Sunday, October 4, 2009

LA Times: Put CA First In Line for HSR Stimulus Funds

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

There seems to be a growing consensus that when it comes to doling out federal HSR stimulus money, California should get the lion's share. Earlier this summer The Business Insider suggested CA get "all" the HSR funds, arguing that if the money was spread too thin, nothing would actually get built and we thus wouldn't have much to show for the stimulus spending, whereas giving it "all" to California would help produce an actual bullet train.

Now the state's largest newspaper has joined in the "give it to California" chorus, with this editorial in today's LA Times:

Last November, voters passed a bond measure(2008) approving $9.95 billion to fund a high-speed train line from San Diego to Sacramento. They couldn't have known it then, but the timing was fortuitous. Months later, as part of the stimulus package, Congress dedicated $8 billion to pay for high-speed rail projects across the country. California is the only state where voters have already approved funding for a bullet train, and it has the most state-of-the-art proposal, with the most planning work completed, in the nation. Because the funding is meant to stimulate the economy as quickly as possible, officials at the Federal Railroad Administration are expected to give priority to applicants that can start hammering rail spikes soon. So when the California High-Speed Rail Authority submitted its application on Friday, it had powerful arguments on its side.

First off, I am really pleased to see the Times connecting the Yes vote on Prop 1A to economic stimulus. This blog repeatedly framed Prop 1A in precisely those terms last fall, and it is one of the chief reasons for building high speed rail. While we can and should debate the best way to build that train, we cannot let ourselves forget the broader context - an economy in tatters, with even former Fed chair Alan Greenspan, chief architect of the wrecked economy, predicting 10% unemployment before much longer. California desperately needs jobs, and HSR is a damn good way to provide it.

The Times goes on:

The authority is applying for $4.7 billion of the $8-billion federal pot, yet there will be heavy political pressure to spread the money across a broad geographical region rather than giving so much to a single state. Even so, there are strong reasons to award California an outsized share.

It is undeniably parochial for The Times to argue that Washington should send tax money to California for a project that would boost the local economy. But nobody has to take our word that the Golden State should be first in line. In addition to the timing considerations, there is the important matter of ridership -- for the rail program to be successful, it should focus on projects that can move the most people. America 2050, a Washington-based public planning think tank, studied regions with the highest potential ridership for high-speed rail, ranking them by city pairs (routes between two cities). A line connecting New York and Washington was ranked the highest, but three of the top 10 city pairs would be connected by California's bullet train, including L.A. to San Francisco, San Diego and San Jose. If federal officials want the most bang for their stimulus buck, they should look west.

Actually, I don't think it is parochial at all. California is 1/10th of the nation's population, and is responsible for 13% of its GDP. We are a major part of the national, even the global economy. If California does not have an economic recovery, neither will the nation as a whole.

And one reason for California's crisis is, as the Observer noted in a long article today, a fatal dependence on sprawl. For California to have a truly lasting economy recovery, we will need to provide transportation solutions that encourage urban density, reduce dependence on oil, and provide a Green Dividend (economic growth through reallocation of money previously spent on oil).

In short, if the US is going to have economic growth in the coming decade, California must have growth and recovery. And if California is going to have growth and recovery, California needs to build high speed rail to reshape the way we move people around, and how we pay for doing so.

So if anything, the LA Times editorial, while generally excellent and welcome, is actually understating the case. California ought to expect to get much of the federal HSR stimulus - not just for our own sake, but for the nation's sake as well.


lyqwyd said...

I totally agree that CA should get the lions share. I think it was a good strategy to put in matching funds, it will be very hard for the Fed to give more to anybody else that is not also matching funds.

I'm hoping the strategy might get us close to half the total funds, and probably a lot more than we would have got otherwise.

One point: google reports CA pop. as ~36 million, and US pop ~304 million, which means CA is about 1/9th the US total, not 1/6th.

Just a little nit-pick.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Fixed it - I put it at 1/10th.

Anonymous said...

CHSRA doesn't have the authority to commit these matching dollars, and for that matter neither does the governer. The AB3034 funds need to be approved by the legislature, only after several conditions are met.

