Thursday, April 16, 2009

Obama Announces HSR Funding Plan

NOTE: We've moved! Visit us at the California High Speed Rail Blog.

Today President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced the DOT's high speed rail strategic plan. You can find the full details of the plan at the USDOT website.

It's an important announcement and contains some long-awaited policy changes that will help make HSR a reality across the nation. It's not yet clear how this will impact the California HSR project, but the way the funding allocation categories are set up appears to be quite favorable to us here in California.

First, I want to quote from both President Obama and VP Biden - these guys get it when it comes to HSR. It is a sea change from the last 25 years of refusal to speak openly and honestly about our nation's transportation needs.

“My high-speed rail proposal will lead to innovations that change the way we travel in America. We must start developing clean, energy-efficient transportation that will define our regions for centuries to come,” said President Obama. “A major new high-speed rail line will generate many thousands of construction jobs over several years, as well as permanent jobs for rail employees and increased economic activity in the destinations these trains serve. High-speed rail is long-overdue, and this plan lets American travelers know that they are not doomed to a future of long lines at the airports or jammed cars on the highways.”

He nailed it. This quote has it all - energy independence, job creation and long-term economic growth, and relieving congested airports and freeways. Joe Biden's quote is equally as good:

“Today, we see clearly how Recovery Act funds and the Department of Transportation are building the platform for a brighter economic future - they’re creating jobs and making life better for communities everywhere,” said Vice President Biden. “Everyone knows railways are the best way to connect communities to each other, and as a daily rail commuter for over 35 years, this announcement is near and dear to my heart. Investing in a high-speed rail system will lower our dependence on foreign oil and the bill for a tank of gas; loosen the congestion suffocating our highways and skyways; and significantly reduce the damage we do to our planet.”

I don't know who was writing their speeches, but they clearly understand the case for HSR.

That case is made strongly and powerfully in the HSR strategic plan document (PDF, 3MB). It is one of the best arguments for HSR that I've ever seen. This administration is serious about HSR. The plan includes a good overview of the history of rail funding in America, explaining that we have spent over $1 trillion on roads and airports in the last 50 years but have starved rail - even though, as the report makes clear, high speed rail is one of the best methods to move people over distances from 100 to 600 miles:

The report also recognizes the need to update the FRA's regulations to make HSR more of a possibility in this country (this should be music to Rafael's ears):

While most high-speed systems overseas have a good safety record, usually on dedicated track, U.S. railroad safety standards are designed to keep passengers and crew safe in a mixed operating environment with conventional freight equipment, which is much heavier than comparable
foreign equipment. The advent of Positive Train Control (PTC), crash energy management, and other advances provides the United States with an opportunity to revise its safety approach in a manner that accelerates the development of high-speed rail while preserving and improving upon a strong safety regime. This will be a challenge for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) as it seeks to administer its critical safety responsibility and facilitate high-speed rail development. The systems approach required to ensure safety of new HSR corridors will necessitate consideration of additional changes in several regulations, including equipment, system safety, and collision and derailment prevention.

The heart of the document is a three-pronged approach to funding HSR projects. I'll include the full text of the "tracks" below for folks to peruse:

1. Projects. Grants to complete individual projects eligible under Sections 301 (IPR projects) and Sections 302 (congestion projects) described above, for the benefit of existing services. Eligible projects include infrastructure, facilities and equipment. In order to qualify, these projects must: (a) be "ready to go" (i.e., environmental work required by law (National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA) and preliminary engineering (PE) are complete), and (b) demonstrate "independent utility." For projects that meet the independent utility test but have not yet completed NEPA and PE, funding is available to conduct NEPA and PE work to make projects ready to go and, therefore, eligible under a subsequent grant solicitation. For rolling stock proposals, DOT will encourage acquisition of new, standardized, interoperable equipment
that incorporates modern safety features. Under this track, funds would be obligated for successful applications under standard grant agreement terms and conditions, including ARRA oversight and reporting procedures.

