California High-Speed Rail

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California High-Speed Rail
FLV California train.jpg

Artist's rendering of a TGV-Type California High-Speed Rail trainset with livery; this type of train is used in all CHSRA materials, but since the exact model of trainset to be acquired is not known, this is only illustrative
California High Speed Rail.svg
Overview
Area served Cities of the San Francisco peninsula, Santa Clara Valley, major population centers of the San Joaquin Valley, Antelope Valley, San Fernando Valley, & Los Angeles Basin
Locale State of California
Transit type High-speed rail
Number of stations 24 (proposed)
Chief executive Jeff Morales
Website www.hsr.ca.gov
Operation
Operator(s) A private operator to be determined
Technical
System length 800+ mi (1,300+ km) (proposed)[1]
No. of tracks fully double-tracked plus 2 extra pass-through tracks in stations
Electrification Fully electric
Top speed

220 mph (350 km/h) from San Jose to Burbank (about 410 mi (660 km))
110 mph (180 km/h) from San Jose to San Francisco (about 57 mi (92 km))[2]

90 mph (140 km/h) from Los Angles to Anaheim (about 31 mi (50 km))[3]

California High-Speed Rail is a high-speed rail system currently under construction in the state of California. In Phase 1, the route will connect Los Angeles with San Francisco with speeds of up to 220 miles per hour (350 km/h).[4] The construction began in the Central Valley north of Madera, and is proceeding south towards Bakersfield at the south end of the valley. It will then continue south into the high desert and the city of Palmdale,[5] and then into the San Fernando Valley and the Los Angeles Basin, terminating in Anaheim. Construction will continue from the north end of the tracks above Madera to the San Francisco Bay Area, and terminate in downtown San Francisco. Phase 1 is planned to end in 2029.

In Phase 2, which has no timetable yet, the routes will be extended in the Central Valley north to Sacramento and south from Los Angeles to San Diego. Preliminary planning work is ongoing.[6]

With an anticipated construction and planning cost of $68.4 billion for Phase 1, the project is the most expensive public works project in United States history (in nominal dollars).[7] Its cost and scope have been major points of contention, and the project has had to contend with a number of lawsuits seeking to stop it. Although these cases have slightly delayed the project, none of them have been successful, and the project is now undergoing construction.

The project is managed by CHSRA (the California High-Speed Rail Authority), a state agency run by a board of governors.

History[edit]

Early history[edit]

In 1992, the San Francisco - Los Angeles rail corridor was proposed in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act as one of five high speed rail corridors.

In 1996, CHSRA, the California High-Speed Rail Authority, was established to begin formal planning in preparation for a ballot measure in 1998 or 2000.[8] The ballot measure was originally scheduled to be put before voters in the 2004 general election; however, the state legislature voted twice to move it back, first to 2006, and finally to 2008 when 52.7% of voters approved the issuing of $9 billion in bonds for high speed rail.[9] An implementation plan approved in August 2005 by the Authority estimated that it would take eight to eleven years to "develop and begin operation of an initial segment of the California high-speed train."[10]

The US Congress enacted the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA), which among other things required the states to develop passenger rail plans. In May 2013, the California DOT released its 2013 State Rail Plan.[11] This helped provide a new perspective that viewed the HSR project as the backbone of a statewide rail modernization plan.

Legal issues[edit]

On November 25, 2013, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny issued two rulings concerning the release of funding from the passage of Proposition 1A. He ruled that the State of California does not have a valid financing plan, which was required by Proposition 1A, and has required the California High-Speed Rail Authority agency to rescind its business plan and create a new one. He also ruled that the state had not properly approved the sale of bonds to finance the project and declined to validate the bonds.[12] The Brown administration sought an expedited appellate court hearing to overturn this ruling,[13] but that request was denied.[14][15] However, on July 31, 2014, the 3rd District Court of Appeal's three-judge panel reversed the lower court ruling and ordered Judge Michael Kinney to vacate his decision.[16] The ruling was that the requirements of Proposition 1A that the financing plan, environmental clearances, and construction plans did not need to be secured for the entire project before construction began, but only for each construction segment. This has allowed the project to proceed. And finally, in October 2014, the state Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal on this decision.[17]

However, Judge Kenny split the aforementioned case into two parts, and the second part is continuing on July 17, 2015, where questions of evidentiary admissibility will be examined. After those are determined, then the actual matter at law will be resolved. Three specific issues are to be determined: (1) Can the train travel from Los Angeles (Union Station) to San Francisco (Transbay Terminal) in two hours and 40 minutes? (2) Will the operational train require an operational subsidy? (3) Is it legal to use shared tracks in the blended system proposed? Plaintiffs maintain that the current plan does not meet Proposition 1A's requirements for these.

Other legal issues have been brought about property acquisition and routing. Indeed, there are many property acquisition lawsuits concerning the project's seeking eminent domain rights to acquire the individual properties.

Initial cost estimates[edit]

The initial cost estimate of the San Francisco-to-Anaheim route was originally determined by the Authority to be $33 billion (2008) / $36.1 billion (2015).[18][19]

Upon further investigation, however, the Authority determined that a route using exclusive trackage along its entire length would be extremely expensive (estimated at over $96 billion), so they saw a need to share track in the metropolitan areas of the San Francisco Peninsula and the LA Basin. Thus, their perspective changed from a stand-alone HSR system to one where HSR would share commuter rails to both save money and improve all passenger rail needs.[5]

The Authority released a revised business plan for a "Blended" system (sharing track) on November 1, 2011, with a new cost estimate of $68.4 billion (in year-of-expenditure dollars)[20] for the Phase 1 Blended system. This is the equivalent to $51.1 billion in 2008 dollars, 55% more[disputed ] than the initial budget of $33 billion (2008 dollars) approved by referendum,[citation needed] along with a revised completion date of 2029.[21]

Financing[edit]

On November 4, 2008, California voters approved Proposition 1A, a measure to construct the initial segment of the network. The measure provided $9.95 billion for the construction of the core segment between San Francisco and Los Angeles/Anaheim, and an additional $950 million for improvements on local railroad systems, which will serve as feeder systems to the planned high-speed rail system.