And I wonder if any reporters bothered to ask any of these rallying politicians what they think of the current CHSRA business plan, or where they were thinking the other $35M was going to come from.

lyqwyd said...

The legislature will approve it and the conditions will be met.

The business plan will be updated and the money will be made available.

There, problems solved!

Unknown said...

I agree with the point that we should probably put HSR where it is going to do the best and California offers the best chance for HSR that could be done right from the ground up (except whatever happens within the city limits of San Francisco of course!)

I do get really annoyed with the Observer's take on California, however. I mean it really shows some arrogance on their side. I mean shall we discuss the state of affairs in Britain right now? Besides it wasn't necessarily just us who was caught up in such a delusion. We just lived out the delusion better!

I suppose we are all a little prideful/arrogant about where we live...

Anonymous said...

It is parochial. To claim that it isn't is plainly stupid.

Besides, putting money into CA infrastructure these days is akin to throwing good money after bad. We are so screwed up financially, it would be like investing in Lehman Brothers in July 2008.

BruceMcF said...

$2b would be an outsized share. 1/4 > 1/9, after all.

And it would not lead to the foolish promise of 50:50 matching funds doing nearly as much damage to the project finances.

James said...

1/9 of the population but what fraction of the HSR preparations? 2/3? 3/4?

lyqwyd said...


why is it foolish?

YESonHSR said...

The only real HSR program in the
nation ...YES and the perfect location and city pairs/landscape for it.The stimulus is way to small on HSR for the need.So with the match a good start on somthing that shows...AND there are great projects in the Midwest/North Carolina and the Pacific NW that deserve ever penny they want and derserve So fund them too

Brandon in California said...

Are the "Midwest/North Carolina and the Pacific NW " putting in matching funding and have a plan?

If I were a Federal congressman and I was unbiased about geography.... I put my money where I would get the biggest bang for the buck. Not only would a Federal investment in the California HSR program go twice as far, but, it offers the greatest return (performance) in the nation after NY-Washington.

YesonHSR said...

.. We need to make sure all the projects are started to ensure there is a true and real funding source for CAHSR through out the next 10 years..that requires a national system/program .no matter what kind of clout Difi/Boxer have at this point..We need 20billion period..lots of money in the realm that transit is funded

Alon Levy said...

Brandon, California offers a lot of bang, but requires a high amount of buck due to the mountain crossings. SNCF's bid to build HSR on four corridors - California, Texas, Florida, and the Midwest - states that Texas offers the highest bang for the buck. In the Midwest, Chicago-St. Louis probably offers more bang for the buck since there is good existing rail ROW and the terrain is flat, but SNCF did not study that corridor.

In any case, the NEC offers far more bang than any other route, and requires far less buck since the tracks are already there, they just need new catenary and some curve straightening.

Anonymous said...

Question: based on the information in the fact sheet, none of the money will yet be made available for the LA to Bay Area. If the trains will be built for only local travel, people will not use them as much as they should for the system to make money and build more tracks. The system, on a MUCH smaller scale, will be like the Vegas monorail, which does not connect to the airport and thus kills the ridership. When will this happen?

Also, if ground were to be break in 2011, what is the expected opening?

Rafael said...

@ Brandon in San Diego -

"If I were a Federal congressman and I was unbiased about geography..."

you'd never get re-elected. Bringing home the bacon is the #1 job of every Congresscritter.

That's precisely why the decision on which grants to award and which applications to turn down has been left to USDOT.

Hopefully, they'll come up with an evaluation formula that is based on at least semi-objective criteria, weighed sensibly and including in no particular order:

- relevance to national recovery,

- jobs created (and when),

- planning maturity,

- right of way status,

- regulatory relief status (if applicable),

- realistic ridership expectations,

- benefit/cost expectations (incl. costs avoided),

- non-federal match offered,

- bi-partisan support at the state level for seeing the project through (incl. operating subsidies for the slower classes of service)

- regional equity (overall federal dollars received for federal dollars contributed),

- likelihood of prompting Congress to make additional funds available over the next decade,

- previous rejection based on lack on funds rather than flaws in the application,

- etc.

Rafael said...

