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California High-Speed Rail Authority votes to begin construction of state-wide system in the Central Valley; 65 miles, $4.15B

The California High-Speed Rail Authority Board recently voted to begin construction of the high-speed rail (HSR) system connecting Los Angeles to the Bay Area in the heart of the state’s Central Valley, saying that it choose an option that makes the best use of available funding and lays the foundation for expanding the track both north and south.

Cahsr
The initial segment of the HSR system. Click to enlarge.

The decision followed a mandate from the Federal Railroad Administration in October that directed that all federal funding awarded to the project so far must be dedicated to a single portion of the project in the Central Valley.

Authority staff considered that direction, other requirements of state and federal law and how to create the core of a statewide system when they recommended beginning with a 65-mile stretch of track in the Central Valley. It would start north of Fresno near Madera, include the construction of two new stations—one in downtown Fresno and the other east of Hanford—and continue to Corcoran, north of Bakersfield.

The Board also considered three other options for beginning the project, but each of them would leave more money unused and might fall short of some state and federal requirements.

This initial segment will use about $4.15 billion of the available $4.3 billion to build two new stations, acquire rights of way, construct viaducts, prepare the site, grade, restore vegetation, build rail bridges, realign roadways and relocate existing railways and utilities.

We are building a statewide system. We’re in the business of connecting major metropolitan centers across our state, and we won’t have a true high-speed rail system until we tie every part of this state together. It’s not one town or one region versus another; it’s about connecting one region to another.

—Authority Vice Chair Tom Umberg

The project will create thousands of jobs in one of the areas in California hit hardest by the national economic recession, a fact not lost on Valley leaders.

No construction can begin until the Authority completes its environmental reviews of the project. The federal deadline for completing these reviews is September 2011, and construction is expected to begin in 2012 and finish in 2017.

Comments

SJC

Rail is more efficient than air travel, but if they really want to do something, create rail between L.A. and San Jose where flights every hour burn up lots of fuel.

HarveyD

This should be one out many more (100++) required in USA

kelly

If GM and friends hadn't illegally crushed urban rail http://culturechange.org/issue10/taken-for-a-ride.htm - convicted and verified by the Supreme Court - the US would have had and have inexpensive, efficient high speed rail for decades - just as Europe.

danm

Kelly, we wouldn't necessarily have 'efficient high speed rail'. We would have a trolly system, like San Diego's. And all San Diego did was remove the asphalt covering the old rails, to start with. Those rails still exist in most downtowns.
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To get to efficient high speed rail is another huge investment, which most americans still resist.
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SJC suggests L.A. to san jose. How about just L.A. to san diego? That piece of rail is a disgrace.

DaveD

Great! uhhhh...where did California get $4+Billion to do this? LOL

ai_vin

beginning with a 65-mile stretch of track in the Central Valley

Meanwhile, China has the world’s longest high-speed rail network with about 7,431 km (4,618 mi) of routes capable for 200+ km/h running in service as of October 2010, including 4,326 km capable of 250 km/h and 2,197 km (1,365 mi) of rail lines with top speeds of 350 km/h (220 mph). China started the construction of its first high speed rail line in 1998!

Even Switzerland already has 35 km of high speed(250 km/h) rail with another 72 under construction.

Derek Morr

Gas 2.0 has a much less positive take on this - http://gas2.org/2010/12/08/california’s-high-speed-rail-off-to-awful-start/

"...this section will be completely un-powered and un-supported until more lines are built. No trains, no maintenance facilities, just empty tracks and stations."

sd

This is an example of what is wrong. There are spending 4 Billion Dollars to build an incomplete railroad by 2017 from nowhere to nowhere to provide jobs? Either they should build a system that works and has a traffic base or they should find something else to do with the money. I like railroads and the idea of traveling by train but this is a joke.

we have the best railroad system in the world. However, it carries freight not passengers. Why not take some of this money and electrify the most used freight routes which would certainly cut more oil use than this joke of a high speed rail system

SJC

Maybe it is because the Chinese collect taxes. They have no GOP that convinces them to hate taxes like the plague.

kelly

danm, with 90% of 1920's urban population using local, street car, rail - linking cities with faster rail was natural, as has occurred for decades in Europe, Asia, and most industrial nations.