On October 2, 2009, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled California's official application for ARRA (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) high-speed rail stimulus funding. The total amount of the application was $4.7 billion, representing more than half of the $8 billion set aside for high-speed rail. The application included:

  • $2 billion for high-speed train facilities at Los Angeles Union Station, Norwalk Station, and ARTIC (the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center); right-of-way acquisition, grade separations, utility relocation, environmental mitigation, earthwork, tunneling and track work between Los Angeles and Anaheim.
  • $1.28 billion for station improvements, grade separations, electrification and other work between San Jose and San Francisco;
  • $819.5 million for right-of-way acquisition, grade separations, utility relocation, environmental mitigation, earthwork and track between Bakersfield and Fresno;
  • $466 million for similar work between Fresno and Merced

On January 28, 2010, the White House announced that California would receive $2.35 billion of its request, of which $2.25 billion was allocated specifically for California High Speed Rail, while the rest was designated for conventional rail improvements.[22]

On October 28, 2010, the federal government awarded the Authority a further $900 million for passenger rail improvements, including $715 million specifically for the high-speed rail project, but with the requirement that it be used for the Central Valley segments from Merced to Fresno, or Fresno-to-Bakersfield.[23] While the CHSRA recognizes the federal government's desire for the initial segment to be built in the Central Valley, the Authority states that it will evaluate the starting segment according to its own criteria. This announcement brings the federal government's funding commitment to high-speed rail projects in California to $4.3 billion.

On December 10, 2010, the Department of Transportation reallocated $1.2 billion in federal high-speed rail funding from states that had rejected the stimulus funds, including Wisconsin and Ohio. Nearly half of this funding, $624 million, was redirected to the Authority for use on the initial Central Valley leg of the project.[24]

On May 9, 2011, the Department of Transportation reallocated $2 billion in federal high-speed rail funding from Florida, which had rejected the funding. The DOT awarded $300 million to the Authority for a 20-mile (32 km) extension along the Central Valley Corridor. The work funded in this round will extend the track and civil work from Fresno to the Chowchilla Wye, which will provide a connection to San Jose to the West and Merced to the North.[25] The California High Speed Rail Authority issued a draft Business Plan on November 1, 2011, for public review and comment.[26] The Business Plan will shape the financial and operational implementation of the HSR project, and must be adopted and submitted to the Legislature by January 1, 2012 and every two years thereafter.[27]

On July 6, 2012, the California legislature approved construction financing for an initial stage of the project. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill on July 18.[28][29] The funding approved includes $4.5 billion in bonds previously approved by voters, which, in turn, freed up $3.2 billion in federal funding that would otherwise have expired after July 6. $2.6 billion will be used to build an initial 130-mile (209 km) segment of high-speed line from Madera to just north of Bakersfield in the Central Valley. Funding will also be used for several "bookend" and connectivity projects designed to integrate the future high-speed rail system with existing local and regional rail lines. This blended approach was adopted in a revised Authority business plan approved in April 2012, and is expected to reduce construction costs while providing immediate benefits to rail users in the state. The business plan promises to give priority to closing the gap in passenger rail service between Bakersfield and the Los Angeles area.[a] The plan estimates final cost at Year-Of-Expenditure (YOE) $68 billion for the Phase 1 project, connecting San Francisco with Los Angeles via Central Valley and Palmdale.[30] In 2013 Governor Jerry Brown sought to have 33% of annual cap-and-trade funds allocated to the high speed rail project. In June 2014 state legislators and Governor Jerry Brown agreed on apportioning the state's annual cap-and-trade funds so that 25% goes to high speed rail (under the authority of CHSRA) and 15% goes to other transportation projects by other agencies.

There were 9 quarterly cap-and-trade auctions between Nov. 2012 and Feb. 2015 showing a generally increasing auction settlement price (ranging from $10.00 per unit to $12.10 per unit), and totaling $969 million.[31] Thus, the state's Legislative Analyst's Office is estimating that cap-and-trade income in 2015 and 2016 could total $3.7 billion, of which $925 million would be allocated to HSR. Thus, the HSR share could be half a billion (or more) each year. [32] This will provide a significant ongoing annual income stream for the project which is independent of legislative funding battles and grant applications.

Building the Initial Construction Segment (ICS)[edit]

Approvals

On December 2, 2010, the Authority Board of Directors voted to begin construction on the first section of the system from Madera to Fresno, known as the initial construction segment (ICS). Five "construction packages" are currently being planned for this section. With the Design-Build contractual system the Authority is using, the contractor will be responsible for the final construction design elements, following the guidelines and specifications of the contract. The intent of this is to minimize last minute design change orders arising during the construction process (which tend to add to expenses and slow construction).

On December 20, 2010, due to the infusion of an additional $616 million in federal funds reallocated from states that canceled their high-speed rail plans, the initial segment of construction was extended to Bakersfield. Another $300 million was reallocated on May 9, 2011, extending the funded portion north to the future Chowchilla Wye (where trains can be turned).[33]

In September 2012, the Obama administration gave California's high-speed rail project the green light to streamline the permitting process for the 114-mile (183 km) section of the project which starts just north of Fresno in Madera County and runs south to Bakersfield.

On August 12, 2014 the federal Surface Transportation Board approved the HSR route from Fresno to Bakersfield. This was the final approval needed before beginning construction.[34]

Also, on December 15, 2014 the federal Surface Transportation Board determined (using well-understood preemption rules) that its approval of the HSR project in August "categorically preexempts" lawsuits filed under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). This cleared the last obstacle before construction could begin.[35]

Maps

Note: these maps are subject to change.

Groundbreaking

A ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony was hosted in Fresno on 6 January 2015 to mark the commencement of sustained construction activities.[36]

Construction Package 1

On August 20, 2013 the joint venture of Tutor Perini/Zachary/Parsons executed a design-build contract for the initial Madera to Fresno segment, about 29-mile (46.7 km) long. The contract is valued at approximately $985 million, plus an additional $53 million in provisional sums.[37] Construction was originally expected to begin in 2013, but has been delayed by the slow pace of property acquisition.[38]

Construction Package 2-3

Spain's Dragados, alongside Flatiron West of San Marcos and Shimmick of Oakland, won the bid for the second design-build construction package on December 11, 2014. Dragados/Flatiron/Shimmick submitted a bid of $1.234,567,890 billion to design and build the 65-mile (105 km) stretch from the south end of Fresno to near the Tulare-Kings county line and was deemed the "apparent best value" bidder by the California High-Speed Rail Authority. (Interestingly, the Authority contacted the bidder to be sure that the peculiar proposal amount was indeed correct; it was.)[39] The consortium includes Dragados USA Inc., a subsidiary of Grupo ACS, and Dragados S.A. of Spain; Flatiron West Inc. of San Marcos; and Shimmick Construction Co. of Oakland. Their bid came well below the range of $1.5 billion to $2 billion that was forecast by engineers and consultants working for the rail authority due to their innovative plan for cutting-and-filling instead of more expensive construction alternatives.

