High-speed-rail authority OKs new business plan

Agency commits to 'blended' system, investments in Caltrain electrification

Calling it a "huge step" for boosting California's transportation network, the state agency charged with building the controversial high-speed-rail line approved on Thursday a business plan for the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles system.

The business plan, which the rail authority unveiled two weeks ago, commits to building a "blended" system on the Peninsula under which high-speed rail and Caltrain share two tracks. The previous vision, which was widely panned by cities along the Peninsula, called for a four-track system along the Caltrain corridor. The new plan, unlike previous drafts, also calls for early investments in the north and south segments of the line (what the plan calls "bookend segments.")

Construction would begin in Central Valley with a 300-mile stretch between Bakersfield and the San Fernando Valley.

The business plan estimates the cost of the project at $68.4 billion, far more than the roughly $40 billion estimate that was presented to the voters in 2008 (before they voted to authorize a $9.95 billion bond for the project) but about $30 billion less than the previous business plan, which pegged the cost at about $98 billion.

"I am pleased to announce today that the High-Speed Rail Authority has taken a huge step forward toward making a coordinated statewide transportation network a viable reality," rail authority board Chair Dan Richard said in a statement after the meeting.

The rail authority's board of directors also approved Thursday a memorandum of understanding with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission that includes a plan to fund the long-awaited electrification of Caltrain. The rail authority would pay about $706 million for the $1.5 billion electrification project with the balance coming from state and local sources.

Adrienne Tissier, who chairs the MTC and the Caltrain board of directors, said in a statement that she appreciates the rail authority's decision to embrace the "blended" approach, which was proposed a year ago by state Sen. Joe Simitian, U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, and state Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park.

In approving the business plan, the board also attached an amendment committing the rail authority to working with Orange County transportation officials on enabling a "one-seat" ride to and from Anaheim. That means passengers headed south would not have to switch trains in order to get to Anaheim.

"We now stand poised to have an operational high-speed passenger rail system within 10 years," Mike Rossi, a member of the rail authority's board of directors, said in a statement. "By working with community leaders throughout the state we will begin construction soon on a smarter, more cost-effective transportation option for all Californians that reflects the direction mandated by voters in 2008 with the passage of Proposition 1A."

While the rail authority's commitments to pursue the blended system on the Peninsula and to partially fund Caltrain's electrification have been lauded by Caltrain officials and business groups, the project continues to polarize residents and city officials in Palo Alto and surrounding cities. Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton City Councils each met in closed sessions this week to discuss fresh litigation against the rail authority over the agency's environmental analysis for the project.

Related story:

High-speed-rail critics eye fresh legal challenges


Like this comment
Posted by Old Ben
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 13, 2012 at 10:13 am

Same scam in a bright new package: a handful of people will get filthy rich on state money, and the thing will never ever be able to pay for itself.

Like this comment
Posted by tommygee54
a resident of Rex Manor
on Apr 13, 2012 at 9:32 pm

Hey, we are finally getting BART into Silicon Valley, the outskirts I should say, when the new line opens in 2018!!! We are also getting a new 49er Stadium in Santa Clara which will open in September of 2014 (I assume).

And perhaps by the time HSR begins operation I will be too old to want to use it, or have reason to use it. Interesting how all this will play out when construction finally does start...

Like this comment
Posted by Seer Clearly
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 14, 2012 at 9:22 am

Same nonsense from the same luddites who will raise every objection to a simple project that has paid dividends many times over in countries that had the cojones to override the nimbys and naysayers and just build it, which includes Germany, France, Japan, China, Spain, Belgium and the Skandinavian countries. Many of them have economies that are far more durable than ours because they have spend the money to build infrastructure that - like the interstate highway did for the US - has lifted all of their economic boats.

This latest compromise only benefits the politicians. Very name High-Speed Rail, includes "High Speed" in it. You can't beat the law of averages. If you have a 100-mile trip done at 100mph and then bookend that with two 10-mile trips done at 20 mph, you double the length of the trip. By relying on local rail services to get riders to their destinations at both ends, you will add up to two hours to what was supposed to be a 3-hour trip, making it more like driving.

Nowhere in the world has any agency been stupid enough to try this, because they knew it would erase the very reason that people would use the HSR, which is supposed to connect urban centers with fast rail, not outer suburbs of those urban centers. With demographics showing that people are not moving out to suburbs like they used to this decision is even more ridiculous. The only thing this "compromise" will accomplish is prove the naysayers right - nobody will be riding the HSR because they won't be able to get to it fast enough.

Don't get me wrong: electrifying Caltrain is great - as a local commuter rail system, not a replacement for HSR along the peninsula.

Like this comment
Posted by Mike Laursen
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 14, 2012 at 10:00 pm

re: "Many of them have economies that are far more durable than ours.."

If we ignore that pesky Euro crisis.

Like this comment
Posted by Ned
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 15, 2012 at 9:39 am

Spain has over 20% unemployment. And over 25% for young adults.

But at least a lot of the hardware and technology (equals jobs) will be coming from Japan, France and China. So I guess those countries will benefit from CA HSR.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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