Construction Begins on First HSR Bridge

Jun 16th, 2015 | Posted by

Construction began today on the first major, visible piece of high speed rail infrastructure – the viaduct over the Fresno River.

More from the Fresno Bee on the state of right-of-way acquisition and upcoming major construction projects:

As of last week, the authority has possession of more than 200 of the 536 parcels it needs in the Fresno-Madera section. It also has about 50 of the 543 parcels for right of way in its second construction segment, a 65-mile stretch from American Avenue at the south end of Fresno to the Tulare-Kern county line.

Gomez said that other major construction expected to get under way this summer are street over- and underpasses. Those include new underpasses at Tulare and Ventura streets in downtown Fresno and a rail crossing under Highway 180 just north of downtown Fresno.

Two more viaducts are part of Construction Package 1: a crossing over the San Joaquin River, Union Pacific Railroad and Golden State Boulevard at the north end Fresno; and a crossing over Golden State Boulevard, Cedar and North avenues and Highway 99 at the south end of Fresno.

Gomez said she expects work to begin soon on the Fresno-Tulare/Kern section, known as Construction Package 2-3.

Steel in the ground – at long last, it’s finally here!

  1. Tokkyu40
    Jun 16th, 2015 at 20:59

    Although some conspiracy theorists will explain that it’s all part of a plan to build a 200 mph trolley from LA to Antelope Valley…
    I’m glad they’re finally building something solid. The land acquisitions should start coming out the other side of the process soon and the right-of-way will take shape.
    And once it’s running and the Texas Central and AAF show their stuff the Tea Party libertarians won’t be able to stop the cries for more trains across America.

    Donk Reply:

    In other words, the pendulum will swing way too far to the other side and they will start wasting billions on HSR projects to places that have no business having HSR. Just like how they totally overdid it with light rail in some “cities”.

    TomA Reply:

    Did they? Which “cities” have light rail that shouldnt? I mean there are cities that implemented it poorly, but I cant think of one that has a system?

    And with HSR I think the more likely outcome is that it will spur alot of areas to do something more like AAF than CAHSR/TCR – upgrade existing lines/ROW for higher speeds rather than building true HSR. This is still America after all. Any multistate plan is going to have trouble getting through – and CA/TX/FL are basically the only states large enough to warrant a standalone high speed line of their own.

    But I do think Tookyu is right – these projects will work and other projects will demand money – Acela improvements, the SEHSR from DC to Atlanta, the Chicago centered system – which has been undergoing modest improvements this whole time (in IL and MI).

    Eric Reply:

    Here’s one that shouldn’t: the Trenton River Line gets 265 daily boardings per mile. That’s less than three boardings per mile per trip. Less than a typical bus route.

    (For comparison, the San Diego Trolley gets 2239.)

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Wait for the Gold line eastern extension. I imagine Metro will never release figures on boardings east of Sierra Madre.

    Darrell Reply:

    Seeing how jammed the 210 is, how the Sierra Madre Villa parking structure fills up now, and how fast the Foothill Gold Line will be I expect many commuters will use it if they can.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Would be glad to be proven wrong.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Although I too am skeptical about the return on investment for extending the Gold Line to Upland, remember that Metro’s fares are lower than Metrolink. There’s always the possibility, given LA’s massive population, that you will attract riders. But as with the Blue Line, who says it will do anything to build density or reduce traffic…

    Donk Reply:

    How about the whole VTA system.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Streetcars are cheaper to operate and maintain than a 160mph regional commute line.

    J. Wong Reply:

    You have numbers to back that up?

