Posts tagged with "California High Speed Rail":

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President Trump threatens to cancel California’s high-speed rail funding

Why did California Governor Gavin Newsom stir up the proverbial hornets' nest with his vague and confusing comments regarding the state’s high-speed rail (HSR) plans last week? That’s become the $920 million question many are asking themselves now as President Donald Trump has threatened to—perhaps illegally—cancel a sizable grant already allocated to the project following days of confusing debate over the future of the high-speed line. During a “state of the state” speech last week, Newsom provided unclear backing for completing the full project as approved by California voters in 2008 when they passed Proposition 1A, a ballot measure that allocated $9.95 billion in general obligation bonds for the planning and construction of an 800-mile high-speed rail system connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles. During his speech, Newsom said:
The project, as currently planned, would cost too much and take too long. There’s been too little oversight and not enough transparency. Right now, there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A. I wish there were. However, we do have the capacity to complete a high-speed rail link between Merced and Bakersfield. I know that some critics will say this is a ‘train to nowhere.’ But that’s wrong and offensive. The people of the Central Valley endure the worst air pollution in America as well as some of the longest commutes. And they have suffered too many years of neglect from policymakers here in Sacramento. They deserve better.
The comments were widely interpreted as a death knell for the L.A. and San Francisco spurs of the line, a characterization the governor disputed in the aftermath of the speech. Newsom spokesperson Nathan Click, speaking to the press, offered the following clarification: “The state will continue undertaking the broader project—completing the bookend projects and finishing the environmental review for the [San Francisco] to L.A. leg—that would allow the project to continue seeking other funding streams." But by that point, the damage had been done. Speaking via Twitter, President Trump said, “California has been forced to cancel the massive bullet train project after having spent and wasted many billions of dollars,” adding, “They owe the Federal Government three and a half billion dollars. We want that money back now. Whole project is a ‘green’ disaster!" It only gets worse from there. The Los Angeles Times reported that an additional $2.5 billion in additional federal grant funding has been thrown into question as Trump Administration officials are “actively exploring every legal option” for taking the money back in light of slow progress as well as the governor’s statements. The funds are currently being put to use building the 119-mile route that Newsom has pledged to finish. The Times reported further that Ronald Batory, the chief of the Federal Railroad Administration who issued the grants to California in 2009 and 2010, penned a legal analysis of the situation to California High-Speed Rail Authority chief executive Brian Kelly stating that California “has materially failed to comply with the terms of the [grant] agreement and has failed to make reasonable progress on the project.” Batory further alleged that California had failed to deliver $100 million in matching funds for the project that were due in late 2018. Batory’s missive also referenced Newsom’s speech directly, saying that the governor has instigated a “significant retreat from the state’s initial vision and commitment.” Experts disagree whether the federal government can legally take back money that has already been allocated or spent, but that has not stopped President Trump from continuing his attacks on the state’s rail plan this week. Either way, the long-held and hard-fought vision of California high-speed rail has been thrown into doubt. The uncertain news has reverberated across the state, including in San Francisco, where the structurally damaged Salesforce Transit Center sits vacant, with an entire subterranean level laying in wait for a high-speed rail line that now might never come.
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Against all odds, California is building a high-speed train line

After years of political wrangling, regulatory delay, and economic uncertainty, California’s $100-billion high-speed rail (HSR) project is finally under construction. Though the project has more than doubled in cost and is now over 11 years behind schedule, the California High Speed Rail Authority, a public agency tasked with planning, designing, building, and operating the 300-mile route, has broken ground on a variety of key construction initiatives since 2016. The agency is currently working on 20 sites scattered across five central California counties in an effort to build a 119-mile proof-of-concept route between Bakersfield and Madera by 2022. Among the multifaceted works underway are the 3,700-foot-long Cedar Viaduct that will carry high-speed trains over State Route 99 in Fresno, and the 4,700-foot San Joaquin River Viaduct that will span the San Joaquin River to the north. The aerial alignments are test runs for the types of layered sites the authority will have to build over in more densely populated centers. Here, where temperatures can reach 110 degrees during the day, workers are laying rebar for structural columns, balancing new concrete slabs on elevated spans, and acquiring new properties to complete the future rail alignment. Roughly halfway between the two ends of this initial route, the Dragados-Flatiron Joint Venture Precast Facility outside of Hanford is currently under construction, as well. The precast concrete factory will supply girders and precast slabs for the bullet train project when it opens in 2019. Ultimately, the facility will produce roughly 1,300 different types of beams and nearly 500,000 precast slabs for the rail line. Bruce Fukuji, principal at Albany, California–based Urban Design Innovations, is an architect working to develop transit-oriented community guidelines for sites across the state that will be impacted by the new route. In a statement, Fukuji explained that his goal was to “focus regional economic activity [and] attract public and private investment to stimulate the regeneration of station areas.” Fukuji added, “We are linking locally desired projects with potential cap-and-trade funding [and are] setting up the opportunity for local communities and disadvantaged communities to benefit from collaborating with us and our partner agencies.” Though far from the state’s major urban centers now, when the full route is completed in 2033, it is expected to carry over 30 million passengers each year on trains traveling between 110 and 220 miles per hour.
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Elon Musk's Hyperloop Proposal Pushes California To Look Toward Future of Transportation

When Elon Musk makes plans he makes no little ones. And he feels California shouldn’t either. This is the rationale behind Hyperloop Alpha, a supersonic, solar-powered, air-cushioned transit system (and future “Never Built”?) he views as the bolder alternative to conventional high-speed rail. It’s not a train, exactly. It’s more a hybrid between high-speed rail and the Concord. It’s Mr. Musk’s answer to the ever-delayed and increasingly expensive bullet train being proposed by the California High-Speed Rail Project that was supposed to be “shovel ready” in 2012. Turns out it’s more complicated and expensive to build high-speed rail than anybody in the state ever thought. Could Hyperloop, more bullet and less train, be the answer? If it’s true it could be built for less than one-tenth the cost of the $70 billion high-speed rail system, then perhaps yes. For a mere $20 (He’s really thought this out) you would be able to strap yourself into a thin aluminum tube and get shot (at speeds of up to 750 mph) to San Francisco in about 35 minutes. The design doesn’t feature any windows, so hopefully there will at least be some video monitors or soothing ambient lighting to relax passengers who are essentially locked inside a jet engine hurtling itself through an elevated  steel pipeline. In a conference call following the release of the 57-page PDF outline of the project, Musk said there could be a prototype ready for testing within the next four years. Perhaps it’s time for the California High-Speed Rail Project to hire Mr. Musk and his team of engineers and optimists. At least then California could have some form of 21st-century transit underway before 2020.