HSR Needs to Be Built, Not Restarted

Aug 26th, 2013 | Posted by

In the wake of Judge Michael Kenny’s ambiguous ruling earlier this month in the anti-HSR lawsuit, project critics and opponents are busy calling for a major revision to the project. State Senator Andy Vidak, recently elected to an open seat in the Central Valley, wants a statewide re-vote on HSR in 2014 to be authorized by the Legislature. That won’t happen. But others are calling for a rethink, including the Hanford Sentinel:

[Dan] Richard is much smoother than his predecessors, but the reality is he’s hawking snake oil by the barrel with a smile and ready handshake….

Which brings us back to [Judge] Kenny’s ruling, which makes clear that it’s time to stop the shenanigans and follow the law.

He really only has one option. He needs to hit the restart button and send this project back to the drawing board.

The Sentinel preceded this conclusion with a long and curious list of charges against the project. The list included:

Private investors have avoided the project like the plague and a more conservative Congress has shut off the federal spending lifeline, leading to legitimate questions about where the money to complete the project will come from. The Legislature and the governor have also looked at short-circuiting the California Environmental Quality Act to make future environmental approvals moot.

A series of conflicts of interest have escalated with the Authority’s key consultant winning a piece of the initial construction contract.

The Authority’s business plans have inflated expected ridership and job creation claims, and the Authority has ridiculed local citizens who have questioned its decisions.

A lot of this is nonsense. Private investors aren’t being asked to step in and help fund yet, so it’s very premature to say that they’re avoiding the project when there is no active solicitation going on. Conservatives in Congress have stopped new funding for now but that funding will resume once the Tea Party is thrown out of power. The Governor and Legislature have looked at reforms to CEQA but not using those reforms to avoid environmental approvals. Instead their goal is to streamline the process without undermining the review. Conflict of interest is a specific criminal charge that isn’t substantiated. And the ridership claims have been vetted by numerous sources.

Ultimately the Sentinel is hoping to use the ruling in the lawsuit to try and derail the project, as are other critics and opponents like Senator Vidak. It should come as no surprise, since critics and opponents have tried to use every other obstacle and hiccup since 2008 as a reason to not build high speed rail.

But the need for high speed rail hasn’t gone away. Gas prices are still high – the statewide average is $3.794/gal, still well above pre-2006 levels. The climate crisis continues to grow worse, with the Rim Fire as just the latest example of the predicted effects on California of a warming climate. Unemployment in the Central Valley remains a serious problem, with Kings County at 12.6% and Fresno at 12.5% as of July 2013. That’s well above the state average of 9.3%. And air quality remains a challenge in the Valley as well, which electric trains will help fix.

Revisiting or restarting the HSR project doesn’t mean there will be a perfect alternative chosen. Every project has its tradeoffs. We could risk billions on trying to build a maglev or even a hyperloop. We could run the trains down Interstate 5 and bypass the Valley cities entirely – an incredibly bad idea that wouldn’t save very much money and cost a lot in lost ridership and revenue, but we could do that too if we liked. Any number of other options could be chosen, but those too would have their price in terms of dollars as well as impacts. Each choice might make someone happy but would make someone else unhappy.

It’s also hard to envision critics suddenly changing their tune. They objected when the cost was pegged at $33 billion in 2008 and it’s unlikely any system connecting SF to LA could ever be built for less. They object when the tracks are routed away from farmland through city centers and object when the tracks are routed away from cities through farmland. They object when the tracks are elevated and object when the tracks are at-grade and object to the cost of below-grade solutions.

HSR critics and opponents are not usually driven by a desire to see a different HSR project. They tend to be driven by a desire to not see HSR at all. It’s not something they believe is important and so they see it as something that is expendable, money they believe is being wasted on something unimportant and that should be redirected to something they like.

Since changes to the project won’t appease critics and opponents, and since they’ll likely never be willing to spend the billions it will take to connect SF to LA with high speed rail, the focus ought to instead be on doing what it takes to get this particular HSR project complete. In the absence of Congressional action, California needs to be finding ways to fund the project itself, or at least reduce the amount of federal funds it seeks in the next few years. Developing those solutions ought to be the focus of attention now, not a futile effort to appease the unappeasable.

  1. VBobier
    Aug 26th, 2013 at 18:26

    Agreed, NO Appeasement…

    VBobier Reply:

    Agreed on all points, NO Appeasement…

  2. John Nachtigall
    Aug 26th, 2013 at 19:06

    So much in this post to disagree with, but the most outrageous has to be a supposed link between the rim fire and global warming? How do you get that?

    joe Reply:


    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Overreach Alert!!

    They pont to a trend but the science is piss poor.

    In any particular year there is no corolation between snowpack and fires. For example in 2001 there was 0 snow on April 1 but only middle of the trend fires.

    So even if I believe everything they are saying, temperatures are rising, snowpack is going down, there is still no overall trend of more fires….this kind of overreach is what hurts more than helps the global warming crowd

    Joe Reply:

    Published in peer review on this topic. The Mechanisms known and causal models exist relating warming, snowmelt, summer water stress duration, fuel and fire.

    Watching an extinction event for a major political party. KNow nothing party redux.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    So when they say..

    This record of western snowpack data begins in 1980, so it’s unclear how well the blue lines in the interactive represent long-term trends and how much they have influenced the growth in wildfires. Other research has shown, however, that there has been a persistent decline in western snowpack since the 1920s. And in looking at the past 30 years, it’s clear that from one year to the next, below-average snowpack raises the risk of wildfires

    They basically admit the graph shown does not correlate…but they have “other research” that proves the point. Then why show the graph that does not prove it? Why not show the good research?

