Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Open Thread

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

by Robert Cruickshank

Posting via iPhone from the Pacific Surfliner on the way from SNA to LAUS. It's packed to the rafters this morning, as was the Metrolink train I took south yesterday afternoon. It's great to see passenger rail remains popular here in SoCal - and that the demand for more, faster trains is still here.

Plus there looks to be plenty of ROW here, though several of the Metrolink stations will need to be reconfigured, and numerous grade separations rebuilt to accommodate more tracks.

I'll be offline for most of the next 2 days, so use this as an open thread.


Anonymous said...

Three-state push seeks Denver-to-El Paso rail
Colorado, New Mexico and Texas will ask the feds to fund a study of the idea.
By Jeffrey Leib
The Denver Post

Anonymous said...

50 billion for hsr news

Unknown said...


If only it would pass *sigh*

YESONHSR said...

looks like that bill will have to wait till after NOV 2011...the elections gees

Rafael said...


the midterms are in 2010. Besides, I see no reason why it would have to wait that long. The Obama administration has simply prioritized health care - for valid reasons - and doesn't want any domestic agenda item to distract from that until its done.

Anonymous said...

They have to time infrastructure investment and job creation to start peaking just before the 2010 election so the dems can hold onto the majority. It the economy is good right before the election voters will be happy. if they can get health care done by the end of the year and people start getting insured with lower costs by next summer, and the jobs kick in at the same time it will be a good election in 2010. Then he has two more years to get the economy to really peak in time to get re elected, then in the second term can push through a social agenda. In a perfect world this is how it work out. I'm going to hold my breath for the next 6 years. God only knows whats going to happen to this country if that sleazy disgusting corrupt reprehensible herd of republicans get any power back.

Devil's Advocate said...

The incremental approach would be best to see this project become reality. If once a first leg is built and operational, let's say from BFL to LAUS, and is also successful, the support in the public opinion will grow and additional funds might come from the Federal Government. The Europeans did not build a 1000km line to start with. They started with a Paris-Lyon, or a Madrid-Seville, or a Rome-Florence, etc. Once there was the realization that there was sufficient demand and assurance of success those legs were extended (to Marseille, to Barcelona, to Milan). In order to achieve maximum results with the first leg, they should connect the largest metro area (LA) to the next closest metro area in the CV (BFL or FNO). If that is successful, the train will reach the SF soon enough, NIMBYs or not. Connecting the CV to LA is key, because folks in the CV will be the largest beneficiaries of this project. The Bay Area and the LA metro areas have plenty of air alternatives to be connected, not so in the CV, where high airfare limits their options to car use.

political_i said...

A connection to Bakersfield would be bennoficial but with less than 1,000,000, would it be better to connect San Diego first if it was an incremental approach?

Devil's Advocate said...

Definitely! LA-SD would be a winner to start with. It's the right distance (over 100 miles) with a huge population and a terrible traffic which severely limits the competitiveness of car travel.
I mentioned BFL because, if I understand correctly, the LA-SD leg for whatever reason is slated to come at a later stage. But I'd certainly start with that one first if I were the emperor of California.

YESonHSR said...

Your right ..Midterms are Nov2010
and with the 18month extension to the transportation bill being proposed it will be 2011 before we see any real numbers for what HSR will get.
I agree do it now..BUT even Oboma wants to wait guess that it.

lyqwyd said...

I think the CV should be the first segment to be built for these reasons:

1) It's the cheapest portion
2) the long flat stretch is absolutely necessary for testing of the trains that will be used
3) once the CV portion is completed, CV residents will be foaming at the mouth to finish the other 2 segments giving them better access to the job centers
4) It's the easiest portion, meaning less chance of cost overruns
5) from a political standpoint it will be much harder to kill the project after the CV is completed. If either north or south is finished first that region may be less concerned about completion of the entire project, since they will still benefit from the work completed even if the rest of the project is cancelled, while the opposite is true if the CV is the only portion built.

