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Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW
Feb 27 (Reuters) - East Japan Railway Co (JR East) plans to join hands with Kawasaki Heavy Industries and trading house Sumitomo Corp to bid for a high-speed railway project in California, the Nikkei business daily said.

Another Japanese railroad operator, Central Japan Railway Co (JR Tokai) , has agreed to cooperate with U.S. engineering firm Fluor Corp and the U.S. unit of British builder Balfour Beatty Plc to win a similar project in Texas, the Nikkei said on Sunday.

Japanese railroad companies and rolling stock makers are eager to seek growth overseas by taking advantage of major railway projects in countries such as Brazil, Vietnam and the United States amid sluggish demand at home.

The JR East consortium -- which will also include Nippon Sharyo , Hitachi Ltd and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries -- plans to inform the California state government by March 16 of its intention of submitting a bid, the paper said.

JR Tokai will work with Fluor and Balfour Beatty's local unit to meet one of the U.S. government's conditions to win a railway project there, which is the purchase of U.S. products, the Nikkei said.

Florida Governor Rick Scott this month rejected $2.4 billion in government funds to build a high-speed passenger rail line, slamming the brakes on the project and disappointing prospective bidders.
 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed
PLANNING IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA SECTIONS MOVES FORWARD
Southern California Communities Help Shape High-Speed Rail Planning



LOS ANGELES – As momentum continues to build on the nation’s largest infrastructure project, the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board is moving ahead with studying a range of alternatives on everything from track alignments to station designs to ensure that California’s high-speed rail system is ultimately the best one possible.



Known as “alternatives analysis,” the process has produced reports today that reflect feedback from nearly 800 meetings with residents, community leaders, local officials and more.



More than two years ago, the Authority Board made the alternatives analysis process a public one, to gather maximum community input prior to the draft environmental impact reports. The alternatives analysis reports analyze potential track alignments, track designs and possible station locations to determine which options call for further study and which options raise too many impacts, environmental concerns or are otherwise too unfeasible to continue considering.



At this week’s California High-Speed Rail Authority Board meeting in Los Angeles, Board members approved a preliminary alternatives analysis for the Los Angeles-to-San Diego section, heard an update on the Los Angeles-to-Anaheim section and approved a supplemental alternatives analysis report from the Palmdale-to-Los Angeles section. These analyses set the framework for the next level of design, engineering and environmental analysis, which build toward the draft environmental impact reports (EIRs) for each section – a major milestone for any major infrastructure project.



“We are building a statewide system that will connect Southern California’s growing population, through the Central Valley, to the major populations in the Bay Area,” said Curt Pringle, Chairman of the Authority Board. “To build the best statewide system possible, it is critical that we engage communities in the planning process to allow us to fulfill the promise of the job creation and economic stimulus benefits that this historic project will bring for decades. We look forward to building on those partnerships.”



Palmdale to Los Angeles



While the technical team continues to study the entire section, the Board took action only on the southern portion, from historic Los Angeles Union Station to Sylmar. The Board approved continued study of three alignments coming out of Union Station, all of which manage to skirt many of the community resources in the built out area – including the Los Angeles River, Los Angeles (Cornfields) State Historic Park and Rio de Los Angeles State Park (Taylor Yard). The Board also approved further study of the potential locations for an interim station in the San Fernando Valley area, including Burbank at Buena Vista Street near the airport, Branford Street in the city of Los Angeles, and in the city of San Fernando.



Los Angeles to San Diego via the Inland Empire Section



The Preliminary Alternatives Analysis report for this section is the culmination of more than two years of working with communities and local officials on a segment that is 170 miles long. The report is the first official document that begins to refine potential alignments and track design. The Authority’s technical team started by considering some 500 miles before culling the section to 290 miles of refined alternatives that will see further review. The Board also approved reducing the number of stations being reviewed from 24 to 13, identifying the San Diego International Airport as the southern-most terminus of the system.



The report calls for a wide range of options through East Los Angeles, continued review of the I-10 and SR-60 alignments through the San Gabriel Valley, dropping the Union Pacific Railroad from consideration in that subregion, with continued review for station options in El Monte, West Covina and Pomona. In addition to the Ontario Airport station, the report also calls for continued study of station options in San Bernardino, continued study of both the I-215 and I-15 through Riverside and the removal of several alignment options in the San Diego area due to environmental and constructability concerns in Carroll Canyon, Rose Canyon and along the SR-56 and I-15.



Los Angeles to Anaheim  



While the initial construction of the 800-mile system is set to begin in the Central Valley, the Authority has called for a phased approach, one that could bring service sooner than otherwise, to implementing high-speed rail into this dense and technically complicated area. Authority staff has identified areas for further study in the phased approach that bring potential for creating early investment opportunities for the corridor and enhancing mobility and safety for the region. Over the next year, this new concept will be more fully examined through technical study and coordination with local transportation agencies, regional planning organizations, local cities and the public to determine the best way to improve existing rail services while preparing the LOSSAN Corridor for the complete project
 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed
President Obama’s controversial plan for a high-speed rail system took a hit Tuesday as the top California member of Congress, House majority whip Kevin McCarthy, voiced strong opposition to building a new rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco.


Though the line would run through his hometown of Bakersfield, McCarthy insisted it would be a bad investment, especially now with government debt soaring.

In California, the high-speed rail system would cost at least $60 billion just to build, then require a subsidy to operate, McCarthy said at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “You would not invest your own money in it,” he told reporters.

He described himself as the “the first publicly elected official [in California] to come out opposed to it.” In Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida, Republican governors have turned down federal money to construct high-speed rail lines in their states.

McCarthy said the rail proposal is shaky because there’s no guarantee either that it would ultimately be built or that it would achieve the optimistic goals for ridership set by its proponents. In the Central Valley of California, he said, the rail plan calls for 14 million rider trips annually, compared with only 750,000 rail or plane trips taken there now each year.

Funds obligated today for the rail line fall far short of its expected overall cost. The state is supposed to spend $9 billion, but none of that money has been spent so far. The Obama administration has set aside $2 billion and more may come from high-speed funds that Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida have chosen to forego.
 
The Vinelander Chief Commissioner

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Radical right wing think tank.

They would never support anything that reduces ones freedom to drive their own car on increasingly congested freeways OR to divert pax away from the already state subsidised airline system,... though we won't talk about that Exclamation

Mike.
 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed
Radical right wing think tank.

They would never support anything that reduces ones freedom to drive their own car on increasingly congested freeways OR to divert pax away from the already state subsidised airline system,... though we won't talk about that Exclamation

Mike.
- The Vinelander


Indeed but look at the way one politician has derailed the Florida High speed train.
 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW
Its far more than that.

Don't forget that, economically, the US is more a basket case than Greece or Ireland - its just that its a world power.

Basically the Republicans come from areas that don't need public transport - yet, whilst the Dems come from places that do.

A failure to NOT build HS rail in the US will be one of the first signs of the US failing as a power. People in the US realising this will be a different matter.

WWI financially killed the British Empire but it took time for many to notice and the final expansion was in 1937 or so in The Yemen. The great majority of British thinkers knew that the empire was dead whilst Churchill and similar still believed in it.
 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed
Agreed Tony, and its not just the prestige etc of having the latest toy, with most pundants expecting energy to rise in real terms in the coming decades it is also expected that those communities which have energy efficient transport will have a competitive advantage over those that don't. In other words failure to invest will only make things worse.

