Mountain View Voice

News - December 3, 2010

High-speed rail to debut in Central Valley

by Gennady Sheyner

California's proposed high-speed rail line, which state officials say will compete with airplanes and connect San Francisco to Los Angeles, will make its debut between the small Central Valley cities of Borden and Corcoran under the latest proposal from California High-Speed Rail Authority engineers.

The staff recommendation, which the rail authority's board of directors is scheduled to consider on Dec. 2 (after the Voice goes to press), also calls for construction of two high-speed rail stations — one in downtown Fresno and another one east of Hanford. Staff estimates the segment to cost about $4.15 billion.

The rail authority decided earlier this month to begin construction of the rail line in Central Valley — a decision driven by a Federal Railroad Administration grant that earmarked $715 million for this region. The rail authority was widely expected to choose either the Fresno-to-Merced or the Fresno-to-Bakersfield segment as the first piece of the project.

Instead, staff is now recommending that the project kick off with a 65-mile segment that begins just south of Madera (about 40 miles southeast of Merced) and ends at Corcoran, between Fresno and Bakersfield. The staff report claims the route would give the rail authority the "flexibility to build in either direction — north and west to the Bay Area or south to Los Angeles — as more federal dollars become available."

The recommendation has already run into intense opposition from one Central Valley lawmaker. U.S. Congressman Dennis Cardoza, a Democrat whose district includes Merced and parts of Fresno and Madero counties, immediately blasted the recommendation, calling it a "fundamentally flawed" choice and a case of "Thanksgiving Day fraud" by the rail authority.

"The authority staff has never vetted the Corcoran-to-Borden route with the public, and instead has wasted the community's time and good will with endless public workshops and meetings on the other routes," Cardoza said in a statement just after the rail authority announced the staff recommendation. "This deceit harms the long-standing trust and support that the Merced community and others in the Northern Valley have provided.

"This will completely undermine future support of the project," he added.

The high-speed rail line, for which California voters approved a $9.95 billion bond in 2008, is slated to ultimately stretch between San Francisco and Los Angeles. But the authority estimates that the project will cost about $43 billion and it's not clear where the rest of the money will come from.

The estimated price tag for the Borden-to-Corcoran segment is $4.15 billion. If future funding doesn't materialize, the authority would connect this segment to existing rail service.

In November, the authority decided to delay its environmental analyses for the Peninsula segment of the line because of the recent decision to begin construction in Central Valley.

Comments

Posted by bluelagoon2154, a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2010 at 7:54 pm

We should let Californians vote for the route, it's our money we paid for, not the Rail Authority, they are bunch of corrupted officials.


Posted by pacificaglacier, a resident of Shoreline West
on Dec 2, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Those Rail Authority Officials may received bribes from airline industry, and auto industry to build a "NOWHERE Bullet Train" that will be useless and cannot compete with airline and auto industries. I'm living in San Jose and witnessed friend of mine bribed a city councilman in San Jose in order to win a contract fund by the city, therefore there are no surprise to see most officials in power received bribes known as lobby money, but only us, a regular citizen paid tax to feed all of them....Sorry guys, it's life....LOL !!!!


Posted by Mike Laursen, a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 2, 2010 at 8:52 pm

What the hell? I had to look up Borden and Corcoran. They want to build the first leg between two suburbs of Fresno?!


Posted by Mike Laursen, a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 2, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Corcoran's biggest claim to fame? Corcoran State Prison, home of Charles Manson. So, instead of dubbing this boondoggle, "The High-Speed Rail Line to Nowhere", we can just call it the "The High-Speed Rail Line to Charles Manson." Wonderful.


Posted by USA, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 3, 2010 at 9:09 am

USA is a registered user.

It's more of a Shelbyville idea, Web Link


Posted by Mike Laursen, a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 5, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Indeed, USA. Indeed.


Posted by Kristine, a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 6, 2010 at 10:03 am

You do know that high speed rail cost effectivness ought to be considered by the pricy even more land invasive airports and highways we won't need to build. Last I checked the equilalent in transportation capacity the cost of which was more than double the cost of highspeed rail at minimum. So if anyone else have different data I'd like to hear it.


Posted by Mike Laursen, a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 6, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Kristine, what airports and highways were we planning to build?


Posted by Steve, a resident of Rex Manor
on Dec 7, 2010 at 9:54 am

Mike,

That is the big point. Unless you assume that for the next 50 years Californians will not need more transportation capacity, we will need to build something, or suffer the economic and environmental losses associated with delay and congestion.

We voted to build this, we have to start somewhere, USDOT is paying 20% for us to start here and now,

AND in neither the Bay Area or Los Angeles, can folks agree on what to build anytime soon.


Posted by Mike Laursen, a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 7, 2010 at 12:09 pm

There's a problem with justifying building a real, very expensive public project because it is cheaper than a hypothetical, more expensive public project(s): you can always make the hypothetical project bigger and more expensive. Seems to me you need to demonstrate solidly that the project you're really going to build will be used enough to justify building it.


Posted by Hardin, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 7, 2010 at 9:05 pm

Caltrain's experiment with weekend trains is a better approach to improving rail service and increasing ridership vs. cars.

Web Link

It is a better investment to spend even a fraction of the monies approved for HSR to subsidize Caltrain and other existing mass transit agencies to determine what new programs can be funded to encourage higher adoption of mass transit, instead of driving.

Clearly, people asked for the weekend trains, and if mass transit, along with city planning helps to make this mode of travel not only incrementally convenient, but also incrementally competitive to the costs of owning a car, then we'll have made real progress.

Baby steps, millions of them, will give us a better solution, than one big leap of faith.


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