Devil's Advocate said...

lyqwyd: I presume you're saying they should build a totally CV segment first, for example FNO to BFL.
Well, I'd agree that it would be cheaper, not particularly challenging (no mountain ranges to cross) and all of that. But it would have a very limited amount of users. I don't think there are many Fresnans interested in going to BFL and viceversa. Whereas I'm sure there would be more people from BFL (or FNO) interested to travel to LA, even if it's just to go to LAX or to visit Universal Studios.
If once you build FNO to BFL only, the number of passengers is ridiculously low (as I expect it would be), all HSR opponents will have all ammunitions in their hands to attack the project for being a wasteful exercise in futility that nobody uses. They'll label it "a railroad to nowhere". If you want this project to continue to have the support of the public opinion in California you must start with a segment that will turn out to be very successful from the get go, with many trains daily and all full of passengers. Anything departing from LA would be best. Better if you could go south to Riverside/SD (another populous metro area), otherwise North to PMD-BFL. Also anything starting from SF would be good, but given the Peninsula issues you've been discussing here, I'd say that maybe it's best to start from the Southland.

Peter said...

Anyone know anything about the US High Speed Rail Association? Looks to be a new K-street lobbying organization in Washington for HSR. I don't recognize any of the names listed on their board.

Poking through the site it's mostly generic "HSR is green, yay jobs" fluff. However their phased map of a US network looks both fairly well thought out, and flashy enough to be appealing to someone other than a rail geek.

YESONHSR said...

Its about time there was some group working for HSR..instead of just Cato BS coming out of DC

Rafael said...

@ Peter -

The Capitol Corridor and Pacific Surfliner are to be upgraded to HSR? SF-LA express HSR is to be finished by 2015? San Diego to Phoenix and Tucson by 2020?

If this is a lobbying group for HSR, they need to get a whole lot more realistic about what can actually be done and by when. Right now, they come across as a starry-eyed bunch of trainspotters. We're past this whole grand national vision stuff, it's time to get down to brass tacks on funding specific corridors.

California is an obvious candidate and Florida could revive Tampa-Orlando if it puts a chunk of change on the table. Several emerging HSR corridors are also in a position to begin implementation by 2012.

The NEC could do with a program of incremental enhancements to overhead catenary systems, physical superelevation in selected curves and modern signaling to enable a switch to lightweight UIC-compliant rolling stock that doesn't need to be overhauled every 20,000 miles. Note that the Japanese have extremely light trains that use track geometry databases and internal inertial sensors to compute the safe speed and tilt angle for each curve well before entering it.

Anonymous said...

About the SJ-Gilroy ROW issue, I remembered that when VTA negotiated for 10 daily train slots a few years ago with UP, it also negotiated for the right to purchase half of the ROW from UP.

Has anybody heard of any update on this issue?

Anonymous said...

Maybe this from the Daily News (Palo Alto) 7-10-09 will liven up the blog:

Rail authority rejects settlement

Parties would have dropped suit in exchange for Altamont Pass study


Daily News Staff Writer

The California High-Speed Rail Au­thority has rejected a settlement offer Menlo Park, Atherton and environmental groups made in a lawsuit challenging the decision to run bullet trains through the Peninsula instead of the East Bay, an at­torney for the cities said Thursday.

The offer, which the authority rejected in a closed session meeting July 2, would have required the agency to consider run­ning trains through Altamont Pass, said Stuart Flashman, an attorney for the peti­tioners. Altamont Pass and Pacheco Pass were the two finalists for the route, and the authority selected Pacheco in 2007.

“What we are proposing is we would agree to dismiss the case if you would agree at the project level to restudy one Altamont alternative,” Flashman said. “You throw this out now, and it may not come back. They decided they would just roll the dice.”

Flashman noted that the authority did not make a counter offer.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny held a five-hour hearing in the case May 29 and must make a ruling by the end of August, Flashman said.