    It’s just overreach

    joe Reply:

    but the most outrageous has to be a supposed link between the rim fire and global warming? How do you get that?

    Try the google. See how long the snow record goes back – mechanisms and other papers.

    Extinction event – Know-Nothing Party of 2013.

    joe Reply:


    UPDATE, 8/23/13: More than 93 percent of California, including the area where the Rim fire is burning, is currently experiencing severe or extreme drought, according to US Drought Monitor. “All summer long we’ve seen much drier than normal conditions,” says Daniel Berlant, a spokesperson for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “It’s a factor in the current fires.”
    Thomas Tidwell, the head of the United States Forest Service, told a Senate committee on energy and natural resources recently that the fire season now lasts two months longer and destroys twice as much land as it did four decades ago. Fires now, he said, burn the same amount of land faster.

    Alon Levy Reply:


    Brian_FL Reply:

    I agree with your point about climate change and one specific fire being linked to it. I support in principle the idea of HSR (and increased use of passenger rail mode in general) in this country. However, to try to link one fire with why HSR should be built quickly is kind of way out there on a limb.

    As I recall, the premise back in 2008 was that HSR in CA was going to be a venture supported in part with private investment. It has now been almost 5 years. The question to ask is why has the CHSRA not actively gone after private investors – especially considering the low likelyhood that federal money will be forthcoming anytime soon. I doubt that the Tea Party is going away anytime soon, at least at the national level.

    And what exactly was the purpose of Gov. Brown’s earlier trip to China? I doubt that it was just to ride the Chinese HSR trains. He most likely was there to determine how much financial support the Chinese would give to CA HSR. Of any country, the Chinese would be among the most likely to contribute money to CA HSR.

    VBobier Reply:

    Lets see, investors want to see a lot more Government money in there to take most of the burden of risk and no one has asked and the CHSRA didn’t have anyone to do that with and I think they still don’t, to hire people to empty positions they have to ask for money to be appropriated by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor, at one time Minority Rule by Repubs kept the CHSRA as a hollow agency and this was during the time that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was in office and Repubs were in favor of HSR, now their against HSR, especially with Democrats having 2/3rds power in the legislature and yes Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was and still is for HSR, no matter what the crazies in the Republican/Libertarian party say.

    Derek Reply:

    “As presented in Chapter 4, Business Model, the development of the IOS will need to be funded through government sources because private-sector capital for construction of the IOS is not available given the restrictions of Proposition 1A related to state revenue guarantees.” (source)

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    It’s taken from the climate change assessment the state of California conducted in 2007 as a result of AB 32. You can see more info here.

    Resident Reply:

    Science – As a result of AB32… You mean the law that is now being used to fund HSR? convenient.

  3. synonymouse
    Aug 26th, 2013 at 19:25

    Since a majority of the electorate is now opposed to hsr it should go back on the ballot. The voters make mistakes and are permitted to change their collective mind. Hell, imho, in retrospect they should have retrofirtted the existing eastern span of the Bay Bridge instead of the exorbitant and extortionate WillieBridge. I wonder how far $6bil could have gone for the Southern Crossing highway bridge or another transbay tube.

    But of course there will be no re-vote. The Repubs would do well to find themselves a fieldable gubernatorial candidate who will start ragging on JerryRail. Score a few points in the polls and that might wake them up down at the PB-CHSRA bunker.

    Something is going on with the Judge’s ruling. I don’t pretend to understand it easily but it might indicate some deep worry on the part of the bureaucrats that this nowhere to nowhere thing could blow up in their faces.

    Ultimately the real story is how PB and Brown downgraded this project from hsr to regional commute. The rationale is totally political. AmBART will require steady subsidy and will thus remain government owned and operated. In short order BLE-UTU will be pushed out by the more militant TWU-Amalgamated. It is all about the payoffs to the patronage machine, which needs that money and those cadres to survive.

    Emmanuel Reply:

    People are opposed because they are disappointed. Why? Because this project has been derailed by a spineless authority that appears to have zero vision. They just do stuff and hope it works for a while.

    HSR is actually a very straightforward project if you stay by its principles.

    -Connect SF to LA/Anaheim while abiding to the promised travel times

    Now, all the problems we have right now are because the authority wants to include every beggar on the way there turning it into very expensive commuter rail. Go back to basics and we will save money.

    If the shortest route also happens to be the most affordable, why the hell is the authority still going for the longer, slower and more expensive routes? Just to avoid trouble? Again. Coward.

    VBobier Reply:

    There is the Palmdale vs CHSRA lawsuit that Palmdale won, since the CHSRA was considering Tejon and since Palmdale is in Prop1a, as is the entire CV area of CA, well now you know why Tehachapi was chosen, as it allows the HSR a way to get to Palmdale, going over to Tejon with a branch going to Palmdale is more expensive than just ignoring Palmdale, so the CHSRA having the main HSR line go thru the Tehachapi mountains is the better deal, lawsuits are expensive and Palmdale did win and they could win again and again. So Tejon is DEAD…

    There are two types of HSR, Local HSR which no one expects to go more than 200mph from LA to SF and Express HSR which will go to 4 stations and do 220mph or more if allowed and capable of doing so.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:


    This lawsuit you speak of is a figment of your imagination!