2. Corridor programs. Cooperative agreements to develop entire segments or phases of corridor programs eligible under Section 501 (HSR) and Section 301 (IPR), benefiting existing or new services. In order to qualify, these corridor programs must: (a) be based on a corridor plan that establishes service objectives and includes a prioritized list of projects to achieve those objectives; and (b) have completed sufficient corridor/ section/phase programmatic or project environmental (NEPA) documentation and sufficient planning to provide reasonable project cost and benefit estimates. For corridor programs that do not qualify under (a) and (b) above, funding is available to complete this work and make corridor programs eligible for subsequent solicitations. Under this track, funds for selected applications of a corridor program phase and/ or geographic section would be set aside at the outset, and provided at pre-specified milestone approval points. This approach would involve a higher level of Federal oversight and support than under even the
heightened scrutiny inherent in standard ARRA grant agreements.

3. Planning. Cooperative agreements for planning activities (including development of corridor plans and State Rail Plans) eligible for funding under Section 301 of PRIIA, using non-ARRA funds. This third track provides States an opportunity to prepare themselves for any funding remaining in subsequent rounds of ARRA, and/or future year appropriations. It is intended to help create the pipeline for future corridor development needed to build out a national HSR/IPR network.

As I read this, California's project is eligible for all three tracks. Of course, so would many other states. The plan also recognizes distinctions between what they call "HSR express" which is a California-style system that can achieve 150 mph or above; "HSR regional" which can achieve speeds of 110-150 mph; "Emerging HSR" where new corridors of around 90-110 mph are to be built, and "Conventional Rail" which is basically Amtrak outside the NEC. I hope that as the only true HSR express project on the drawing board (the NEC is in a somewhat different category as it already exists) that will give us a big boost, as other states fight over the rest.

So overall I think this is a huge boost for HSR, even though it does leave some things unclear as to how exactly our own project will fare. The DOT will be making the first project funding announcements later this year, for tracks 1 and 3 - track 2 will be announced toward the end of 2009 or in early 2010.

This announcement has gotten a lot of reaction around the blogosphere, but I want to single out for criticism Matthew Yglesias's take on the announcement:

My take on this is that the most promising projects on the merits, from a federal point of view, are probably those that upgrade the existing Northeast Corridor (where we know demand exists) and those that connect to the Northeast Corridor since the existing passenger rail corridor extends the utility of the new link. The Chicago Hub Network and the California Corridor concepts strikes me as very important for the long-term future of their regions, but for it to be useful will take a lot of time and money. I assume that the relevant state-level politicians for the Gulf Coast and South Central Corridors aren’t going to be interested in ponying up the sort of state funds that would make these projects competitively viable, and that may be for the best since I think those corridors may be a bit ill-conceived. It seems strange to build so much track in Texas and not manage to link Houston with Dallas.

This is a pretty flawed way to look at things. What Yglesias proposes is in fact the model Clinton eventually adopted. In 1993 he proposed a broad national HSR plan, but by the late '90s he decided to just focus on upgrading the NEC and rail was left to wither around the country.

Yglesias is wrong to say that we should prioritize the NEC and connections to the NEC. Significant improvements in speed and carrying capacity can be made in the Midwest with a few billion dollars, and the California project need federal cash infusion now to ensure completion by 2018. All of those will revolutionize rail transportation in America to a much bigger scale than upgrades to the NEC. Too much focus on the NEC is one of the primary reasons for the lack of passenger rail upgrades and improvements around the country. It's time we took HSR national.

And with President Obama's plan, that is exactly what will happen. Now, to make sure this all gets funded...

UPDATE: Rafael's comments:

Nothing particularly new here, except that USDOT will be sticking with the 11 already designated corridors (incl. the NEC). Disneyland to Las Vegas, the Texas T-bone and other hopefuls are not mentioned. So far, the President is talking about the $8 billion in the stimulus bill plus a measly $1 billion for each of the next five years. That's enough to get started, but not nearly enough to leave a legacy.

On the plus side, he mentions the need for long-term commitments from states. Presumably, that translates to a preference for those willing to put some serious skin in the game, e.g. California.