In the meantime, he must go through about 35,000 pages of documents.

“I felt, and talking with my clients they also felt, that this would have been an op­portune time to try and settle,” Flashman said. “Essentially we were in a situation where everybody could form their opin­ions about who was likely to win.”

Deputy Attorney General Danae Aitchison, who is one of the attorneys representing the rail authority, said a confidentiality agreement prevented her from releasing any information about settlement discussions to the public.

Flashman said that agreement shouldn’t apply once the authority made a decision.

California voters in November ap­proved a measure authorizing the sale of $9.9 billion in bonds to help finance a high-speed rail system, but the issue has become increasingly contentious on the Peninsula, where some cities are de­manding the authority run the trains un­derground. High-speed rail officials have predicted that tunneling would be more expensive.

Earlier this year, Palo Alto filed an amicus brief in support of the Menlo Park and Atherton lawsuit after previously en­dorsing the November ballot measure.

E-mail Jessica Bernstein-Wax at

political_i said...

The Altamont Pass was studied and does not need to be restudied, that will be a couple million more dollars out the door again. Can we just move to the engineering work for the SF-SJ segment so we can settle the SF Peninsula issues along with the LA-Anaheim segment that will be faced? At this rate, it might be best to get the Bakersfield to LA segment done, if upgrades were done on the UP line for the CV, people could transfer to a high speed train from Bakersfield-LA. I still wish that SF-LA was not prioritized and it had been LA-SD to get something started and it would not be considered a ridiculous project, but then it would not benefit a good chunk of the state and then have gotten voted down.

As long as a system is built I'll be happy. Should we start taking the battle to the anti-HSR people on the newspaper websites? Or will there comments die out?

YESONHSR said...

Good for CAHSR no more studies!!As for dropping the case..well Im sure they could/would file another one as soon as the study "results" were not to their liking

Anonymous said...

Altamont was studied to death and has been selected for a HSR commuter overlay.
What the hell more do you want!?

timote said...


What benefit on earth would CAHSR have had to accept such a deal? They would have been out a lot of money, set the whole project back for a long time, and accomplished NOTHING. Dropping this lawsuit just means that the plantiffs can file a new one later should the study not go their way and the whole process starts anew. Considering that their whole purpose is delay, delay, delay this suits their purpose just fine.

CAHSR should do nothing unless a judge forces their hand. They've done what they can and what they are supposed to do, the plantiffs did what they can do - file a lawsuit, and now it is time to get this thing decided (until appeal!).

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 7:54pm -

note that the plaintiffs' lawyers supposedly suggested that CHSRA would only need to study a single Altamont alternative at the project level for them to settle.

If correct, that would include variation 9, which called for SF-SJ Diridon-Pleasanton-Tracy-Modesto-Merced-Fresno. This variation would require all trains to reverse direction at SJ Diridon, something CHSRA implicitly claimed would take half an hour for SF-LA yet curiously, only 20 minutes for SF-Sac. Note that HSR trains in e.g. Germany manage to include head-end stations in the middle of routes with dwell times on the order of just a few minutes.

Unfortunately, there are two significant technical problems:

- constructing an HSR alignment between Santa Clara and Pleasanton has become next to impossible. UPRR's ROW through San Jose and Milpitas would require track stacking, with all that entails for crossing the Guadeloupe and other gravity-drained conduits. That's why the commuter overlay will almost certainly focus on speeding trains up east of Niles Junction and make do with trackage rights on the existing UPRR Alviso line to reach Great America and SJ Diridon.

- AB3034 explicitly calls for an SF-LA line haul time of 2h40m, a target that cannot be attained using Altamont via the South Bay, even if a dedicated, fully grade separated alignment between either Santa Clara or SJ Diridon and Altamont Pass were constructable.

Given that CHSRA has already awarded AECOM a $70 million contract to study a high speed commuter overlay through Altamont, a casual observer might think CHSRA was foolish not to offer a project-level study of variation 9 just to make the lawsuit go away.