But never forget that USA politicians tend to do the bidding of the vested interests which pay for their election campaigns!
 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed
CALIFORNIA TO COMPETE FOR FEDERAL HIGH-SPEED RAIL FUNDS

SACRAMENTO – After U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s announcement today that $2.4 billion is being made available for high-speed rail projects, Roelof van Ark, CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, made the following statement:



“Many Californians have voiced their support for additional funding to be allocated to our state’s high-speed rail project, including Governor Brown, Senators Feinstein and Boxer, members of Congress, and the business and labor communities. Today’s federal funding announcement is another opportunity for California to aggressively compete to make true high-speed rail a reality in the United States. Additional funding may allow California to extend next year’s construction segment and operate initial high-speed rail passenger service.  California’s high-speed rail system will be profitable, will attract private investment, and will create tens of thousands of jobs in the state at a time when they are needed most.”
 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed
Bees at work hummed from one almond bloom to the next across thousands of acres just north of Shafter Wednesday afternoon.

Every few minutes, a train sounding its horn broke up the din, a not-so-gentle reminder that this farming area so prized for its Kimberlina fine sandy loam soil also serves as a transportation corridor linking north and south.

How peacefully these dual roles can coexist may soon be put to the test as the California High-Speed Rail Authority prepares to decide whether to run 220-mph trains along existing tracks through Wasco and Shafter -- or take what could be a less complicated route through prime Kern County farmland.

Environmental review work remains to be done, and no final decision is expected until spring 2012. But ultimately, the decision could pit taxpayer savings against local farmers who argue that cutting a 100-foot-wide train route through agricultural fields and orchards would compromise their economic opportunities.

Of the many controversies surrounding the multibillion-dollar high-speed rail project, probably none have gained as much attention from the Central Valley's agriculture industry as this one.

Farmer Keith Gardiner said he generally supports the rail project because of its transportation benefits and the jobs it would create. But as a partner in Wasco Real Properties 1, owner of 3,300 acres of almond trees along Kimberlina Road, he is looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars in new costs if the rail authority steers away from the existing BNSF railroad route and instead runs through agricultural land.

The main problem as he sees it is that the proposed alignment through farmland would slice through his property at an awkward angle, forcing the partnership to invest in new wells, irrigation pipelines, pumps and water filters. Parts of the property would suddenly become isolated, posing logistical problems when the time comes to run tractors and other equipment through company orchards.

He and one of his partners, Holly King, also said such a route would reduce the company's available acreage beyond the 100-foot corridor: Because farming equipment cannot turn on a tight radius, it would not be able to reach trees abutting the railroad.

"High-speed rail should enhance a community, not degrade it," King said.

'Special stuff'

Farmers also claim to have the backing of state law, specifically AB 3034, the legislation that led to a nearly $10 billion bond measure to help pay for the bullet train system. The measure says that the bullet train should follow existing transportation corridors if possible, and minimize impacts to the natural environment.

Gardiner, King and more than 120 other members of the Wasco-Shafter Agricultural Group have solicited -- and largely won -- the support of Kern government leaders. A local chapter of the Sierra Club has sided with the farmers, too.

Earlier this month the county Board of Supervisors sent rail authority Chairman Curt Pringle a letter stating that building an alignment along the BNSF line would minimize the loss of valley farmland while also providing certain infrastructure improvements for freight and passenger rail traffic through the area.

The city of Shafter appears to have come around after initially resisting the idea of sending high-speed trains through town. City Manager John Guinn said Thursday that the city views agriculture is its most important industry.

"Provided that it's done properly," Guinn said, keeping the alignment on or close to existing BNSF line "is probably the more preferred route that we would want."

Wasco officials could not be reached for comment late last week.

No estimates of the two proposed routes' costs have been released publicly, and rail authority staff declined even to say which proposal would cost more money. They say there remain too many details to be worked out, including how much money would have to be paid to the area's agricultural community for farmland and various mitigation measures such as new wells and tunnels for running tractors under or over the railroad.

But local farmers say they worry because, theoretically at least, building a new train track through a city costs more than building one in the countryside. That's mainly because running a high-speed train through Wasco and Shafter could require the construction of elevated or below-grade tracks, among other changes.

Project staff cautioned against concluding that the farm route would necessarily be less expensive. While deputy program manager Gregg Albright acknowledged that it can be "much less" expensive to go through farmland, mitigation will be required either way, and "it's not a matter of what's the cheapest route."

"Ag land is pretty special stuff," he said Friday.

He added that the authority's goal is to avoid intruding on resources, agricultural or otherwise. In cases where disruption is unavoidable, he said, staff will work with individual property owners to compensate them fully.

Rail authority board member Fran Florez, who lives in Shafter, said the decision on which route to take will be difficult. But it will be easier if local interests can reach consensus.

BNSF Railway Co., owner of the existing railroad, is in talks with the rail authority, company spokeswoman Lena Kent said. She declined to say which alignment the company prefers in the Shafter-Wasco area.

Impact either way

The bullet train project is expected to impact farmers in the area regardless of whether it keeps to the BNSF. High-speed trains turn more gradually than the freight and Amtrak trains using the route now, and so new track would have to be built in a way that cuts off some farmland.

County Supervisor Ray Watson said this inevitability makes it that much more important to soften the local impact as much as possible.

"If it's properly mitigated, it becomes more tolerable," he said. "In the end, somebody's going to get impacted."

Elsewhere in the valley farmland is expected to be displaced by the project, meaning that similar concerns are to be expected north of Kern County as well.

Fresno County farmer John Diener, who said his land would not be touched by the routes under consideration now, supports the project. He noted that farmers will have to be compensated for their land and paid for any necessary mitigation measures such as new irrigation systems.

To Diener, the project is worth the trouble. He said it will reduce congestion on freeways, saving farmers money and time.

"The more congestion there is, the slower the traffic, the more fuel you actually burn," he said.

Communication issues

The Kern Council of Governments is working to document the concerns of farmers and other interested local parties in an effort to speak to the authority with a unified voice, executive director Ron Brummett said.

From his perspective, the county's farmers may be justified in their frustration. He said they have sent much information to the authority but have heard very little back from the authority.

"I think it's more of a communication issue," he said.

Rail authority spokeswoman Rachel Wall acknowledged that staff have done more listening than talking at this point. But that's because of where the project is in the process, she said.

"While we may not be able to answer each individual property owner as the questions are asked," Wall said, "the intent is to take in that information and answer it for everyone."

A draft environmental review of the project's first segment, which is to stretch from north of Fresno south to about 7th Standard Road, is scheduled for public release June 11. That is to be followed by a 45-day public comment period. Construction is not expected to begin until the second half of next year
 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed
Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

March 17, 2011
CONTACT: Rachel Wall
916.384.9026




Private Sector Expresses Tremendous Interest in California’s High-Speed Train Project

SACRAMENTO – More than 1,100 expressions of interest flooded into the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s offices in Sacramento prior to a Wednesday deadline – from businesses ranging from self-employed entrepreneurs and small businesses to multinational corporations and large construction firms. The submissions were in response to a “Request for Expressions of Interest” issued by the Authority in February, asking that the private sector put in writing their desire to help develop California’s high-speed rail project.



In the responses, companies addressed the design, construction, operation and funding aspects of both the initial construction segment in California’s Central Valley and the overall first phase of the statewide project stretching from the Los Angeles basin to the Bay Area. The responses will help guide the next stages of the formal procurement process and the packaging of future bids.