Construction Package 4

This construction package will be formally let for bid in late May, and due by October 16, 2015. Five construction teams are competing for this 22-mile (35.4 km) segment.[40][41]

Construction Package 5

This package has yet to be announced.

Other major construction objectives remaining

An additional construction package will be needed to reach from Poplar Avenue down into Bakersfield proper, and another package will be needed to reach from Madera up to the Chowchilla Wye. These are both part of the ICS, but not yet included in the current construction plans.

Other construction elements also remain to be determined ... trainsets, the station designs, and the precise right-of-way for the entire ICS (initial construction segment). Also, the track-laying and electric power installation will also be in a future contract.

Current status and development plans[edit]

Current status[edit]

SB 1029 (enacted in 2012) requires the California High-Speed Rail Authority to produce a revised business plan every two years. This provides the best current overview of the goals, financing, and development perspectives on the project.[29] 2014 Business Plan (PDF)

SB 1029 also requires that twice a year (on March 1 and November 15) the Authority provide a project status report: [42] March 2015 Project Update (PDF)

Statewide Rail Modernization Map, courtesy of California High-Speed Rail Authority (click to enlarge)

Summary of current budget allocations[edit]

For Initial Construction Segment (ICS)[43]

  • $2.6 billion (Proposition 1A) and $3.2 billion (federal) to build the first section from Madera to Bakersfield.
  • $252 million in federal funds and state Proposition 1A funds for designing and planning the Phase 1 and Phase 2 system.
  • $250 million added in 2014 budget year in cap-and-Trade funds (not listed in 2014 Business Plan).
  • total = $6.302 billion

For Connectivity and Bookend Projects

  • $819 million for connectivity projects statewide.
  • $705 million to modernize Caltrain in the Bay Area.
  • $500 million to upgrade rail systems in Southern California.
  • total = $2.024 billion

Implementation schedule[edit]

2022: Initial Operating Section (IOS) — 300 miles — Merced to San Fernando Valley[6]

  • One-seat ride from Merced to San Fernando Valley.
  • Closes north-south intercity rail gap, connecting Bakersfield and Palmdale and then into Los Angeles Basin.
  • Begins with construction of up to 130 miles of high-speed rail track and structures in Central Valley.
  • Private sector operator.
  • Ridership and revenues sufficient to attract private capital for expansion.
  • Connects with enhanced regional/local rail for blended operations with common ticketing.

2027: Bay to Basin — 410 miles — San Jose & Merced to San Fernando Valley

  • One-seat ride between San Francisco and San Fernando Valley.
  • Shared use of electrified/upgraded Caltrain corridor between San Jose and San Francisco Transbay Transit Center.
  • First high-speed rail service to connect the San Francisco Bay Area with the Los Angeles Basin.

2029: Phase 1 Blended (completed) — 520 miles — San Francisco to Los Angeles/Anaheim

  • One-seat ride between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
  • Dedicated high-speed rail infrastructure between San Jose and Los Angeles Union Station.
  • Shared use of electrified/upgraded Caltrain corridor between San Jose and San Francisco Transbay Transit Center.
  • Upgraded Metrolink corridor from LA to Anaheim.

Phase 1[edit]

California Proposition 1A Bond funds and Federal ARRA funds are available to complete an 130-mile (209 km) initial segment from Fresno to Bakersfield in the Central Valley by 2017. This segment would connect with BNSF tracks at each end to allow the Amtrak San Joaquin trains to use the line as a high-performance rail segment, saving 45 minutes to an hour. The selection of the Central Valley as the location for initial construction was dictated in part by the requirements of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) funding, which stipulates that funding terminates in 2017 and that it be used for "rail passenger transportation except commuter rail passenger transportation." (p. 2-12)

ICS (the Initial Construction Segment) runs from just north of Fresno to Baskersfield, and is due to be completed by 2019. At this time it will not include electric power. Simultaneously with the ICS Central Valley construction, there will be "bookends" and connectivity investments (made available by California Senate Bill 1029) [44] The San Francisco Peninsula Corridor used by the Caltrain. rail commuter service will be electrified, and tracks and signaling will be improved. In the LA Basin the Metrolink commuter service tracks, trains, and signaling will be improved. In northern California, the San Joaquin Amtrack route, the Altamont Commuter Express, the Capitol Corridor, and the Caltrain systems will be better interconnected for passenger travel. While the high speed rail construction will not have any immediate benefits, the "bookend" and connectivity improvements will provide immediate benefits. Caltrain, for instance, will be able to significantly increase the speed of its trains. Costs are estimated to be about $8 billion.

After construction reaches Bakersfield in about 2019, the San Joaquin Amtrak route will begin using the HSR tracks. These trains will be able to significantly reduce their travel time (up to about an hour) from Bakersfield to Sacramento, since on the exclusive HSR tracks they will be able to run at top speed, which they cannot on the shared freight line they now use.

By 2022 the HSR construction is planned to have reached southward from Bakersfield through Palmdale in the high desert to Burbank in the San Fernando Valley, and northward from Madera to Merced (also including the Wye at Chowchilla ). The route over the Tehachapi Incline will be the major cost element in the southern segment, since there will be extensive cut-and-fill, aerial, and tunnel construction.[45] At this time the IOS (Initial Operating Section) is scheduled to begin high speed train operations along the entire length of the HSR tracks, from Merced to Burbank, where passengers can connect to Los Angeles and Anaheim via Metrolink. At the north end connections to the Amtrack San Joaquin will be available in Merced.

