Should the CHSRA Bypass Santa Clarita With a Tunnel?

Aug 11th, 2014 | Posted by

At a public meeting in Santa Clarita last week about 75 residents showed up, most of them to support putting the HSR tracks somewhere else:

Many in attendance Tuesday were homeowners from Santa Clarita worried about one of two similar routes following the 14 Freeway taking their homes….

One problem is how to get from Palmdale in the Antelope Valley to the San Fernando Valley, a 45-mile journey. Originally, the Authority planned to bring the train along an S-curve paralleling the 14 Freeway but residents from Sand Canyon and Santa Clarita council members objected, saying these two closely related routes would take out homes, churches and come too close to schools.

Now, for the first time, the CHSRA has proposed an alternative. It will study a tunnel under the mountains for a more “direct route” from the Palmdale Transportation Center to the Burbank Airport. The tunnel route is supported by the city of Santa Clarita and Fifth District County Supervisor Michael Antonovich.

Michael Hogan, a member of a committee formed with the help of the city to organize resident concerns, said the city and residents prefer the alternative tunnel route. “Yeah. That would be fantastic,” Hogan said.

Obviously a tunnel would be the easiest solution for those living along the proposed route in Santa Clarita. Just put it under the mountains and be done with it!

Of course, tunneling anywhere is not easy (just ask Seattle), and that’s likely to be true of a tunnel under the San Gabriel Mountains. It turns out that Metro staff had looked at a tunnel before – and rejected it as technically infeasible:

Susan MacAdams, the former High Speed Rail Planning Manager at Metro, said the tunneling proposal would cost 10 times as much as the surface route and that tunneling would be problematic because large, boring equipment must clear a path beneath the 5 Freeway and major flood control channels.

“Like all other ancient river basins throughout Los Angeles County, there is a mixed face of debris: large boulders, soft sand and occasional deposits of tar and oil. Not good for tunnel boring machines. Not recommended,” MacAdams wrote in a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration.

The tunnel would be 20 or 30 miles long, and even if you could get the tunnel boring machine to the site, there’s all sorts of problems that could occur underneath the mountains. If the TBM gets stuck, it’ll be almost impossible to dig it out, especially if it is stuck south of the 14 or north of the 210.

There’s another consideration to this tunnel – it would bypass Santa Clarita entirely. Which is of course what the residents who showed up at the meeting would like. But is that what’s best for California’s transportation network?

Noel Braymer at RailPAC points out the downsides of bypassing Santa Clarita:

What will be lost if the original route is rejected? The original plan would have rebuilt the railroad and grade separated it for High Speed Rail, Metrolink and freight trains in the San Fernando Valley to Sylmar. There would have also been track improvements for Metrolink for sharing more of the right way with High Speed Rail. It now takes an hour and 55 minutes to travel Metrolink between Los Angeles and Palmdale. It takes almost an hour by Metrolink between Newhall and Los Angeles. With this more direct High Speed Rail route getting between Palmdale and Los Angeles will take under 30 minutes but with no intermediate stops. This will result in limited connections for Metrolink to High Speed Rail or speed improvements for Metrolink from sharing more right of way with High Speed Rail.

A major problem for Metrolink now is the single tracked tunnel built in the 1870′s connecting the San Fernando Valley to the Santa Clarita Valley. Besides being single tracked it has speed restrictions of 35 miles an hour and sometimes less.This is a major bottleneck for Metrolink service. The straighter route is better for longer distance service past Palmdale, but does nothing to improve service for the 3 Metrolink Stations in the Santa Clarita Valley.

It is unknown at this time if commuter service will be available on High Speed Rail from Palmdale. The High Speed Rail line will have plenty of capacity. There are plans for over 60 round trips a day which will mean 4 to 5 trains an hour most of the day. Local all stops High Speed Rail Trains are planned along with faster express trains with limited stops. There is plenty of track capacity to add extra trains for local, commuter type travel between Palmdale and Los Angeles. Some transfer traffic to High Speed Rail from Metrolink would be possible from Palmdale and Burbank. But for residents of Santa Clarita (which include Newhall and Saugus) connections to High Speed Rail won’t be practical.

Problems with traffic will remain on the I-5 and Highway 14 north of Los Angeles even with High Speed Rail. High Speed Rail will allow greater development and population growth without adding to the traffic to I-5 and Highway 14 for the Antelope Valley. High Speed Rail service will reduce some vehicle traffic north of Los Angeles. But it will do nothing about the heavy truck traffic on the I-5 north of Los Angeles. Large diesel trucks are a major source of pollution, traffic congestion and are often involved in major traffic accidents.

Braymer concludes by assuming that the fewer impacts of a tunnel will lead the Authority to adopt it as the preferred alternative. I’m not so sure. I suspect that the significant technical challenges and the high cost of building such a route will lead the Authority to tell Santa Clarita that building along the Highway 14 corridor is the only viable option at this time to connect Palmdale to Burbank.

Doing so also preserves a station option for Santa Clarita, home to at least 200,000 people (maybe a lot more if the Newhall Ranch development is built, which it shouldn’t be). A Santa Clarita station also adds a large pool of commuters as potential riders for the bullet train, building up revenue and ridership.

So even if a tunnel were affordable and feasible, it might not be the best way to serve the population of California.

  1. Trentbridge
    Aug 11th, 2014 at 16:46

    “Susan MacAdams, the former High Speed Rail Planning Manager at Metro, said the tunneling proposal would cost 10 times as much as the surface route”

    I have a hunch that – even if this bold assertion was true – that tunneling would be cheaper overall since the lawsuits about the suggested route and acquistion costs of obtaining parcels of land for the surface ROW would be (at least) ten times more expensive than the tunnel.

