Bullet train shifts focus from SoCal to Bay Area

Bullet train shifts focus from SoCal to Bay Area

High speed rail stationCalifornia’s beleaguered high-speed rail project has hit a new snag, likely shifting its proposed construction strategy away from the Southland-first plan it had initially adopted.

“The state rail authority is studying an alternative to build the first segment in the Bay Area, running trains from San Jose to Bakersfield,” the Los Angeles Times reported. “If the plan does change, it would be a significant reversal that carries big financial, technical and political impacts, especially in Southern California.” Local officials and residents have argued that the area’s transportation needs and challenges far outweigh those in the San Francisco Bay Area, where public transportation is dense and plentiful.

Moving the goal posts

The controversial, last-minute shift hinted at pessimistic calculations within the state’s High Speed Rail Authority as to how best to mitigate cost pressure and environmental constraints faced in the south, where any rail line will have to navigate — and penetrate — the area’s rugged natural terrain. “This new interest in building from the north first comes just one week after announcing an $800,000 effort to find a suitable starting location in Burbank, near L.A.,” Business Insider noted. “The hope is that the north-first plan would be less risky, making it more likely that construction can begin before the project becomes politically nonviable.”

In addition to changing the project’s starting line, the new plan also shifted its destination — another concession to the dramatic obstacles posed by a scheme routed directly into the L.A. basin. “The alternative being examined would run from Silicon Valley to Bakersfield and be less costly than the current proposal to connect the Central Valley with Burbank because it wouldn’t entail expensive tunneling costs,” as the San Jose Mercury News observed. “The outcome of the new evaluation will be known in the coming weeks, when the state unveils its 2016 business plan. The document will be the most comprehensive update for the $68 billion project in four years.”

At the same time, however, local officials in Bakersfield have yet to warm to the new proposal. “Connecting California high-speed rail between Kern and the Bay Area before building south toward Los Angeles would not resolve the touchier issues surrounding the project’s local impacts, but it would provide more time for planning the route south from Bakersfield,” they have informed the Bakersfield Californian. “There have been contentious discussions about different proposed alignments through Kern and how they would affect local homes, businesses, schools and churches, as well as Kern’s prospects for landing a maintenance facility that would bring more than 1,500 good jobs.”

Feet to the fire

The changes have come hot on the heels of a sharp escalation in lawmakers’ displeasure toward rail authority officials. Since October of last year, when the Los Angeles Times broke news of the authority’s secrecy over anticipated cost overruns, the project’s fortunes have fallen under increasing scrutiny in Sacramento. In the story, the paper recalled, it “found that the years remaining before the deadline were not enough to construct 300 miles of track, bore 36 miles of mountain tunnels, build six train stations, erect high-voltage electrical systems and construct a heavy maintenance facility. The story was based on comments by tunnel engineers, construction experts and geologists.”

“The story also reported that the agency’s primary consultant, Parsons Brinckerhoff, had submitted a cost estimate in October 2013 that projected a 31 percent increase in the cost of the initial construction segment and a 5 percent increase in the cost of the full 500-mile system. The estimate, which was the culmination of a two-year effort by a team of engineers, was not used when the state issued its 2014 business plan several months later.”

At a recent hearing called to address that and other issues, lawmakers were told that the Times had made a mistake about the ballooning cost of construction.

“Rail Authority CEO Jeff Morales said that’s not accurate,” KQED reported. “There was no 31 percent increase in the cost of the program,” according to Morales. “We did not withhold information about a cost increase in the program because there was no increase in the program.”

9 comments

Write a comment
  1. Dork
    Dork 29 January, 2016, 06:40

    “Rail Authority CEO Jeff Morales said that’s not accurate,” KQED reported. “There was no 31 percent increase in the cost of the program,” according to Morales. “We did not withhold information about a cost increase in the program because there was no increase in the program.”

    This is GREAT NEWS, and I think it needs tyo be codified into LAW,
    ALL Cost Overruns for the High Speed Rail project, formally known as the “Browndoggle” SHALL be paid for through a Separate Assessment on Wages, Salaries, and Retirement Income on ALL PUBLIC EMPLOYEES in the State.

    Reply this comment
  2. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 29 January, 2016, 06:44

    Ahh how the liberal demacrats like to waste other peoples money on such rediculous projects like the bullet train then just wait for whining little pansies to object to the title of Bullet Train

    Reply this comment
  3. Dude
    Dude 29 January, 2016, 08:07

    And all for what? So Californians can travel back and forth from north to south? Here’s a fact they don’t want anyone to know; 82% of all ground travel in California is back and forth from east to west (Work commuters). This train is us paying for Moonbeam’s ego trip.