California's much more ambitious bullet train network would presumably fall into the second "track" but it's unclear if there will be anything left in the kitty at that point. Still, given the increasing amount of political capital the President is investing in HSR, it seems likely that future bills will increase the total amount available once USDOT has put in place a suitably technocratic process for evaluating grant applications on their merits. Washington being what it is, the notion that political considerations such as swing state status won't matter is probably more pious hope than realistic expectation.

In particular, additional federal funding for planning and development of additional HSR corridors will be sought in the context of the regular surface transportation bills. In plain English, that means rail proponents will have to duke it out with the highway lobby. Fortunately, the principle that transit projects will be eligible for up to 80% federal funding, putting them on par with highways, has already been established. Note that those regular bills would also be the appropriate place to make adjustments to the map of eligible corridors. The current one dates back to 2002.

In addition, FRA will need some additional funding for drawing up rules enabling mixed traffic on rapid rail routes as well as bullet train operations at speeds exceeding 150mph. The various HSR allocations do allow USDOT to retain a small fraction of the total grant volume for its own operations in support of HSR implementation.


Robert Cruickshank said...

Sorry for deleting the other post. Here are the three comments that I rescued:

Andrew MacDonald said... In the full pdf on the FRA website, the DOT makes it clear that it considers FRA saftey regs as one of the key problems facing high speed rail adoption. They specify that new, modified regulations would have to be adopted, particularly in light of positive train control.

All in all, while CAHSR won't get as much $$ as they probably hoped for in the first round, the overall level of federal support in terms of funds and FRA help look quite good.

April 16, 2009 12:18 PM

Anonymous mike said... I think this is one of the most encouraging quotes in the FRA HSR Strategic Plan:

While most high-speed systems overseas have a good safety record, usually on dedicated track, U.S. railroad safety standards are designed to keep passengers and crew safe in a mixed operating environment with conventional freight equipment, which is much heavier than comparable foreign equipment. The advent of Positive Train Control (PTC), crash energy management, and other advances provides the United States with an opportunity to revise its safety approach in a manner that accelerates the development of high-speed rail while preserving and improving upon a strong safety regime. Maybe they'll actually start focusing on preventing collisions in the first place rather than on making super-heavy trains that don't necessarily survive collisions any better anyway! We can only hope. It definitely reads to me like they are trying to allow the purchase of well-designed, off-the-shelf equipment conditional on implementation of PTC and other safety measures. April 16, 2009 12:26 PM

DaveO said... Doesn't look good. It seems pretty clear that actual HSR will be getting quite a bit less than what they were hoping for.

April 16, 2009 12:31 PM

jim said...

The key I think is that while everyone can step up and pitch their project... no one is further ahead than California. Some of the smaller slower projects may be able to get ready for upgrades sooner even though they are behind us at the moment but no one has the planning and funding in place like california for true hsr.

Will said...

On a big picture level, I wonder how much this shift in the transit and transport winds has to do with the fall of the American auto industry.

It's sort of a given at this point that our nation began dismantling its world class rail network after WWII because US automakers (and associated industries) wanted to be able to sell more products. But now that they've gone from the biggest corporation in the universe to wards of the state, is that what's created the breathing room for high speed rail to move forward?

I ask because I really don't know enough of the history, but it seems awfully coincidental otherwise...

Spokker said...

"Doesn't look good. It seems pretty clear that actual HSR will be getting quite a bit less than what they were hoping for."

At least the incrementalists will be happy. Not all rail supporters support 220 MPH trains. Remember, upgrades to 110-125 MPH speeds is still good.

Jason said...

In response to DaveO: we knew that when the "$8b now, $1b per year for five years" numbers were put out there. $8 billion per year would be more like it if we were going to do what you seem to advocate.

You've got to crawl before you can walk. CA has been doing some crawling, but the rest of the country hasn't.

Also, investments made to improve the short term will have long term benefits. For instance, the south of the lake reroute is a needed piece of infrastructure to help trains from the east reach Chicago. I expect it to be one of the major planning activities to be undertaken in the short term. It will help reduce trip times on existing Amtrak trains and allow for more "emerging HSR" trains in that part of the midwest. In the long term, it is also a prerequisite for even faster trains.