    Joey Reply:

    Lawsuits don’t cost all that much other than time. You could overcompensate the owners of all the taken properties by a factor of two and it would still be a fraction of the cost.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Does anyone have a realistic comparison of the costs of these costs, including operating?

    Nathanael Reply:


    Michael Reply:

    People are running with a standard “rule of thumb” for construction and giving off bad quotes. I think the original rule of thumb goes something like “elevated is 2x at grade, trench is 5x, tunnel is 10x”. The mis-quote/misconception is applying it to the whole segment from Burbank to Palmdale, since a lot of the “via Santa Clarita” route would also involve a lot of tunneling. “Via Santa Clarita” is not an at-grade route. It’s a lot of tunnels, too. It’s not an “at grade” vs “tunnel” comparison.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Exactly. The map on their website:
    Seems to indicate that its at grade but the video they show at meetings has multiple tunnels and elevated sections. It must be on line somewhere…
    Based on your comments I’d say that it would be more like 50% to 100% higher, taking into account the lower mileage.

    joe Reply:

    Why doesn’t a rule of thumb underestimate the longer tunnel cost?

    I bet the length and depth certainly increases the uncertainty of what they’ll clear away, the chances of hitting different substrate and there are obstacles like “clear a path beneath the 5 Freeway and major flood control channels.”

    The error bars on any long tunnel estimate and subsequent worse case scenarios would be greater.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    They’d almost certainly go over the 5, not under, as Clem previously delineated. The tunnel moth would be NE of the 210 at the south end.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Try this:

    joe Reply:

    That certainty is not rooted in the document you sent.
    Here is the description in totality (unless I am mistaken and there’s more.

    Alternative Corridor Subsection
    The Alternative Corridor Subsection i would be on average 35 miles (55 kilometers) long and
    could follow a relatively straight route through the Angeles National Forest from the City of
    Palmdale to the City of Burbank (Figure 2-2). The Alternative Corridor Subsection would utilize
    the proposed PTC Station in the City of Palmdale and the Burbank Airport Station in the City of
    Burbank. Alignment options for this alternative study area will be evaluated in the EIR/EIS.

    It tells me the alignment is TBD.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Whatever amenities Sta. Clarita demands and gets so does PAMPA. And others.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Being bypassed isn’t an amenity, it’s an FU. Anyone who wants to be bypassed can get bypassed…

  2. Darrell
    Aug 11th, 2014 at 17:45

    I’m puzzled by Noel Braymer’s comments. Neither of the current two HSR route options would have had a station in Santa Clarita, only daylighting briefly between tunnels at Sand Canyon south of the Santa Clara River, so I don’t see how HSR construction would have helped Metrolink or freight.

    For the new direct route option, I’d hope for an above-ground route from Burbank to a portal north of I-210 behind Hanson Dam, and to daylight the tunnel somewhere in the San Gabriel Mountains at a canyon. I haven’t checked elevations and grades required to do these yet, though.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Clem has posted a good schematic on an earlier post.

  3. flowmotion
    Aug 11th, 2014 at 19:08

    A similar freeway tunnel has been studied numerous times over the years. As recently as 2004:,+TUNNEL+STUDY+OK'D+COUNTY,+PALMDALE+WILL+SPEND+$125,000.-a0117558769

  4. Clem
    Aug 11th, 2014 at 20:16

    Recap of some of my earlier comments… (rehashed topic begets rehashed comments!)

    Here’s what it looks like on a map. The 3000 m radius curve in Sun Valley (good for 150 mph) brushes past Hansen Dam and plows through mostly industrial blocks.

    I included the fault crossings; there has to be a viaduct over the 210, through Lakeview Terrace and across the Sierra Madre Fault Zone (a nasty piece of work without a nice clean fault boundary) before entering the base tunnel. As per usual in PB designs, the San Gabriel Fault is crossed in a tunnel. Seismic concerns alone may kill this alignment.

    Susan MacAdams’s comments assume that the long tunnel would start from the Metrolink right of way in Burbank / Sun Valley, which I find unlikely. Tunneling under I-5 and drainage channels is not something that is required by topography, so the more likely option is a viaduct.

    I’ve had a chance to model the long tunnel alignment in detail and simulate its performance.

    The biggest surprise to me was this: while my San Gabriel tunnel came out 13 miles long, the overall amount of tunneling between Palmdale and Burbank is about 19 miles, or pretty much the same as the baseline SR-14 alignment. If NIMBYs win an extended tunnel in the Sand Canyon area, the base tunnel alignment comes out with less overall tunnel mileage. This may explain why many moons ago (long before it became an official SAA alternative) we saw this option start being studied in the monthly regional consultant reports as posted by CARRD.

    Smoking hot commuter rail up the hill from Burbank to Palmdale, at 14:36 (17 minutes stop-to-stop by the timetable). High-speed trains manage 150 mph at full throttle on the relatively gentle 2.1% tunnel grade. Downhill could be a shade quicker, although speeds would still be limited by emergency braking capacity and stay well below 220 mph.

    The tunnel shortcut is 3.5 minutes quicker and 11 miles shorter.

    Of course, this must be considered in proper context: the Tejon shortcut is 13 minutes (express) to 18 minutes (local) quicker and 34 miles shorter, or 3x the benefit with far less tunneling. The connection from Tejon to Palmdale – Las Vegas (lest we forget Las Vegas, should any New Yorkers want to visit) can be made at I-5 and SR 138.

    Clem Reply:

    I forgot to mention that my 13-mile tunnel (resulting from the map above) is not nearly optimal. I am sure alignments can be found that result in less tunnel mileage, especially if they run mostly on the surface between Palmdale and Acton.

