California High-Speed Rail
Artist's rendering CHSR trainset and livery
|Transit type||High-speed rail|
|System length||800+ mi (1,300+ km) (proposed)|
|Top speed||220 mph (350 km/h)|
California High-Speed Rail is a high-speed rail system currently under construction in the state of California. The planned lines would connect Los Angeles with San Francisco with speeds of over 200 miles per hour (320 km/h), with extensions to San Diego and Sacramento. The first phase of the system will be constructed in three interconnected segments: one in the Central Valley, one linking the Central Valley to the Los Angeles Basin, and another linking the Central Valley to the San Francisco Bay Area. Future segments include routes to Sacramento and San Diego.
With an anticipated construction and planning cost of $68.4 billion, the project is the most expensive public works project in United States history. Its cost and scope has been a major point of contention.
- 1 History
- 2 Route
- 3 Rolling stock
- 4 Development
- 5 Criticisms
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
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, the California High-Speed Rail Authority was established to begin formal planning in preparation for a ballot measure in 1998 or 2000. 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 voters approved the issuing of bonds with 52.7% voting in favor.
The cost of the initial San Francisco-to-Anaheim segment was originally estimated by the Authority to be $33 billion (2008) / $36.1 billion (2015), but a revised business plan released in November 2011 by the Authority put the cost at $65.4 billion (2010) / $70.7 billion (2015) / $98.5 billion (YOE). The latest plan has revised the costs down to $53.4 billion (2011) / $56 billion (2015) / $68.4 billion (YOE). An implementation plan approved in August 2005 estimated that it would take eight to eleven years to "develop and begin operation of an initial segment of the California high-speed train."
On December 2, 2010, the Authority Board of Directors voted to begin construction on the first section of the system from Madera to Fresno. On December 20, 2010, with 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, so that the train can be turned.
The Authority released a revised business plan for the system on November 1, 2011, with a new cost estimate of $68.4 billion (in year-of-expenditure dollars) 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, along with a revised completion date that was pushed from 2020 to 2033 if a Full Build option is chosen instead of the Blended System.
In September 2012, the Obama administration gave California's high-speed rail project the green light. President Obama put the project on a fast track. President Obama's plan would 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 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. 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. 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.
Financing and legal issues
On October 2, 2009, then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled California's official application for ARRA 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 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.
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. 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.
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. The California High Speed Rail Authority issued a draft Business Plan on November 1, 2011, for public review and comment. 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.
On November 25, 2013, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny issued two rulings which have indefinitely postponed 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. The Brown administration sought an expedited appellate court hearing to overturn this ruling, but that request was denied.
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.
On August 20, 2013 the joint venture of Tutor Perini/Zachary/Parsons announced that it had executed a contract with the Authority for the design and construction of the initial Madera to Fresno segment of the California high-speed rail system. The contract is valued at approximately $985 million, plus an additional $53 million in provisional sums. Construction was originally expected to begin in 2013.
Tutor Perini won the bid for the first segment of HSR construction, but they didn't win the second bid. That went to a team led by Spain's Dragados, alongside Flatiron West of San Marcos and Shimmick of Oakland. Dragados/Flatiron/Shimmick submitted a bid of $1.23 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. 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.
A groundbreaking ceremony was hosted in Fresno on 6 January 2015 to mark the commencement of sustained construction activities. The project is the most expensive public works project in United States history.
While preliminary construction has begun along portions of the route, the rolling stock, station design, and the exact right-of-way for the initial alignment remains to be determined.
The system will extend from San Francisco and Sacramento, via the Central Valley, to Los Angeles and San Diego via the Inland Empire. As planned, the track from San Francisco to Los Angeles would be 520 miles (840 km). Possible stations are shown on the statewide rail modernization map at right. In January 2012, the Authority released a study, started in May 2011, that favors a route through Antelope Valley over one that parallels Interstate 5.
Diablo Range crossing track alignment
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. However, environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, have opposed the Pacheco route because the area is less developed and more environmentally sensitive than Altamont.
On December 19, 2007, the Authority Board of Directors agreed to proceed with the Pacheco Pass option. 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.
San Francisco to San Jose The 50-mile (80 km) bookend from San Francisco to San Jose currently used by Caltrain is scheduled to be electrified by 2020. High-speed trains will run at reduced speeds on this segment beginning with Bay to Basin in 2026, and then on dedicated HSR infrastructure. The one-way fare between San Francisco and San Jose is expected to cost $22 in 2013 dollars.
San Jose to Merced The 125 miles (201 km) from San Jose to Merced, crossing the Pacheco Pass, will run 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. This segment will cross numerous seismic fault lines, including the Hayward fault.
Fresno to Bakersfield The 114-mile (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[update], the route for this segment has been chosen and approved by the California High-Speed Rail Authority. Final approval is required by the Federal Railroad Administration and Surface Transportation Board before construction can begin.
Palmdale to Los Angeles The 58-mile (93 km) bookend from Palmdale to Los Angeles, crossing the San Gabriel Mountains, will run on dedicated HSR tracks for Phase 1 Blended in 2029. XpressWest has plans to connect to Palmdale, and have passengers transfer to the Metrolink system to access the Los Angeles area, for their Los Angeles to Las Vegas high-speed service in 2016. The one-way fare between Palmdale and Los Angeles is expected to cost $32 in 2013 dollars. This segment will cross numerous seismic fault lines; this will include the San Andreas fault. This will split into two segments at Burbank.
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.