“The size of this response sends a clear signal that the private sector sees great opportunity in California’s high-speed rail project, the first of its kind in the nation,” said Roelof van Ark, CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. “True high-speed rail systems are profitable, competitive and spur near-term job creation and long-term economic growth.”



High-speed rail operators around the globe responded to the Authority’s call, as did dozens of major construction and engineering firms, and hundreds of small businesses.



The Authority is currently reviewing and compiling responses with the intention of posting a list of respondents on California High-Speed Rail Authority Web site next week and to post the response documents within the coming weeks. From responses reviewed thus far, it is clear that the private sector is eager to participate in developing California’s project:



“We look forward to being a participant in and working with the California High-Speed Rail Authority in making this project the first very high-speed success story in the US.”  

-Guillaume Mehlman, President, ALSTOM Transportation Inc.

“We are prepared to immediately partner with the Authority in developing an implementation approach that builds on current passenger rail transportation successes such as the Capital Corridor and San Joaquin Services, just to name a few.”

-Albrecht P. Engel, Amtrak

“This prospect is tremendously exciting in that it links the major cities of California in a visionary and market changing way. This is an opportunity to which VRG is prepared to commit substantial resources to, in order to assist the Authority in achieving its objectives. We believe that California is a market very well suited to High Speed Rail.”

-Virgin Rail Group

“We are excited for the opportunity to participate on such a monumental project.”  

-Bill Trombley, Director of Preconstruction Services, Skanska USA Civil West California District




The California High-Speed Rail Authority is developing an 800-mile high-speed train system that will operate at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour, connecting the state’s major urban centers, including the Bay Area, Fresno, Los Angeles and San Diego. The first phase of the project, San Francisco to Los Angeles and Anaheim, is projected to cost $43 billion. Initial infrastructure construction will begin in the Central Valley, the backbone of the system, in 2012. The project is being funded through a voter-approved state bond, federal funding awards and public-private partnerships.



Respondents will be invited to an industry forum the Authority is hosting in Los Angeles on April 12, 2011, to learn more about the next steps in the procurement process and the results of the request for expressions of interest. Credentialed press will also be invited.
 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed
For the better part of a year, plans for a high-speed rail line through Fresno have included miles of elevated tracks soaring 60 feet above the central city streetscape.

Now, in a surprise to many observers, engineers are evaluating where tracks can be built at ground level instead as a way to save money.

The about-face by the California High-Speed Rail Authority comes amid rising concerns over the cost of the train system and fears about the noise and aesthetics of overhead tracks in communities. The new strategy, called "value engineering," was publicly acknowledged this month by the rail authority's CEO, Roelof van Ark.

The authority hopes to begin construction in late 2012 on its first 120-mile section of high-speed train tracks between Fresno and Bakersfield. It would be the first stretch of what is ultimately planned as an 800-mile system, connecting the state's major urban centers with trains traveling up to 220 mph.

A year ago, engineers had ruled out several at-grade route options through Fresno as being impractical or too disruptive to traffic and nearby neighborhoods. More streets would have to be closed or relocated, and construction would be complicated by having to build new over- and undercrossings for major streets, and rebuild overcrossings for Highways 41 and 180.



What's next?
The California High-Speed Rail Authority's board meets Wednesday in Sacramento to confirm the state's application for federal stimulus money forfeited by Florida. April 4 is the deadline to apply to the Federal Railroad Administration for a share of the $2.4 billion.

The Obama administration has so far committed $3.1 billion to California's high-speed rail efforts, requiring the money be used for the first section in the San Joaquin Valley.

Also on Wednesday, the authority board is expected to discuss cost-saving measures for the Valley stretch of the system, including reducing the number of elevated tracks.

High-speed rail story archive  
Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin is glad to see that ground-level tracks are back on the table.

"We're positive about the approach [the authority] is taking," said Swearengin, who has been supportive of high-speed rail -- and the economic spark she says it could provide for the city. "The city is strong in its push for design alternatives that work for the city and its residents."

What doesn't work for Fresno, she added, is a continuous six- to eight-mile stretch of elevated tracks above central and downtown Fresno.

"From very early on, I had deep concerns about elevated tracks through our city," Swearengin said last week.

Such structures, she said, would create "a visual dividing wall in our community," in much the same way that Highway 99 created a social and economic divide when it was built through the city decades ago.


To elevate or not?

Three possible routes through Fresno remain on the drawing board and are going through detailed state and federal reviews of potential effects on the environment, traffic, public safety, cost and disruption to the community.

All three lines generally run along the Union Pacific Railroad tracks between the San Joaquin River and downtown. South of downtown, the lines curve south to follow the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway tracks.

Since last spring, all three options have depicted tracks gradually rising near Clinton Avenue and continuing southward on a raised guideway to an elevated downtown station. South of downtown, the tracks would gradually return to ground level near Central Avenue.

One line runs along the west edge of the Union Pacific right-of-way from Clinton Avenue all the way through downtown. Another starts on the west side of the UP tracks and crosses overhead to the east side of the tracks near McKinley Avenue. It remains on the east side through downtown before curving southward out of town.

Then there's a hybrid route that starts on the west side of the UP tracks, crosses to the east near Olive Avenue to avoid Roeding Park, and weaves back to the west near Highway 180 to continue through downtown.

"What we're looking at now on those three elevated options is where we can make them at-grade," said Rachel Wall, press secretary for the high-speed rail authority. "We're looking at design solutions to reduce the cost without diminishing performance."
 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed
When the San Jose-to-Merced High-Speed Rail project is complete, it will blaze on elevated platforms at over 150 miles per hour, stopping in Gilroy.

Last night, community members gathered at Gilroy High School to attend an open house about the project, and hear its employees discuss the review process. Their presentation centered on sound mitigation, eliciting mixed responses from some skeptical audience members.

The rapid speed of the trains will minimize the time they are heard, began engineer Areg Gharabegian.

“A train moving at a top speed of 220 miles per hour will only be heard for four seconds,” said Gharabegian. “By comparison, a 50 car freight train moving at 30 miles per hour can be heard for a minute.”

There will furthermore be sounds walls composed of recycled materials, he said. They will have absorptive barriers that eliminated noise. A “grade-separated system”—where transport axes operate at different heights to avoid disrupting the traffic flow--also bars the need for blaring horns.

Addressing an audience concern that animals such as horses will be spooked by the sound, Gharabegian said that the team has no methodologies for determining how animals hear frequencies. Yet, in their evaluation, they will be able to see “if horses are startled, or if birds fly out of their nests,” he said, and take this into account in creating a safe route.

Still, these sound issues and others such as vibration and electromagnetic interferance are currently being studied, with the team measuring the average sound generated in decibels during both the nigh and day. The project is in an environmental review phase, according to the California High-Speed Rail Authority, and a Power Point of the presentation will be available online by the end of this week.

Going the Distance

The San Jose to Merced section of the high-speed rail project spans 120 miles, with stops at San Jose’s Diridion Station, Gilroy and Merced. The current study of the train looks at an area starting in San Jose, and then running south through Gilroy, east through the Pacheco Pass to Chowchilla, and then connecting with Merced and Fresno.  

The construction will begin in the Central Valley because it’s the “core of the system,” said Gary Kelly, a regional manager for the project.

By 2035, the project is expected to generate 4,700 daily boardings in Gilroy, 7,600 in San Jose, and 5,300 in Merced, according to the Rail Authority.