    Darrell Reply:

    Thanks, Clem.

    Maps of the current proposals, including tunnel / aerial / at-grade, are at .

    Approximate topo map elevations are Burbank Airport 700′; Hanson Dam 1,100′; above I-210 1,200′; Little Tujunga Canyon 2,000′ (possible above-ground crossing of San Gabriel Fault?); Pacoima Canyon 3,000′; Acton 2,800′. These make daylighting the tunnel in places seem plausible.

    Travis D Reply:

    I’m actually hopeful this new route will get chosen. It seems to have many benefits and might not be any more expensive to build.

    Joey Reply:

    Long, deep tunnels are always expensive and property acquisition is cheap. There’s no doubt that it will be much more expensive.

    elfling Reply:

    As someone intimately familiar with both the Santa Clarita /14 corridor and the Hansen Dam/Tujunga area, the Santa Clarita alignment makes way more sense, both in terms of geology and in terms of serving the relative populations. This land has no cohesion at all – it’s crumbly and difficult.

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ Darrell

    How about “daylighting” at the Garlock and San Andreas?

    Darrell Reply:

    Presumably the route from Acton to Palmdale would be similar to the current alternatives, which are above ground crossing the San Andreas. The Garlock doesn’t relate to Burbank-Palmdale..

    Travis D Reply:

    Why bring up Tejon? That just isn’t gonna happen. Whatever route is chose will go through Palmdale. Only those with a fetish for the shortest route possible want Tejon which never advanced beyond basic studies.

    Politics dictates that Palmdale will be served or numerous politicians will bolt from support. So let’s just drop the entire fantasy of Tejon.

    MarkB Reply:


  5. les
    Aug 11th, 2014 at 20:50

    I’d be curious to know the diameter of tunnel necessary and the depth below surface. Seattle’s Bertha is 57.5 ft diameter which was a world record in 2013. Currently Bertha is stuck 120 ft down and it is taking a year to build a support shaft to gain access for repairs which are costing about 180 million. The Seattle tunnel is only 2 miles. CHRS best be prepared!

    Clem Reply:

    It would be a twin-bore tunnel with overburden up to a couple of thousand feet. Each bore would have to be 30 to 35 feet in diameter, far larger than the size of the trains, to keep aerodynamic drag (and thus air temperature) sufficiently low. See Technical Memo 2.4.2 for detailed discussion.

    Eric M Reply:

    It is still disappointing that TM 2.1.5 & TM 2.1.6 never surfaced. Considering the more concrete poured the better, I am surprised at the minimal slab tack mentioned.

    Lewellan Reply:

    Last I heard, Bertha is 60′ below the surface at its crown, 110′ at its well.
    Full length depth reaches 170′-180′ near Spring Street.
    Below sea level from near Battery Street to the south portal.
    More water at furthest depths inland below 250+ vulnerable buildings. EARTHQUAKE:
    Historic and Modern buildings damaged beyond repair in a moderate 7.0 Rictor.
    I just those here who can be respectful should know.

    I’m for Tehachapi finally, but not budging on Altamont.
    This Oregonian begs for your help opposing a disaster Seattle, where leading reckless nincompoops mislead each other on big money projects.

    Lewellan Reply:

    Just ‘thought’ those here who can be respectful should know.
    Minimizing construction waste for California is possible.
    Forced demolitions and sudden collapse is permanent.
    Seattle must prevent a disaster.
    The incompetence is stunning, absurd, preposterous, incontrovertable, unAmerican.
    Aim the 1000′ of finished bore directly to (FEIS) BOX Cut/Cover/Seawall and finish.
    Extend Battery Street Tunnel with ongoing construction there (possible & desirable).
    ArtLwellan, Author ‘Seattle Circulator Plan’ (blacklisted in Seattle since 2002)
    (request all info City Hall)

    Nathanael Reply:

    Seattle’s Deep Bore Highway Tunnel, with its World’s Largest Tunnel Boring Machine, through particularly nasty geology which is prone to underwater flooding, was…. really dumb.

    A tunnel through the mountains makes some sort of sense, at least.

  6. les
    Aug 11th, 2014 at 21:38

    35 feet isn’t bad. Seattle’s history with the smaller diameters has been real good. They took a big gamble going with big Bertha and paid for it. But on the bright side the Bertha mishaps haven’t stopped the project, too much other work to be done.

  7. Donk
    Aug 11th, 2014 at 21:54

    So they still plan to have a 10 min and $5B detour to serve Palmdale, but now they are going to cut out Sylmar/San Fernando and the adjacent Santa Clarita Valley. How many people are we losing by cutting this region out.

    I have a better idea. Lets keep the stop at Sylmar/San Fernando and instead eliminate the stop at Palmdale and go via the 5. This way we get a similar number of passengers as the Palmdale option, but don’t waste 10 min and $5B.

    Joey Reply:

    To be fair, any possibility of Sylmar/San Fernando or Santa Clarita stations was eliminated a while ago, so bypassing them wouldn’t change the ridership profile much vs the baseline plan.

    Donk Reply:

    Oh I guess I missed the memo on that.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    That’s a great idea…too bad the current political compromise makes it impossible.

    Under the current agreement, the Burbank-Palmdale segment is to be built using (wait for it) the cap and trade moneys which require a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020…

    Setting aside all other arguments about Tejon v. Tehachapi/Palmdale, the one thing that Tejon will never be able to do is mitigate air pollution from commuter traffic to the extent that Palmdale can. In addition, the diesel powered Metrolink trains *also* count in this GHG reduction calculus (just like CalTrain) and thus expect to see an HSR alignment that wins out that allows Metrolink to suggest they will electrify their entire network.