However, it would be disingenuous and possibly a breach of fiduciary responsibility for CHSRA to make such an offer knowing a priori that result would certainly fail to meet a key requirement of AB3034.

Of course, the plaintiffs' lawyers know all this full well. What they're really asking for is for the HSR starter line to be split, with one fork going to SF Transbay Terminal and the other to SJ Diridon.

Forking would be extremely difficult in the East Bay now that BART's broad gauge tracks will usurp the WPML ROW south of Niles. VTA refuses to acknowledge that the exact route chosen for the BART extension could be shared by HSR and Amtrak CC if only the tracks were standard gauge instead. Note that UPRR is unlikely to sell any part of its Alviso or Milpitas ROWs for the purpose of constructing new HSR tracks.

Forking the HSR starter line in Atherton instead would defeat the plaintiffs' primary purpose of avoiding the construction of HSR tracks between Redwood City and Santa Clara. They'd probably just look for a pretext for a new lawsuit.

Either way, forking the starter line would mean reduced service frequency for both SF and SJ, which would present a problem for building ridership in the early years of operation.

Evidently, CHSRA believes it has already done enough at the program level to ultimately win the lawsuit, so it is proceeding with Pacheco as approved by voters last November. Time will tell if refusing to settle was a smart move on the Authority's part.

Frank said...

I am by no means a lawyer, but it seems to me that MP/Atherton wanted to settle because they felt they were in a position of weakness. If they were confident that they would win the case, why wouldn't they just stick with it?

To me this is good news that MP/Atherton tried to settle, and that their offer was simply to add a study (and of course add delays).

Alon Levy said...

Peter: the site looks less professional than the fansites I designed when I was 13. At least they didn't have the low-quality pictures of trains. And, FSM, are they still connecting Montreal directly to Boston but not to Albany or New York? And they're connecting Omaha to Des Moines and Kansas City but not Chicago?

Tom Q. said...

@ Raphael

So why do the HSR people constantly say they are studying the "no build" option - which would stop it in SJ if the November election means they have to get to SF??

It is completely misleading!

Adirondacker12800 said...

And, FSM, are they still connecting Montreal directly to Boston but not to Albany or New York?

Boston to Montreal isn't really very high speed. They are discussing, and probably won't do anything because New Hampshire would have to spend money, of 4 hour travel time for the 329 mile trip. Faster than a car but not faster than a plane.

Vermont's study of Boston to Montreal... with diesels.

Albany to Montreal would have to go the the Adirondack Park. To build something as big as new track you would have to amend the state constitution. Probably won't happen soon if at all.

4 billion dollars, in 2004 dollars to build the railroad, throw in another billion or so to electrify it.

Quarter of a billion to get the travel time down to 8-ish hours including customs and immigration.

NY's study of Albany to Montreal.

BruceMcF said...

political_i said...
"I still wish that SF-LA was not prioritized and it had been LA-SD to get something started and it would not be considered a ridiculous project, but then it would not benefit a good chunk of the state and then have gotten voted down."

San Diego to Los Angeles is not far enough to justify an Express HSR line. If it starts with SD to LA, then for that segment, 110mph is a live option. And once a 110mph corridor is a live option, the extra ridership between San Diego and Los Angeles alone for a 220mph does not justify the extra capital expense.

And then there is a 110mph system started, which cannot gain the ridership between SF to LA to justify the big tunnel projects between the LA Basin and the CV and the Bay and the CV.

If Californians want an inter-regional HSR system, then the Bay / CV / LA Basin line is the backbone of the network. That's where 220mph yields a big enough increase in cumulative ridership to justify the capital spending required to link the Bay, CV, and LA Basin together.

Then, once that backbone is in place, there are network economies that justify extending the line to San Diego, while the existing regional rail corridors can be built up toward a complementary 110mph Emerging HSR system.

Anonymous said...