But some governments are lobbied by cons/ex-cons and the logical, economical, beneficial spectrum of transportation options is shattered.

With 200 mph rail, we could get off work in Atlanta at 5:00 pm, catch a movie while traveling, and watch the Pensacola sunset for $20 dollars.

But instead we have hours of traffic jams and GM, bankrupt or not, with consistently pathetic CAFE mileage while we're waging endless oil wars.

HarveyD

Cost could be cut by half (and even more) by using Chinese labor and equipment. They have been doing for the last 12+ years and could teach us how to do it quickly at lower cost.

The Goracle

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$4.15B

No expense is too large for a state government that is more-or-less in bankruptcy! Didn't they just have another "emergency" session due to over spending?

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Reel$$

Harvey, reasonable suggestion except for the Chinese equipment which we all know is cheap and poorly engineered. But the Chinese built America's first railroads - likely the US unions would object to .10 cents an hour wages.

"if they really want to do something, create rail between L.A. and San Jose where flights every hour burn up lots of fuel."

Solution is to run a light rail feeder out of the Central Valley High speed station at Merced or Turlock over to San Jose/Sunnyvale area. Running the main line through heavily developed areas would likely be prohibitive due to right of way and easement costs.

Engineer-Poet

Having driven I-5 from San Diego through Seattle, I see the wisdom of this proposal. A few high-speed rail tunnels punched through mountains will be cheap in the long run; just look at the present-day cost of the ones dug in the 19th century, and consider the wisdom.

Stan Peterson

This white elephant will never be finished...

ToppaTom

Q. Don’t you think trains are the wave of the future?

A. Umm, maybe so. Quite likely in densely populated areas, when they get right-of-way; good luck with that.

Q. Didn’t the US (recognized by many as a leader in technology) link it’s east and west coasts with about 3000 miles of rail, through sparsely populated areas, as recently as 1869?

A. Yes, I see; you may be right; but 1869 is not the future .

Q. And aren’t the glorious democrats of China doing it now?

A. Um, well yes, but what reason is there for admiring China?

Q. Well, did you know the rail will cost only $64 million per mile, not counting rolling stock or maintenance?

A. Holy $hit ! Just for the tracks? Good thing CA has plenty of money.

Q. And did you know that if there were anyone who wanted to drive that 64 miles from ten miles outside of Madera to Corcoran in a car, it would take almost an hour?

A. Wow.

Q. And did you know the train would use no energy from imported oil?

A. Sure, no rolling stock, no train, no fuel burned.

Q. You forgot that no rolling stock is needed for a rail system that takes you from where you aren’t, to where you do not want to go, didn't you?

kelly

Whether a bridge (or train) to nowhere, this central valley start seems sad and costly.

Adding rail infrastructure after letting auto, oil, corruption, and neglect rip it out is like adding a skeleton to a thirty year old.

Henry Gibson

This amount of money will buy a CANDU reactor and get it installed in 48 months. It can be built in B.C. Canada where such reactors are known of and the power can add to the power that california gets from the columbia river to pretend that it is a green state.

It can also be built on the coast near San Diego by Carlsbad where a new water purification plant can use any low cost power available at night. Reverse osmosis is an interesting way of storing energy. This will also supply all of the water needed for the power plant. The difference in concentration of salt and fresh water can actually produce electricity directly and also by pressure differences. Osmotic membranes with a current of sea water going by it at the bottom of a deep air filled hole can suck up fresh water into sea water hundreds of feet higher after the fresh water generates electricity by going through a turbine at the bottom of the hole. The mouths of rivers at the sea with a lot of fresh water flow, like the Columbia, could generate lots of electricity by controlling the mixing of fresh and salt water. This electricity could be shipped to California to produce lots of fresh water with reverse osmosis instead of shipping the water.