    (This is totally improbable as the Antelope Valley Line, unlike the others, is owned outright by the Southern California Regional Rail Authority…but…anyway…details…details.)

    EJ Reply:

    Where do you get the idea that Metrolink has any ambition to electrify their network? It’s not proposed anywhere that I’m aware of, and Metrolink is so far-flung that electrification would be a huge expense. Not to mention the hoops they’d have to jump through to get the Class 1s they share much of their trackage with to agree…

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    There’s no need to electrify the Metrolink network, nor to operate every line that is part of today’s Metrolink network with identical equipment.

    A good start would be to make Sylmar—Burbank—LAUS—Anaheim—Orange non-FRA, HSR-compatible (and technically Caltrain-compatible), segregated from freight, segregated from FRA Metrolink, and overhead powered.

    The rest of the freight-crippled FRA network can be upgraded, or not, over time.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Given the political nature of transportation, that is a non starter. If you doubt me, ask Paul Dyson his thoughts.

    This is why I never preferred the bookend approach. The project needs to be offered in a “take-it-or-leave it” approach to big urban areas. Otherwise there will political compromises made that will put very unrealistic pressures on the most technically demanding segments in the hinterlands.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    I’ll soon be posting a more detailed thought piece (sometimes I think) about Electrolink and the Palmdale – Burbank HSR. Richard is right, there are no plans to electrify in Southern CA. But that needs to change if HSR construction really does start from Burbank. Thus electrify as Richard suggest, my version is to the end of the double track at Laguna Niguel. 2 tracks for HSR compatible passenger trains. (Should have quad tracked Redondo Jc to Fullerton) And IF someone somewhere starts setting standards then yes, Caltrain compatible too.

    Jon Reply: is still available. Just sayin’.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The standards are simple: ETCS/ERTMS signalling (and lengthy, lengthy prison terms for all of those in any way involved in the outright unambiguous fraud of CBOSS at Caltrain), 760mm platforms set 1.9m from track centreline; 25kv overhead with conventional height, stagger; etc … Pretty much everything else you can just borrow from Sweden or Korea or Spain or Japan or anybody who knows what the fuck they’re doing (meaning not from PBQD or Amtrak or any of Caltrain/CHSRA/Metrolink’s consultants.)

    PS I’d go for wordpress, not blogspot.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Railroad people and now the politicians always seem to have made a career for themselves, and high and unnecessary costs for others, by stressing the “uniqueness” of their systems. Look at steam engine design more or less from day one. Go to Sac and tour the Siemens factory and look at the “unique” designs of the light rail vehicles they are building for different administrations. As an operating manager with British Railways I struggled with multiple diesel locomotive types, the transition from vacuum brake to air brake on freight waggons, and from straight Westinghouse to EPB on passenger emus. I would recommend far harsher punishment than lengthy prison sentences for those that discount concerns about standardization.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The steam engine situation really was absurd. Typical steam engine classes had 5, 10 examples.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I agree with Richard! WordPress is far superior!

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Electrolink is a noble, but impossible proposition. OCTA taking control of the Surfliner is your first clue that if counties not named LA are required to eat electrification costs, they will pull out of SCRRA. Ridership is growing to Orange County on track tha for the most part is freight free. Meanwhile, electrification proposes spending more money on a declining number of riders.

    This is the doomsday scenario for Southern California transit: without a system like BART to open expensive areas to workers using carbon neutral transportation, we will get that much more inequality than seen in the Bay Area. It’s going to look like Tokyo–rents relate to how easy it is to walk to high paying jobs.

  8. Roger Christensen
    Aug 12th, 2014 at 10:02

    Fresno Bee headline this morning “Federal Board Gives Blessing to Fresno-Bakersfield HSR”.
    Surface Transportation Board 2-1 ruling authorizing construction.

    Eric M Reply:

    Ann D. Begeman dissenting. She did the same thing on the Merced to Frenso section.

    Eric M Reply:

    And here is her reasoning:

    Just as I could not support the Board’s hasty approval of the Merced-to-Fresno section of
    this enormous public works project, I cannot support the Board’s similar course of action on the
    Fresno-to-Bakersfield section. Each segment of this project, including its financing, merits the
    Board’s thorough examination, which has not and cannot occur under the exemption process.
    Since the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) first came to the Board last
    year just before it intended to break ground, the majority’s primary focus seems to have been
    getting out of the Authority’s way. But doing so here, six weeks after the FRA issued its Record
    of Decision, could have very serious consequences and needlessly impose service disruptions on
    a key segment of our nation’s freight rail network and its shippers.
    Significant portions of the freight rail network have been enduring service challenges
    since last winter. Addressing existing service problems, and preventing the occurrence of
    additional operational disruptions, should be foremost on the Board’s agenda. Instead, the
    majority largely ignores the concerns raised by the BNSF Railway Company, which operates a
    partially double-tracked freight rail line between Fresno and Bakersfield used by more than 40
    trains per day. According to BNSF, “[t]he implications of locating the CHSRA line close to
    BNSF’s line are considerable and take a variety of forms, including impacts to BNSF’s ability to
    maintain and use all of its current right-of-way to support freight rail service; its ability to
    construct spurs to serve current and new industries; electromagnetic interference risks with
    signals and Positive Train Control Systems (PTC); and height clearance issues[.]”1
    The Authority and the carrier must reach an agreement to ensure freight service is not
    jeopardized as a result of this project. Yet, despite discussions between the parties since 2009,
    “BNSF’s questions have not been answered, leaving many uncertainties about construction and
    operational impacts of the proposed high speed line to BNSF and its customers.”2
    The Board should have required the Authority to resolve its issues with BNSF before
    granting its approval. By doing so, the Board would have ensured a planned, proactive approach
    to addressing these serious matters and prevented avoidable service disruptions. The majority
    has instead merely indicated that it expects the Authority and BNSF to work out an arrangement
    and that in doing so, they may “avail themselves of the Board’s processes in the future by (for
    example) filing a complaint, a petition for declaratory order, a crossing petition under
    § 10901(d)(1), or by utilizing the Board’s alternative dispute resolution procedures.” Thus, the
    Board may eventually end up facing the same issues that time and momentum may make more
    costly, more disruptive, and less tractable.
    1 BNSF at 2.
    2 Id.