By 2027 the construction will have extended north from the Chowchilla Wye to San Jose, connecting there with the Caltrain route in San Jose. Thus, "Bay to Basin" HSR passenger rail will be available, connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles, albeit by using multiple rides.

By 2029 the "Blended System" will be operational, providing a "one seat ride" on a high speed train between San Francisco and Los Angeles. In the commuter areas the high speed trains will share commuter track, running at about 110 miles per hour (180 km/h), but in the open spaces they will use their exclusive HSR track and get up to about 220 miles per hour (350 km/h). The total travel time will be less than 3 hours between the two metropolitan area as the original Proposition 1A requires, over a track length of about 520 miles (840 km).

Note that a number of different train HSR schedules will be implemented to better meet different service needs and integrate with commuter traffic in the metropolitan areas. Only some of the trains will provide the fastest travel time over the full-length of the route. Other schedules will provide more focused service for different regions in the state.

Phase 2[edit]

No dates are given yet for construction of the Phase 2 segments, Merced–Sacramento and Los Angeles–San Diego, which total about 280 miles (450 km). The completed system length after these extensions will be about 800 miles (1,300 km).

Additional funding needs[edit]

Dan Richard, Chairman of the CHSRA, has said that he believes that with the cap-and-trade funds the Authority will be able to have sufficient funds to complete the project.[46] However, the costs of major segments, such as Pacheco Pass, the Techachapi Pass, and crossing through the San Gabriel Mountains (via the Santa Clarita Valley or under the Angeles National Forest) are not yet known, and could have significant budgetary impacts, especially if cost savings from design-build innovations are realized.

His optimism still assumes that there will be significant private enterprise contributions to the project.

There is also no question, though, that additional funds from the state and federal governments would make completing the project easier than it is at present. Phase 2 funding might also require that. Since the directions the winds blow in Washington cannot be easily forecast, it is possible that some future funding might appear under another Administration and Congress.[47]

A summary (as of 5/4/2015) of the Authority's funding plan is on their website.[48]

Funding & Finance for High-Speed Rail

"Capital funding to develop the high-speed rail project will come from federal, state, local and private sources. These funds will be available to the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) at different times based on the development timeline of the system.

Developing the first segment of the Initial Operating Section (IOS) from Madera to Bakersfield will cost $6 billion, consisting of $3.3 billion in federal funding and $2.6 billion in Proposition 1A bond proceeds. The remaining portions of the IOS will be funded using state bonds, federal support, and local funds. Cap and Trade funds are also available as needed, upon appropriation, as a backstop against federal and local support to complete the IOS.

The Bay to Basin system is expected to be funded using a mix of federal, local, and other funds, as well as private-sector capital. Likewise, the complete Phase 1 Blended system is expected to be funded in a similar manner.

Once the IOS is under construction and work has begun on blended improvements in Northern and Southern California, the Authority will begin to build the remainder of the IOS with initial attention on closing the passenger-rail gap between Bakersfield and the Los Angeles basin. Development of the IOS will be funded through government sources, while private-sector capital will fund future construction segments once the system is generating positive cash flow."

Route[edit]

Topographic map of proposed route in July 2014, courtesy of California High-Speed Rail Authority (in 3 scales, click to enlarge)

The system will extend from San Francisco and Sacramento, via the Central Valley, to Los Angeles and to San Diego via the Inland Empire. As planned, the track from San Francisco to Los Angeles would be 520 miles (840 km).[49] Possible stations are shown on the map at right. With the extensions to Sacramento and San Diego, the system will cover 800 miles (1,300 km).

Route segments[edit]

San Francisco to San Jose

The 57 miles (92 km) [50] bookend from San Francisco to San Jose currently used by Caltrain is scheduled to be electrified by 2020. High-speed trains will run at 110 miles per hour (180 km/h) on shared tracks beginning with Bay to Basin in 2026. The one-way fare between San Francisco and San Jose is expected to cost $22 in 2013 dollars.[51]

San Jose to Merced

The 125 miles (201 km) from San Jose to Merced, crossing the Pacheco Pass, will run at top speed on dedicated HSR tracks for Bay to Basin in 2026 (since the current right of way south of Tamien is freight-owned). The one-way fare between San Jose and Merced is expected to cost $54 in 2013 dollars.[51] This segment will cross the Diablo Range (see Mountain crossings below for the route discussion) as well as the Calaveras Fault.

Merced to Fresno

The 60 miles (97 km) segment from Merced to Fresno in the Central Valley will run on dedicated HSR tracks for the Initial Operating Section in 2022.[52] The southern portion of this segment (north of Madera to Fresno) has already received route approval and is undergoing construction.

Fresno to Bakersfield

The 114 miles (183 km) segment in the Central Valley will run on dedicated HSR tracks for the Initial Operating Section in 2022. As of 7 May 2014, the route for this segment has been chosen and approved by the California High-Speed Rail Authority.[53] Final approval is required by the Federal Railroad Administration and Surface Transportation Board before construction can begin.[54] This approval was obtained in August 2014, so construction can proceed.[55]

Bakersfield to Palmdale

The 75 miles (121 km) from Bakersfield to Palmdale, crossing the Tehachapi Pass, will run on dedicated HSR tracks for the Initial Operating Section in 2022.[56] (See Mountain crossings below for the route discussion).

Palmdale to Burbank

The segment from Palmdale to Burbank will run on dedicated HSR tracks for the IOS in 2022.[43][57] The one-way high speed rail fare between Palmdale and Los Angeles is expected to cost $31 in 2013 dollars.[51] This segment will cross numerous seismic fault lines;[58][59] this will include the San Andreas fault.[60] This segment will cross the San Gabriel Mountains (see Mountain crossings below for the route discussion).

Tangentially, XpressWest, a private venture, has plans for a high speed rail line from Victorville, California to Las Vegas, Nevada. They also intend an eventual extension from Victorville to Palmdale (known as the "High Desert Corridor"), so passengers could connect directly to the California high speed rail system or Metrolink (which goes through the Santa Clarita Valley to the San Fernando Valley).