    Reply this comment
  4. Ronald
    Ronald 29 January, 2016, 08:56

    Shrinking ridership on public transportation may be a sign of things to come for the Bullet Train and the States’ optimistic ridership projections to justify the project. The State is only required to build the high speed rail, then turn it over to an operator. If the high speed rail ever gets built, the completed project will be doomed to failure even before it’s turned over to an operator.

    Since state law says that the system MUST OPERATE WITHOUT A TAXPAYER SUBSIDY, the end results may necessitate higher fares per mile, compared with other similar rail systems worldwide, this will adversely affect ridership projections. Thus, it’s understandable that an investment in the bullet train provides significant ROI risks to that invested capital.

    The bullet train will be competing against the multitude of airports in CA as well as the constantly developing technologies that are affecting the way we do business. Just like the land phones that have become obsolete as a result of cell phone technologies, future travel needs may be impacted in the coming decades as a result of the ever growing virtual world.

    Driving or flying from a multitude of airports can be done at virtually any time of day, but the inflexibility of how many train departure times would be available from a limited number of trains would impact the convenience factor offered by cars and planes and thus also adversely affect train ridership. The snowballing effect of lower ridership would be higher fares for those that do use the train as there would be no state subsidies available. Lower ridership would further impact the ROI risks for invested capital.

    Reply this comment
  5. Mountain Goat
    Mountain Goat 29 January, 2016, 12:58

    The new route will run into a public opinion buzzsaw and a blizzard of lawsuits, guaranteeing its demise soon after Governor Brown leaves office in 2019. Strategic blunder by CHSRA, but welcomed by project opponents, who can count on endless delays to kill the beast.

    Reply this comment
    • ricky65
      ricky65 31 January, 2016, 09:44

      That’s true, MG, but they already ran into a buzz saw when they tried to run this insanity train down the people’s throat in the San Fernando Valley.
      People showed up at the HSR produced meetings nearly with pitchforks and torches to protest. The HSR folks ran from the valley still picking tar and feathers off their backsides.
      Maybe HSR thinks it will be an easier sell in the uber green Bay area where the enviros still have a strange fascination with 18th century technology like choo-choo trains.
      I suspect you are right. It will be a virtual hell for HSR up there also. The anti everything NIMBY’s will come out of the woodwork to shut this down.
      I’ve noticed a curious phenomena that seems to occur whenever Brownie and his cohorts propose another looney idea. The strategy is avoid legitimate public opposition by going under it.
      So it’s always the same. Can’t sell the public on HSR in San Fernando Valley? Answer: Build a 30 mile long tunnel through the earthquake prone Tehachipis.
      Can’t build a surface canal through the Delta because of public opposition? Answer: Build a very dubious,costly and possibly unconstructable 35 mile, twin 33 foot diameter set of tunnels under it. Same thing for the 7 mile extension of the 710 freeway in Glendale. The answer is always to go underground.
      But the cost implications of all these tunnels is enormous and makes each of these projects even more ridiculous than they already are.
      So here’s my prediction: When the stuff hits the fan in the Bay, expect HSR to propose a forty mile tunnel though the coast range into the South Bay area.
      I doubt this Brown Streak train will ever be constructed. Especially after Moonie leaves office in 2018 and sanity instead of vanity finally sets in.

      Reply this comment
  6. Monica
    Monica 30 January, 2016, 17:55

    I’m one of many driven out of L.A. due to high rents and living in the badlands of Fresno/Clovis. The only reason many of us would even bother going to L.A. or S.F. is to go shopping or eat in a nice restaurant. We have trains and buses to S.F. and can drive to L.A. Who’s and why anyone going to bother to take a bullet train anywhere north and south?

    Reply this comment
  7. eck
    eck 1 February, 2016, 18:55

    MG! When is somebody going to get a ballot prop that rescinds all of this nonsense “bullet train” scam? The case is easy to make. It’s incredibly expensive, it does nothing to improve anything, it will be obsolete before it’s completed (if that ever happens). How has this state become so incredibly, plain stupid? Don’t answer, most voters are complete morons, or radical elitists. I know, I know.

    Reply this comment
  8. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 2 February, 2016, 11:57

    “Build it, and they will come…!!!!!!!!!!!”

    Oh, wait a second, that line is from a fictional movie out of Hollywood, my bad 🙂

    Reply this comment

Write a Comment

Your e-mail address will not be published.
Required fields are marked*



Related Articles

Drought Wars: Where did the farm water go?

Where did that farm water go? That’s a major question stalking California during its record drought. The finger-pointing sure is

SF's Adachi Vows New Pension Effort

This article first appeared in City Journal. DEC. 2, 2010 By STEVEN GREENHUT San Francisco’s public-sector unions have been gloating

Rebels in Leland Yee case make peace with Philippine government

A separatist Muslim rebel group in the Philippines, and the alleged supplier of weapons to State Senator Leland Yee, has signed