Do not underestimate the the valley ridership. The valley segment is going to be the most successful segment in terms of ridership and customer loyalty. and yes there will be plenty of people riding between fresno and bakersfield and other valley to valley points. You know folks in Hanford use the train to go to fresno a lot. They like it cuz they can go out and party and not have to drive. Once this thing is done, with Fresno's location les than 90 minutes to LA and SF watch for fresno to become a whole new world.

Rafael said...

@ Tom Q -

no-build options for the whole system as well as certain parts of it (e.g. SJ-SF) were studied at the program level. The preferred route includes the SF peninsula and AB 3034 explicitly requries service from SF Transbay Terminal to LA and Anaheim in phase 1.

IMHO, all talk of a "no build" option is bluster by peninsula NIMBYs at this point, a threat that they will use the courts and their political influence to prevent the implementation of voters' intent.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

are we talking a few hundred or tens of thousands of passengers taking the train within the CV every day?

Merced, Fresno and Bakersfield put together have fewer inhabitants than San Jose and, connecting local transit is poorly developed. Some densification will no doubt occur, but it will be a slow process. For the most part getting people off hwy 99 will depend on continued congestion there and, a concerted effort to create dedicated paths and lanes for electric bicycles (ideally, folding types).

I'm sure CV residents will very happily use HSR to get to the Bay Area and SoCal once the line is finished, but there simply aren't enough of them close enough to the proposed stations to generate a whole lot of ridership within the CV unless something is done about connecting transit perpendicular to the HSR line.

Once CV residents get behind the wheel, they tend to just drive all the way. They won't kick that habit easily.

Matt said...


Anyone see today's Wall Street Journal? Robert had a quote in the article "Democrats for a flat tax". Cool stuff.

Clem said...

@Tom, Rafael,

I believe a no-build option is required for an EIR and EIS. It's not that they seriously consider not building; it's required by law to provide a baseline against which to differentiate the build options.

BruceMcF said...

Rafael said...

"@ jim -

are we talking a few hundred or tens of thousands of passengers taking the train within the CV every day?

Merced, Fresno and Bakersfield put together have fewer inhabitants than San Jose and, connecting local transit is poorly developed.

Bear in mind, however, that we are talking about regional train services, not mass transit. The above is why there is a strong benefit in running through to downtown Fresno ... the strongest driver for regional park and ride patronage will be a destination that does not require driving.

However, while 'densification' (what an ugly word) and public transit development are required in the primary destination(s), they are not required around each origin station.

I wouldn't be surprised if the intra-CV traffic was top-up rather than dominant patronage, but it since it would be lead-off, replacement and counterflow patronage, it will all be quite handy in increasing load factors.

Fred Martin said...

The "No Build" option is required by law to be evaluated in any EIR/EIS. It's not some conspiracy, although how the "No Build" option is construed will be very interesting...

luis d. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
luis d. said...

Here's an interesting link of how U.S passenger rail (AMTRAK) is grossly underfunded while Roads and Airlines are Tremendiously Subsidized to death by our Govm't. Your tax dollars being burn't.

luis d. said...

And since it's an open thread, here's that original map of Bart from 1961. It shows how NIMBY's from 1961, somehow are still alive to wreck HSR in 2009 for all of us!

luis d. said...

They wrecked the BART line to their area in 1961 by blocking it in a NIMBY way! It says so on the bottom of the map.

Otherwise we probably would have had BART covering the whole Bay Area maybe in a circle down to San Jose and back up the East Bay and maybe beyond!

NONIMBYS said...

IF nimbys want to see what a real case of "its going to ruin are town" is they need to look up on the web the photos of the freeway construction that was done to American cites in the late 1950-1960s..1000 footwide gashes..and these babies are crying about 10 feet along a 140 year old railroad
and in just a few spots at that!

Anonymous said...

If BART had succeeded in expropriating the Southern Pacific ROW, elevated and broad- gauged it there would be no room for the hsr. The CHSRA would have had to use the 101 corridor, which of course they would have magically declared feasible, just as it still could be done.