@ Alon Levy -

"the NEC offers far more bang than any other route, and requires far less buck"

Is there already a concrete plan that can turn dirt before Sep 30, 2012? If so, it may be at the top of the list.

If not, there's still $1.5b in the PRIIA kitty that haven't been appropriated yet. That kind of money should go a long way toward tweaking the NEC tracks, implementing full PTC, perhaps even take a first stab at harmonizing the OCS at a high voltage and common AC frequency.

PRIIA does limit the federal share to 80%, though.

Rafael said...

FYI: North Carolina has applied for $5 billion in track 2 ARRA HSR funds to upgrade service to 90-110mph top speed.

It's not immediately clear if the state is offering up any matching funds.

Rafael said...

Correction: "only" $3.9 billion of North Carolina's application was for funding track 2 (corridor development), the balance for other tracks. Not that it matters much, since USDOT has not yet decided to split the $8 billion on the table between the funding tracks.

dave said...

Haha, I find it funny that most of us are united about the idea of HSR. But the competition on funds starts and everyone turns on each other. Particularly Alon Levy who is from Texas. And BruceMcF who is from somewhere on the East Coast or Midwest. You can see their change in attitudes. It's alright, It's understandable you want HSR built in your areas. I just thought it deserved a chuckle.

Personally, I think California should get the whole $4.7 Billion, then Florida should get some, the Midwest, then Texas. Every other state should wait until their HSR plans materialize into something worthwhile, like actually 200+ MPH plans.

Other worthy states should get at least the funding to do studies for true HSR and significant upgrades that would make a difference to passenger rail in their area.

Then if a second round of Funds come, they will have a better chance.

Rafael said...

@ dave -

fostering competition between states is precisely what ARRA was set up to do. I see nothing wrong with the desire to maximize the transportation bang of every federal stimulus buck.

Personally, I think it would be a good idea to split $6-7 billion between the most deserving 2-3 projects and distribute the remaining $1-2 billion among half a dozen runners-up - especially for (further) planning and environmental impact studies. The winners should include at least one express and one non-express HSR project.

Congress needs incentives to approve substantial additional funding in the next surface transportation bill, whenever that's going to happen. That means giving Senators from a lot of states at least some bacon to take home.

Prioritizing California because it has volunteered matching funds even though it didn't have to would send a powerful signal to other states, though I have some concerns about whether AB3034 will allow the Golden State to actually follow through on its pledge. A lot of progress must be made in the next 24 months to make that possible.

無名 - wu ming said...

given that CA is the furthest along in planning, and that our state economy is only second to michigan in total screwedness, and that the route runs through some of the epicenters of the real estate bust and subsequent depression, it makes a great deal of sense to give CA a disproportionate chunk of that early stimulus funding.

the real problem is that there is still waaaay too little money set aside for HSR and rapid rail upgrades. hopefully the next such bill allocates a pit of money consistent on building a 21st century rail equivalent of the interstate highway system. lord knows we'll need it if we're to weather a future of peak oil-driven spikes.

Anonymous said...

California high speed rail authority doesn't have the authority to commit Californa wtate matching funds - the governor doesn't either.

Sending a few billion - even 8 billion- to California, on the promise that California with match even a dime - they don't have - is pure federal waste. This is like gifting $10,000 to a homeless high school drop out to buy a house. OF COURSE they love the idea of owning a house, they'll vote for THAT all day long. OF course they'll promise to match it with 10,000. First question, do they have the resources to pay their own 10,000? And second, even more important - WHERE ARE THEY GOING TO GET THE REST OF IT? You can't buy a house for $20,000 and you can't buy a California High Speed Rail system with $8B 16B - or even $18B. Feds need to be asking themselves, where the hell is California going to get the money to pay for the rest of this AFTER we waste our 8B on California? Can they deliver their share of the committment? No way.

California doesn't have the money, doesn't have the financial position to follow through on their pie in the sky schemes, and they've got citizens practically lining up to sue them over this until the year 2109. California should get zip.

ObserverFromNC said...