    Zorro Reply:

    Just like your cheap shots are Cyno..

    les Reply:

    Donkies are cheaper to operate than streetcars. Maybe we got this whole transportation model jackass backward.

    keith saggers Reply:

    USA: San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has ordered an additional 40 Siemens light rail vehicles from for its Muni network. The order is an option on a $648m contract signed in September 2014 for 175 LRVs with options for up to 85 more. The LRVs are based on Siemens’ S200 model and will be manufactured in Sacramento to meet Buy America requirements for federal funding.
    Siemens says that around 80% of the electricity used by the plant for assembly comes from a 2 MW photovoltaic installation on the building’s roof. The first vehicles are to be delivered by end of 2016.
    Features include a lightweight drive system equipped for regenerative braking and LED lighting that uses up to 40% less electricity than standard lighting. The design has been ‘informed by public input’ and a full-scale mock-up of a section of the light rail vehicle is on display in the city.
    ‘Siemens is thrilled to extend its technology partnership with San Francisco and provide modern light rail trains to the more than 700 000 passengers who use San Francisco’s transportation system’, said President of Siemens Rolling Stock Michael Cahill.
    SFMTA announced last month that civil works on the Muni network’s Central Subway tunnel have been completed. Railway Gazette

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    @les, have you ever owned any donkeys, or a mule? A lot of fun, but they eat your lunch.

    les Reply:

    Actually I use to ride my neighbors as a kid and they were quite fun. They eat almost anything and can pack a lot on hunting trips. They would carry elk back so they are quite strong.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Definitely a superior transportation mode, if occasionally idiosyncratic.

    Eric Reply:

    I wonder if horse cars would work in place of streetcars as a “retro” transportation mode for hip areas.

    John Reply:

    Yes, VTA sucks because it has to stop at every stoplight. Might as well take the bus. Mass transit in that region takes 3x as long to get anywhere as driving and there’s plenty of parking everywhere, which equates to little incentive to use it. So yes, it sucks. Maybe in the future they can elevate the whole thing to resemble subways and the LA lines.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    But it’s not really a light rail line – it’s a tram-train, running on legacy track most of the way, built at what was supposed to be lower cost than regular light rail. Actual construction costs, about $25 million/km, were low by US light rail standards, but only because US light rail construction costs are themselves out of whack.

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ Tokkyu40

    It is not a trolley line; it is big BART.

    Fresno Area Rapid Transit will require a sizeable parcel tax just to generate the subsidy. All these taxes associated with urbanization of the Valley will increase costs for any businesses considering relocating there to avoid the high-priced coast. Underutilized poorly conceived expensive infrastructure is self-defeating.

    Tokkyu40 Reply:

    So in your fantasies they are only going to build the bridges and run trains over the river?
    Fresno Transit won’t be spending any money on it since the initial section is a state project from Frisco to LA, not a local project across Fresno (metro population, one million).
    According to the review of the project Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield had the GAO run the project will at least meet projected ridership and will operate at a project, if the Republicans don’t hustle to overturn the will of the voters and force their agenda on the citizens.
    Unlike the highways, which only cover half their own costs and need massive subsidies to operate.

  2. StevieB
    Jun 16th, 2015 at 21:36

    Fresno is a great place to start as flying within California is horrible as James Sinclair blogging from Fresno tells it.

    I’m sure anyone who has frequently flown through Bakersfield and Fresno could tell a similar tale. Flights have never been cheap or reliable, and flying within the state is never really an option.

    Flights from Fresno are very expensive.
    Problem is, the Valley has never had Southwest Airlines. Or Jetblue. Or Virgin. Or any low-cost carrier offering flights within the state…

    It’s almost hilarious.

    What’s not hilarious has been reading news article from people complaining that the proposed HSR fare (80% of air) wouldn’t be cheap enough to make taking the train worthwhile. Of course, that proposed fare took into account the cheapest of flights (LA area to San Francisco area) and the most expensive of train trips (end point to end point).

    That means if the standard airfare at the time was $150 between LA and the Bay, HSR would cost $120. However, the train fare for Fresno to one of the two would be only a portion of that, because the shorter portion of the trip would mean a lower fare. So lets say $80…

    Compared to airfare that never goes below $250, that’s a damn steal.