Burbank to Los Angeles

The approximately 12 miles (19 km) from Burbank to Los Angeles (LA Union Station) segment will run on an upgraded Metrolink corridor for Phase 1 Blended in 2029.[61] The one-way fare between Los Angeles and Anaheim is expected to cost $26 in 2013 dollars.[51][62]

Los Angeles to Anaheim

The 29 miles (47 km) from Los Angeles to Anaheim will run on an upgraded Metrolink corridor for Phase 1 Blended in 2029. The one-way fare between Los Angeles and Anaheim is expected to cost $29 in 2013 dollars.[51][62]

Los Angeles to San Diego

The 167 miles (269 km) from Los Angeles to San Diego will be built on dedicated HSR tracks in Phase 2.[63]

Merced to Sacramento

The 110 miles (177 km) from Merced to Sacramento will be built on dedicated HSR tracks in Phase 2.[64]

Mountain crossings[edit]

Diablo Range crossing track alignment (San Jose to Merced segment)

One issue initially debated was the crossing of the Diablo Range via either the Altamont Pass or the Pacheco Pass to link the Bay Area to the Central Valley. On November 15, 2007, Authority staff recommended that the High Speed Rail follow the Pacheco Pass route because it is more direct and serves both San Jose and San Francisco on the same route, while the Altamont route poses several major engineering obstacles, including crossing San Francisco Bay. Some cities along the Altamont route, such as Pleasanton and Fremont, opposed the Altamont route option, citing concerns over possible property taking and increase in traffic congestion.[65] However, environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, have opposed the Pacheco route because the area is less developed and more environmentally sensitive than Altamont.[66]

On December 19, 2007, the Authority Board of Directors agreed to proceed with the Pacheco Pass option.[67] Pacheco Pass was considered the superior route for long-distance travel between Southern California and the Bay Area, although the Altamont Pass option would serve as a good commuter route. The Authority plans conventional rail upgrades for the Altamont corridor, to complement the high-speed project.

Tehachapi Mountains crossing track alignment (Bakersfield to Palmdale segment)

In January 2012, the Authority released a study, started in May 2011, that favors a route over the Tehachapi Pass into Antelope Valley and Palmdale over one that parallels Interstate 5 from San Fernando Valley over the Tejon Pass into the Central Valley.[68] The route over the Tehachapi Mountains is still to be determined. The low point on Tehachapi Pass is 4,031 feet (1,229 m). This is significantly higher than Pacheco Pass at 1,368 feet (417 m) over the Diablo Range, and so this is a more formidable engineering challenge.

For comparison, the route over Pacheco Pass begins in Chowchilla (elevation 240 feet (73 m)), crosses the valley floor and climbs to the pass (elevation 1,368 feet (417 m)), and descends to Gilroy (elevation 200 feet (61 m)). The route over the Tehachapi Pass begins in Bakersfield (elevation 404 feet (123 m)), crosses the valley floor and climbs over steeper mountains to the pass (elevation 4,031 feet (1,229 m)), then descends to Palmdale (elevation 2,657 feet (810 m)).

Community meetings to solicit stakeholder concerns will take place until about the end of 2015.[69]

San Gabriel Mountains crossing track alignment (Palmdale to Burbank segment)

The basic route from Palmdale (elevation 2,657 feet (810 m), north of the San Gabriel Mountains) to Burbank (elevation 607 feet (185 m), south of the San Gabriel Mountains) is still under discussion. There are two major route alternatives. The one initially considered, called the "State Route 14 Corridor", ran from Palmdale in the Antelope Valley down through the Santa Clarita Valley to Burbank in the San Fernando Valley, a distance of about 51 miles (82 km). More recently, the "East Corridor" has been proposed, a route composed almost entirely of tunnels running under the Angeles National Forest, a distance of about 35 miles (56 km).[70]

There is significant opposition by Santa Clarita Valley residents to the initial route,[71] and the under-the-mountains route would reduce travel time by about 8 minutes, but would have additional Federal approval complications. There are still community stakeholder meetings proceeding, and as might be expected, there are also those who oppose the East Corridor alternative as well.[72]

The Palmdale to Burbank route and environmental considerations presentation (May 2015, PDF) is available. The alternatives analysis is not due until the summer of 2015, and the route decision is not expected until 2016.[73]

Rolling stock[edit]

Acquisition[edit]

In January 2015 the California High Speed Rail Authority issued an RFP (request for proposal) for rolling stock for complete trains (known as "trainsets"). The proposals received will be reviewed so that acceptable bidders can be selected, and then requests for bids will be sent out. The winning bidder will likely not be selected until 2016.

According to the Fresno Bee, the following companies have formally expressed interest in producing trainsets for the system:[74]

Specifications[edit]

In addition to many other requirements:[75]

  • each trainset will have a sustained continuous speed of 220 miles per hour (350 km/h);
  • a maximum testing speed of 242 miles per hour (389 km/h);
  • a lifespan of at least 30 years;
  • a length no longer than about 680 feet (210 m);
  • the ability operate two trainsets as a single "consist" (a long train);
  • have control cabs at both ends of each trainset and the ability to go equally well in either direction;
  • carry 8 bicycles;
  • have seating for first class and business class passengers as well as have space for wheelchairs;
  • have food service similar to airplane style serving;
  • allow for use of cellphones, broadband wireless internet access, and onboard entertainment services;
  • have a train communications network to notify passengers of travel/train/station/time information;
  • and also have earthquake safety systems for safe stopping and exiting.
Criticisms

One specification that is causing some difficulty is the HSR train requirement for a floor height of 50 in. (127 cm) above the rails. This is the international standard for high-speed rail trains, however, Caltrain trains have a floor height of only 25 in. (63.5 cm). (Metrolink trains have a similar issue.) In October 2014 Caltrain and the Authority agreed to work together to try to implement "level-boarding" on the shared station platforms.[76]

One solution to this that Caltrain is pursuing is to have doors in their trainsets at two heights (one for each platform height). However, this will significantly reduce passenger capacity in the trainsets. The Authority is also resisting the idea of lowering their trainset floor height.[77]

Expenses[edit]

It is estimated that for the entire Phase 1 system up to 95 trainsets might be required.[78] Initially, however, only 16 trainsets are anticipated to be purchased.[79] Trainset expenses, according to the 2014 Business Plan, are planned at $889 million for the IOS (Initial Operating Segment) in 2022, $984 million more for the Bay to Basin in 2027, and $1,403 million more for the completed Phase 1 in 2029, a total of $3.276 billion.[43]

Anticipated benefits[edit]

In addition to the direct reduction in travel times the HSR project will produce, there are other anticipated benefits, both general to the state, to the regions the train will pass through, and to the areas immediately around the train stations.