I'll let the president's words speak for themselves:

"There are those who say, well, this investment is too small. But this is just a first step. We know that this is going to be a long-term project. But us getting started now, us moving the process forward and getting people to imagine what's possible, and putting resources behind it so that people can start seeing examples of this around the country, that's going to spur all kinds of activity."

qwerasdf said...

Oh so Robert CROOKshank misled us telling us there WAS guaranteed federal backing and Obama is backing this. No where does he say he's throwing out $X billion into CA for our HSR and what not. Then when I pointed out there was no guaranteed federal backing of a certain amount, propagandaist Robert decided to call me a denier.

So now we've got higher taxes in CA and we're voting on more tax increases. This is a MONEY PIT I tell you. CAHSR is going to be BEHIND schedule and as usual what we will see is huge cost overruns.

DaveO said...

I'm not saying that the investment is too small; rather that the kinds of projects that are eligible to receive funding is too large. I believe today's announcement is a clear signal from the feds to California not to expect that much money.

Anonymous said...

So now we've got higher taxes in CA and we're voting on more tax increasesCalifornia loves taxes! Its a FACT.

Rafael said...

It's in keeping with the spirit of the stimulus bill that rapid rail projects should be prioritized over the longer-term strategic corridor development in California.

That doesn't mean California won't get any money at all early on, especially if it's smart enough to ask for modest amounts to upgrade certain sections of the Pacific Surfliner to 110mph in certain sections and perhaps, Capitol Corridor as well. Certain aspects of the Caltrain corridor (SJ up to 4th & King) remodeling are arguably a rapid rail upgrade - note that Caltrain itself coined the phrase and that it demonstrated the equal or superior crash safety of non-compliant rolling stock in grade crossing accidents.

The money for these bits could come from the $1.5 billion allocated to HSR in HR 110.2095 last year, i.e. not in the context of the stimulus. The intelligent thing to do would be to position California as an technical incubator for the new rules FRA will have to draft for both rapid rail (PTC, mixed traffic etc) and VHSR (bullet trains) plus terrestrial broadband internet + VOD on board. The latter could be funded from the Internet portion of the stimulus bill, rather than the HSR portion.

Similarly, California might be able to finagle some money from the smart energy grid portion to build the renewable power generation and tie-in to the state grid needed to run HSR on primary energy sources other than oil.

My point is, there's more than one way to skin a cat.


Meanwhile, prop 1A contains enough money for planning and preliminary engineering of the bullet train system and, the state was able to sell bonds even in the current market. Obama knows California needs a much larger infusion of federal funding for its bullet train system than the $9.5 billion already on the table, so perhaps he'd like the project to mature a little before he signs off on sinking what will end up being $12-$16 billion into it.

It looks to me as if he wants the California congressional delegation to push hard in the budget and surface transportation bills to bump his lowball $1 billion per year up to a level that will allow him to upgrade at least the NEC as well. Florida, Texas and perhaps Chicago-Toronto would be good candidates for true bullet trains as well, though the latter would obviously require cross-border co-operation on the immigration formalities (cp Eurostar, which only stops at a very limited number of stations that act as points of entry).

The strategy appears to be to get HSR boosters in Congress to grow the pie for a few years rather than focus on maximizing their slice of it early on.

Rafael said...

@ qwerasdf -

have a cup of tea, why don't you?

Robert and I have always said the federal money will come in stages. There has been no decision on which grant applications will be approved and Obama has characterized the $9.5 billion already on the table as a "down payment".

Today's announcement actually makes me a whole lot more confident that Obama is actually fully behind the California project. He just sees it as a strategic investment on a longer time line, so he needs Congress to up his ante of $1 billion/year for the next five to be certain there will be enough money to support it properly, along with upgrades to the NEC and corridor development elsewhere in the nation.

If you want to accuse us of something, it's that we underestimated Obama's abilities in playing the Washington game to a T. In our eagerness, we keep forgetting he's only been in office for a few weeks. If you want to have your cake and eat it too, you've got to bake it first.