    Flights from Fresno are also frequently delayed or cancelled.
    Reliability has always been a serious issue in the Valley. Fog delays are common, if not expected, for 4-5 months of the year. And because most flights into Fresno and Bakersfield are on smaller, regional planes, baggage hassles are plentiful. Indeed, for many years I came to expect that my bag would not make it into Fresno the same day I did…

    Earlier this year (in May, not exactly peak travel time), in a similar scenario, I arrived in Las Vegas and was told my connecting flight to Fresno was cancelled (due to weather in San Francisco!?). There were about ten of us making that connection, and we were told there was nothing they could do, as it was the last flight of the night, oh and by the way, the next three days were sold out with no guarantee we’d get a seat. And since they blamed weather, we received no compensation.
    It is no wonder that the California High Speed Rail Station in Fresno is welcomed by many as a boon to the city.

    StevieB Reply:

    Sorry that I mixed quotes with my comments.

    Donk Reply:

    Good point. It is ridiculous that anyone in the CV would be opposed to HSR.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    It’s as much tribal resistance as anything else… ><

    [This is one reason Americans Can't Have Nice Things…]

    synonymouse Reply:

    Zuckerberg and Buffett and Ellison can have nice, really nice things.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    What experience do you have in politics, again?

    IKB Reply:

    There’s a train from Fresno today at 2:10p with Thruway bus connection arriving LA Union Station 6:40p; it’ll cost you $35. And the same thing tomorrow. There’s a reason Southwest doesn’t fly from Fresno. Same reason Amtrak doesn’t put on an express service. For this trip, say three hours, most will take their car door to door

    JJJJ Reply:

    3 hours between Fresno and LA?

    IKB Reply:

    @JJJJ, laugh all you want. Let’s say it takes 4 1/2 hours to drive door to door, same as the train (but station to station) or the plane (door to door). Then explain how folks are getting to LA. Very few are flying, and not very many are taking the train. So either no-one is doing it, or they’re taking 99. Judging by the current construction on 99, Caltrans seems to think they’re driving. HSR may be competing with the plane SF-LA, but in the CV it’s the dreaded car

    synonymouse Reply:

    In Jerry’s scheme of things it will be the dreaded electric car. The type of vehicle given to sophisticated control systems.

    Tokkyu40 Reply:

    No, no. The libertarian right loves autonomous electric cars. They’re supposed to magically make HSR obsolete, if they can actually work.
    And the breakthrough that makes them perfect is only a day away!
    Cue the “Annie” soundtrack.

    Darrell Reply:

    “say three hours”?!? You cited 4.5 hours on Amtrak today, and HSR should be no more than 1.5.

    IKB Reply:

    door to door?

    StevieB Reply:

    A three hour drive leaves the driver weary and stifles business meeting, conference and seminar travel.

    IKB Reply:

    who would disagree. Tomorrow I’d take Amtrak; in 12 years it may be faster. But I use Amtrak a lot, and rarely see suits or conference tags, or actually anyone; the bus is pretty empty to LA. If more people used it, there would be a better case for improving a 19th century journey to a 21st century one. If you build it, they’ll ride it, is somewhat unconvincing, and won’t help make it happen. Crazy as it may seem, the “suits” really do drive

    EJ Reply:

    Americans dread the bus – if it was a train you’d see more business travelers. 3-4 years ago when I had to travel frequently between LA and San Diego for work, there were a lot of business travelers on the Surfliner. Unless it just attracts the suit-and-laptop crowd for no reason. And the thing took about 2:40 to make that trip, when you take into account connections on either end, that’s almost never faster than driving.

    I still look back on those trips with some fondness; I was frequently traveling with a co-worker who was in the same boat (he actually convinced me to try the train) and we figured out that almost no other passengers knew about the dozen or so seats in the downstairs compartment on the one Superliner coach that’s spliced into most Surfliner consists, and so no one sat there. We used to call that space our “office” and we’d use it to make conference calls. A couple of east coast clients on video calls were actually pretty impressed that we apparently had enough pull that Amtrak gave us a whole compartment to use.