Statewide economic growth and job creation[edit]

In 2009, the Authority projected that construction of the system will create 450,000 permanent jobs through the new commuters that will use the system,[80] and that the Los Angeles-San Francisco route will generate a net operating revenue of $2.23 billion by 2023,[80] consistent with the experience of other high-speed intercity operations around the world.[81] The 2012 Economic Impact Analysis Report by Parson Brinkerhoff (project managers for the Authority) also indicated substantial economic benefits from high-speed rail.

Even Amtrak's high-speed Acela Express service generates an operating surplus that is used to cover operating expenses of other lines.[82]

The 2012 Business Plan also estimates that the Initial Construction Segment (ICS) construction will "generate 20,000 jobs over five years," with the Phase 1 system requiring 990,000 job-years over 15 years, averaging 66,000 annually.[83]

Environmental benefits[edit]

According to a fact sheet on the Authority website[84] the environmental benefits of the system include:

  • In 2022, when the Initial Operating Section (Merced to the San Fernando Valley) is up and running, the resulting greenhouse gas reductions will be between 100,000 to 300,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the first year. That’s the equivalent of from between 17,700 to 53,000 personal vehicles taken off the road.
  • Between 2022 and 2040, the cumulative reduction of CO2 is estimated to be between 5 and 10 million metric tons. By 2040, the system is estimated to reduce vehicles miles of travel in the state by almost 10 million miles of travel every day (16,000,000 km).
  • Over a 58-year period (from the start of operations in 2022 through 2080), the system is estimated to reduce auto travel on the state’s highways and roads by over 400 billion miles of travel (6.4×1011 km).

Regional benefits[edit]

In its 67-page ruling in May 2015, the federal Surface Transportation Board noted: The current transportation system in the San Joaquin Valley region has not kept pace with the increase in population, economic activity, and tourism. ... The interstate highway system, commercial airports, and conventional passenger rail systems serving the intercity market are operating at or near capacity and would require large public investments for maintenance and expansion to meet existing demand and future growth over the next 25 years or beyond.[85] Thus, the Board sees the HSR system as providing valuable and important benefits to the region's transportation needs.

The San Joaquin Valley is also one of the poorest areas of the state. For example, the unemployment rate near the end of 2014 in Fresno County was 2.2% higher than the statewide average.[86] And, of the five poorest metro areas in the country, three are in the Central Valley.[87] The HSR system has the potential to significantly improve this region and its economy. A January 2015 report to the CHSRA examined this issue. See Final Full Central Valley Economic Study Report

In addition to jobs and income levels in general, the presence of HSR is expected to benefit the growth in the cities around the HSR stations. It is anticipated that this will help increase population density in those cities and reduce "development sprawl" out into surrounding farmlands.[88]

Criticisms[edit]

There are two significant types of criticism. One is the legally established "peer review" process that the legislature established for an independent check on the Authority's planning efforts. The other are public criticisms by groups, individuals, public agencies, and elected officials.

Peer review[edit]

The California Legislature established a California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group to provide independent analysis of the Authority's business plans and modeling efforts. These documents are submitted to the Legislature as needed. The most recent critique is of the 2014 Business Plan.

Public criticisms[edit]

The California High-Speed Rail system has been criticized on budgetary, feasibility, legal, environmental, political, and public opinion grounds. Criticisms have been made by individuals, public officials, private institutions, government agencies, and civil society organizations.

Reason Foundation, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, and the Citizens Against Government Waste published a large study critiquing the project in 2008 The California High Speed Rail Proposal: A Due Diligence Report. In 2013 Reason Foundation published an updated critique: California High Speed Rail: An Updated Due Diligence Report. Key elements of the updated critique include

  • unachievable train speed
  • implausible ridership projections
  • spiraling costs
  • no funding plan
  • incorrect assumptions re HSR alternatives
  • increasing fare projections

This critique is based on the 2012 Business Plan. Although the 2012 Business Plan has been superseded by the 2014 Business Plan, the critique does include the Blended System approach using using commuter trackage in SF and LA.

James Fallows in the The Atlantic magazine succinctly summarized all the public criticisms thusly, "It will cost too much, take too long, use up too much land, go to the wrong places, and in the end won't be fast or convenient enough to do that much good anyway."[89]

Alternatives to HSR[edit]

Some have offered the idea that instead of risking the large expenditures of high-speed rail, that existing transportation methods be increased to meet increased transportion needs. However, in a report[90] commissioned by the California High-Speed Rail Authority (the promoters of the project), a comparison was made to the needed infrastructure improvements if high-speed rail were not constructed. According to the report, the cost of building equivalent capacity to the $68.4 billion (YOE) Phase 1 Blended plan, in airports and freeways, is estimated to be $119.0 billion (YOE) for 4,295 new lane-miles (6,912 km) of highway, plus $38.6 billion (YOE) for 115 new airport gates and 4 new runways, for a total estimated cost of $158 billion.[91]

Project budget concerns[edit]

The project's cost and scope have long been a source of controversy. The California High-Speed Rail Authority has estimated the project's year-of-expenditure cost at $68.4 billion (2011 estimate).[20] In July 2014 The World Bank reported that the per kilometer cost of California's high-speed rail system was $56 million, more than double the average cost of $17–21 million per km of high speed rail in China and more than the $25–39 million per km average for similar projects in Europe.[92] It should be noted, though, that high real estate prices in California and three mountain ranges to cross contribute to the difference. For example, Construction Package 2-3 in the farmland of the flat Central Valley works out to $11.4 million per km, although this figure does not include electrification or property values, so it's roughly comparable internationally.

The California Legislative Analyst's Office published recommendations on May 10, 2011, which they said will help the high-speed rail project be developed successfully. They recommended that the California legislature seek flexibility on use of federal funds and then reconsider where construction of the high-speed rail line should start. They also recommended that the California legislature shift responsibility away from the Authority and fund only the administrative tasks of the Authority in the 2011–12 budget.[93]

In January 2012, an independent peer review panel published a report recommending the Legislature not approve issuing $2.7 billion in bonds to fund the project.[94] The panel of experts was created by state law to help safeguard the public's interest. The report said that moving ahead on the high-speed rail project without credible sources of adequate funding represents a financial risk to California.