Los Angeles to San Diego The 167 miles (269 km) from Los Angeles to San Diego will be built in Phase 2.
Merced to Sacramento The 110 miles (177 km) from Merced to Sacramento will be built in Phase 2.
The California High Speed Rail Authority plans to order rolling stock in Spring 2015. These contracts will be awarded through a bidding process. According to the Fresno Bee, the following companies have formally expressed interest in producing trains for the system:
- Bombardier Transportation
- China South Locomotive & Rolling Stock
- China North Locomotive and Rolling Stock
- Hyundai Rotem
- Kawasaki Heavy Industries Rolling Stock
- Siemens Mobility
According to its 2014 business plan, the High Speed Rail Authority plans to spend $889 million in its initial rolling stock purchase. These trains should have a lifespan of 30 years. The Fresno Bee estimates that as many as 15 trains could be ordered for the initial operating segment of the route.
California and Federal ARRA funds are available to complete a 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)
The 2012 Business Plan (Exhibit ES-3) projects the completion dates (shown at right) for high-speed rail segments, assuming additional funding can be obtained. No dates are given for the Phase 2 segments, Merced–Sacramento and Los Angeles–San Diego.
On November 4, 2008, California voters approved Proposition 1A, a measure to construct the initial segment of the network. The measure provides $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.
Financing plans to complete the initial segment require as-yet-unsecured support from federal and local governments, as well as significant investment from the private sector. In a plan developed by the CHSRA in conjunction with Goldman Sachs, the federal commitment was expected to be $12 to $16 billion, while private investors would invest up to $7.5 billion, leaving an additional $10 billion to come from local governments. Construction costs are projected to be approximately $98.5 billion (year of expenditure). The Authority projects the initial operating segment to produce a budget surplus which will be used to finance extensions to Sacramento and San Diego.
Projected job creation
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, and that the Los Angeles-San Francisco route will generate a net operating revenue of $2.23 billion by 2023, consistent with the experience of other high-speed intercity operations around the world. Even Amtrak's high-speed Acela Express service generates an operating surplus that is used to cover operating expenses of other lines.
The 2012 Business Plan estimates that the first segment's 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.
Stated environmental benefits
According to a fact sheet on the Authority website 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).
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.
In a report commissioned by the CHSRA (the promoters of the project), a comparison is made to the needed infrastructure improvement if high-speed rail is 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.
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). 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.
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.
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. 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." 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".
In September 2008, Reason Foundation, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the Citizens Against Government Waste groups published "The California High Speed Rail Proposal: A Due Diligence Report". The 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, an American engineering firm.
Elon Musk has criticized the project as too expensive and resulting in a train that is 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. The following day he announced a plan to construct a demonstration of the concept. Musk's claims have been subject to significant debate and criticism.
Ridership and travel time projections
The aforementioned opposition groups' "Due Diligence Report" 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. The report stated that no existing high-speed train currently meets the proposed speed and safety goals, although the safety systems have not been fully specified, and that the reduction in CO2 emissions would be inconsequential. The time required to reach the proposed speeds, the distances between stops, and the fact that for part of the route the high-speed trains will travel on regular train tracks rather than upgraded high-speed rail tracks indicates that attaining the proposed speeds would be difficult between the majority of stops.
The Legislative Analyst's Office published a report in December 2011 indicating that the incremental development path outlined by CHSRA may not be legal. 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."
Environmental and community opposition to Pacheco Pass alignment
The selection of the Pacheco Pass alignment has come under intense criticism from a number of stakeholders. This alignment requires going through the Grasslands Ecological Area, which has been criticized by many environmental groups, including The Sierra Club. A coalition that includes the cities of Menlo Park, Atherton and Palo Alto has also sued the California High Speed Rail Authority to reconsider the Altamont Pass alternative. More than one hundred land owners along the proposed route have rejected initial offers by the California High-Speed Rail Authority, and the Authority has taken them to court, seeking to take their land through eminent domain. The possibility of urban sprawl into communities along the route have been raised by farming industry leaders.
- California–Nevada Interstate Maglev, a proposed maglev from Anaheim, California to Las Vegas.
- XpressWest, formerly DesertXpress, a planned high-speed rail from Victorville to Las Vegas.
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- Note: Rail freight uses a circuitous route through the Tehachapi Pass.
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- Bakersfield to Palmdale
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- Los Angeles to Anaheim
- Los Angeles to San Diego
- Merced to Sacramento
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- 2012 Business Plan exhibit ES-3
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After adjusting the analysis to be more comparable to the costs described in the Business Plan, the total costs of equivalent investment in airports and highways would be $123-138 billion (in 2011 dollars) to build 4,295-4652 lane-miles of highways, 115 gates, and four runways for Phase 1 Blended and Phase 1 Full Build, respectively... In year-of-expenditure (YOE) dollars, the highway and airport costs would be $158-186 billion.
- PRESS RELEASE, Cost of High Speed Rail in China One Third Lower than in Other Countries, July 10, 2014, http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2014/07/10/cost-of-high-speed-rail-in-china-one-third-lower-than-in-other-countries
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[Musk] will develop and construct a Hyperloop demonstrator.
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We are satisfied with the documentation presented in Cambridge Systematics, and conclude that it demonstrates that the model produces results that are reasonable and within expected ranges for the current environmental planning and Business Plan applications of the model. We were very pleased with the content, quality and quantity of the information.
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- California High-Speed Rail Authority - official web site
- California High Speed Rail collected news and commentary at Los Angeles Times
- California High Speed Rail Blog