I am from NC. Let me explain a bit about the NC plan. But first of all, I support CA getting a larger share of the stimulus than anyone else. If $4 or $4.5 billion goes to California, that is just fine with me. Even being from NC, I recognize it absolutely wouldn't be fair for NC to get $4 billion out of the stimulus. Only one state deserves that much and it's California.

NC actually has applied for $5 billion in Track 2 projects. The $3.9 billion goes (I believe) for the outright purchase of the inactive CSX corridor between Raleigh and Petersburg, Virginia, substantial reconstruction of that corridor to HSR standards, and grade separation or closure of every crossing on the line.

Supposedly, the reconstruction would straighten the line enough to allow for speeds higher than 110mph in the future (not sure how much higher - 150mph?) but the line would be limited to 110mph for now since it would not be electrified and would use FRA Tier 1 trainsets.

I think the rest of the $5.3 billion in Track 2 funds would go towards grade separations, double tracking, stations, and curve realignments on the NCRR (Piedmont) corridor through Raleigh-Greensboro-Charlotte. This line will be limited to 90mph since it's a heavily used freight corridor that goes through some pretty developed areas where curve realignments will not be possible.

NC's Long-term (2050-ish) plans call for a super high speed bypass that goes straight from Raleigh to Charlotte. This would allow for high speed trains from Atlanta to reach the NEC quickly enough.

lsm said...

If I were dedicated to the well being of the US, I would concentrate these Federal funds on the project furthest along in planning and most likely to generate great ridership to demonstrate as quickly as possible our need to invest in regional HSR systems to keep America growing tomorrow. I would also direct these funds to projects offering the quickest and biggest immediate economic recovery to get the country back on track today. If I were a locally elected official looking to get re-elected within the next several years, however, I would try to get as much money pumped back home as possible. Predicting Congress teems with the former rather than the latter members may be wishful thinking. Once the butchers finish making this sausage, do not be too surprised if the funds are spread all around the country.

BruceMcF said...

lyqwyd said...

why is it foolish?

Because its burning through the $9b in bonding much more quickly than necessary. When the infrastructure bank is set up, California can apply for multi-year appropriations to fund entire segments, likely at an 80:20 match. The more money burned through at a 50:50 match now, the less total Federal funding the $9b will attract.

Indeed, if the current application was at a 20:80 match, which still seems to be well above any capital spending match promised by anybody else, and assuming for simplicity $300m spent on Authority operations and design and planning work (I don't know off hand what the allowance is) then $8.7b could parlay into $34.8b in Federal funding, for a total of $43.5b in public subsidy before seeking PPP (that is, Pinching Profits from the Public).

If $4.7b is devoted to a 50:50 match, and $4b to a 20:80 match, that is parlaying $8.7b into $20.7b in Federal Funding, for a total of $29.4b.

$43.5b - $29.4b = $14.1b isn't chump change to put at risk in an effort to make a big political noise up front.

BruceMcF said...

無名 - wu ming said...
"given that CA is the furthest along in planning, and that our state economy is only second to michigan in total screwedness, and that the route runs through some of the epicenters of the real estate bust and subsequent depression, it makes a great deal of sense to give CA a disproportionate chunk of that early stimulus funding."

I was expecting California would get around $2b of it, and hoping California would get $3b of it ... then I heard about the 50:50 match, and now I am hoping it will get $2b, because I worry about the CHSRA burning through the $9b in bond funding too quickly.

Unless the Federal match on these projects can be cranked up to Interstate Highway 10:90 levels, $4b in state matching funds does not get from here to there, leaving the project reliant on heavy private participation, and given the economic side effects of the coming waves of oil price shocks, that looks to me like a risky gamble.

"the real problem is that there is still waaaay too little money set aside for HSR and rapid rail upgrades."

That is the argument for handing out some $750m and $1.5m checks that can get Rapid Rail services up and running inside the five year time frame of the upcoming multi-year Transport bill. We might reasonably hope to see $2b come out of conference in the annual appropriation, but properly funding the HSR pool in the infrastructure bank will need that to get pushed up into the range of $5b-$10b annually.

And getting that through the Senate will require making sure that there are a large number of states that can confidently expect to get a share of that pool. The "proportion" is nowhere near as important as "This service that Senator Hornblower is cutting the ribbon for was funded in part by the Federal Infrastructure Bank High Speed Rail Fund".

dave said...