    VBobier Reply:

    Some figment, read and learn, this was the lawsuit to stop Tejon, it’s a warning shot:

    California city files lawsuit against CHSRA over Grapevine route study(July 7, 2011)

    Palmdale Seeks Injunction Against California High Speed Rail Authority To Stop I-5 Study

    Plus I did the following text goes with this article: Palmdale Files Federal Lawsuit Against California High Speed Rail Authority

    The City of Palmdale filed a lawsuit against California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) on Wednesday, July 6 in United States District Court to prevent the Authority from illegally using Federal grant funds and Proposition 1A bond funds to study an alternative Interstate 5/Grapevine route for the California High Speed Rail Project that was previously considered and rejected over eight years ago.

    “The people of California approved the passage of Proposition 1A bond funds for the high speed rail project that specifically listed Palmdale as one of the stops on the route and the federal grant does not allow for this Grapevine alignment restudy,” said Palmdale City Attorney Matthew Ditzhazy. “Surreptitiously, the CHSRA board is attempting to use that bond money, and restricted Federal grant funds, to study an alternative route over the Grapevine—a route that has already been studied and rejected.”

    “In 2008, the voters approved Proposition 1A approving and establishing funding for a High-Speed Rail project that include a station in the city of Palmdale,” said Ditzhazy. “Using Proposition 1A funds, and corresponding Federal grant funds, to study an alignment outside of the approved sections is illegal, contrary to the will of the voters, and places the entire High-Speed Rail project in jeopardy.”

    “Since 1992, the City of Palmdale has been a driving force in bringing the Antelope Valley to the table in terms of high speed rail,” said Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford. “It makes absolutely no sense to use taxpayer dollars to study a route that has been shown to be inferior on so many levels. To change the route and take it through an area with few people and a strong resistance from environmental groups instead of a stop that is wanted by a community and has the potential to reach millions of people is totally absurd. Furthermore, the I-5 route completely bypasses our intermodel connectivity that is coming to Palmdale with our regional airport, a Metrolink Station, the High Desert Corridor freeway alignment at Avenue P-8, State Routes 14 and 138 and the soon-to-be started Desert Xpress train to Las Vegas,” Ledford said.

    “The City of Palmdale has invested a tremendous amount of resources, time and energy to ensure that a Palmdale stop between Bakersfield and Los Angeles becomes a reality,” said Palmdale City Manager Steve Williams. “Our City and local businesses have made significant investments with this alignment—an alignment that the people of this State approved.”

    Clem Reply:

    I stand corrected. What became of this lawsuit? Was it dropped in exchange for the sand-bagging of the Tejon study and the defenestration of Mr. van Ark?

    morris brown Reply:


    The lawsuit was dismissed by the Judge.



    for article on lawsuits.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I don’t pretend to understand

    I thought it had something to with mind rays and the fear of black helicopters.

    VBobier Reply:

    Bring it on Syno, Repubs will be defeated by Governor Brown as His poll ratings and ability to defeat Meg Whitman would give any Repub pause.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    The Republicans will not elect any candidate statewide, certainly not a governor, for another generation at least. Jerry Brown will coast to re-election next year and Democratic control of the Legislature is a certainty.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I guess the Sperminator was a Democrat. Interestingly in most other states ideologically he could be.

    Derek Reply:

    If the ballot wording also mentions the $158 billion alternative of expanding airports and freeways just to move the same number of people–in other words, the complete truth, not just what HSR opponents want people to know–then putting it back on the ballot in order to disprove the idea that people are opposed to HSR sounds like a good idea.

  4. Clem
    Aug 26th, 2013 at 20:38

    HSR in California (and in the USA in general) is doomed to fail without a large amount of private investment, much larger shares than you would traditionally see in other countries with more centralized structures of government that keep fractured political interests in line and protect taxpayers from the perverse profit-seeking incentives of the Transportation Industrial Complex.

    While there may not be “solicitations” for private funding at this time, all the key decisions that affect capital costs, operating and maintenance costs, and revenue (the very parameters that would attract future investors) have already been made without regard to any advice from interested parties.

    The time to bring in private investment is not on the tail end of the project when the state has run out of money, as Robert seems to imply, but now. Actually, five years ago, when it was still possible to make these key decisions.

    Without a fundamental re-think, it’s already over, since no private investment will ever materialize.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    It’s doomed to fail because the US has credible alternatives to transportation compared to other countries. Like it or not, US has a very high percentage of car ownership and a road system that will take you anywhere. Geographically large and with a wealthy population it can afford air travel. And it has already invested in the infrastructure for these modes.

    HSR serves 100-500 mile trips and given an even starting position I don’t doubt it would be the most efficient form of travel. But it is not an even starting position and there are better things to spend the money on given the current reality.

    If you care about global warming then 70 billion buys a lot of light rail which reduces the car pollution for trips less than 15 miles which is 85+% of travel. If you want to help the economy how about investing in deferred maintenance. Hell, just pay companies to shut down coal plants and replace with Nat gas and/or green sources.

    VBobier Reply:

    People are riding trains more and more John, the old argument that people don’t ride trains, is a MYTH and a LIE… People that ride on Amtrak-California Trains will board HSR cause it get them there faster, until then they’ll still ride trains.

    VBobier Reply:

    When HSR is constructed that is.

    Derek Reply:

    Or instead of building anything, simply eliminate minimum parking requirements and stop building or widening any road that doesn’t pay for itself (including the opportunity cost of capital) solely from gas taxes and other user fees.