Prior to the July 2012 vote, State Senator Joe Simitian, (D-Palo Alto), expressed concerns about financing needed to complete the project, asking: "Is there additional commitment of federal funds? There is not. Is there additional commitment of private funding? There is not. Is there a dedicated funding source that we can look to in the coming years? There is not."[47] The lobbying and advocacy group Train Riders Association of California also considers that Bill SB 1029 "provides no high-speed service for the next decade".[95]

The 2008 Due Diligence Report projected that the final cost for the complete system would be $65.2 to $81.4 billion (2008), significantly higher than estimates made for the Authority by Parsons Brinckerhoff,[citation needed] an American engineering firm. However, the California High-Speed Rail Authority is using Design-Build construction contracts to counter the tendency toward cost over-runs. All of the construction is to be done via "design-build" proposals wherein each builder is given leeway in the design and management of construction, but not the ability to run back with contract change orders except for extraordinary problems. The builder is given specifications but also given the freedom to meet them in their own way, plus the ability to modify the construction plans in an expeditious and cost-effective manner.[96] As of May 2015, both construction packages awarded have come in significantly under staff estimates. For example, Construction Package 1 came in 20% under staff estimates ($985 million versus $1.2 billion),[97] and Construction Package 2-3 came in under by 17% to 28% ($1.234567 billion versus $1.5-$2 billion)

Elon Musk has criticized the project as too expensive and not technologically advanced enough (trains that are too slow). On August 12, 2013 he released a high-level alpha design for a Hyperloop transit system concept which he claimed would travel over three times as fast and cost less than a tenth of the rail proposal.[98][99] The following day he announced a plan to construct a demonstration of the concept.[100] Musk's claims have been subject to significant debate and criticism, in particular that the costs are still unknown and likely understated, the technology is not proven enough for statewide implementation, the route proposed doesn't meet the needs of providing statewide transportation, and it does not meet the legal requirements of Proposition 1A and so would require a whole new legal underpining.[101]

Ridership and revenue concerns[edit]

In May, 2015, the Los Angeles Times published an article by critics on the estimated operational revenue of the system in "Doing the math on California's bullet train fares".[102] The article raised a number of doubts that the system could be self-supporting, as required by Prop 1A, and ended by quoting Louis Thompson (chairman of an unnamed state-created review panel) who said "We will not know until late in the game how everything will turn out."[89]

The Due Diligence Report in 2008 projected fewer riders by 2030 than officially estimated: 23.4 to 31.1 million intercity riders a year instead of the 65.5 to 96.5 million forecast by the Authority and later confirmed by an independent peer review.[103]

However, Robert Cruickshank of the California High Speed Rail Blog (which closely watches the project and advocates for it) countered by raising numerous critiques of data and conclusions in the article in his article "LA Times Completely Botches Story of HSR Fares".[104] In addition, readers of his blog submitted evidence that the data given for some of the comparison fares were seriously in error.[105]

The California High-Speed Rail Authority ridership estimates initially were unrealistically high, and have been revised several times using progressively better estimating models, including risk analysis and confidence levels. These now use generally recognized international standard methods.[106] The 2014 study (at a 50% confidence level) estimated the following ridership/revenue figures:
2022 (IOS): 11.3 million / $625 million
2027 (Bay to Basin): 19.1 million / $1055.6 million
2029 (Phase 1 initial): 28.4 million / $1350.4 million
2040 (Phase 1 mature): 33.1 million / $1559.4 million [107]

Travel time concerns[edit]

There have been some comments by critics that the proposed system will not meet the requirement of Proposition 1A that the train provide service between Los Angeles and downtown San Francisco in 2 hours and 40 minutes.

The basic plan of the Authority meets the requirement, but does push the limits of what is conventional in HSR speed worldwide. Currently, the planned route is

  • San Francisco Transbay Terminal to San Jose (a distance of 57 miles (92 km)) at a speed of 110 miles per hour (180 km/h)
  • San Jose to Burbank (a distance of about 405 miles (652 km) or 425 miles (684 km)) at a speed of 220 miles per hour (350 km/h)
  • Burbank to Los Angeles Union Station (a distance of about 12 miles (19 km)) at a speed of 90 miles per hour (140 km/h).

Calculations indicate that the total travel time for this route would be 2 hours and 26 (or 31) minutes. The Authority is currently indicating meeting a total travel time of 2 hrs and 38 minutes for the non-stop run.

Both the 2008 and 2013 Due Diligence reports state that no existing high-speed train currently meets the proposed speed and safety goals. It notes that the highest peak HSR speed in the world is about 200 miles per hour (320 km/h) in France, and this is significantly less than the sustained speed of 220 miles per hour (350 km/h) the CHSRA plan requires. They also note safety concerns in running at top speed through highly populated urban areas such as Fresno.[108]

The current trainset specification requires sustained speeds of 220 miles per hour (350 km/h). So, ultimately it is up to the trainset manufacturers to meet the Authority's speed requirement.

Legality concerns[edit]

In December 2011 Legislative Analyst's Office published a report indicating that the incremental development path outlined by CHSRA may not be legal.[109] According to the State Analyst, "Proposition 1A identifies certain requirements that must be met prior to requesting an appropriation of bond proceeds for construction. These include identifying for a corridor, or a usable segment thereof, all sources of committed funds, the anticipated time of receipt of those funds, and completing all project-level environmental clearances for that segment. Our review finds that the funding plan only identifies committed funding for the ICS (San Joaquin Valley segment), which is not a usable segment, and therefore does not meet the requirements of Proposition 1A. In addition, the HSRA has not yet completed all environmental clearances for any usable segment and will not likely receive all of these approvals prior to the expected 2012 date of initiating construction."

However, initial concerns regarding the projects legality have (as of May 2015) been put to rest. (See Legality under History, above.)

Central Valley route concerns[edit]

Some people are concerned with the Valley route, in particular its going down the east side of the Central Valley rather than the more open west side. While it would likely be cheaper and faster to go down the west side, Proposition 1A specified that HSR would serve the population centers on the east side. Thus, this issue is really moot due to the law.