    Among the many other important matters raised by interested parties, the concerns
    expressed on behalf of Mercy Hospital, which remain largely unaddressed here, warrant
    attention. The proposed high-speed rail line would be located only 191 feet from the hospital, as
    the depiction below illustrates. Mercy Hospital representatives argue that “[t]rains moving past
    the hospital at over 100 miles per hour will create noise, vibrations and disruptions to surgical
    procedures,”3 but “[t]he Rail Authority has not conducted the noise and vibration studies they
    promised to do, nor have they developed any mitigation plans for the impact of the trains on the
    hospital.”4 According to Dignity Health, which owns and operates Mercy Hospital, “[i]t appears
    obvious that the Authority believes it does not need to honor its promises to its stakeholders.”5
    While the majority’s decision to limit pile driving within 300 feet of the hospital is better
    than doing nothing, that mitigation effort alone does not fully address the “significant and unique
    health and safety issues both during and subsequent to construction,”6 as described by Dignity
    Health. The Board should have taken action to hold the Authority fully accountable to resolve
    the significant concerns raised by the hospital before granting its approval. Instead, these and
    other serious matters are left for others (e.g., the courts) to decide.
    I dissent.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The proposed high-speed rail line would be located only 191 feet from the hospital, as
    the depiction below illustrates. Mercy Hospital representatives argue that “[t]rains moving past
    the hospital at over 100 miles per hour will create noise, vibrations and disruptions to surgical

    The freight trains that run there are silent? Or the ones in the yard that is there?

    Nathanael Reply:

    Begeman is making shit up and should be removed from the STB.
    * Did she claim that the STB should get out of the way of All Aboard Florida, which is actually going to be sharing tracks with freight? Yep!
    * Does the STB have jurisdiction to make trouble due to the spurious, bogus, and not-rail-related complaints of Mercy Hospital? No!
    * Did she do a damn thing about the freight-railroad-caused delays to Amtrak, which ARE her jurisdiction? Nope!

    She’s a corrupt hack.

    Nathanael Reply:

    By contrast, Mulvey’s consistent: he believed that AAF was under the STB’s jurisdiction and so was CAHSR.

    Begeman’s just a corrupt hack who should be thrown out with extreme prejudice.

  9. synonymouse
    Aug 12th, 2014 at 10:39

    “High Speed Rail will allow greater development and population growth…”

    Thank you, Jerry.

  10. Scramjett
    Aug 12th, 2014 at 12:31

    Hmmmm. I’d still say the jury is still out on which would be the better approach, and this article brings up a lot of good points against the tunnel. I had previously said I lean towards the tunnel. Now, given the technical/geological challenges of the tunnels, particularly of getting the boring machine stuck, I’m leaning towards “at grade” now. Sure, you’d have to bore some tunnels for the “at grade” route, but I doubt that you’d be dealing with ancient river beds when boring “at grade” tunnels.

    (Note: From here on out, I will not challenge the anti-HSR crowd and will simply treat HSR as a foregone conclusion and ignore the anti-HSR crowd).

  11. Reality Check
    Aug 12th, 2014 at 13:13

    Caltrain electrification gets court boost: ruling allows for HSR bond sales, local modernization project to benefit

    Caltrain and high-speed rail became intertwined when they agreed to a shared blended track system that requires the tracks between San Jose and San Francisco be electrified.

    “We’re pleased to see that another obstacle has been lifted and it’s certainly good news for the Caltrain electrification project because it allows us to continue on our path. Half of the funding for electrification is coming from [HSR], so this was a very important case that we had been watching very closely,” Ackemann said.

    The Caltrain Modernization Project will also allow it to successfully adapt to the prediction that its current 1.3 million monthly ridership will double in 30 years. The $1.5 billion project includes electrifying 51 miles of track, purchasing new trains and a new GPS-based control system. The project would save money on fuel, allow one more train in each direction per hour, add another car to the electrified trains and be beneficial to the environment. Its goal is to be 75 percent electrified by 2020 and fully by 2040, according to Caltrain officials.

    It’s unknown exactly when the authority will be able to sell its $10 billion in voter-approved bonds, but Caltrain needs financing to proceed with its design phase that is just 35 percent complete, Ackemann said.

    “It all depends on when the state decides to go forward with the issuing of bonds,” Ackemann said. “There are a couple of gates the money has to pass through. First it has to be collected through bond sales and once that’s done we’d have to make a formal request. Because we’re at a point in the project where we need additional funding.”

    The court’s ruling will also contribute to freeing up funds from its other contributors such as the federal government and a regional nine-party funding agreement that includes cities and counties of San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara, Ackemann said.

    Currently, Caltrain is in the process of compiling community-generated input into its EIR, which encompasses worst-case scenarios and is expected to be finalized at the end of the year or early 2015, Ackemann said.