Over the course of construction, the project is also projected to yield 112,000 construction related jobs in the San Jose to Merced region. The final design is expected by 2013, with trains running by 2020.

Some audience members raised concerns that the project would suffer from low-ridership numbers, as he felt other Bay Area public transit had.

Yet, “the high-speed rail is not equivalent to BART or CalTrain,” said Kelly, pointing out both the scope of the project, and that it’s attracting private funding.

Local Carmen Patane attended the meeting as the train—if built on the east side of Gilroy rather than downtown—could run 500 feet away from his home, and cut through his parcel of land. He’s been attending all High Speed Rail workshops to learn about the project, but remained opposed to it.

“I don’t believe in the ridership numbers,” said Patane, “and like most public projects I feel that the cost will overrun the budget.”

The California High-Speed Rail Authority will hold another community engagement workshop tonight at the Morgan Hill Community and Cultural Center at 6 p.m.
 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed
California goes after all of Florida's high-speed rail money
Comments (0) (53)(47)March 30, 2011  2:27 pm California high-speed rail officials voted Wednesday to seek an additional $2.43 billion in federal construction funds recently relinquished by Florida’s new Republican governor.

The money would permit the state to extend an initial, Central Valley leg of the proposed 800-mile system.  

The chances of getting the entire Florida allocation are doubtful, but California has received some of the largest federal grants in the nation under the Obama administration’s push to develop a bullet train network similar to those in Europe and the Far East.

Even getting a majority of the cash, coupled with state match funds, would allow the California High-Speed Rail Authority to extend the starter track from Merced to Bakersfield, officials said. Work already is slated to begin next year on a $5.5- billion section of rail, viaducts and stations from Fresno to the outskirts of Bakersfield.

California’s project was approved by voters in 2008. But it has come under harsh criticism from auditors and state watchdogs for lack of a clear business model or concrete plans to finance the entire Los Angeles-to-San Francisco portion of the system, which is supposed to be finished in a decade. Some state officials are anxious about starting such a massive project without knowing if or how it will be completed.  
But project promoters have grown increasingly upbeat as the groundbreaking draws closer. “Every mile of track laid in the Central Valley represents another step toward realizing a statewide system to connect north and south, which will bring private investment, job creation and economic strength to California,” authority board Chairman Curt Pringle said after his panel’s unanimous vote to apply for the Florida funds.

Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida have returned high-speed rail funds in recent months, in part because new Republican governors say the projects could expose their taxpayers to high costs in the future. As a result, California has the nation’s only true high-speed train project in advanced stages of planning still angling for federal dollars. Trains would travel up to 220 miles per hour in open areas, planners say.

Most of the funds now being allocated were approved when President Obama’s Democratic Party allies controlled both houses of Congress. Future federal funding required to finish California’s system will be harder to come by.

Republicans have a majority in the House and key leaders have vowed to slash bullet-train support to help reduce the federal deficit
 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed
CALIFORNIA HIGH-SPEED RAIL AUTHORITY
TO APPLY FOR FLORIDA’S $2.4 BILLION  

Goal to Complete the Merced-Bakersfield Backbone of the Statewide System



SACRAMENTO – The California High-Speed Rail Authority voted unanimously today to apply for all of the high-speed rail funding recently returned to the federal government by the state of Florida. The Authority Board of Directors approved the staff recommendation that California pursue the $2.43 billion recently made available and offer a 20 percent state match in order to make California more competitive for these funds.



The resulting funds could allow the completion of the entire backbone of the statewide system – linking Merced and Bakersfield, including stations in each respective city. In addition to completing the backbone, it could also allow the Authority to build either north or south – north 39 additional miles toward the Bay Area or south, past Bakersfield, up to the Tehachapi Mountains.



Obtaining just over half of Florida’s money, along with the state match, would still give the Authority the potential to lay the track that will connect Merced to Bakersfield – the critical “backbone” of the statewide system where high-speed trains will travel at 220 miles per hour and ensure that California’s system is competitive with other modes of travel.  



“California has proven that it can and will lead the nation with a vision of true high-speed rail,” said Curt Pringle, Chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board. “Every mile of track laid in the Central Valley represents another step toward realizing a statewide system to connect north and south, which will bring private investment, job creation, and economic strength to California.”



Florida’s declined funding, if re-allocated to California, has the potential to create up to 64,000 additional well-paying jobs – in addition to the more than 100,000 jobs that will be created with the initial $5.5 billion already secured to begin construction on the high-speed rail system.



“Applying every new dollar to extend construction of our system’s backbone in the Central Valley is the logical next step to build toward connecting our system into metropolitan areas,” said Roelof van Ark, CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. “A continued and long-term commitment from the federal government is needed in order to give the very interested private sector the confidence it needs to invest.”



At a special Board meeting of the Authority today, residents and elected officials from the Merced and Bakersfield communities spoke in support of vying for the re-allocated funds in order to complete the system’s backbone.



Governor Jerry Brown has joined California’s two U.S. Senators in supporting as many of the re-allocated dollars as possible being redirected to California, urging the President to reallocate the funds to California and saying “The $2 billion that Florida rejected are more than welcome here.”



Board members also expressed, at the meeting, a desire to work with partner agencies such as the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), relative to their requests for federal funds that would complement the high-speed rail system.



Newly appointed Board Member Bob Balgenorth, president of the California State Building and Construction Trades Council and a former member of the California Transportation Commission, attended the meeting. Board member Russ Burns was absent and therefore did not cast a vote.



The federal government recently announced that states can apply for Florida’s returned $2.43 billion in high-speed rail funding. This funding includes $1.63 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding and $800 million in Fiscal Year 2010 transportation funding. Applications are due by April 4, 2011.



Under the Authority’s proposal, electrifying the track, purchasing the trains, and operating passenger service would come at a later phase of development.



California’s planned high-speed rail system continues to undergo environmental review, and nothing in the Authority’s application for federal funds prejudges that review. The final track alignment through the Central Valley is dependent on the environmental review process, and therefore the ultimate number of track miles possible from re-allocated funds from Florida to California depends on that environmental determination. The draft environmental review for the Central Valley segments is scheduled to be completed in June/July and is scheduled to go before the Authority’s Board of Directors in late 2011 / early 2012 for a decision on the final alignment.



The California High-Speed Rail Authority is developing an 800-mile high-speed train system that will operate at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour, connecting the state’s major urban centers, including the Bay Area, Fresno, Los Angeles and San Diego. The first phase of the project, San Francisco to Los Angeles and Anaheim, is projected to cost $43 billion. Initial infrastructure construction will begin in the Central Valley, the backbone of the system, in 2012. The project is being funded through a voter-approved state bond, federal funding awards and public-private partnerships.
 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW
fornia applies for federal high speed funding

31 March 2011


USA: At a board meeting on March 30, California High-Speed Rail Authority voted unanimously to apply for federal high speed rail funding previously allocated to Florida.

The $2·43bn grant was rejected by Florida Governor Rick Scott on February 16, effectively cancelling that state’s plan to build a 135 km line between Orlando and Tampa. Federal Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood subsequently invited bids by April 4 from other states wishing to fund inter-city passenger rail projects.

Whilst there are several plans to raise speeds for passenger services on existing alignments, CHSRA envisages building an initial section of dedicated 350 km/h line in the Central Valley to create the ‘backbone’ of a first route from San Francisco to Los Angeles and Anaheim. This would be the precursor to an eventual 1 300 km high speed network costed at $43bn.