    TomA Reply:

    So stop building roads then? You envision alot of telecommuting or people living in large urban areas (which would in fact be ideal for HSR actually).

    morris brown Reply:

    Clem wrote:

    The time to bring in private investment is not on the tail end of the project when the state has run out of money, as Robert seems to imply, but now. Actually, five years ago, when it was still possible to make these key decisions.

    Actually 5 years ago and more, great efforts were made to bring in private capital. The CHSRA was out yelling, look at all the sources of private funding that attended this meeting and that meeting.

    None of these sources gave a dime to the project. Private capital doesn’t care to throw its money into this boondoggle. Clem’s conclusion that “no private investment will ever materialize” is dead on target. Private capital was invited in 5 years ago, it didn’t materialize then, and it won’t now.

    Robert keeps writing, California can do the project with State funding alone. Nonsense.

    SB-1029, the appropriation bill passed with a 1 vote majority last year. The only reason it passed, was several Democrat Senators from the North and South were coaxed into voting yes by the diverting $1.1 billion of Prop 1A funds, which were to be HSR funds, into regional rail (“bookends”). This appropriation had over $3 billion in funds from federal sources, to provide matching funds for State Prop 1A bond funds.

    What possibility is there that the Legislature would ever be willing to commit from General fund revenues, all the funds to build this project. There is simply zero possibility that this could ever occur. Like it or not, the vast majority of the Legislators have much higher priorities to fund, than High Speed Rail.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I actually think we are doomed to fail without a much bigger investment from the public sector, funded largely by a mixture of wealth taxes and deficit spending. And I believe both are stronger possibilities than they currently seem today. The Tea Party reaction in 2009-10 was not foreseen by many, but its impact has been devastating to all efforts to develop better mass transit and passenger rail. That reaction will end someday and when it does, HSR will get new wind in its sails.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Unfortunately in these times “a much bigger investment from the public sector” is promptly flushed down the crapper. Witness the WillieBridge.

    Joe Reply:

    Can we invest the spare cash set aside to bomb Syria?

    We seem to be far more interested billions for blowing things up than building. If only had a stronger transportation industrial complex. Perhaps awarding Lockheed Martin the contract. Their lobbiests would assure full funding.

    TomA Reply:

    Isn’t it amazing. It cost $4 billion ($1 billion from us) to bomb Libya. 1 BILLION. I can imagine Syria will run in the same range if not higher.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Ok cool, but no complaint when the death toll from the poison gas gets to 1 million or more.

    No complaints about how the US allowed genocide

    No earnest speeches about how America only cares about itself and not the little people

    No articles on how those with the power are responsible for protecting the weak.

    If you agree then fine, no bombs in Syria, just let the, kill the civilians

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Man, what’s so bad about Syria gassing some civilians compared to all the other ways civilians are dying in that war? There’s already a hundred thousand dead there and quite frankly, the use of military force in response to gassing domestic civilians is unprecedented. Hell, nobody gave a damn when Rhodesia dropped anthrax on their own civilian population.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    And I believe all the UN countries swore “not again” about that. So here we are at again…..

    As you said, a hundred thousand dead and we can stop it, if we choose, so yes or no?

    joe Reply:

    The fundamental question is always just why there are certain people who are willing to spend limitless money on blowing people up to help them, while being unwilling to do just about anything else to help people, either here or abroad.

    There are possible answers. None of them are pretty.

    Build HSR and pay in cash. Break into that limitless war machine cash hoard. I propose we task Lockheed Martin to do the work so it’s a net wash.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Keep the aerospace/defense companies (far, far) away from anything railway related, and let the experienced_railway operators/builders do what they have been doing well for decades, uninterrupted.

    swing hanger Reply:

    We don’t need people reinventing the wheel…

    joe Reply:

    The industrial complex and lobbyists have the money.

    I propose horribly expensive infrastructure that works in place of horribly expensive bomb throwing and killing machines – many of which don’t work well.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    General Dynamics to POTUS: The Tomahawk production line is slowing down, find a target so we can replenish the inventory.

    Bill Reply:

    Thank you Joe. If you look at the history of the US you’d see that we’ve been in some minor-to-major military involvement for longer than we’ve even been a sovereign nation. Bombing people is expensive but it makes you look tough. Transportation, education, and healthcare have all taken second billing to killing people in foreign countries for various manufactured reasons.

    swing hanger Reply:

    The “arsenal of democracy”, so to speak. You don’t see it as much now, but as a kid, I would often see those pictures provided by the defense industry or USAF (I lived in a big aerospace town) of aircraft parked on a tarmac with all the ordinance they could carry laid out in front, including stuff like napalm, cluster bombs, and tactical nukes. It was akin to seeing a auto brochure with all the customer options available described. Fascinating to the boy I was then, but when I think of it now, somewhat perverse.

    joe Reply:

    Obama has “a range of options available,” Hof believes, from a “limited, largely symbolic strike perhaps against a target related to chemical weapons” that might just exacerbate America’s “credibility problem” if they’re seen as being too weak, to an “intense, sustained series of attacks against regime delivery systems.”

    2013 and we have a credibility problem if we don’t bomb/attack – we’ll be seen as too wea not able to sustain an effort. Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq, Tunisia have not built street creed. We need to blow tens of billions of dollars more and kill more people to show we’re serious.

    Enough!! I want a rail system in CA.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    At least Clinton-style theatrics will be cheap. Bush-style multi-trillion dollar bills are impossible with the amount of commitment Obama openly proposes.

    agb5 Reply:

    China has cash to spend, they are bailing out of US Treasuries and are looking to invest in hard assets.