Eric said...

Kind of a side note, but one thing I've never understood about that map of designated corridors is why it seems that the relatively sparsely populated CA central coast is included. All the central coast and upper Salinas valley cities combined barely equal the population of Fresno, let alone the population of the whole Central Valley. And surely there's little need for a redundant connection between LA and the Bay Area anytime in the forseeable future, especially when it would be unlikely to be any faster.

Is it an either/or option? Or were they assuming a connection from the Central Valley to SF somewhere in the vicinity of Altamont and this is a misbegotten attempt to include the South Bay in that plan?

jim said...

Ohm y god we have to pay taxes in California! Imagine having to pay for stuff! i always wonder what's wrong with people who think of everything in terms of money. It must be a miserable way to live.

Jason said...

To respond to Eric:

I believe there are 2 answers:

One is that it was and either or. At one point CA hadn't picked a route.

The other is that keeping the designation at the federal level helps CA get money to improve the coastal corridor. In the very far off future, I can imagine ~110 mph service on the coast and 200+ mph service through the central valley.

Robert Cruickshank said...

What Jason said. Back in 2000 when these corridors were being developed the coastal route for our HSR project hadn't yet been ruled out. Although maybe this can enable the coast route for some stimulus money to get the Coast Daylight up and running? I won't argue!

Of course, the map ought to be updated to reflect the Texas T-Bone project.

Brian Tyler said...

There are numerous comments here that express disappointment over the speech today, especially in regards to California not receiving enough money. Keep in mind the stimulus bill was meant to stimulate the economy. The fact that it will also stimulate HSR is just a side benefit. After all, John Maynard Keynes, the economist who developed the notion of using government money to stimulate a flagging economy once said, "The government should pay people to dig holes in the ground and then fill them up." He responded to critics by saying, "Fine, pay them to build schools. The point is it doesn't matter what they do as long as the government is creating jobs".

The CHSRA has an excellent project on their hands, but it is expensive and will take a long time to complete. It is a worthwhile endeavor, but there are many small improvements that offer excellent cost benefit ratios and can be built quickly. Keep in mind our rail system has been neglected and that true HSR will one day be just the backbone to that system; we need both. I laud Obama for his, "first step."

For similar insight, visit SwitchingModes.

Rafael said...

@ Eric, Jason, Robert Cruickshank -

that map hasn't been updated since 2002. It's not up to USDOT to change it, only an act of Congress can do that.

Now that HSR is a real national policy with real money behind it, I fully expect Congress will update it in the context of the next surface transportation bill (or sooner, if need be). For example, the current map does not include the LA-San Diego leg via Riverside.

I also expect the map will be refined in terms of the new HSR sub-categories and, that selecte links between them corridors, a few extensions and a couple of new ones be added to the list of those eligible in principle.

For example, Las Vegas could be added as an eligible destination on the California "HSR express" network to nix a parallel effort on maglev plus the Ivanpah relief airport. Obama wants to wean the country off oil and planes guzzle more per passenger-mile than other transportation modes at the same seat capacity utilization, especially on short hop flights.

Instead, Nevada should focus on producing and exporting renewable electricity to California. A joint DOT/DOE feasibility study on marrying electric rail and HVDC distribution lines in combo EIR/EIS corridor studies would make a whole lot of sense.

Robert already mentioned the Texas T-bone. Expect the Rocky Mountain states to make a bid for a rapid rail line centered on Denver. Arizona may take a shine to the idea of a Phoenix-Tucson link - the state is moving toward swing status.

Canada may respond to today's news by taking a second look at Windsor-Quebec City, starting with Toronto-Montreal. Extending the Cascades corridor to Vancouver would also make sense. In all of these cases, cross-border trains would stop at very few stations, as each one would be a point of entry (cp Eurostar).

In addition, Canadian and US officials would need to co-operate on technical standards. Note that the Swedes, Norwegians and now the Russians all have expertise in actually operating rapid rail ("HSR regional") in arctic conditions. The reference to interoperable PTC and mixed traffic is extremely important in that context, as it will make it much easier to leverage those nations' experience.