    IKB Reply:

    @EJ, cool story, but it rather makes my point. Once I took the train from San Diego with the family, got off at Capistrano Depot, had dinner and a beer in the North Western Pacific dining cars, then continued on a later train to LA. My family thought it was nuts (quote to a fellow diner “my stupid husband likes trains”), and unlikely I’d manage to convince anyone else this was an intelligent transportation choice for the State of California. You may remember a time when you’d get three seats to yourself on a plane. It doesn’t happen anymore – if they can’t fill the seats, they don’t fly that route. Amtrak gave you 10 seats they didn’t sell to somebody else; no wonder they can’t get more trains or provide better service if they can’t fill the ones they have. And if a private operator gets to run HSR at market rate (say 80% of the current airfare) the poor folks from Fresno will be paying $250 for their seat next door to the guy from SF @$80. So the “suits” and the families will still drive

    EJ Reply:

    Well the second paragraph is just a personal reminiscence, but the main point is that whenever you take that train, there’s a lot of people wearing business attire and carrying laptops. I don’t have any stats, but clearly there’s plenty of people using the Surfliner for business travel.

    The train itself is pretty well subscribed, the particular situation I was describing was an oddball anomaly because there aren’t enough surfliner cars so they splice a long-distance superliner coach into the consist. Now, since superliners don’t have automatic door opening equipment like the surfliner stock does, they didn’t open the door on the bottom level for that car. So nobody ever thought to go down there to see if there was seating. It’s probably gone now, but it was fun while it lasted.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Business travellers are a cash cow for existing HSR systems, for good reason: they demand fast, convenient, regular service, they really value being able to work during the journey—and are willing to pay for all that.

    If the U.S. ever manages to finish an HSR line, the same will probably be true there. [Unless it goes to some wacky place like Vegas, in which case the cash cow will probably be crazy old ladies with oddly dyed hair.]

    IKB Reply:

    Business travelers are 100% subsidized. Look in the mirror one day and wonder who’s paying for it

    Joe Reply:

    I’m curious when you fly, do you use business class because it’s more subsidize way to travel.

    IKB Reply:

    @Joe, never, because I’m cheap, most clients won’t let you expense it, and my company won’t pay the difference, BUT if they did, it would show up as overhead which is part of the billing rate. Ultimately somebody pays, and it’s likely both you and me

  3. Donk
    Jun 16th, 2015 at 22:54

    This groundbreaking is pretty anti-climactic.

    swing hanger Reply:

    I’m waiting for the golden spike ceremony. I’ll be a believer then.

  4. agb5
    Jun 17th, 2015 at 01:17

    Where can I see the 99% plan for this viaduct?

    Jon Reply:

    I don’t know about the Fresno River viaduct, but there are renderings of the similar San Joaquin River viaduct starting PDF page 84 of this document (exhibit 3A/3B):

    Peter Reply:

    See page 3 of this doc:

    jimsf Reply:

    I like the clean simple design of that aerial structure. Seem slike they could run that over some farmland to alleviate farmers concerns.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Of course, @synon, will claim it is “brutalist” and attract homeless to encamp beneath it even though it is miles from any services for said homeless.

  5. BMF of San Diego
    Jun 17th, 2015 at 06:17

    Noting… The construction currently underway is for civil works and does not include track or traction power features.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Noting: HSR isn’t going to appear instantly not withstanding some opponents interpretation of Prop 1A (I’m not necessaryily including you; @BMF).

    BMF of San Diego Reply:

    Correct, I’m not an opponent.

    James Fujita Reply:

    BMF’s comment translated: “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”

    BMF of San Diego Reply:

    The correct interpretation is a message to others, “we are not yet there, another contract should be in the works. Theres still some more to get accomplished.”

    Thank you.

  6. JJJJ
    Jun 17th, 2015 at 08:05

    Anybody know if the underpasses will be decent?

    IE, wide sidewalks, lots of lighting, art, and bike lanes?

    Or are we getting stock underpasses from 1964?

    Eric Reply:

    any highway crossings will be fully ada compliant and be built to current state standards, city street crossings will use their standards

    JJJJ Reply:

    ADA compliant and state standards are very different from an attractive and comfortable place to walk and bicycle.