    Useless Reply:

    @ agb5

    Chinese cash is out of question as it requires the purchase of Chinese rolling stocks and railway equipment, which should be outright banned in the US. If Chinese involvement is strictly in cash investment only then that’s OK, but you know that would be a non-seller to the Chinese side.

    jimsf Reply:

    The big mistake was to ever promise private funding at all. It should have always been a public project built by and operated by the people of california. There is no reason to have private investment.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    but but then they wouldn’t be able to socialize the risks and privatize the profits.

    VBobier Reply:

    Government is good, Repubs/baggers are crazy MORONS…

    John Bacon Reply:

    There are numerous opportunities to improve the present CHSR design by rerouting the line in order to increase speed and convenience while simultaneously reducing construction cost. For example designing the CHSR right-of-way for trains stopping at the center of San Joaquin Valley cities on the same right-of-way carrying 220 mph non-stop trains competing with airline service for LA − San Francisco traffic will require numerous property takings in order to avoid sharp curves and close proximity to freight trains. In spite of extensive sound-walls fast-running trains will annoy San Joaquin Valley city residents with excessive train noise.
    The complete build-out design through the CV should include two separate parallel right-of-ways: the local line along established rail lines through city centers; train speeds near stops will inevitably be low enough to not bother most adjacent residents. A second parallel line along I-5 would be at least 50 miles shorter between LA and SF plus avoid the need for expensive noise mitigation structures. A single right-of-way approach to accommodate both city-center-service and 220 mph non-stop trains appears to annoy adjacent residents, enables slower service for through trains, and costs more than a two separate parallel CHSR right-of-ways through the CV design.

  5. Elizabeth
    Aug 26th, 2013 at 23:34

    Here is the actual Tutor Perini proposal, complete with visualizations of the iconic Fresno bridges:

    For you LA people, things are achangin’

    agb5 Reply:

    Lots of interesting stuff to digest there.
    They are suggesting to save $10million by not digging a trench south of Fresno and instead raise the height of the 2 existing road bridges.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Is it me being old fashioned or is it really true that the better looking options in the bridge line are the base line, cheaper Warren truss bridges in what looks like brown Cor-Ten steel in Fresno?

    And to be honest, a steel truss of some sort is what I would have picked for the river crossing, too.

    datacruncher Reply:

    The arch bridges shown over the San Joaquin River and 99 are a similar design to the request by Fresno in the Aesthetic Guideline document that city gave to CAHSRA. See pages 24 to 28 at

    Jon Reply:

    Interesting stuff. Looks like they will bypass Santa Clarita by tunneling under Angeles National Forest, i.e. cut the corner off the alignment. Question is, where will they rejoin the Metrolink ROW?

    Also, Burbank – LA will be bumped to a separate section to speed up environmental clearance of the IOS, and the wye connection to the High Desert Corridor goes full steam ahead.

  6. trentbridge
    Aug 27th, 2013 at 07:29

    From Progressive Railroading today:

    The Colton Crossing grade separation in Colton, Calif., has been completed ahead of schedule and under budget, California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG) officials announced yesterday.

    Estimated to cost $202 million and scheduled to open in 2014, the project wrapped up eight months ahead of schedule and cost $93 million primarily because of innovative construction methods and a competitive marketplace that resulted in lower-than-expected bids, they said in a press release.

    Again – a California example that public works projects can be completed on time and within budget. Actually below budget and early.

  7. Robert
    Aug 27th, 2013 at 10:26

    Shooting war in the Mideast escalates this Thursday, courtesy of US. Be sure and gas up before then. And if you need to travel between SF and LA, be sure and take the high speed electric train, cause the gas stations may very well be closed. Oops, I forgot, we are trying to kill the electric train, how stupid of me…

    Enjoy your cheap gas for the next couple years.


    VBobier Reply:

    Syria isn’t an exporter of oil, as they are not part of OPEC, Syria imports oil.

    swing hanger Reply:

    But conflict escalation causes uncertainty in the region, which has an effect on markets.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Syria exported about 150,000 bbls per day before the war and these exports were a significant portion of the government’s revenue.

  8. Keith Saggers
    Aug 27th, 2013 at 11:07
  9. Useless
    Aug 27th, 2013 at 12:06

    The Legislature today approved a bill by Senator Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, that would create an additional safeguard restricting high-speed rail through the Peninsula to a blended, primarily two-track system to minimize impacts to communities along the Caltrain right-of-way.


    J. Wong Reply:

    Hill’s trying to lock-in the blended plan permanently but why would that be a good thing? Of course, it assumes Brown will sign it and not veto it, but why should he sign it? Because it’s a good idea? (It’s not.)

    Keith Saggers Reply:


    VBobier Reply:

    Agreed, the bill is veto bait and Gov Brown will Veto it, lets see them override that.

    Useless Reply:

    With the blended traffic, there could be upto 12 trains per hour going in each direction, 6 for express(HSR) trains, 6 for local(Caltrain) trains. I am not sure if a 10 minute interval between express trains arriving at and departing from SF is such a bad thing, especially since the capacity could be expanded with 12(300 meter)~16(400 meter) car train sets and double deckers.

    So the blended traffic is not as bad as it sounds, the money should be spent elsewhere to lay new tracks where none exists today, not fight legal battles. Heck, one might even remove existing Caltrain stops to save time for all trains running the peninsular corridor.

