California High Speed Rail Authority staff have released their recommendations for funding applications for the Phase 2 of the federal stimulus this fall. They focus on "design/build" in four corridors:
1. San Francisco to San José ($1.28 billion)
2. Merced to Fresno ($466 million)
3. Fresno to Bakersfield ($819 million)
4. Los Angeles to Anaheim ($2 billion)
The application also includes funding for preliminary work in all the corridors of the planned HSR route, including the Sacramento and San Diego extensions.
The four "design/build" corridors would enable actual construction of trackage to commence, though to varying levels of completion. Only the Caltrain corridor would include full electrification, and there it would also include Positive Train Control (PTC), along with the San Bruno curve and other "high-priority" grade separations. Merced to Fresno and Fresno to Bakersfield would see tracks built, but no electrification or PTC. (Merced to Fresno is to be along the UPRR/CA-99 corridor, which is obviously going to be an issue; Fresno to Bakersfield is via BNSF corridor.) LA to Anaheim would be everything except electrification (including PTC).
Given the limited possibilities of the way the stimulus is written, this is a pretty sensible approach. Getting PTC and electrification on the Caltrain corridor is an extremely high priority both for Caltrain's survival and for getting HSR seeded on the Peninsula. The trackwork in the Valley will help enable the test track, and getting LA to Anaheim mostly built means it won't take much to get genuine HSR up and running in an extremely high-profile corridor.
Notice that the Merced-Bakersfield piece has been defined as two segments. CHSRA staff are recommending that both segments be pursued in the stimulus funding application. But the possibility that only one of the two could get funded is generating some unease in the San Joaquin Valley:
On Tuesday the Tulare County Board of Supervisors will vote to intervene in contention centered on a potential high speed rail line in the San Joaquin Valley.
The supervisors will take a stand on whether or not a segment of rail should stretch from Bakersfield to Merced, or only to the halfway point in Fresno.
Federal money to design and build the rail is now available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, however some have suggested that only one of the segments should be submitted to the Federal Rail Administration for funding.
The California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley has suggested that valley officials advocate for the entire system, as voters approved a statewide high speed rail system with the passage of Proposition 1A in 2008.
A decision on how the far the rail should extend, and to what counties, is expected to be made Sept. 23 at a special meeting held by the San Joaquin Valley Policy Council.
As you can see by the staff recommendation, CHSRA is committing itself to funding BOTH segments of the Valley corridor. But that may not be enough for key players in the Valley, who want to ensure that HSR isn't built in pieces.
Overall I think this is a sound approach to the federal stimulus, given the limitations of the ARRA law. The only concern I have is that there's nothing for the construction of the mountainous segments through the Pacheco and Tehachapi Passes, but there's probably no way those plans can be "shovel ready" by September 2012, as ARRA requires.
Have at it in the comments.