Sweden is testing osmosis electric generation without using a hole. Prof. Noel DeNevers proposed a thought experiment in nature that shows that a sufficienly deep pipe in the ocean can have fresh water flowing out of it if it has an osmosis unit suspended on the end in the deep ocean. ..HG..

Peace Hugger

State-wide system,65 miles? Cough, cough.

The Goracle

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SJC said: "Maybe it is because the Chinese collect taxes. They have no GOP that convinces them to hate taxes like the plague."

SJC, I have GREAT news for you!!! You are always welcome to send in MORE of your money (I guess you would call your income the government's money) into the government as additional taxes. The government will accept it. Please let us all know how much extra you send in!

Isn't this an exciting development?!? Mail it all in, people! Lets go!

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Reel$$

SJC:

like any prudent investor, people should question where their investment goes. In the case of SOME government spending (ahem, pork lovers) we see BILLIONS wasted on frivolous, narrow programs. No prudent buyer would allow themselves to buy a product or service without checking whether it is the best, most effective process.

The Chinese will send you to Siberia if you do not pay their cut of the pie. Big governments tend always to get bigger.

Stan Peterson

I like mass transit too.

But instead of reaching back and using the technology of 1820s, I prefer the all-organic technology of the 1750s. Bring back the mass transit of the Stage Coach!

I'm sure the graded, unpaved roadways would be much cheaper than the $65 million per mile for these 1820 rail-beds.

You could fund some of it, by selling advertising. I'm sure Wells Fargo Bank would snap up the opportunity to advertise the Wells Fargo Stage Coaches.

Plus the the motive power, unlike diesel-rail, is non- fossil fuel burning, and only a bag of oats per day. The Stage Coaches themselves are constructed of organic wood and leather; and fully recyclable, and fully sustainable.

What more could a good environmentalist want?

/sarc off.

HarveyD

Since very high speed electrified trains are the quickest, cleanest and most cost/energy efficient way to move people and perishable freight around, our free enterprises should have built them years ago. They could have made very large fortunes and USA would be importing less oil from you know where.

Instead of doing the right thing, they/we used 1+ million rubber tire urban buses, 3+ million large rubber tire trucks, 40,000+ inefficient airplanes, 240 million rubber tire cars and light trucks burning oil at the rate of almost $1,000B/year, of which 60%+ is imported.

Nobody dares to compile the cost of all the super highways and bridges built nor compile the huge maintenance and replacement cost. Maintenance and repairs have fallen behind and $3T to $6T are current required to do what should have been done in the last 10+ years because we did not raise gas taxes for the last 15 years.

Lets face it. USA needs 40,000+ Km of electrified high speed rails and a major program to repair existing roads and bridges. A new progressive fuel tax could be the best way to fund it. Something like $0.02 to $0.05 per gal/month for the next 50 to 100 months could do it. Flower Parties and interested Lobbies would not like it but they could be convinced that it is better than fighting current and future oil wars.

SJC

Well you can not square less government and lower taxes with increased mass transit investment. The private sector has had a long time to do all of this and guess what, they have not.

HarveyD

SJC....It took a lot of back room concerted strategy to go from almost zero oil consumption to about 20M barrel/day, with huge government-public subsidies and tax credits (up $20B/year) and less than 5% $0.15/gal) Federal tax.

Oil people had it both ways, guaranteed consumption and generous yearly tax credits/subsidies paid by the public via a small gas tax. More fuel we consumed, more gas tax we paid and more subsidies they got. Those few large Oil firms are each worth between $100B and $200B today. A good part of their fortune came from generous government hand outs.

Let's hope that we will not become preys of e-energy suppliers. Fortunately, it will be easier to produce our own solar energy for future BEVs than fuel for current ICE vehicles..

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