California asks fed for $4.7B.
California Matches it with $4.7B.

Total = $9.4B

California aks again for AT-LEAST/MINIMUM amount, by asking to use up Prop. 1A funds left over = $4.3B

Fed asked to at least match it OR if extra is somehow available in the future, add more.

California Puts the rest of Prop. 1A = $4.3B

Feds put up at least matchin funds = $4.3B

Total= $8.6B (Second round, MINIMUM)

Total funds towards project = $9.4B + 8.6B = $18 Billion

Project phase 1 total cost = $33 Billion


Total funds awarded to project = $18


$15 Billion (Required).

Private investors, local funds expected after this. Plus if fed has more funds available by then they were expected to award a total of $16 Billion total (Matching the funds or not) according to CHSRA's plan. So by then another $6-$7 Billion (non matching) should be no big deal.

The Fed's should also be required to cover costs from inflation, that is if it wants to see the project to the end.

dave said...

Notice that the funds awarded to California will improve Rail on it's own wether or not HSR is built now. But will allow for True HSR to be built as fundsa are available. This is a very good stategy and I support it.

Alon Levy said...

Is there already a concrete plan that can turn dirt before Sep 30, 2012? If so, it may be at the top of the list.

Nope. Unlike the California corridor, the NEC passes through 8 states, and generally the states with the most track mileage and with the most need for track upgrades are not the states with the highest ridership. This means that none of the states cares much about the corridor: New York and Pennsylvania don't want to submit bids for work that will mostly be done in other states, so they bid on their money-sucking Empire and Keystone services instead; and Connecticut, New Jersey, and Maryland don't want to submit bids for work that will mostly benefit travelers in other states, so they bid on commuter rail projects.

Rafael said...

@ Alon Levy -

just curious: are states the only entities permitted to file ARRA applications?

I expect Amtrak would be/have been quite interested in filing one itself.

lyqwyd said...


The thing is that there is precedent for using already spent money, even for other projects, to qualify as matching funds.

Quick summary of the above link, Pelosi got money spent on the 3rd street light rail like in SF to qualify as matching funds for the Central Subway project, and Senator Murray from Washington State got tolls & gas tax money to be used as matching funds, and a senator from Texas did the same as Pelosi for money spent on the design and construction of the existing Main Street light rail to be used for a new light rail line.

I see it as a savvy political strategy. CA shows a strong commitment to fund & get the project started, then goes back in a few years and says:

"hey, we already spent $X billion, that money should be matched at 80%" And we get more federal money based on what we already used to match the ARRA funds.

I think it's highly likely that this is the strategy being used.

Rafael said...

@ lyqwyd -

Retrocative matching at 4:1 might work. However in this case the 1:1 match is being offered to get $4.7b from the federal government to begin with.

One way to spin this might be that California is willing to spend $4.7b in state funds quickly in the expectation that the federal government will invest $19.6b (a 4:1 match) over the next decade. Any funding made available out of the $9.5 billion in PRIIA + ARRA would be counted toward that total, recognizing that the federal government simply doesn't have more to disburse at the present time.

I'm not sure USDOT or Congress would go along with this chutzpah, though.

lyqwyd said...


Exactly. I'm not saying that we would be guaranteed future matching at 80%, but I definitely think it's reasonably likely.

"I'm not sure USDOT or Congress would go along with this chutzpah, though."

The gov might balk, but CA is pretty powerful in the congress right now, and I think we have pretty good odds, wonkier stuff has been done. Probably not at the billions of dollars level we are talking about, but it has happened.

I doubt we'll get the full $.7 billion requested, but I think matching funds will get us a good chunk more than we would have received otherwise.

lyqwyd said...

oops, I meant $4.7 billion, not 0.7

Andre Peretti said...

Seen from abroad, it doesn't seem California is so far ahead of the other states.
Charlie Crist writes: “Florida is the state that can turn imagination into reality for world-class high-speed rail in the United States faster than anywhere else in the nation”.
Indeed, the studies made for the original project are said to be valid, and work could start right away if the funds were there.
California is far from being as shovel-ready as that. So, if Ray Lahood wants a high-speed train running as soon as possible, maybe the big money ought to go to Florida.