Daniel Jacobson said...

What does the program mean for Capitol Corridor and Metrolink? I completely support CAHSR and all, but going back to your post a few days ago, investing say, 250 million apiece of the initial 8 billion and another 75 million apiece per year into these corridors would make an immediate impact in revolutionizing their service.

Eric said...

Since the plan seems to be a combination of Federal/State funds, seems the big advantage CA has is you've just got to convince the voters of one state to get behind it. Ditto the TX T-bone, but the voters haven't backed it yet.

From a straight economics perspective (and without running any detailed numbers), the Chicago Hub network looks attractive though. Lots of large and medium-sized cities, relatively closely spaced, plenty of existing rail infrastructure, including unused ROW, land which is largely both flat and cheap - not to mention a pretty doable tie-in to the Northeast system through PA in the future.

mike said...

This quote from a Boston Globe article about the HSR plan (and how it relates to New England) may be of some interest:

Separately, Massachusetts Democratic Senator John Kerry announced yesterday that he would soon introduce legislation allowing the government to sell tax-exempt bonds to finance high-speed rail.

resident said...

peer review appointments...

Rafael said...

@ resident -

from what I gather, the peer review committee consists entirely of appointees from the executive branch.

Its purpose is evidently to perform quality control of CHSRA's processes and in particular, the documents they intend to submit to the state legislature whenever they want to begin construction on a new segment. In addition, their job would be to monitor CHSRA's tender processes, including specification docs and vendor evaluation process.

What concerns me is are two things:

a) the committee consists of an even number of members, which means there could be deadlock. Mind you, the state legislature would probably have reservations about appropriating construction funds for a segment whose documentation was not considered ship-shape by the quality control folks.

b) the positions are honorary, yet the committee is supposed to review planning, engineering, financing and other aspects. That's actually a huge task, especially on the engineering aspects. At the very least, the committee will need funds to bring in their own outside experts to do the double-checking required for proper quality control.

In addition, document and business process quality control takes time, so document preparation should proceed in stages such that quality control of stage A can be executed in parallel with document creation for stage B. Otherwise, you end up with wait states. Of course, if there's a major boo-boo in stage A, that would force some backtracking but then, catching errors is what quality control is for.

Alon Levy said...

This is some strange peer-review. When I submit papers for publication, they are reviewed by the relevant experts in the field they're in, not by politicians. Shouldn't a peer review committee properly consist of people with experience in engineering, design, and railroad management?

arcady said...

I agree with Alon. I think a proper peer review would involve bringing in some people from outside California. Like from someplace where they actually have high speed rail: France, Japan, Spain, Germany. Might not hurt to have someone from Amtrak's NEC operation either, to provide an American perspective on higher-speed electric railroad construction and operations.

jim said...

one thing about the incremental upgrades to service around the nation is that it captures a whole new generation of rail users show are open to further investment.

Brandon in San Diego said...

It was great to hear the Obama speech.

I am curious... some of the comments above cite that California was given the shaft... saying that the state will only get a small portion of the $8 billion. Apparently some figure was cited; $100 million?

Is that right?

Can someone reference how much of the $8 billion was apportioned today? And of that, what portion went to California?

My understanding is that the Federal DOT is recieving comments about how the funds shall be apportioned with criteria to be released later in the year. Today's announcement was an early release of a portion of the $8 billion.

And therefore, the apportioning of the $8 billionis not over with. Additionally, there will be other Federal funds to follow.

With that said, state's are encouraged to provide financial support too. To that end, California does that in spades. Beyond the $10 billion in 1A bond funds, this states already has an intercity rail program for capital and operating activities. It's substantial too. Not every state can say that... let alone to the extent that California can.

Eric said...

In the very far off future, I can imagine ~110 mph service on the coast and 200+ mph service through the central valley.I dunno, Santa Barbara to downtown LA in an hour sounds pretty cool, but should every small coastal city eventually turn into a suburb for wealthy commuters to the nearest megalopolis? The coast is always going to be "the scenic route" vs. the central valley corridor. If we can get decent on-time performance from the Coast Starlight, that would be better I think.