    “There’s still work that needs to be completed on our end before we can move forward anyway. The next big milestone for us will be a request-for-bid process where we’ll select a design building contractor who will then take the project through the next phase,” Ackemann said.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Caltrain electrification gets court boost: ruling allows for HSR bond sales, local modernization project to benefit

    Reality Check Reply:

    Thanks for fixing my story link!

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The court’s ruling will also contribute to freeing up funds from its other contributors such as the federal government and a regional nine-party funding agreement that includes cities and counties of San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara, Ackemann said.

    That’s 100% what this is about.
    San Francisco County voters, San Mateo County voters, Santa Clara County voters, and region-wide Bay Area voters (Regional Measure 2) were told they were voting for Caltrain improvements including electrification.

    Except, ooops, all the money instead was redirected, at the active instigation of MTC director-for-life Steve “inexplicably indicted” “$5 billion Bay Bridge cost overrun” Heminger into the pockets of his very very very very very special friends at PB&co (BART extensions, Central Subway).

    Oh noes! We have no money for Caltrain! We must steal SOMEBODY ELSE”S lunch money. You know. For the environment. For CBOSS. For great future.

    What a fucking limitless scam.

    A tiny, low-ridership little regional rail shuttle spending two billion dollars of state and federal money on a decades deferred (because of part BART/PB benefiting fraud in voter approved funding redirection) maintenance (electrification is basically nothing but 30 year over due “state of good repair” maintenance, and fleet replacement is unambiguously so) of a purely regional rail line.

    It’s so nice of taxpayers of Los Angeles and Oakland and San Diego to volunteer to keep tiny little Caltrain’s very fat in-house consultants every fatter and every happier.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Very true, Richard, but the process is echoed at Palmdale, with LA County foisting its financial responsibility for regional commute service to the high desert on NorCal taxpayers.

    I would conjecture that the San Gabriel Antonovich quasi-base tunnel would put more than half of the funds spent south of Bako. LAHSR.

    Didn’t Robert Moses or J.Edgar Hoover produce some kind of term limits for agency functionaries? Heminger indeed has been on the job far too long.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Everyone expects other people to pay for what they want. What’s worse IMO is that we overpay. I wouldn’t mind contributing to Caltrain if it weren’t such a rip off.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The DogLeg is the mother of ripoffs, all of Caltrain’s sins notwithstanding.

    If PB and Jerry’s unions have their way LAHSR won’t be too dissimilar from the hated Caltrain.

    joe Reply:

    “I wouldn’t mind contributing to Caltrain if it weren’t such a rip off.”
    WTF? Let’s see an explanation of his Caltrian is a rip-off.

    Clem Reply:

    All Caltrain capital projects cost about three times more than their equivalents in other first-world countries. For a recent and instructive comparison, see Auckland New Zealand. It shouldn’t cost a quarter billion to re-signal 50 miles of two-track railway, or $800 million to electrify it.

    joe Reply:

    New Zealand isn’t paying. SoCal rail advocate says he is tired of paying for the Caltrain rip-off. WTF is that about except Homie wants stuff in LA.

    The Caltrain project is still better that adding a lane to 101 – which was done without blinking. 12 damn lanes now.

    Maybe we should not be building rail along the silicon valley until we get costs right. meanwhile we can let the area congest and push growth out of state.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    It’s all about value for money for the taxpayer
    And if you pay less for Caltrain you have money left for other projects
    Presumably that is important to you as well as me?

    joe Reply:

    Caltrain modernization and electrification is good news for riders, the job corridor and communities along the ROW.

    Joey Reply:

    Assuming it comes with better service, faster travel times, and lower maintenance costs, none of which are apparently on the books right now.

    Joe Reply:

    What books?
    The complaint is they haven’t published draft timetables.

    What are the physical problems with the project not allowing improvements?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Caltrain modernization and electrification is good news for riders, the job corridor and communities along the ROW.


    So why aren’t Santa Clara County (you know, that adjunct the the mighty City of Gilroy), San Mateo County, and San Francisco County funding this awesomely, unambiguously, job-riffic, rider-tastic, community-istic benefit for themselves by themselves? I mean, they all promised their very own voters that was what they were going to do with the sales taxes their voters voted for, after all.a

    Why are US federal government “high speed rail” funds going to Community Empowerment of Sunnyvale? Why are California HSR bond funds going to job creation in San Carlos? Why are state-wide greenhouse carbon taxes going to give train riders in San Francisco a ride that takes exactly as long or slower than it does today?

    joe Reply:

    The Caltrain FAQ for the electrification project tells me they have NOT yet published electrification train schedules. You are possibly representing the place holder schedules as draft time tables for electrified service.

    The Feds are funding the rail project have NOTHING to do with Caltrain service, rail or transportation.
    It’s Dogma. Mlynarik Libertarianism.

    joe Reply:

    The FAQ sez:

    Q: Will the service or schedule change under electrification? The project includes an increase of peak hour service from 5 trains per peak hour per direction to 6 trains per peak hour per direction. In addition, electrically-powered trains can accelerate and decelerate faster than diesel
    trains thus providing the flexibility to increase the frequency of service without adding travel time and/or reduce the overall travel time from one end of the corridor to the other.

    Caltrain has not yet developed a schedule that accounts for these important enhanced service capabilities. In the DEIR a “prototypical” or example schedule was used as part of the analysis. In the coming years, there will be robust public outreach to help determine the schedule that best balances the demands for more frequency and faster trip times.

    Will you attend any outreach events?

  12. Matt
    Aug 12th, 2014 at 13:50

    Even if HSR goes through Santa Clarita, there wasn’t a station planned there so the same connectivity issues would exist as the tunnel proposal.