Robert Cruickshank said...

First off, wu ming is absolutely right that we ought to be focusing on how to grow the pie and less on how to slice it.

That being said, there is certainly a political imperative to spread the wealth. While there is an economic and practical argument to be made for showering most of the stimulus on CA, the White House sees the Midwest as its make-or-break region for 2012, so we can expect the states there to get a decent amount, probably $1 to $2 billion. Florida is another key Obama target, so I think $1 billion for them is likely.

Previous statements from Ray LaHood and Joe Biden have indicated that CA could get up to half the $8 billion stimulus. $4 billion seems a reasonable number, especially as the administration would likely play up the state match (and Bruce is right to flag the problems inherent with Arnold Schwarzenegger touting a 50% match).

Rafael said...

@ Andre Peretti -

I don't begrudge the people of Florida their express HSR starter line.

However, it should be noted that in he rush to revive the plan in time for the ARRA application, planners were unable to address a fundamental flaw: phase 1 connects the Tampa MSA to Orlando airport by way of Disney World. It does not serve downtown Orlando.

Basically, it amounts to little more than a $2.5b taxpayer handout to Disney Corporation. It doesn't much matter that they are willing to donate 50 acres of land for a station on their doorstep, it's still corporate welfare.

We've Got No Money for Toys said...

There are plenty of bridges and roads in disrepair in this State. That money would be much better spent in shovel ready project to improve our freeway infrastructure and forget about this train. If you gave this money to Caltrans they could put it to work tomorrow to widen freeway, fix overpasses and bridges, re-pave roads and so on. I don't need a train to travel up and down the state once in a while if I'm stuck on a congested freeway on a daily basis. WE NEED MORE FREEWAYS, NOT TOYS.

Andre Peretti said...

I wasn't aware of that "detail". In my mind, Orlando meant downtown. That makes it a train for tourists which may leave many problems unsolved.
Mind you, I don't think a station at Disney is immoral. DisneyLand Paris (which is not really in Paris) has a TGV station and no-one in France finds anything wrong with it. There are direct Eurostar trains that by-pass Paris and stop at Disney. Thanks to this station DisneyLand Paris is, in fact, DisneyLand Europe. It has created thousands of local jobs.

Francis said...


I'm glad that the state of California is planning to spend billions of dollars on you toys.

Where is the space for these expanded freeways? How exactly do your freeway widening proposals pay for themselves? That IS your big problem with my choo-choo right, recovery of investment capital?

I guess we should all just shut-up and do what you say, right? Lead-on Toys tell us your name so we can vote for you, or you just gonna be listed as Toys?

ps. the word verification right-now says "dushi", how apropos.

Rafael said...

@ Andre Peretti -

I'm ok with a stop at Disney World as a cherry on top for an intercity service. Tampa to Orlando airport doesn't connect a city pair.

looking on said...

Rafael writes:

(re Florida HSR going to Disney World there)

Basically, it amounts to little more than a $2.5b taxpayer handout to Disney Corporation.

Well, The California project amount to what will be $40 billions in taxpayer's handouts to Cities like Fresno, Merced,et, as well as Disneyland, Anaheim.

This project all about money, not about providing an efficient alternative to air or auto.

Daniel Jacobson said...

Interesting article:
Seems like the CRF is still bitter about the lawsuit outcome, but Capitol Corridor and other intercity rail providers are missing out on stimilus money bigtime nonetheless.

BruceMcF said...

lyqwyd said...
"The thing is that there is precedent for using already spent money, even for other projects, to qualify as matching funds."

Those are examples of the precedent of writing into law permission to use money already spent as matching funds for New Start projects. But the original money had not been spent based on an expectation that it could later be recycled as matching funds.

If and when its written into law for this project, then it will not be the same gamble of "spend the money now and hope more will show up later".

BruceMcF said...

