History of California High-Speed Rail
The California High-Speed Rail Authority was established in 1996 after decades of advocacy for building a high speed rail system in California. The passage of Proposition 1A in 2008, followed by the awarding of federal stimulus funds in 2010, established the initial funding for the California High-Speed Rail system. Construction contracts began to be awarded in 2013, and the groundbreaking ceremony for initial construction was held on January 6, 2015.
- 1 Early history
- 2 Financing
- 3 Construction
- 4 Future construction
- 5 Legal challenges
- 6 References
Governor Jerry Brown has long been an advocate of a high-speed rail system for California. In his first two terms as governor (1975–1983) he signed legislation into law for the study of a high-speed rail system. In 1992 in his run for the Presidency the United States he continued to show his support for it. Then, in 1993 the Intercity High-Speed Rail Commission was created to conduct studies and prepare plans.
At the federal level, 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 (CHSRA), 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 53% of voters approved the issuing of $9 billion in bonds for high speed rail in Proposition 1A.
The U.S. 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. This helped provide a new perspective that viewed the HSR project as the backbone of a statewide rail modernization plan. This has been used by the Authority in allocating funds to other state rail systems that support passenger rail goals and feed into the HSR system.
For Initial Construction Segment (ICS), in the Initial Operating System (IOS) area:
- $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:
- $705 million to modernize Caltrain in the Bay Area.
- $500 million to upgrade rail systems in Southern California.
- $819 million for other connectivity projects statewide.
- total = $2.024 billion
The cost of the San Francisco-to-Anaheim route was originally estimated in 2008 at $33 billion (in 2006 dollars; would be about $65 billion in year-of-expenditure (YOE) dollars). 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 (YOE)), 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 High Speed Rail (HSR) system to one where HSR would share commuter rails (a "blended" system) to both save money and improve all passenger rail needs. (Note that the 2012 Revised Business Plan listed a new estimate for a Full Build option for a cumulative cost of $91.4 billion (YOE) and completion date of 2033.)
The Revised 2012 Business Plan listed new estimates (in cumulative year-of-expenditure costs) for the new blended system: Initial Operating System in 2021 for a total of $31.3 billion, Bay to Basin in 2026 for a total of $51.2 billion, and Phase 1 Blended in 2028 for a total of $68.4 billion.
Proposition 1A Bond funds
On November 4, 2008, California voters approved Proposition 1A, a measure to construct the initial segment of the network. The measure authorized $9.95 billion in bond sales 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 federal $8 billion allocated for high-speed rail. 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. On December 9, 2010, the federal Department of Transportation reallocated $1.2 billion in high-speed rail funding from states that had rejected it. Of this, $624 million was redirected to the Authority for use on the Initial Construction Section. On May 9, 2011, the federal Department of Transportation reallocated an additional $2 billion in federal high-speed rail funding from Florida, which had rejected it. The DOT awarded $300 million to the Authority for a 20-mile (32 km) extension from Merced north to the Chowchilla Wye.
On July 6, 2012, the California legislature approved construction of high-speed system, and Governor 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 was allocated to build the Initial Construction Segment. Funding was also to be used for several "bookend" and connectivity projects designed to integrate the future high-speed rail system with existing local and regional rail lines. The plan estimates final cost at Year-Of-Expenditure (YOE) $68 billion for Phase 1.
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. The 9 quarterly cap-and-trade auctions between Nov. 2012 and Feb. 2015 showed a generally increasing auction settlement price (ranging from $10.00 per unit to $12.10 per unit), and totaling $969 million. The state's Legislative Analyst's Office estimated 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.  This will provide a significant ongoing annual income stream for the project which is independent of legislative funding battles and grant applications. For 2014 and 2015, the cap-and-trade funds allocated to HSR amounted to $750 million. In addition, the Authority can take an additional $400 million as "repayment of a loan that Brown's fiscal 2013-14 general fund budget borrowed from cap-and-trade revenues."
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. However, the costs of major segments, such as Pacheco Pass, the Tehachapi 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 not 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. A summary (as of 5/4/2015) of the Authority's funding plan is on their website.
Private sector interest
In mid-2015 the CHSRA put out a request for Expressions of Interest from the private sector in financing, constructing, and operating the California HSR system. On Sept. 30, 2015 they released the names of 30 major and international firms who expressed interest in doing so. They were from all around the world, including major players in large construction projects, high-speed rail manufacturers, and HSR system operators. Europe, China, and Japan were represented.
|Construction package map, Packages 1 to 5 (January 2015)|
|Merced to Fresno (May 2013)|
|Fresno to Bakersfield (April 2014)|
|map of CP1|
|map of CP2-3|
|map of CP4|
|Shafter to Bakersfield proposed alignments (August 2015)|
This timeline was superseded by the February 2016 Business Plan.
By 2018: The Initial Construction Segment (ICS) is to be completed – 130 miles (210 km) – Merced to Bakersfield.
- Provide faster service on the Amtrak San Joaquin train in the southern and central parts of the Central Valley, connecting with BNSF tracks at the north end.
By 2022: Initial Operating Section (IOS) is to be completed – 300 miles (480 km) – Merced to Burbank
- Provide a one-seat HSR ride between Merced and Burbank.
- Close the north-south rail gap to link the Los Angeles Basin with the Central Valley and Northern California.