  13. Reality Check
    Aug 12th, 2014 at 14:57

    Fresno City Hall torn over study for high-speed rail station

    The place that can’t get its fill of plans is dragging its heels over whether to spend someone else’s money for a study on the bullet train station.

    Fresno City Hall is unsure if it should spend $1 million in grants for a consultant who would tell city officials how downtown can maximize the benefits of high-speed rail.

    City Council members and officials from the administration of Mayor Ashley Swearengin left the audience dazed after debating the issue recently.

    The two sides most likely will go at it again on Aug. 21 when the council meets.

    The basic issue is simple. The bullet train needs a station for arrivals and departures. Lots of details must be settled to make sure the hub runs smoothly. Life teaches it’s best to plan ahead.

    But station planning in Fresno has turned into a proxy for a bigger fight on the bullet train’s life or death.


    Nathanael Reply:

    Looks like Fresno politics is about to break into two parties. When that happens, it’ll be interesting to watch; the anti-rail forces are dead-enders. I’m betting they end up in the Republican Party and the pro-rail forces end up in the Democratic Party, but it could be the other way around.

  14. Reality Check
    Aug 12th, 2014 at 15:05

    Columnist: Who cares what ideology drives a high-speed train?

    In Texas, a private company wants to build a bullet train joining Dallas and Houston. In California, the state is raising its own billions to create a very fast ride between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

    Two very different ways to fund high-speed rail, but they have one thing in common. They bypass the thousand-car pileup that is Washington politics.

    Perhaps it’s time for fans of high-speed rail to let some air into their thought box. Perhaps they should stop looking to Washington for direction and money. There are several routes to this destination, and who cares which ideology drives the train?

    The drawbacks in counting on federal help for this undertaking are several. One is that most Republicans in Congress remain philosophically opposed to writing checks for such infrastructure. Another snag has been the Obama administration’s failure to smartly guide the $11 billion already committed to the cause since 2009.


    J. Wong Reply:

    Who cares what ideology drives a high-speed train?

    les Reply:

    Brown has made it clear that fed money is no longer necessary and whether Obama smartly guided the 11 billion distribution is a matter of opinion. Like a lot of grandiose undertakings, HSR can be beyond the scope of the state or private sector and requires some fed help. Note that the Texas endeavor (239mi on flat terrain) is only about a 10 billion dollar project whereas LA-SF is 381 mi (via I5) and full of engineering challenges and cost. Just to get to Palmdale from LA is proving to be a monumental task. Without the fed seed money for the initial segment California HSR wouldn’t have happened. And state money is just now becoming unburdened by countering forces. No private company was willing to consider participation until now.

    Eric M Reply:

    I think the sad part is, it is like pulling teeth to get money from the federal government for a project in a state withing OUR OWN union, but it is so easy for the federal government to throw billions here and there to foreign governments (corrupt of not) without batting an eye. Just irritating sometimes.

    Eric M Reply:

    ……state within….

    Eric M Reply:

    (corrupt or not)

    Guess I should really spell check before hitting enter. LOL

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Brown regime is as corrupt as any foreign government.

    JCC Reply:

    That is a libelous statement with no facts, proof or any other evidence to support your idiotic statement. In fact, you should stop “Syning”, because the more you write the deeper the hole you dig for yourself. Of course you probably don’t care, hell your probably egotistical enough to assume that right about everything, in which case you just like being a douche.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Kimiko Burton

    synonymouse Reply:

    Ein PB, ein Tutor, ein Jerry

    EJ Reply:

    Syn, you’re no Jello Biafra.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Syn, you are a complete moron. Go look up the corruption levels of some of the *authoritarian dictatorships* the US pours money and guns into.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Jerry’s Kids score 13 undocumented no-shows:

    Jerry is as corrupt as any. How can I be more of a moron than a kingfish who demands a 50 mile detour on a putative “high speed” rail line? **** Jerry and all his prostrate judges.

    Eric Reply:

    Not really.
    There are only six governments that get more than a billion dollars a year from the US. All of them are US allies in an unstable region where the US spends vastly larger sums on its own military. Bribing local parties to pursue our interests, rather than fighting ourselves, is a very cost-effective strategy and should be used more not less.

    Eric M Reply:

    Thanks for proving exactly what I said.

    Nathanael Reply:


    Bribing local parties to pursue the interests of ExxonMobil is what the US has been doing.

    This is not, in actual fact, a cost-effective strategy for the US — largely because the interests of ExxonMobil are contrary to the interests of the US.

    Eric M Reply:

    Try this one:

    synonymouse Reply:

    Bribing local parties is precisely what the Tejon Ranch Co. does.

  15. datacruncher
    Aug 12th, 2014 at 16:18

    Supporters from Valley tell high-speed rail board: Build it
    SACRAMENTO — The California High-Speed Rail Authority is used to getting an earful of complaints about its plans to build a bullet-train line through the central San Joaquin Valley.

    On Tuesday, a busload of rail supporters from Fresno offered praise for the board’s efforts and reiterated their plea for Fresno to be chosen as the site for a major train-maintenance facility for the high-speed system.

    About 40 people boarded the bus in the pre-dawn darkness at the Clovis College Center at Herndon and Fern avenues for the three-hour ride to Sacramento.

    The junket, organized by the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation, was arranged after a divided Fresno County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 two weeks ago to reverse its position and oppose the high-speed rail project.

  16. Reality Check
    Aug 12th, 2014 at 17:12

    Kings Co. hopes to take HSR battle to state Supreme Court

    Kings County foes of the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s bullet-train plans want to take their legal fight to the California Supreme Court.

    Stuart Flashman, an Oakland attorney representing Kings County farmer John Tos, Hanford homeowner Aaron Fukuda and the county’s Board of Supervisors, said Monday his clients have all agreed to challenge an appellate court’s July 31 opinion in favor of the rail authority and the state, overturning a pair of lower-court decisions.