How dumb to pine for a BART regional monopoly. You want to hand their unions more leverage? A quite possible scenario in the next few days is that they will go on strike just long enough to save enough money to give both management and platform employees a nice raise. A win for them and a lose for the riders and taxpayers. But this time the public will be really ticked off.

dave said...

You can't blame BART for it's selfish employees and Unions. They should just fire everyone and hire new employees with a new LOW Union contract that will not screw things up later.

Bart having a line all the way down could have had a different effect on the rail line then what it is today.

That's not an excuse to cover your arses for what's been done already!

Anonymous said...

I think you have to live in the Bay Area to understand how it works. BART and its employees work for each other, not for the public. And they are both part and parcel of the political machine, which directs funds to them in return for electoral support.

Thus BART and the hsr are likely to be antagonists because they are vying for the same monies. And no one can outdo BART when it comes to hoovering up whatever funds there are.

Were the BART empire even bigger it might have enough juice to close the hsr out of the inner Bay Area completely, arguing that all you have to do is transfer to BART at an outlying location.

BruceMcF said...

In what sense are they competing for the same money?

(1) The state level capital funding is through the '08-Prop1A bonding;

(2) Federal funding will be through various HSR allotments that BART is not eligible for;

(3) The HSR will not require operating funding ... the only (small) operating cost impact for BART is that if HSR is successful it will represent some small increase in off-peak patronage for BART and therefore a small boost to BART's farebox to operating cost ratio.

Anonymous said...

"Dedicated" can be changed at the stroke of a pen. Just consider how BART was able to appropriate monies that had been dedicated to the Dunbarton Bridge project. All public funding is political.

I doubt that the CHSRA's existing funding mechanism will prove adequate, especially if economic conditions remain deteriorated. In due course they will have to go hat in hand to the politicians, where they will come into direct competition with BART, whose capital needs are equally enormous.

Bay Area Resident said...

The reason the Golden Gate Bridge district did not grant access to bart is because the GG bridge would lose essentially ALL of their toll based funding if they did that. We have to pay for the GG bridge somehow, its sort of a landmark don't you think?

Anonymous said...

@dave - I should remind you that americans have every right to unionize and bargain for wages and benefits and the bart employees are not being "selfish" they are looking our for their interests just like every other american in the country looks out for their own interests from wall street to main street. When you buy goods made in china on the cheap who's interest are you looking out for? Yours.

Anonymous said...

As for competing for money, rail transit benefits from from layers of service.HSR is not competition for bart and wouldn't be even if it were on the peninsula. for all the bitching and moaning people do about bart the fact it is has served the bay area extremely well for nearly 4 decades with ever increasing ridership and better coordination with local services. Bart's only downfall isn't its empoyees, but its success in building ridership, and the subsequent decline in the rider experience due to first and foremost, bad behavior, trash and filth created by riders and a coplete lack of respect for public property as seen every day all over the bay area. The other downfal is simply overcrowding, and a lack of capacity in the tube. That will be remedied some day and hopefully with coordination with other agencies.

dave said...

@ jim,
I'm for good paying jobs and don't see Unions as all bad. But in this economy, Bart's employees should be happy they have a job and take a pay freeze. Nobody (that I know) is suggesting they lower pay, just freeze it.

They are selfish in that they have a job while others are losing theirs and complaining about freezing their already very good pay in an agency that has to make cuts.

Maybe they can add the toll for whomever crosses the Golden Gate on BART like they are to SFO. People use their cars (Wear and tear), cost of maintenance, miles driven, GAS and then the HIGH TOLL. Might as well pay for the train ride + Toll. That would be slightly cheaper then driving.

dave said...

Did I mention that if you didn't drive to work everyday through the GG or anywhere else, the resale value of your car would stay higher (Mileage) then it would be if you drove. Money is lost everywhere!

Brandon in California said...

