while CHSRA continues to face widely publicized opposition in the SF peninsula, there is active competition for the alignment that the phase 2 spur from LA Union Station to San Diego will follow. We already discussed the ROW issues in an earlier post.
The Riverside Press-Enterprise explains that the City of Riverside is competing with the much smaller City of Corona for a station, as both recognize the economic value of having a stop on the network. The Corona concept is based on an alignment alternative down I-15 and is supported by Riverside county as well as Lake Elsinore and Temecula. This would be the shortest option that still allows for a station close to Ontario airport, but the proposed station at Cajalco Rd would be several miles south-east of downtown Corona; an old freight spur could be leveraged for new Metrolink routes, but most passengers would presumably drive or take a bus to a giant parking lot in the middle of nowhere (cp. Victorville). The city could probably improve its chances by proposing instead a new station for both HSR and Metrolink at the intersection of the BNSF Transcon line and I-15, between Quarry St. and the CA-91 interchange in Corona proper.
On the other hand, CHSRA's completed and certified program-level EIR/EIS calls for trains to run further east past UC Riverside, before joining I-15 by way of I-215. Three separate connectors down from the I-10 corridor near Colton are being studied, but running above or below Iowa Ave, Chicago Ave or S Riverside Ave/Main Street is non-trivial. Note that the existing Riverside Metrolink station is located approx. 1.5 miles south of the CA-91/CA-60/I-215 interchange, rendering it useless as a regional feeder service to the HSR station for Corona, Perris and San Bernardino. This last city would very much like to have an HSR station of its own, but its downtown is out of the way of the preferred route described in the program-level EIR/EIS.
There is, of course, one heretical idea that might be worth considering now that DesertXPress looks like it may go ahead: continuing HSR along the BNSF Transcon line and/or CA-91 past the phase 1 section to Fullerton. Bullet trains would then run to San Diego via Corona without any need for additional HSR tracks along I-10. Eventually, a connector would put Riverside and San Bernardino on the spur to Victorville and Las Vegas. Anaheim ARTIC would also be on a spur, though there is a railroad ROW running north from Orange that could perhaps be used to allow a subset of trains to include that station on a run-through detour. The biggest problems are NIMBYs in the Santa Ana Valley and, the fact that this route would not run anywhere near Ontario airport. That would mean redoing part of the program-level EIR/EIS for this phase 2 spur, something I am sure CHSRA would prefer to avoid.
The above is meant to illustrate how integrated planning of the California network and DesertXPress line could open up new and possibly superior alternatives for HSR development. One slide at the recent press conference announcing the inclusion of Las Vegas in the federally designated California HSR corridor already included a connector between Palmdale and Victorville, though frankly one between Mojave and Barstow would be more useful for SF-LV and hew close to an existing road/rail traffic corridor (CA-58) The latter point is relevant for CEQA. For the moment, though, all of this remains wishful thinking: there appears to have been zero formal contact between CHSRA and DesertXPress to date and, neither planning body has taken ownership of getting any such connector funded and built.
Sunday, July 5, 2009