Opposition to Pacheco Pass alignment[edit]

The selection of the Pacheco Pass alignment has come under intense criticism from a number of stakeholders.[110] This alignment requires going through the Grasslands Ecological Area, which has been criticized by many environmental groups, including The Sierra Club.[111] A coalition that includes the cities of Menlo Park, Atherton, and Palo Alto has also sued the Authority to reconsider the Altamont Pass alternative.[112][113] More than one hundred land owners along the proposed route have rejected initial offers by the Authority, and the Authority has taken them to court, seeking to take their land through eminent domain.[114][115][116] The possibility of urban sprawl into communities along the route have been raised by farming industry leaders.[117]

San Fernando Valley opposition[edit]

On Thursday, May 28, 2015 the CHSRA held an open house meeting in the City of San Fernando to discuss the route into the Valley and the impacts of the proposed rail service, and found fierce opposition by angry protesters, including city officials. Residents and officials of other affected cities in the Valley also have serious concerns. The Authority says it is committed to making this work, and to involving the communities to select the best route, but there are many factors to consider in selecting the route. Michelle Boehm, the Southern California section director of the project, said that the route would be selected over the next 12 to 18 months, and issue a final environment report in two years. The next community meeting will be in downtown Los Angeles on June 9, and is also expected to draw many protesters.[118]

Property acquisition delays[edit]

The effect of delays has created serious concerns by project supporters because the pace of property acquisition has been much slower than anticipated.

The Construction Package 1 contract was signed in August 2013, yet not all the property necessary has been acquired in a timely manner, which has seriously slowed down the work. In March 2015, the contractor, Tutor Perini, sought additional funds due to the added expense of delays.[119]

On April 20, 2015 the Fresno Bee noted: "As of mid-March, the rail authority had managed to secure ownership of just 164 of the 1,066 parcels of property it needs in the first two construction sections of the rail route between Madera and the Tulare-Kern county line."[120] More serious still is that the federal ARRA funds need to be spent by the end of October 2017, and if they are not, the money will revert to the federal government unless Congress revises that requirement.

Public support[edit]

The latest polling indicates the following in the PPIC March 2015 Survey. (Breakdowns to the following data are also given by political affiliation, geographic region, and likely voter.)

  • Support for the project has hovered around 50% since 2012.
  • In 2015, when asked if they favor or oppose the project ("As you may know, California voters passed a $10 billion state bond in 2008 for planning and construction of a high-speed rail system from Southern California to the Central Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area. The estimated costs associated with the high speed rail system are about $68 billion over the next 20 years. Do you favor or oppose building a high-speed rail system in California?"), then 47% favor it, and 48% oppose it.
  • When asked how they feel if the project cost less, favorability rises to 64%.
  • When asked how important high-speed rail is (“Thinking ahead, how important is the high-speed rail system for the future quality of life and economic vitality of California -— is it very important, somewhat important, not too important, or not at all important?”), then 64% of respondents said very or somewhat important, and 35% said not too or not at all important.

Dan Richard, chair of the Authority, says in an interview with James Fallows that he believes approval levels will increase when people can start seeing progress, and trains start running on the tracks.[121]

Additional information in the press[edit]

Since this is such a major project and there is significant public controversy concerning it, there is also substantial continuing information in the press. In order to make this more readily available, here are some recent significant sources of additional information.

Columns and/or continuing coverage:

Bold Bets
California on the Move?

The Bold Bets: California on the Move? conference was hosted February 2015 by The Atlantic magazine and Siemens. There were some significant discussions, presentations, and interviews. Notably, Dan Richard, chair of the Authority, was interviewed by James Fallows.[121]

The Atlantic magazine covers California HSR

James Fallows in The Atlantic magazine wrote a series of 17 articles (from July 2014 to January 2015) about the HSR system which covers many aspects of the system, criticisms of it, and responses to those criticisms.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Rail freight uses a circuitous route through the Tehachapi Pass.
Citations
  1. ^ California High-Speed Rail Authority. "Implementation Plan" (PDF). pp. 23, 25. Retrieved July 17, 2008. [dead link]
  2. ^ "Project Vision and Scope". California High-Speed Rail Authority. 2008. Retrieved November 26, 2011. 
  3. ^ http://www.hsr.ca.gov/docs/programs/statewide_rail/proj_sections/LA_Anaheim/Anaheim_SAA_Executive_Summary_071710.pdf
  4. ^ http://www.hsr.ca.gov/
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  6. ^ a b http://www.hsr.ca.gov/docs/about/legislative_affairs/SB1029_Project_Update_Report_030115.pdf
  7. ^ Staff (February 21, 2015). "The most expensive public-works project in U.S. history". The Week. 
  8. ^ LegInfo
  9. ^ Ballotpedia
  10. ^ California High-Speed Rail Authority. "Implementation Plan" (PDF). pp. 23, 25. Retrieved March 29, 2012. 
  11. ^ 2013 "CALIFORNIA STATE RAIL PLAN" (PDF). California Department of Transportation. May 2013. 
  12. ^ "Judge blocks use of state bond money for California bullet train". Los Angeles Times. November 25, 2013. Retrieved February 11, 2014. 
  13. ^ "Calif. seeks appellate hearing on high-speed rail". ABC23 Kero/Bakersfield. February 11, 2014. Retrieved February 11, 2014. 
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  31. ^ http://lao.ca.gov/LAOEconTax/Article/Detail/64
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  39. ^ Interview of Dan Richard by James Fallows at Bold Bets conference, Feb. 25, 2015: http://www.theatlantic.com/live/events/bold-bets-sacramento/2015/
  40. ^ http://www.hsr.ca.gov/docs/newsroom/HSRA_Solicits_Proposals_Five_World_Class_Teams_040314.pdf
  41. ^ http://www.fresnobee.com/2015/05/12/4521854/five-construction-teams-invited.html
  42. ^ http://www.cahsrblog.com/2015/03/chsra-provides-comprehensive-project-update-to-legislature/
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  44. ^ http://www.hsr.ca.gov/Programs/Statewide_Rail_Modernization/index.html
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  52. ^ Merced to Fresno
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  56. ^ Bakersfield to Palmdale
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  64. ^ Merced to Sacramento
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