Rafael ( & Tom Q.),
Per 12:20pm 7/11 post

I don’t think the response squarely hit the nail’s head.

Every environmental review considers a ‘no build’ or ‘do nothing’ action. The purpose is to daylight conditions IF a proposed alternative is not selected.

No agency is compelled to take action; however, taking no action does have implications. The intent is to examine and day-light those implications for decision makers. Differences between ‘no build’ and alternatives can be compared.

For the San Jose to San Francisco project level environmental review, I have not read it in detail, but I suspect the ‘no build’ action considers stopping the line at San Jose.

Morris Brown said...

Regarding the SJ Mercury news article and Editorial exclaiming that language in the budget bill would cause California to lose stimulus dollars, The Planning and Conservation League (PCL) has sent a

refuting these bogus claims the paper has publised.

In particular note from this letter:

Lastly, we would like to rebut several false claims made recently by the Authority. First, the Authority has made the claim that forcing them to do a thorough review of the Bay Area segment will cost the state Stimulus funding. This is not true. Work on the San Francisco to San Jose segment, beyond electrification of the existing tracks and work on the Transbay Terminal, will not qualify for stimulus funding since the environmental review is not currently scheduled to be done in time, even without a complete review of alternate alignments. The consultants conducting the review as well as High Speed Rail staff have made this clear and that is why staff did not recommend seeking Stimulus funding for this segment. Second, Director Ron Diridon has claimed that the language in the budget requires the Authority to reopen the Program Level EIR. This also is not true. The language clearly says, “As part of the project-level design and environmental review activities, the Authority shall analyze alternative alignments to that identified as the preferred alignment in the certified program Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the San Francisco-San Jose corridor.”

I want to add that personally, I am not a supporter of this HSR project as planned. I would not support this project if it went down 101 or 280 or thru the east bay. It is a boondoggle for so many reasons. So I can be labeled a denier or NIMBY (I do live about 600 feet from the CalTrain corridor), but I consider this project a disaster for California and its future generations.

Clem said...

The language clearly says, “As part of the project-level design and environmental review activities, the Authority shall analyze alternative alignments to that identified as the preferred alignment in the certified program Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the San Francisco-San Jose corridor.”

The program-level (tiered) EIR/EIS considered and settled the alignment questions at the program level. Those are now concluded and certified (pending the minor matter of the Atherton lawsuit).

Re-opening alignment alternatives at the project level is, de facto, a re-opening of the certified program EIS/EIR. You don't reopen a certified EIS/EIR unless it was legally flawed and someone sued under CEQA or NEPA within 90 days of certification. (which Atherton et al. did)

This language is a back door way to circumvent the environmental review process, and I doubt that even if the language was signed into law (which it won't be) that it would stand up to judicial review. Environmental protection laws exist not only to protect the public, but also to protect the agencies undertaking new projects from endless and senseless cycles of review, and eventual death by red tape.

Brandon in California said...

That's funny....

"First, the Authority has made the claim that forcing them to do a thorough review of the Bay Area segment will cost the state Stimulus funding. This is not true. Work on the San Francisco to San Jose segment, beyond electrification of the existing tracks and work on the Transbay Terminal, will not qualify for stimulus funding since the environmental review is not currently scheduled to be done in time, even without a complete review of alternate alignments..
Emphasis Added

How much are those two activities valued at? Didn't someone cite $4 billion plus. How much in ARRA stimulus funding is being sought for those; over $1 billion as I recall.

Regardless of the accuracy of those figures... that's a butt-load of funding to dismiss on the part of the PCL! How can anyone take the PCL seriously when they take a position like that? And for what... to study additional alternative alignment options? Silly people!

Hey... the recent phase of the environmental review was a draft phase. In it, the Authority identifies what they plan to study, and seek comment on what they should consider. The public comment period has ended.

Then the next phase begins.... and not all is lost for folks like the PCL and Peninsula NIMBY's.