    Another part of the Tos/Fukuda/Kings County lawsuit, expected to be heard by a Sacramento County Superior Court judge this fall or winter, contends that the bullet train system envisioned in the rail authority’s current plan cannot comply operationally with Prop. 1A.

    The Kings County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted at least week’s meeting to approve a Supreme Court appeal. “Essentially, there is much at stake for Kings County and for all taxpayers so it is worth the added effort to make sure the opinion is correct and, if not, get it corrected,” Kings County Counsel Colleen Carlson said.

    First, however, Flashman said he will petition the 3rd District Court of Appeal for a rehearing, based on aspects of the opinion in the Tos/Fukuda/Kings County case that were not raised in briefings by either side. “Normally, it’s a flat ‘no,’ it’s extremely rare that they grant a rehearing,” Flashman said. “But this is one where we think they should.”


    les Reply:

    so, what’s new? CHSR won’t lose this ongoing chess match as long as the Dems are in control of state government.

    les Reply:

    First segment is virtually underway and 2nd is soon to follow. Oppositions time is running out!

    synonymouse Reply:

    Question is whether Jerry has the hubris to shunt the next contract to Tutor.

    les Reply:

    Giving initial contract to Tutor was not like Cheney giving the no-bid Iraq contracts to Haliburton in which Cheney had a direct monetary interest. I think most people were happy that Tutor gave the lowest bid which was a significant element and as long as the supervising contractor does its job then HSR is all the better for it.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    I think most people were happy that Tutor gave the lowest bid</blockquote?
    Funny how it always starts out that way, especially when a former VP of the Bechtel-PB-Tutor cartel has just revolving-doored into overseeing billions of dollars of public contracts.

    Funny how "lowest bid" never quite ever seems to end up that way after once "competitive" contracts have been dropped into the lap of The Change Order King and it is "too late to reconsider" in light of "changed circumstances."

    joe Reply:

    So serious. Scandal!
    Where is James O’Keefe when you need him?

    James O’Keefe trots across the southern border dressed as Osama bin Laden

    Oh. Nevermind.

    les Reply:

    I’m speaking from a Sound Transit perspective where work on the U-Link segment came in 100+ million under bid and 6+ months ahead of schedule. Maybe a similar feat is to idealistic in California. We’ll find out soon enough.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I’m speaking from a New York State perspective. California will do fine; by our standards, you’re going to have very clean and efficient contracting jobs.

    You guys in California don’t even know what corruption is. Try looking at NYC politics some time, just to get some perspective.

    Joey Reply:

    It’s interesting that certain projects seem to come in on time, on budget, and meet their ridership expectations (LA Expo line, Phoenix LRT) while others fail miserably in all 3 categories (BART to SFO). I suppose that the systemic incompetence many of us believed was inherent in US transportation projects isn’t exactly universal. Now the question is what sets them apart?

    Joe Reply:

    Cost of construction isn’t flat. Building during a boom costs more than in a recession.
    Projects during the recession were coming in well under estimates.

    Conflict among stakeholders. SFO BART had that problem. Delay in schedule creates overruns.

    Projected BART ridership was 6,500 passengers a day.
    2013 as of June 30th was 6,417 ave weekday visits.
    It’s doubled since opening day.

    Is this a failure?

    Joey Reply:

    It’s not a failure, but there were and still are more valuable projects to spend money on, and it wasn’t worth nearly bankrupting SamTrans for.

    If we’re going with your boom/recession hypothesis, then how come the Bay Bridge replacement came in 500% over budget?

    J. Wong Reply:

    So Kopp is responsible for the BART SFO boondoggle and is now against HSR (as planned; he still supports it in principle). Somehow, he doesn’t have much credibility with me.

    Jon Reply:

    Kopp is against the current HSR plan because it’s evolving more towards an actual railroad that connects with other railroads, rather than the originally proposed statewide BART system completely segregated from everything else. His opposition shows that the project is moving in the right direction, albeit slowly.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The uncomfortable truth about ridership projections is that they are indicative of demographic changes going on in the cities that embrace mass transit by rail. As a result, existing ridership isn’t a good metric of the potential for growth because these are, in effect, new riders.

    BART meanwhile, doesn’t generate new riders because of demographic changes sweeping through the Bay Area. It’s from land use conversion. And while that would seemingly create the same result, remember that BART is an expensive system to ride and as lower-income folks are forced out by gentrification, it reduces their demand on the system. And since the Bay Area has lots of transit systems, there’s no telling where that displacement manifests.

    synonymouse Reply:

    With $150k/yr station agents what do you expect?

    joe Reply:

    BART’s train operators come in no better than fourth in the nation in pay, behind their counterparts in New York, Boston and Chicago. And salaries for the transit system’s station agents fall far short of what Muni station agents make in San Francisco.

    For instance, while a train operator’s hourly pay in Chicago is virtually identical to BART’s at $30 and change, the prices of living are worlds apart. Median home prices in San Francisco top $1 million – in Chicago, the median is $234,000.

    Lewellan Reply:

    “Local stops for HSR is planned with faster express trains and limited stops. Plenty of track capacity for extra local and commuter travel between Palmdale and LA. Some transfer traffic to HSR from Metrolink is possible at Palmdale and Burbank, etc etc.” This argument defending the ‘blended’ system on Tehachapi was the straw that tipped my assessment toward support. A longer tunnel bypassing station connections detracts from that argument. A 2000′ 35′ bore is managable, but not at 7+miles.
    Keep up the good work.

Comments are closed.