Obtaining the federal grant, plus a 20% matching contribution from the state, would allow CHSRA to complete the starter section between Merced and Bakersfield, including stations in each respective city. It would also allow the authority to start construction of extensions north or south towards the Bay Area or the Tehachapi Mountains.

‘California has proven that it can and will lead the nation with a vision of true high speed rail’, said CHSRA Chairman Curt Pringle. ‘Every mile of track laid in the Central Valley represents another step toward realising a state-wide system to connect north and south, which will bring private investment, job creation and economic strength to California.’
 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed
CALIFORNIA SUBMITS APPLICATION FOR BILLIONS  

IN RAIL CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS

State, Governor send strong signal that California is ready to put federal dollars to work  

SACRAMENTO – The State of California submitted its application today for the federal High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program for billions in rail construction projects, including a request for funding to complete construction of the “backbone” of the planned statewide high-speed rail system.  

The federal government recently announced that states can apply for Florida’s returned $2.43 billion in high-speed and intercity passenger rail funding. This funding includes $1.63 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding and $800 million in Fiscal Year 2010 Department of Transportation funding. Applications were due today.

“California’s application seeks funding for projects that will be the building blocks for a statewide network of rail lines linking high-speed and intercity rail lines to regional rail lines,” wrote California Governor Edmund G. Brown in a letter introducing the state’s application. “The projects will provide the foundation for a transportation system that will improve mobility, help the environment, reduce energy dependency, and put Californians to work.”

The California High-Speed Rail Authority submitted its application for the entirety of the re-allocated funds, including a primary ask for funds to extend initial construction of its statewide system into downtown Merced and to downtown Bakersfield, including both stations and the complicated area of track known as the “Wye”, requesting $1.44 billion and offering a 20 percent state match from the Proposition 1A (2008) funding. This application seeks final design and construction funds for civil infrastructure, including track work, and two stations.

This funding would give the Authority the potential to lay the track that will connect Merced to Bakersfield – the critical “backbone” of the statewide system where high-speed trains will travel at 220 miles per hour and ensure that California’s system is competitive with other modes of travel. These north and south extensions to the initial construction segment are estimated to cost $1.8 billion.

“By approving nearly $10 billion toward the construction of California’s high-speed rail project in 2008, California voters made California the only state moving forward to fulfill President Obama’s promise of trains traveling over 200 miles per hour to connect significant portions of our population,” continued Governor Brown. “California shares the Obama administration’s belief that rail must play a greater role in addressing the transportation and environmental challenges facing our nation, and we look forward to continuing to work together in turning our vision for expanded intercity and high-speed rail into reality.”

Signaling the logical next steps to significantly expand construction of the state’s high-speed rail system the Authority submitted additional applications that would build upon the primary request for funding. In addition to completing the backbone of Merced to Bakersfield, the secondary applications could also allow the Authority to build additional track either north or to the south – north 39 additional miles toward the Bay Area or south, past Bakersfield, up to the Tehachapi Mountains.

The application to further high-speed rail construction north from downtown Merced toward the Bay Area seeks $960 million in federal funding for civil infrastructure including track work. This extension is estimated to cost $1.2 billion, part of which would be funded through a 20 percent state match.

The application to further high-speed rail construction south from downtown Bakersfield to the Tehachapi Mountains sees $1.3 billion for civil infrastructure including track work. This stretch is estimated to cost $1.67 billion, part of which would be funded through a 20 percent state match.

The California Department of Transportation, Caltrans, also submitted its applications for the federal High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program including state and local match funds. Caltrans’ federal request for $382 million includes more than 12 rail improvement projects for its Pacific Surfliner, San Joaquin and Capitol Corridor passenger rail lines funded and managed by the state and operated by ­­­Amtrak.

The projects requested by Caltrans are not currently funded but have been environmentally cleared and, if federal funds are awarded, could begin construction within one year.  

The California High-Speed Rail Authority, on behalf of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, also submitted an application for a grade separation project in the City of Los Angeles that would ultimately benefit the high-speed rail system. The application seeks $70 million and proposes a local match from Measure R. The grade separation project is located at the intersection of Van Nuys Boulevard and San Fernando Road within the Palmdale to Los Angeles high-speed rail section.

California’s planned high-speed rail system continues to undergo environmental review, and nothing in the Authority’s application for federal funds prejudges that review. The final track alignment through the Central Valley is dependent on the environmental review process, and therefore the ultimate number of track miles possible from any additional funds to California depends on that environmental determination. The draft environmental impact reports for the Central Valley segments between Merced and Bakersfield are scheduled to be completed in June/July and is scheduled to go before the Authority’s Board of Directors in late 2011 / early 2012 for a decision on the final alignment.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority is developing an 800-mile high-speed train system that will operate at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour, connecting the state’s major urban centers, including the Bay Area, Fresno, Los Angeles and San Diego. The first phase of the project, San Francisco to Los Angeles and Anaheim, is projected to cost $43 billion. Initial infrastructure construction will begin in the Central Valley, the backbone of the system, in 2012. The project is being funded through a voter-approved state bond, federal funding awards and public-private partnerships
 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed
SACRAMENTO – To encourage cities where high-speed rail stations will be located to envision and plan for the transformative benefits that will come along with the new transportation system, the California High-Speed Rail Authority is offering funding to spearhead locally led station-area planning efforts. In this initial round of funding, the Authority has invited seven cities near the initial construction segment to apply: Merced, Fresno, Tulare/Kings, Bakersfield, San Jose, Gilroy, and Palmdale.

“It’s been proven around the world that high-speed rail stations have the power to transform a city and bring tremendous economic and quality of life benefits,” said Roelof van Ark, CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. “High-speed rail stations will help minimize urban sprawl and serve as important transportation hubs, providing interconnectivity within regions throughout the state. The Authority is committed to working together with cities to realize the potential of high-speed rail, station-area planning is an investment in a city’s future that will benefit both the city and the statewide high-speed rail system."

Earlier this year, the Authority Board approved a policy to guide funding agreements for locally initiated high-speed rail station area studies and planning efforts.  The policy laid out guiding principles for funding the planning of the half-mile areas around city-centered stations that it will serve.

Local governments will take the lead in designing the station area, considering infill development, transportation connectivity and financing/phasing, while the Authority will partner with the city in an advisory capacity.

The Authority will encourage the design of unique stations that reflect the character of each city, and station areas that align with the local area’s long-term vision and infrastructure growth plans.

The funds available to each city may be as much as $400,000-$700,000 from federal stimulus funding and up to $200,000 from state funding. The amount will be based on the cost of each city’s planning efforts and available matching funds. Matching funds may include local, private or in-kind. In December 2010, the Authority won an additional $616 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds that were reallocated from Ohio and Wisconsin; the Authority had requested a portion of those funds to be available for station-area planning, and $4.5 million was made available for that purpose. The funds will be available in the 2011-12 fiscal year.

“To realize the full environmental, economic and health benefits of high-speed rail, it is vital that local and regional land use patterns encourage transit connectivity and improve sustainable transportation choices – a cornerstone of SB 375,” said Dan Leavitt, Deputy Executive Director of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.  

Local community leaders also voiced their support for the availability of station area planning funds:

"We are happy to receive the grant money to plan our high-speed rail station in Gilroy,” said Gilroy City Councilman Perry Woodward. “We anticipate our station will support revenue generation and economic vitality in our City.”