The Authority is compelled to respond to each comment.. in sufficient detail to satisfy legal requirements and their Board.

Forecasting the events to take place later this Summer or Fall... given the preponderance of comments speaking to tunnels, US 101 alignment, and other, the next phase will day-light results of the Authority on those ideas.

And, the public will get another opportunity to comment.

I suspect the Final environmental documents will identify that US 101 was eliminated from consideration as part of the Program Level EIR (or whenever phase it was), and is not considered as viable at this time (unless something physically and substantive has changed since the prior decision was made). However, final environmental review documents will probabaly go through additional documentation efforts to say why it was eliminated.

Similar may be true for tunneling; citing construction challenges, other infrastructure (like vent shafts) associated and what environmental impacts those would have.

After vetting tunneling issues, the CHSRA may select that path; however, acknowledge the greater risks..., such as cost increase, implications throughout the state, and not having all funding sources yet identified and greater risk.

But, imo, tunneling at a much greater cost seems silly when considering that there is already a corridor, separated alignment will save lives and reduce noise.

In fact, local NIMBY concerns will likely be seen as beeing meritless and a matter of baseless impression.

Alon Levy said...

Thus BART and the hsr are likely to be antagonists because they are vying for the same monies.

Except that Quentin Kopp is a big HSR enthusiast... if anything HSR reinforces BART, by making BART to San Jose look less stupid.

Robert Cruickshank said...

BART to San Jose remains an open question in terms of project viability. Even with the passage of Measure B last fall it's far from clear that there'll be enough funds to go from Fremont to Diridon.

But that (to me) seems the only place where HSR and BART might potentially compete for riders. BART seems to have little intention of pursuing extensions in San Mateo County (and would the locals let them, given the problems with the SFO extension?). BART's other extension plans include full-scale BART to Antioch and Livermore, and "eBART" to Brentwood, perhaps even Tracy.

So there *might* be a contest for funds, but BART doesn't qualify as HSR, and so they wouldn't be fighting over the same well in DC. Everyone's going to fighting over the dry well here in CA, although unity would achieve FAR more results than division there.

Anonymous said...

If 110mph is the bar for high speed rail BART can make it. For a short time in 1972 when it started on the Fremont line it was hitting 100.

With the broad gauge 110mph should be easy if the expansion funds are enough to justify the high motor maintenance costs. The question is if BART hit 110 between stations on new extensions in the East Bay would it qualify as high speed by the feds standards? It certainly would be challenged but it might be worth calling a bluff to throw out the possibility. BART's distances are in the interurban range especially going east toward Sac.

BruceMcF said...

Hitting 110mph briefly and sustained operating speeds around 110mph are two quite different things. The latter would require a mix of Express and Local services, and either separate Express tracks or some form of tilt technology to run at high speed on track elevated for the local traffic.

It need a hard look to make the case that its worth the trouble for an urban/metropolitan mass transit service ... its more obviously a benefit for genuine interurban services.

Anonymous said...

If BART had longer distances between stations it could easily do 110mph sustained speeds. For the feds to say you can only have express service to qualify seems arbitrary. Just how far between stations is defined as express. I would counter that stopping in Palmdale is not express.

BART is expert at sniffing out money. If a big chunk of the federal rail transport budget is now set aside as strictly for high speed rail BART would have to go for it. It's all about the money. BART could argue it is quite fast oveall and its passenger counts are very high. It would be somewhat comparable to hsr between Chicago and Milwaukie. BART could also argue that the public demands local stops - just look at Merced, Palmdale, etc. with the CHSRA.

Andy D said...

Question: Could the language of the federal government's Essential Air Service be modified to allow HSR to compete for subsidy funds? Or could HSR to a city eliminate EAS to a city assuming the is a connection to a major airport within X minutes?

I'm thinking of Merced and Visalia specifically, which receive a very generous subsidy for air travel according to Wikipedia, and would each be an hour's ride away to SFO or ONT...