    Joey Reply:

    4tph is sufficient or excessive for nearly every city pair in Europe. I don’t see why we would need more. I think the real issue comes up when you try to accommodate CalTrain express service (which happens to generate a lot of ridership). You then have three services sharing the tracks with significantly different average speeds. I think it’s possible though to have 4 tph HSR + 4 tph express + 4 tph local with strategic overtakes, while leaving the constrained sections (PAMPA, San Mateo, SF tunnels) two tracks. It becomes even easier if, like Richard M. suggests, you split up CalTrain service into a local running from SF to RWC and another running express from SF to RWC and local south of there.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Excuse my ignorance, but are timed overtakes (or strategic overtakes, what have you), done anywhere in North America at this moment?

    Joey Reply:

    Well, it’s already done on the CalTrain corridor, and at various points on the NEC. The best thing is to provide cross-platform transfers between local trains and intercity/express trains, but that doesn’t really happen in NA at the moment.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Change at Jamaica. Some of the transfers are across two platforms and through a third train that has doors open to both platforms. Change at Newark for PATH on the NYC bound trip. Almost as good on the suburban bound trip, just down a ramp or stairs to the platform. On the New Haven line between the main line and the branches, when the branches are running as shuttles to the main line. Any NYC subway station that is served by express trains. I’ve never done it, I would assume the same happens in Philadelphia and Chicago on the lines with express trains.

    Joey Reply:

    Right, though I was thinking more along the lines of scheduled overtakes rather than simple transfers between different lines (not that it isn’t a good idea) or uncoordinated overtakes on separate tracks. Does the NYC Subway operate on a timetable?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yes the subways have schedules. Nobody bothers to look at them since the train will be coming “soon”

    swing hanger Reply:

    Yes, I was wondering about that, in one direction, a local stops at a loop station platform, and a couple of minutes later, a following express stops on the adjacent side of the platform- passengers transfer between the two. The express proceeds, the local follows a few minutes later.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The subway runs on a timetable, but if there’s any slip the dispatchers will attempt to have consistent headways rather than a consistent schedule. They used to hold trains at certain transfer stations for zero-wait local-express transfers – for example, 96th Street – but now that they’ve automated the train control system they don’t do that anymore.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Sometimes when the stars are in the correct alignment the express train pulls into the inner side of the platform at the same time the local is pulling into the outer side of the platform and everybody who needs to, changes trains. Then the doors close and both trains leave the station.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yeah, but the schedules explicitly do not take that into consideration – headways are determined solely by crowding at the most crowded point of the line, rather than by (say) making 1 headways equal to 2+3 headways to schedule consistent transfers.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If the line is running 20 seconds less frequently than maximum capacity the train can’t loiter at the transfer station for 30 second past the schedule. It’s gotta leave or the train behind it has to slow down 10 seconds. Do that over the whole line and you add minutes to each trip. You are then putting less trains through and that makes the overcrowding worse.

    There’s no way to schedule consistent transfers. Schedule it so the southbounds meet at 96th they won’t at 72nd, the whole point of running express trains. Try to make so people can transfer to the Flushing line at Times Square and they don’t meet at 96th or 72nd. Forget about coordinating with the Carnarnie line. Or at Chambers. Ya get what ya get. If the train is across the platform, great. If not the next train will be there soon. ( YMMV in the dead of night when most other subway systems curl up and go to sleep which makes using any train, much less transferring between them, very difficult. )

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    There’s no way to schedule consistent transfers

    That’s an interesting observation. One very much in line with America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals’ level of awareness, skill and professionalism, so you’re in plenty of highly paid company.

    Likewise “Math class is tough!”

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If it’s so easy the schedules are on the MTA’s website, in the tab labeled “schedules. Go ahead, do it. And keep the same frequencies. Should be no problem, not counting the shuttle services there are only 21 routes to co-ordinate on the five Manhattan trunk lines and the two Manhattan crosstown lines. Go ahead and do it


    the horse you came in on too

    StevieB Reply:

    The bill prevents expansion on the Peninsula beyond two tracks by requiring unanimous consent for changes from every one of the nine authorities, commissions, boards, and cities party to the current Bay Area High-Speed Rail Early Investment Strategy Memorandum of Understanding. The specific wording is as follows:

    Any track expansion for the San Francisco to San Jose segment of the high-speed rail system beyond the blended system approach identified in the April 2012 California High-Speed Rail Program Revised 2012 Business Plan and approved by the High-Speed Rail Authority in April 2012 shall require approval from all nine parties to the Bay Area High-Speed Rail Early Investment Strategy Memorandum of Understanding, as follows:

    (a) The High-Speed Rail Authority.
    (b) The Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
    (c) The Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board.
    (d) The San Francisco County Transportation Authority.
    (e) The San Mateo County Transportation Authority.
    (f) The Santa Clara County Valley Transportation Authority.
    (g) The City of San Jose.
    (h) The City and County of San Francisco.
    (i) The Transbay Joint Powers Authority.

    That would be a daunting number of hoops to jump through to make a change.

    VBobier Reply:

    It’s meant to add more bureaucracy to make more than 2 tracks impossible to build, totally unrealistic, smells of snobby Atherton meddling…

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    very disconcerting, why would the democratic controlled legislature approve this bill to destroy HSR expansion?

    J. Wong Reply:

    Probably because they expect Brown to veto it. So it’s a bone they threw to Hill so he can take it to is constituents (at least those that oppose HSR) but without actually doing anything about HSR.

    J. Wong Reply:


    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    That would be a daunting number of hoops to jump through to make a change.