    See just about any highway off-ramp in Fresno to see how great state standards are.

    agb5 Reply:

    It will NOT be like this:

    Travis D Reply:

    According to the executed agreement they have to have at least one 14 foot wide sidewalk under the overpasses with all railings and streetlights matching legacy downtown Fresno standards. In addition they have to leave space for possible public art for which there is a $50,000 budget.

    JJJJ Reply:

    Thats good to know

  7. Reality Check
    Jun 17th, 2015 at 10:53

    Lawmakers move to ease reporting requirements on high-speed rail

    State lawmakers on Monday approved budget language easing some oversight and reporting requirements on California’s high-speed rail project, prompting criticism from Republicans.

    In a budget-related trailer bill, Democratic majorities in both houses approved measures reducing the volume of reports managers of the rail project are required to provide the Legislature. The bill would also change the qualifications required for certain members of the project’s peer review group, expanding criteria to include experience with large infrastructure projects other than high-speed rail.

    Republican critics of the $68 billion rail project said the changes will reduce legislative oversight.

    Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Temecula, said large infrastructure projects “need more oversight, and not less.”

    The rail project is a priority of Gov. Jerry Brown’s. Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said project officials regularly review their operations in public meetings.

    “There’s no lack of transparency,” he said. “We’re making this change just for efficiency.”

    Zorro Reply:

    So what? After 6 months the old reporting can be restarted if that proves necessary, just like was mentioned in the State Legislature on the Cal Channel on Tuesday. Republicans voted No on the measure, not surprising from them.

  8. Reality Check
    Jun 17th, 2015 at 11:01

    Build your own hyperloop! SpaceX announces pod competition

    SpaceX, the private spacecraft company, announced Monday an open competition for engineering students to design and build test pods for the hyperloop, CEO Elon Musk’s proposed high-speed transportation system.

    SpaceX will supply the test track — a 1-mile tube adjacent to the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne (Los Angeles County). Competing teams will test their pods inside the tube over the course of a weekend, tentatively scheduled for next June.


    Musk unveiled the hyperloop concept in 2013, envisioning a future in which travel between cities takes place inside sealed tubes, with passenger pods racing as fast as 760 miles per hour while floating on a thin cushion of air. He pitched the idea as a faster, cheaper alternative to California’s $68 billion high-speed rail project.

    Zorro Reply:

    H-loop is a dud, HSR is here to stay, don’t like that? IDC.

    synonymouse Reply:

    VCR’s are here to stay.

    J. Wong Reply:

    In the long run, we’re all dead.

    les Reply:

    H-loop is phase 3 through Tejon.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Radio is here to stay…

    Tokkyu40 Reply:

    As long as I can still use my wire recorder and get platters for my 78, life is good.

    J. Wong Reply:

    HyperLoop may or may not be a dud, but my prediction is that HSR will be up and running long before any HyperLoop, if the latter can even be achieved at all.

    So betting on HyperLoop when you have a more sure thing (at least technically) with HSR seems like bad risk management.

    john burrows Reply:

    If it turns out that we have to flip this planet more quickly than we thought, HyperLoop will be a fast way to get the lucky ones to the space elevators to the star ships heading for Centaurus or wherever it is that we find fresh planets suitable for makeover.

    john burrows Reply:

    Make that Centauri—Hard to send a star ship to a constellation.

    Danny Reply:

    my guesstimate is that Musk is hoping the architecture undergrads he’s not investing in will come up with something while they’re keeping his name in the papers as one of the “future-minded” types: the project will end up with the rusting PRT gantries and the “Scientific American” issues packed with “Space Elevator–1979!” paintings and articles worrying about what we’d do with ourselves working 10 days a week

    honestly I don’t think this is even a plot to sell more Teslas: he just heard CAHSR would go 50 mph between stops set 2 miles apart all the way up the Central Valley at some party and hired some people to fulfil his cocktail napkin; OTOH his claims have all been clearly made with malice aforethought

  9. Michael Allen
    Jun 17th, 2015 at 22:33

    FINALLY! :-)

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