“The City of Fresno is pleased to apply for station-area planning funding," said Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin. "High-speed rail is a tremendous opportunity for the Central Valley and will create thousands of good jobs for Central Valley residents. These funds will ensure that we can carefully and thoughtfully plan our station areas for the arrival of the statewide system.”

“We are looking forward to planning for the arrival of high-speed rail in Merced,” said Merced Mayor Bill Spriggs. “Applying for these funds will allow the City of Merced to wisely plan the station area to maximize connectivity, minimize urban sprawl and create a hub of activity in our community.”

"San Jose looks forward to connecting Silicon Valley, the world's innovation center, to Los Angeles and other regions via high-speed rail," said San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed. "The new rail line will connect the state's economic centers and create tens of thousands of new jobs. As we continue our work to bring BART and hgh-speed rail to downtown San José, this funding will help ensure that Diridon Station serves as a world-class hub for travelers across the region and state. We look forward to that day and appreciate the California High Speed Rail Authority's recognition of the significance of the San José station as the gateway to the Bay Area.”

“We are very excited about this investment for the City of Palmdale.  A station in Palmdale will increase mobility between Southern California and the Central Valley up to Northern California,” said Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford. “We look forward to a continued partnership with the California High-Speed Rail Authority.”

The Authority also released its Urban Design Guidelines, a comprehensive planning guide to accompany the funding applications. The report provides domestic and international examples of station area design, urban design and transit-oriented development. The guide includes simple diagrams that analyze and explain successful public places and how each promotes livability and transit use.

Urban design implemented around high-speed rail stations can encourage destination stations and enhance the value of the surrounding community.  The report is intended to be used by cities and communities throughout the state’s 800-mile system as they work with their stakeholders and residents to create a vision for their high-speed rail station areas.
 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed
Each of us has expressed support for "high-speed rail done right," by which we mean a genuinely statewide system that makes prudent use of limited public funds and which is responsive to legitimate concerns about the impact on our cities, towns, neighborhoods and homes.

To date, however, the California High-Speed Rail Authority has failed to develop and describe such a system for the Peninsula and South Bay. For that reason, we are setting forth basic parameters for what "high-speed rail done right" looks like in our region.

For the authority to succeed in its mission it must be responsive to local concerns about local impacts. Moreover, it is undeniable that funding will be severely limited at both the state and national levels for the foreseeable future.

Much of the projected cost for the San Jose-to-San Francisco leg is driven by the fact that the authority has proposed what is essentially a second rail system, duplicating existing usable infrastructure. Even if such a system could be constructed without adverse impact along the Caltrain corridor, the cost cannot be justified.

If we can barely find the funds to do high-speed rail right, we certainly cannot find the funds to do high-speed rail wrong.

Accordingly, we call upon the High-Speed Rail Authority and our local Caltrain Joint Powers Board to develop plans for a blended system that integrates high-speed rail with a 21st-century Caltrain.

To that end, we explicitly


reject the notion of high-speed rail running from San Jose to San Francisco on an elevated structure or "viaduct." We fully expect that high-speed rail on this route can and should remain within the existing Caltrain right of way. Finally, consistent with a project of this more limited scope, the authority should abandon its preparation of an environmental impact report for a phased project of larger dimensions over a 25-year time frame.

Continuing to plan for a project of this scope in the face of limited funding and growing community resistance is particularly ill-advised when predicated on ridership projections that are less than credible.

Within the existing right-of-way, at or below grade, a single blended system could allow high-speed rail arriving in San Jose to continue north seamlessly as part of a 21st-century Caltrain -- using some combination of electrification, positive train control, new rolling stock and/or other appropriate upgrades -- while maintaining currently projected speeds and travel time for high-speed rail.

The net result would be substantially upgraded commuter service for Peninsula and South Bay residents capable of accommodating high-speed rail from San Jose to San Francisco.

All of this is possible, but only if the High-Speed Rail Authority rethinks its direction.

The authority has come under considerable criticism from the Legislative Analyst's Office, the Bureau of State Audits, the California Office of the Inspector General, the authority's own Peer Review Group and the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California. The authority would do well to take these critiques to heart.

Frankly, many of our constituents are convinced that the High-Speed Rail Authority has already wandered so far afield that it is too late for a successful course correction. We hope the authority can prove otherwise.

An essential first step is a rethinking of the authority's plans for the Peninsula and South Bay. A commitment to a project that eschews an aerial viaduct, stays within the existing right-of-way, sets aside any notion of a phased project expansion at a later date, and incorporates necessary upgrades for Caltrain -- producing a truly blended system along the Caltrain corridor -- is the essential next step.



REP. ANNA ESHOO, SEN. JOE SIMITIAN and ASSEMBLYMAN RICH GORDON represent portions of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties in the House of Representatives, California Senate and Assembly, respectively. They wrote this article for this newspaper.
 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW
Caltrain study to focus on feasibility of initial HSR service
Tuesday, April 19, 2011

California's Caltrain is preparing to conduct a series of feasibility studies to determine whether the electrification and modernization of the commuter rail system can be designed and constructed to meet Caltrain's future operational needs, while also accommodating initial high-speed rail operations on the Peninsula corridor.

The analysis marks the first time Caltrain has undertaken an independent assessment of the commuter rail agency's infrastructure needs in a manner that focuses on the possible additional elements that could be necessary to operate an initial level of high-speed rail service in the future on the Caltrain right-of-way.

In 2009, following the approval of billions of dollars in state and federal high-speed rail funding, Caltrain engaged in a collaborative effort with the California High Speed Rail Authority to jointly plan, design and construct the project between San Francisco and San Jose. The goal was to accommodate high-speed rail in a manner that provided meaningful assistance to Caltrain's long-term modernization goals.

In 2010, after the selection of the Central Valley as the starting point for the statewide high-speed rail project, Caltrain announced that it would reexamine its approach and called on CHSRA to revise its planning process to study the concept of phased implementation of the project.

At its February Board meeting, CHSRA CEO Roelof Van Ark directed Authority staff to analyze the potential for a phased approach on the Peninsula. The CHSRA Board is scheduled to receive more detail about this approach at its May meeting to be held in San Jose.

In a phased approach, the first phase is envisioned to electrify the Caltrain system and potentially allow CHSRA to operate enough service to satisfy initial ridership demand. Subsequent phases would expand the capacity of the system to meet additional ridership demand if needed.

Additional studies that will be part of the planning exercise will include ridership projections, service plans, cost estimates and impacts analyses. The planning effort would inform the HSR draft environmental document, scheduled for public release in the Fall of 2012.

Modernization would generate additional revenue for the system by attracting more riders. If the project proceeds on time this additional revenue would reduce the agency's operating deficit by 45 percent in 2019.
Modernization includes electrification of the corridor, installation of a new signaling system and the operation of electric trains.
 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed
Silicon Valley, which generally thinks of itself as a hotbed of innovation, is trying to nuke one of the nation's boldest experiments because it threatens to knock down the value of its multi-million dollar homes.

California's long planned high speed rail is running into roadblocks from government officials representing the towns of Atherton, Menlo Park, and Palo Alto -- a.k.a. three of the towns that make up Silicon Valley -- the Wall Street Journal reports.


They are fighting the high speed train in court, claiming the plans for an elevated track running through their towns would be an eye sore leading to a drop in property value.

The Journal quotes Atherton mayor Jim Dobbie as saying, "We have many houses close to the railroad in the multiple millions in value," and, "We just hope the project dies."

It also quotes Larry Klein of the Palo Alto city council as saying the train line would cause, "severe damage on our community."