    On the contrary. The MTC Exec. Director will just privately tell parties c,d,e,f,g,h to approve whatever quad-track plan….or else. And they will have no choice but to go along, unless they want to lose all transportation funding that goes through the MTC.

  10. Keith Saggers
    Aug 27th, 2013 at 12:38


    Once the IOS has been completed and the High-Speed Rail Authority is providing passenger service, the opportunity for private investment will become a reality. The Authority plans to access private capital based on the net cash flows from the IOS to help fund construction of the remainder of the Bay to Basin section. This model is consistent with other high-speed rail projects internationally and was confirmed to be accurate by potential investors during the Authority’s Request for Information process.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:


    This information was confirmed consistently by the Fox Authority.

    Joey Reply:

    In order for initial passenger operations to be successful they have to go somewhere. There’s not an overwhelming amount of travel demand solely in the Merced-Palmdale route.

    VBobier Reply:

    So Amtrak-California trains are empty?

    Humbug… IOS trains will get passengers from Amtrak-California and the amount of passengers will rise beyond current record levels…

    Joey Reply:

    Amtrak California runs six trains per day on that corridor. I don’t know what the load factor is, and obviously more frequent service would lead to higher ridership. But there are still a lot of issues with that. If you plan on through-routing Amtrak services, you are always going to be limited by UP. They have expressed no interest in allowing additional trans between Martinez and Oakland, and only a small number more over the Altamont Pass. On the south end, taking a diesel train over the Tehachapi pass and then onto Metrolink tracks will take much longer than transferring to a bus in Bakersfield, never mind the fact that Metrolink is already bumping into capacity issues with the mostly single-track line.

    I’m highly skeptical that the IOS as currently conceived will generate any interest from private investors. At this point, I think the best thing for the project is to get tracks to Los Angeles as quickly as possible. There’s a solid case to run frequent trains on LA-Fresno, which could generate significant ridership and maybe even cover their operating expenses.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    Bakersfield to Palmdale:
    They say 10.9 + 3.3 = 14.2 miles of tunnel
    I say 17.8 miles of tunnel-Clem

    Joey Reply:

    Why are you still going on about this? 3%+ grades are going to be an issue for diesels no matter how much of it is in tunnels. And what matters, as far as diesels are concerned, is the length of the longest tunnel, not the total tunneling length.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    sorry, didn’t mean to upset you, I thought it was going to be an electric train.

    Joey Reply:

    The question of when to electrify is a difficult one, but I don’t think it’s justified until the southern mountain crossing is finished. For track built between Merced/Fresno and Palmdale, you have four options, none of which are very likeable:

    1) Run electric trains between Merced/Fresno and Palmdale, forcing transfers at the ends. These types of services aren’t likely to generate much ridership.

    2) Forego electrification for now and through route diesel trains. Steep grades would ensure that a diesel train from Bakersfield to LA would take longer than the bus, and long tunnels would create a ventilation issue.

    3) Change locomotives or add on a diesel locomotive or power unit to EMUs. Changing locomotives takes time, especially under FRA rules which mandate that every single component of every system be tested after every minor change. This would have the advantage of possibly running lighter trains on the new track.

    4) Use dual-mode locomotives. These are expensive and maintenance-intensive, especially the FRA-compliant variety.

    In any of the options 2-4, you are also limited by UP’s unwillingness to allow many more trains to approach Oakland on their tracks.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I suggest you can take forced transfer to the bank. Single seat will be quashed like so much of the rest of Prop 1A promises and premises.

    Diesel operation is too embarrassing politically. Technically ventilation an added headache and there is always the longshot of various hazmat perils with the diesel fuel and diesels could stall in the long and copious tunnels of Palmdaleferroviaria.

    Clem Reply:

    Note that 17.8 miles isn’t even the half of it… there is more tunneling, and longer tunnels (up to 7 miles) through the San Gabriels than through the Tehachapis. The regional consultant there is Hatch Mott McDonald, a tunneling firm. Ceci explique cela. I wonder what the Santa Clarita bypass will do to the totals…

    synonymouse Reply:

    Santa Clarita does not want rail service to LA? I knew they opposed Tejon more or less but I did not know they were that anti-rail to opt completely cut out of the network.

    Joey Reply:

    Santa Clarita was never going to get a station under Tehachapi.

    synonymouse Reply:

    What would be the closest rail station deploying the revised DogLeg?

    Joey Reply:

    Probably Sylmar/San Fernando.

    Roger Christensen Reply:

    I noticed recently that Metro’s supplemental strategic plan (unfunded post R projects) no longer lists Red Line extension to Bob Hope but rather to Sylmar/San Fernando presumably with a stop at Bob Hope.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Clem, are we approaching 30 miles of tunnel with the Santa Clarita bore?

    What would be the likely length of a true base tunnel optimized mountain crossing?

    Clem Reply:

    Probably. We’re at about 27 miles now. They were looking at a huge NIMBY tunnel in the Sand Canyon area that was already pushing that upwards. They are no longer planning to include this alternative in the next SAA, so maybe they figured that if they had to bore that much tunnel, they might as well take the shortcut. You won’t hear any complaints from me about making the route shorter, but…

    They are nearing DOUBLE the amount of tunneling for Tejon Pass.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Hypothetically, and for the purpose of argument, is there a feasible thorough-going base tunnel and how long would it be? Where would it be?