We've Got Plenty of Money for Toys for My Cars said: "There are plenty of bridges and roads in disrepair in this State. That money would be much better spent in shovel ready project to improve our freeway infrastructure"

Kind of shot yourself in the foot, didn't you, at the one hand pointing out that the state cannot keep up with maintaining its existing road infrastructure and on the other hand insisting that it should invest in more roads that it won't be able to maintain.

Alon Levy said...

Well, The California project amount to what will be $40 billions in taxpayer's handouts to Cities like Fresno, Merced,et, as well as Disneyland, Anaheim.

Yes, the California project is a taxpayer handout to most of the state: LA, Orange County, SF, SJ, and, yes, Fresno and Merced. It has nothing to do with Disneyland - there have to be stops in Orange County, and ARTIC (which isn't in Disneyland) is a suitable location for one such stop.

lyqwyd said...


The money spent in those precedents I mentioned was never intended as matching funds at all. Using money that was intended as matching funds doesn't seem any more of a stretch. Both cases involve money being re-categorized in ways it wasn't originally intended.

Plus prop 1A was passed when we would only ever have been able to get was 50%

I definitely understand your point, but I think offering matching funds is a good strategy to get as much as possible today, with the potential of getting us even more in the future. It is true that it might not happen, but CA does have a lot of representatives in the house. The Senate could be more problematic, but I still see it as a pretty good possibility.

Rafael said...

@ looking on -

California has long been a net contributor to the federal government. In 2004, it recovered only $0.79 for every dollar sent in taxes.

It's not exactly a handout if it was your money to begin with.

Brandon in California said...

Rafael & Alon,
""If I were a Federal congressman and I was unbiased about geography...""

I have no major disagreement with each of your responses to the above; I have mostly agreement.

If you re-read what I had written, I provided a qualifier. I am familiar with the steps, procedures, and planning efforts.

My post(s) sometimes belie my knowledge on these matters. Sometimes its intentional... sometimes impatience, or low-brow, or too off-cuff. Never-the-less, I find posting and discussing HSR enjoyable.

Rafael... I like your criteria. Imo, I feel additional emphasis should be the ability to provide HSR service based on a speed criteria, as you stated, but also distance, service levels, the provision of no less than two tracks, and the ability to provide more than marginal advancement in weaning people off of oil.

I have not thoroughly read-up on any criteria, other than what was cited here... shovel ready by X date and so forth.

Anonymous said...


"In 2004, it recovered only $0.79 for every dollar sent in taxes."

Anyone want to hazard a guess for 2009? We might have jumped the shark....

California won't get the lion's share -- the only way that would happen is if Chicago were in CA, and that's not the case.

Fritz said...

Alon Levy, CONEG + 3 governors just sent a letter to Ray LaHood looking for HSR money and working together on it. Maryland put in phase 1 application for the Baltimore and Potomac tunnel. MARC has plans to widen the NEC to keep their passenger trains out of Amtrak's way (which is a win-win). Every State along the way has pretty high ridership if you include the regional rail services that use the NEC and Amtrak has control of the ROW except for where Metro North and MBTA do which means that they often need to yield to intercity trains. This means that the states do want serious NEC upgrades and most have requested funding for it. I would rank the NEC over CA just because _it has the ridership_. We know people want to ride on the NEC and are willing to pay for it and clearly more will want to do the same when it takes even less time to get from DC to NYC. But, California is a great plan and should get tons of money. The bit difference is that the NEC can function with incrementalism but CA can't. If you have a 80mph train few people will take it over airplane. You need to have HSR on day one whereas in the NEC we can function without it--which doesn't mean we don't want it.

Alon Levy said...

Fritz, Maryland asked for four-tracking throughout the corridor, which is the wrong way of going about it. The right way is to build the two extra tracks to be straighter than the existing alignment, which is important since the Wilmington-Baltimore section has the worst curves in the system outside Connecticut, some of which would require eminent domain to fix.

In either case, the Acela's main problem south of New York isn't curves, but the catenary. So far nobody's asked for money to fix it.

Rafael said...