Eric said...

For example, Las Vegas could be added as an eligible destination on the California "HSR express" network to nix a parallel effort on maglev plus the Ivanpah relief airport.I don't think anyone needs to "nix" Anaheim-Vegas Maglev, unless Harry Reid somehow, through a series of slapstick hijinks, becomes supreme Il Duce. He's a pretty vocal caucus of one on the issue. His state can't even successfully fight the taxi and limousine lobby to allow the Vegas monorail to built out to the airport, and give it a fighting chance to make a profit.

And, given the current CAHSR plans, shooting a spur out to Vegas seems like a slam dunk compared to building a Maglev line.

YesonHSR said...

Well all I can say is WONDERFUL.
I never thought I would see the day an American President would have a news conference on building HSR.and just think if Mccain had won?

Devil's Advoca said...

$8 bln. is enough to build 500 miles, based on the current average cost experienced by Spain and France. It's a start. It is obvious that the majority of the resources should come from the State. Why should taxpayers nationwide, contribute, through the Federal Government, to a project that will primarily benefit Californians?

Anonymous said...

rail road tracks after earthquake.

Bianca said...

rail road tracks after earthquake.

Anonymous, you do realize that technology has advanced since 1906, right?

Japan has been running HSR for over forty years, with only one derailment caused by an earthquake and no serious injuries.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Brandon, that's right, hardly any of the $8 billion has been apportioned. That will come through the process the HSR Strategic Plan lays out, and the first decisions will not be made until the fall.

YesonHSR said...

Why should California taxpayers support highways and other projects
in states with no passenger rail?
BECAUSE it a nation.

jim said...

A good article about who has been named to the reveiw board.
Governor Schwarzenegger Urges Federal Investment In California's High-Speed Rail

jim said...

They have chosen people with a lot of experience.

Anonymous said...

Highway after an earthquake:

I like to post these random things, I really don't know why. But if I did have a point, clearly it would be that we should never build any land-based transportation infrastructure at all.

BruceMcF said...

Devil's Advocate said...
"$8 bln. is enough to build 500 miles, based on the current average cost experienced by Spain and France." ...

Oh, it'll build a lot more than 500 miles, since its not going to be restricted to "Express HSR", aka bullet trains, but will also include "Regional and Emerging HSR", aka Rapid Rail.

The Ohio application will be for $0.25b to get the Triple-C corridor back into operation ... as a conventional rail system with a plan in place to upgrade to an Emerging Rail HSR system along an alignment that yadda yadda yadda. That's 222 miles line of sight, so I'd guess somewhere between 250 to 300 route miles.

Chicago to Saint Louis will surely be less than $0.75b, that's 262m line of sight. So those two would be 500m for under $1b.

My first guess when the $8b was announced was $2b for Cali, $2b for the NEC, $4b spread around the balance of the corridors. In round figures, that still looks quite plausible. $4b for "Emerging/Regional" HSR, aka Rapid Rail, would well over a thousand route miles.

Anonymous said...

"Doesn't look good. It seems pretty clear that actual HSR will be getting quite a bit less than what they were hoping for."

As an incrementalist, I think it looks great.

Remember that the biggest gains to runtime for trains come from eliminating the slowest segments. If you have a "high speed rail" line running at whizbang 125 mph speeds in the countryside, which has to crawl at 20 mph for the last 60 miles into Chicago and the last 100 miles into NY, you'd have done better with an "emerging HSR" line which runs at 90 mph the WHOLE WAY.

Accordingly, stuff like the South of the Lake Reroute to get in and out of Chicago fast, elimination of single-track bottlenecks, replacement of 5 mph bridges (Toledo, Ohio comes to mind), and so forth are the best possible way to get faster, more reliable train service.

California should really ask for money to finish the project-level EIRs for the grade-separated, electrified Metrolink/HSR route from LA Union Station to the Antelope Valley. This can be done a few projects at a time, is far less controversial than the San Francisco end, and has immediate benefits as well as being part of HSR.