    Obviously the Quantm 2 tunnel golf course alternative is perfectly logical and sensible but I sense saving 50% is not getting thru to these worthies. If you can shame them by pointing out they are blowing more money on a backwoods detour than on a genuine base tunnel, which they claimed they could never afford, they’ll have to come back with some bs arguments they will have to live down later. There is a certain shock value in pointing out they’re spending so much they are approaching the real exotic, like base tunnels or maglev.

    It is going to take some one with media presence, like a Musk, to start ragging on this scandal. This is incredible and irresponsible over-spending for a regional commute and in a rural area. What are we looking at realistically – $20bil to get to Mojave?

    synonymouse Reply:

    At 27 miles we are already at base tunnel length. The St. Gotthard is the world’s longest at 35 miles.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The San Joaquins as a whole average 39% load. Compare seat-mile and passenger-mile numbers on PDF-p. 49 in the most recent Amtrak monthly report.

    Michael Reply:

    When I’ve ridden the San Joaquins, they are pretty light from Oakland to Stockton. At Stockton, they fill up with folks arriving on the busses from up Sacramento way and remain almost all full down the Valley. It’s a long way from Oakland to Stockton, so I’m sure the lighter load retards the overall numbers.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    There is apparently a major rethinking of plan in LA area


    This suggests the Authority will split Palmdale to LA into 2 segments. Palmdale to Burbank and then Burbank to LA.

    They are also looking at changing where they go relative to Metrolink. Anyone know anything about bicycle path discussed?

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Metro is planning a Metrolink station north end of Burbank Airport plus double track to Sylmar so that we can provide useful transportation to meet real needs at low cost and in a reasonable time frame. Along with this is completion of missing links in the bike trails from LA into the NE San Fernando Valley. Seems like the CHSRA wants to build a station in Burbank as an interim step and now realises that two platforms will not be enough, let alone storage facilities etc. We already have I-5 being widened plus existing Metrolink with UP trackage rights plus the airport and a lot of industries with good jobs. This is going to get ugly very quickly.
    If this (HSR) ever goes ahead surely the logical step is to build north from LAUS and south from Bakersfield and meet in the middle, whether via 5 or 14. An interim terminus at Burbank, with the very limited facilities for connections, would be a fiasco.

    synonymouse Reply:


    St. Gotthard base tunnel of 35 miles cost approximately $10bil. How much are they prepared to spend on 20 miles of the opposite of base tunnel for BooniesBART? We will be the laughing stock of the railroad world. Actually we’re pure 3rd world now. Would the WillieBridge have cost $6bil in Lagos? That’s usually regarded as about the bottom of the 3rd world. One of the most corrupt cities to be found.

    synonymouse Reply:

    And the WillieBridge tower looks like a broken umbrella – all that for $6bil. En Suisse add 4bil and you get a 35 f*****g mile 2 base tunnels. We got hosed.

    Clem Reply:

    Yeah but Swiss labor rates are so low and Switzerland is such an undeveloped country with such poor transportation networks that you can’t possibly compare it to California.

    jimsf Reply:

    The first IOS should be Sf – bakersfield, since there will be high speed mainline track in place down the valley, electrification done on the caltrain portion, and a completed TBT all around the same time. Just build pacheco and electrify san jose to bakersfield and you have an full blown hsr IOS in place while they try to figure out how to get from bakersfield to union station, which will probably take another decade

    Clem Reply:

    “Just build Pacheco”… allow me to chuckle

    John Bacon Reply:

    Pacheco Pass is1,000 feet above the surrounding planes. SR 152 manages to cross without tunneling on a 6% or less grade. Could a CHSR train operate on a surface Pacheco Pass crossing instead of the CHSR Authority’s projected 11 mile tunnel along the same route? A 220 mph train climbing 1,000 feet with no more power than required to overcome friction losses will be moving at 124 mph at the top of the pass.
    For safety a train should reduce its speed below maximum allowed speed (V) while traveling down a steep grade. How much time would be lost due to this safety-slow-down? Let V = 216 mph = 3.6 miles per minute, S = 3.6 miles = the slope length on each side of the pass, and S/2 = 1.8 miles = the length plateau at the top of Pacheco Pass. If the train speed at the top of the pass is V/2 = 108 mph the train’s average speed on the slopes = (3/4)V. The total time required to traverse a surface crossing is:
    ΣŢs = 2*{(S/[(3/4)*V]} + (S/2)/(V/2) = (8/3)*(S/V) + S/V = (11/3)*(S/V)
    The period required to travel the same distance at maximum speed (V) as could occur safely in a deep level tunnel is:
    Ţt = [(5/2)*S]/V
    The extra period (Ţe) required to take the surface route over Pacheco Pass is:
    Ţe = Ţs – Ţt = (11/3)*(S/V) − [(5/2)*S]/V = (7/6)*(S/V) = (7/6) minutes = 70 seconds

    Note: Rolling stock able to accelerate to 220 mph on substantially level ground should be able to attain the performance outlined above.

  11. Elizabeth
    Aug 27th, 2013 at 14:41

    Guess what one part of the Tutor’s bid package was incomplete?

    Oh, the financial disclosure part. http://www.calhsr.com/uncategorized/the-winning-bid-anything-interesting/ It turns out Parsons had to guarantee the whole JV

    Eric M Reply:

    And that is exactly why there are joint ventures in large construction contracts. You ignored my links at an earlier time with regards to Parsons and Zachry financial standings, or most likely chose to ignore them because they didn’t fit your idea on good FUD.

    Always some way to spin the situation negatively, huh Elizabeth?

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