@ Alon Levy -

NEC electrification:

* 12kV 25Hz from Washington to New York City
* 12kV 60Hz from New York City to Shell, phase breaks at 7.5 mi. intervals
* 12kV 60Hz from Shell to New Haven, phase breaks at 12 mi. intervals
* 25kV 60Hz from New Haven to Boston, phase breaks at 20 mi. intervals


Upgrading the sections south of New Haven to 25kV 60Hz AC would require changing plenty of transformers - both trackside and in locomotives - as well as generators in power stations.

It's not clear that's really needed, though: 12kV ought to be plenty to support 150mph.

According to Wikipedia at least, the problem might be mechanical, rather than electric, tension on the wires:

South of New York, Acela Express is limited to 135 mph (217 km/h), even though several stretches of track there are straight enough to allow 150 mph (241 km/h) speeds. The limiting factor is stated to be the overhead catenary support system which was constructed prior to 1935 and lacks the constant-tension features of the new catenary east of New Haven, although in the late 1960s the Pennsylvania Railroad did run Metroliner test trains as fast as 164 mph (264 km/h) and briefly intended to run the Metroliner service at speeds reaching 150 mph (241 km/h). Although the Acela Express trainsets are capable of 165 mph (266 km/h) operation, FRA regulations do not permit any speeds above 150 mph (241 km/h) on tracks that are shared with freight and slower passenger trains regardless of circumstances, and for Acela Express trains to run above 150 mph (241 km/h) it would require purpose-built dedicated track in a separate right of way.

Alon Levy said...

Yes, mechanical tension is what I was talking about. Upgrading to 25 kV 60 Hz would be good as well because it would not require the locomotives to be dual-voltage, and because it would allow more off-the-shelf equipment to operate, but the important thing is constant tension catenary.

Adirondacker12800 said...

Converting the East Coast ( there's line electrified with catenary all over New Jersey and Penna. off the NEC mainline ) is going to be easier than you imagine. Most of it will be happening trackside. Preparations have been going on for a long time.

... voltage - 12,5 kV versus 25kV isn't a serious problem. All they have to do is switch taps on the transformers. The tricky, expensive and heavy part is switching between frequencies.

All of NJTransit's electric locomotives can go anywhere there's wire. The MUs are due to be replaced soon. Some of them only operate on 25kV now - the Morris and Essex lines are electrified at 25kV/60Hz and MUs only go to Hoboken on those lines. When they replace them they can spec those out for dual frequency. If I'm reading the track maps for the new Hackensack River Bridges correctly, the Morris and Essex lines will be separated from the NEC once the ARC project is finished. They could convert the Morris and Essex lines back to all MU operation and use the dual frequency locomotives on the NEC while that is being converted.

Rumor has it the New Haven line MUs have 25kV capability. If they want to switch to 25kV all they have to do is switch the taps on the transformers.

Specifications for SEPTA's new MUs - Silverliner V - call for dual 25Hz/60Hz capability.

SEPTA's and MARC's locomotives should be capable of either 25Hz or 60Hz, determining if they are is difficult. I can find things like "they are just like Amtrak's"

MBTA, all diesel
SLE, all diesel
New Haven line. Probably 25kV ready.
NJTransit. Locomotives are dual frequency. MUs are due to be replaced
SEPTA, Replacement MUs should be dual frequency. Locomotives should be dual frequency already
MARC, Probably dual frequency already.

They won't be replacing generators. Most of the system runs on frequency converters. There are two 25Hz generators at the Safe Harbor Dam in Pennsylvania. They have 25Hz to 60Hz converters. The generators wouldn't have to be replaced until they fail or the converters fail.

12kV ought to be plenty to support 150mph.

The Pennsylvania Railroad ran test trains between New Brunswick and Trenton at 164. On the same catenary that is currently draped between them. The NEC is going to be running into problems with too many trains on the wire, probably before it runs into problems with trains that are too fast.

it would allow more off-the-shelf equipment to operate

Anything is customized to the line it's running on. Anything on a North American line is going to be customized for 60Hz. The stuff out there is off-the-shelf - there are differences between the Rc series and AEM-7s and ALP44s but they are more or less the same locomotives.

the important thing is constant tension catenary.

For speed. But if they increase speeds they are going to increase demand and the 25Hz stuff may not be up to it. . .