Not everyone opposed the train wants it killed. Some want it buried underground, but that would make it so expensive the project would be killed. Others are pushing for it go to East Bay.

The Silicon Valley towns have been fighting this in court since 2008. Initially they said it was bad for the environment. Then they said it was going it was going to be noisy, and ridership estimates were being over estimated. Now they're saying it will make home prices drop.

The Journal doesn't mention many specific names, but it does say Intel chairperson Jane Shaw is one of the people that vetted an economic analysis of the project being used against it in court.

If anyone out there knows about who else is trying to kill the project, let us know:
 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed
That sparkling new $6.1 billion high-speed rail line that California has been eyeing for the Bay Area might get traded in for a 150-year-old fixer-upper.

Facing a financial reality check, project leaders Thursday will consider an alternative to run the bullet trains through the Bay Area on two tracks instead of four -- a major shift that could speed up the start of the project but actually slow down the trains.

Under the plan, the state would spend most of the $1.5 billion to electrify the two Caltrain tracks between San Francisco and San Jose, putting on hold its plan to spend four times as much to wipe out the historic rail line and build four new tracks along the corridor. Instead, the Golden State bullet trains would initially share the two souped-up tracks with Caltrain at the start of their three-hour journey to Anaheim.

"We don't have the money, and in fact in the interim maybe there's not even demand for that great of a system," said Jeff Barker, deputy director for the California High-Speed Rail Authority. But by 2035, "you ultimately need a four-track system," he said.

Cutting down from four tracks to two in this 50-mile section would trigger repercussions also across California. From cost and travel speed to lawsuits and neighborhood disruption, the idea has plenty for everyone to love and hate.

In addition to saving the state more than $4 billion initially at a time when officials have only 30 percent of the funding


needed for the $43 billion project, the two-track plan would finally give budget-plagued Caltrain the cheaper electric commuter operations it wants but can't afford on its own. It also would allow Bay Area passengers to ride the state's bullet trains to the Central Valley and Southern California much earlier, as soon as later this decade.

And it would keep the width and height of the tracks mostly the same for much longer, easing concerns, at least for now, from Peninsula communities that have sued to stop the project over its size, and Silicon Valley legislators who have threatened to pull their support.

Cecilia Lancaster, who will likely lose her home abutting the tracks in Palo Alto if the corridor is expanded to four tracks, thinks her neighbors caught a break after the state struggled to attract funding.

"There's no money, so now they're just scrambling to see what they can do," Lancaster said. "They're not responding to our concerns at all, they've always ignored us. If they do decide to go on the two tracks, I think they'll probably see that it makes sense."

Officials insist the two-track plan is only a start, and that they must build the full four-track line between San Francisco's Transbay Terminal and San Jose's Diridon Station in the next 25 years. But without the money to do that anytime soon, they figure they can build their way up to four tracks in stages and start service after the two tracks switch from diesel-powered to electric.

Some legislators and local leaders, though, think a mostly two-track system with some passing lanes would work just fine for high-speed rail in the long term.

"I and others think the project ought to be scaled back," said state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, who is chairman of the committee that controls high-speed rail funding. "Then we don't have a sword hanging over the head of the Peninsula for the next 20 years for a project many of us are skeptical could or should ever be built."

By sharing tracks, Caltrain and high-speed rail will be able to zip only six combined trains per hour in each direction. They hope to combine for up to 16 trains per hour in the peak time -- 10 bullet trains and six Caltrains -- but that's only possible if each agency gets its own pair of tracks.

Fewer trains spell less revenue for both struggling Caltrain and a state business that critics think will bleed money. And the dream of zooming between the Bay Area's two biggest cities in 30 minutes won't be possible because the bullet trains could get stuck behind slower commuter Caltrains.

The rail authority board on Thursday is expected to push forward the two-track idea as part of construction plans they expect to release in fall 2012 and approve in spring 2013.
 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed
SACRAMENTO -- New changes to proposed high-speed train tracks through Fresno mean residents won't see miles of elevated rails above the city.

Instead, the only elevated tracks would be at the south end of Fresno to cross over Highway 99 as the route heads toward Hanford. Earlier proposals included as much as 14 miles of tracks running atop viaducts up to 60 feet above Fresno's streets.

The plans approved Thursday by the California High Speed Rail Authority also include an alternative site for a passenger station in downtown Fresno.

Mayor Ashley Swearengin had objected to long stretches of elevated tracks through Fresno. She and other city officials welcomed the change of plans. But challenges still loom because the only remaining route being considered in Fresno threatens to consume a portion of Roeding Park -- a major concern for leaders.

Fresno is the northern end of what's planned as the first section to be built in California's proposed 800-mile high-speed rail system. Trains traveling at up to 220 mph would connect the state's major urban areas, first from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Later sections would serve Sacramento and San Diego.

The authority approved re-evaluating the Interstate 5 corridor over the Grapevine and Tejon Pass as a potential route for high-speed trains from the San Joaquin Valley to Los Angeles.

Action was put off until at least June on engineers' recommendations for how to connect San Jose and San Francisco with high-speed trains.

I-5 Grapevine back as high-speed rail route option  Revisions to Fresno high-speed rail route  High-speed rail story archive  

The authority hopes to complete its environmental reviews, award construction contracts and begin building the section between Fresno and Bakersfield by late 2012.

Making choices

Thursday's action eliminated two Fresno route alternatives that would have put the high-speed line on the east side of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. The Union Pacific tracks run parallel to Highway 99 and Golden State Boulevard and roll between downtown Fresno and the Chinatown district.

Now, the only remaining option that will go through a detailed environmental and engineering analysis is on the west side of the Union Pacific tracks. It will likely displace portions of Golden State Boulevard through central Fresno, including along Roeding Park.

In the revised plans, a 1.5-mile trench would carry high-speed trains beneath the existing San Joaquin Valley Railroad freight tracks and nearby Highway 180.

Engineers also added an alternative station location along the Union Pacific tracks at Mariposa Street, which will be studied along with an earlier station site at Kern Street.

At-grade tracks for high-speed trains would close about eight streets that cross the Union Pacific line. In their place, four overpasses would be built to carry traffic over both the high-speed and Union Pacific freight lines.

The ground-level line would make high-speed trains less of a nuisance to neighbors' ears and eyes, said Bob Schaevitz, a project manager for the Fresno-to-Bakersfield section. With new street overpasses over both the high-speed and freight tracks, traffic wouldn't back up and freight trains would not have to use horns.

City officials believe the authority should do even more, however.

"We're very pleased with the at-grade option, and we're very pleased with the addition of another station location at Mariposa," Katie Stevens, a spokeswoman for Swearengin, told the authority board Thursday. "That's our preferred station location and we're pleased that it's been added."

But, Stevens said, there are issues that must be addressed. That includes the threat to Roeding Park, on Golden State Boulevard between Olive and Belmont avenues.

An underground trench

That's why Swearengin, in a letter Wednesday to authority CEO Roelof van Ark, proposed putting both the high-speed tracks and the neighboring Union Pacific line in an underground trench between Olive Avenue and Highway 41 south of downtown.

If Union Pacific won't cooperate, "the next best feasible option would be to utilize a trench only for the HSR tracks" between Olive and 41, and rebuilding Golden State Boulevard on top of the trenched tracks.

Swearengin said that would avoid any disruption of Roeding Park and is the second-best option for downtown development around the HSR station.

