we use that same increase to figure out the next year:

    Population San Jose, July 1, 2013 ———————————–998,043
    Population San Jose today———————————————999,933
    Population San Jose this Friday————————————-1,000,013

    To try and make this a little more relevant—

    San Jose may or may not reach the one million mark by Friday, but based on an increase averaging 15,000 per year the population should be around 1,250,000 by 2030—The
    year the Blended System might become operational based on the delay until next year of the groundbreaking. With another quarter million people, San Jose will become a city of a little more density—A place where it won’t be quite so easy to use your car to get around: and by then VTA might actually be regarded as an asset. Additionally, BART should at least have made it to Diridon Station and combined with Caltrain should give San Jose a decent rail link to the rest of the Bay Area.

    I mention San Jose because I live here, but Diridon Station is just one of ten proposed intermediate stops between San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal and Los Angeles Union Station.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The jobs and housing density of the station surroundings (and mile-distant “downtown”) of this huge sprawlburb are still dismal.


    Give it another 50-100 years and it might justify either a regional rail system or a high speed station.

    As for VTA becoming an “asset”: give that one several hundred years.

  8. Travis D
    Aug 15th, 2013 at 00:35

    Why are we pretending that this is actually a “delay” and that it will have impacts on the greater system? It is neither. We already knew most of the property needed for construction wouldn’t be bought until next year and this won’t affect the other contracts or segments.

  9. Bill
    Aug 15th, 2013 at 09:41

    Why am I not surprised? How does this go from construction to begin in 2009 to “this summer”(0f 2010-2013), to in a “few weeks”, and now 2014? I worked for a mortgage company from 2003-2008 where for my last year there they kept telling me I’d get paid next week for almost a year, including several months after I quit; they filed for bankruptcy and I never got the $4k in wages they owed me. I feel like I’m being sold the same bill of goods. Looking forward to 6 months worth of blog posts about how Amtrak is seeing increasing ridership and how HSR will save the environment. There’s no way this thing is going to be completed on time. $68 billion is a drop in the bucket when compared to how much money is wasted on developing the “most advanced [and useless] military in the world”.
    Can’t Elon Musk and Richard Branson fund this? The HSR Authority needs some star power here.

  10. synonymouse
    Aug 15th, 2013 at 10:19

    Musk has already indicated in his plans that he does not approve of the gerrymandered Tehachapi, 99, and Pacheco detours. He has correctly analyzed the routing options and you can rest assured Branson would concur. Consider the spadework that Van Ark and SNCF have already performed. And Clem has eloquently presented the case that private investment will not touch the dogleg. Everything about the latter screams inefficiency, downgrade, subsidy, anathema to profit.

    We need some star power to go up against Jerry in the next election. How about the “Rock”?

    Alternatively Musk could simply buy out Moonbeam. If Musk could double or triple whatever the Tejon Ranch Co. is paying Brown maybe that could achieve the reset we need.

  11. John Nachtigall
    Aug 16th, 2013 at 14:54

    Why is it so hard for supporters to admit that the management of this project is terrible. You can support the concept without granting that management has been poor. From the original cost estimates to the management of the route to the political management of the issues it has been piss poor since the beginning.

    Less than a month ago they announced they would start before the “end of summer”. Now it is the beginning of 2014. And none of the reasons are outside the control of the agency.

    Fish and wildlife studies…how is that a GOP plot, they are required.
    The federal and state DOT could not be more supportive then they already are.

    Explain how in the last month you have lost 6 months of timeline due to GOP interference?

    Total incompetence. And the worst part is this is just the beginning. Once construction starts it just gets worse.

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