Schaevitz said the at-grade changes through Fresno and elsewhere in the Valley are the result of "value engineering" in which managers are not only evaluating the potential environmental effects of various alternatives, but also looking for where they can save money -- perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars.

Stretches of aerial tracks are also being removed from several route alternatives still being considered between Merced and Fresno, said Dick Wenzel, a project manager for the north Valley.

By putting both passenger stations in downtown Fresno and downtown Merced at ground level as well as the tracks themselves, Wenzel estimated that the authority could save $700 million to $1 billion in construction costs.




The authority approved re-evaluating the Interstate 5 corridor over the Grapevine and Tejon Pass as a potential route for high-speed trains from the San Joaquin Valley to Los Angeles.

Action was put off until at least June on engineers' recommendations for how to connect San Jose and San Francisco with high-speed trains.

I-5 Grapevine back as high-speed rail route option  Revisions to Fresno high-speed rail route  High-speed rail story archive    

South of Fresno, engineers have been tinkering with the route alternatives, looking for ways to avoid not only more farms and dairies than necessary, but also some wetlands habitat south of Hanford.

But Schaevitz said it's nearly impossible to avoid any negative effects with any route.

He cited a little neighborhood east of Hanford, profiled by The Bee in February, as an example.

Of about two dozen homesites in the neighborhood, "a minimum of half of those would be affected by the alignment," Schaevitz said. "They would have to be purchased and those homes removed and relocated."
 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed
In a surprising and controversial move, California bullet train planners on Thursday revived a long-discarded route option following Interstate 5 over the Grapevine that could save billions of dollars and eliminate a sweeping dogleg through Los Angeles County's high desert towns.

The sudden reversal comes after years of planning focused on a circuitous path south of Bakersfield crossing the Tehachapi Mountains to serve Palmdale and Lancaster.

Reopening what had been a settled issue highlights a critical tension in one of the nation's costliest transportation projects: As officials rush to start building, they still have not resolved an array of political, financing and engineering challenges.

Thursday's vote by the California High-Speed Rail Authority board ignited new political conflicts for an agency struggling to scrape together billions needed to complete the first 500-mile leg of the voter-approved system between the Bay Area and downtown Los Angeles' Union Station.

Resurrecting a possible I-5 route "is a step backwards," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, who represents Palmdale and pushed for the Antelope Valley alignment when it was chosen several years ago. "The proposed action would jeopardize years' worth of commitments to a high-speed rail connection for Antelope Valley residents."

The city manager of Palmdale called the change "absurd." Both the Palmdale and I-5 routes will now be studied.

The Grapevine has a number of potential benefits, state officials say. It is nearly 30 miles shorter, would cut travel time, reduce tunneling and save $1 billion and perhaps more, they say.

Following the I-5 also sidesteps newly recognized earthquake risks along the Antelope Valley route, and dodges rising opposition from homeowners who have moved to new developments along the path paralleling California 14 to Palmdale. A Times analysis shows that the population near the highway has grown 24% in the last decade.

Ken Wipff, a member of the town council in Acton, south of Palmdale, said current alignment schemes would bring high-speed trains close to schools and include a viaduct through the center of the community. "The proposed routes are completely destructive of the town and its schools."

"There's been a big hue and cry," said Ruthann Levison, a resident of Sand Canyon, an enclave of ranch-style homes near the highway. Dozens of properties there would be in or near the path of trains. An I-5 route would spare her area. "We love it," she said of the Grapevine option.

But, as bullet train promoters are painfully aware, curing one headache often creates another. Developers planning a major mountain community at Tejon Ranch, along the I-5, warned the board Thursday that a Grapevine option could disrupt their project and cost the agency dearly for right of way.

Indeed, a Grapevine route poses its own engineering and seismic concerns, which was partly why it was rejected in the first place. They include negotiating the steep incline where I-5 drops into the Central Valley.

At the south end of the Grapevine, officials in the auto-dependant bedroom community of Santa Clarita are concerned about the disruption that rail construction could cause along the interstate corridor. "The 5 is our lifeblood," said Gail Ortiz, the city's communications manager. "We don't want to see that lifeblood jeopardized for something that could be pie in the sky."

Construction is slated to begin next year in the Central Valley, but critics warn the project could be derailed by high costs and opposition to additional funding from Republicans in Congress.

Some rail advocates argue the direct I-5 route always made more sense.

"Why go the long way?" said Richard Tolmach, director of the California Rail Foundation. "The I-5 option is not just good because it is cheaper and shorter; it also is good because it will permanently lower the cost of operations."

The plan to study the Grapevine option, which will take several months, was unanimously approved by the rail authority board. But Chairman Curt Pringle cautioned the vote could invite demands to revisit issues already decided elsewhere in the state.

"At what point in time," he asked, "do you stop saying we are going to reintroduce" route options that could "totally redirect" past actions?

"It's a fragile place," he said. "I think it opens the door and I'm concerned about that."
 
The Vinelander Chief Commissioner

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
The I5 route, which BTW is the main north south freeway of the west coast of the US, runs literally from Vancouver BC to Mexico is the logical route as it will sell the high speed train,

The speed limit on I5 is 65MPH, and the traffic it carries doesn't make for a pleasant drive.

Moreover local government officials of Santa Clarita have rocks in their heads stating their only lifeline with the big smoke of LA is wholly reliant on cars to get its population to the city. There are alternatives, though City officials probably don't want to acknowledge that.

The high speed train will sell itself if this corridor option is adopted.

Mike
 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW
Elevated tracks pulled from Valley high-speed rail plans
Posted at 10:44 AM on Thursday, May. 05, 2011
By Tim Sheehan / The Fresno Bee
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SACRAMENTO -- The California High-Speed Rail Authority today approved modifying the proposed routes under study for high-speed trains through Fresno and the Valley. The authority board voted 5-0 to eliminate the prospect of miles of elevated tracks soaring over the Fresno streetscape and elsewhere in the Valley by putting the tracks at ground level for most of the way between Merced and Bakersfield. In some areas, new alternatives will be studied that shift the routes around wetlands, historic resources, businesses and agricultural facilities. By putting passenger stations in downtown Fresno and downtown Merced at ground level rather than as elevated platforms, project managers estimated the potential savings at between $50 million and $100 million for each station. And by putting miles of tracks at grade rather than on tall viaducts, another $700 million to $1 billion could be saved in construction costs, said Dick Wenzel, a project manager for the Merced-to-Fresno segment.
Earlier today, the rail authority board approved re-evaluating the Interstate 5 corridor over the Grapevine and Tejon Pass as a potential route for high-speed trains from the San Joaquin Valley to the Los Angeles Basin.
On a 9-0 vote, the board gave a green light to a "conceptual study" that is expected to cost about $700,000 and take three to six months. Engineers hope to learn if the Grapevine is a reasonable alternative to include in a detailed environmental analysis.
The Grapevine was rejected as an option after a 2005 environmental analysis of the entire length of the proposed statewide, 800-mile high-speed train system between Los Angeles and San Francisco, with connections to Sacramento and San Diego. The rejection was based on the expected complexity of construction to deal with mountain grades over the Tehachapi Mountains and concerns over earthquake faultlines in the mountain range.
As a result of that 2005 study, the authority has focused its more detailed analyses on two options that head from Bakersfield, southeast through the Tehachapi Pass to Lancaster and Palmdale before swinging into Los Angeles.

Read more: http://www.fresnobee.com/2011/05/05/2377112/study-okd-for-high-speed-rail.html#ixzz1LX9uREes
 

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