- Construct up to 130 miles of high-speed rail track and supporting structures in the Central Valley.
- Select a private sector system operator.
- Gain ridership and revenues to attract private capital for system expansion.
- Connect with upgraded regional and local rail lines for blended operations and shared ticketing.
By 2027: Bay to Basin is to be completed – 410 miles (660 km) – San Jose & Merced to Burbank
- Provide a one-seat HSR ride between San Francisco (Transbay Transit Center) and Burbank.
- Share an electrified, upgraded Caltrain corridor from San Jose to San Francisco (Transbay Transit Center).
By 2029: Phase 1 Blended is to be completed – 520 miles (840 km) – San Francisco to Los Angeles/Anaheim
- Provide a one-seat HSR ride between San Francisco (Transbay Transit Center) and Los Angeles (Union Station).
- Use dedicated high-speed rail tracks between San Jose and Los Angeles Union Station.
- Share an electrified, upgraded Caltrain corridor from San Jose to San Francisco (Transbay Transit Center).
- Share an upgraded Metrolink line from LA to Anaheim.
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 (as explained by Dan Richard, chair of the Authority) 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).
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.
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. However, this supposition is still being tested in the California courts in a similar case, Friends of Eel River v. North Coast Railroad Authority.
On June 10, 2015 the Authority authorized a "Rail Delivery Partner" contract to be negotiated and signed by the CEO, valued at up to $700 million, for services through 2022. This is a successor to the support provided by the current Project Management Team contract. The RDP will provide engineering and management services to see the project from a planning mode into a construction mode. The RDP partnership under the lead of Parsons Brinckerhoff includes Network Rail Consulting (the international consulting arm of the UK rail authority) and LeighFisher (a global management firm with extensive experience in infrastructure and advisory services). The other partnership competing was under Bechtel Infrastructure Corporation.
Awarding of Construction Packages
CP1. 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 miles (47 km) long. The contract is valued at approximately $985 million, plus an additional $53 million in provisional sums. Construction was originally expected to begin in 2013, but has been delayed by the slow pace of property acquisition.
CP2-3. Dragados of Spain, with Flatiron West of San Marcos, and Jacobs Engineering of Oakland, won the bid for the second design-build construction package on December 11, 2014. Dragados/Flatiron/Jacobs submitted a bid of $1,234,567,890 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 Authority. (The Authority contacted the bidder to be sure that the peculiar proposal amount was correct, which it was.) The winning 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.
CP4. Five construction teams competed for this 22-mile (35.4 km) segment. This section was estimated to cost $400–500 million. In January 2016 the apparent best value bid of $347.5 million (about $50 to $150 less than the estimated cost) was received from California Rail Builders(a consortium led by Ferrovial Agroman US Corp, an American subsidiary of Spain's Ferrovial S.A., also including Eurostudios, a Spanish engineering firm, and Othon Inc., a Houston-based engineering and environmental consulting company). The California Rail Builders bid was $347.5 million. The contract awarded includes an additional $107 million for utility relocation costs for electric, gas and communication lines.
This package was shortened by about 8 miles (13 km) to a length of 22 miles (35 km) due to disputes with the cities of Bakersfield and Shafter. The construction segment now ends on the north side of Shafter due to the need to negotiate routes through Shafter and northern Bakersfield. The agreement between the cities and the Authority gives the parties until January 2016 to come up with the new alignment. The Bakersfield Californian reported on Aug. 4, 2015 that an alternate route called the LGA (locally generated alignment) had been developed which is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) shorter, demolishes fewer buildings and few (or no) homes, and might cost less. It will be presented for public comment later in August, and won't be presented to the Authority until 2016. Formal acceptance will also have to wait until all the environmental studies have been completed. Project and Construction Management for this phase was awarded to HNTB Corporation on October 6, 2015. HNTB could receive up to $30 million over 5 years for work performed under the contract.
CP5. Not yet specified.
Additional construction. Another 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 ... the precise right-of-way for other parts of the ICS (initial construction segment) and station plans. Note, the track-laying and electric power installation will also be in a future contract.
Other facilities. A large parcel will be needed for a rail yard, train sheds, machine shops, and other buildings for work on the tracks and trainsets. The counties of Fresno, Madera, Merced, Kings, and Kern all have expressed some interest in being selected for the site, since it is expected to provide up to 1500 good paying jobs. It is expected that a site will be selected sometime in early 2016.
A groundbreaking ceremony was hosted in Fresno on January 6, 2015 to mark the commencement of sustained construction activities.
The Fresno River Viaduct in Madera County, California is the first permanent structure constructed as part of California High-Speed Rail. Construction began in June 2015 and was expected to take eight to twelve months.
A number of connectivity and "bookend" projects are underway in the San Francisco and Los Angeles metro areas. Also, the Authority is proposing that land owned by the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank be used for the HSR station. They note that it would be the only station in the LA Basin providing connections between high-speed rail, air travel, commuter rail, and have nearby freeway access.
On August 7, 2015, a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for the San Francisco to Chowchilla Wye sections was let for completion of two environmental reports, plus preliminary design services, for these two segments. This will require approximately three years.
The effect of property acquisition delays has created some serious concerns, and there is a September 30, 2017, deadline to spend the federal stimulus money of nearly $4 billion. 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. As of June 2015, about 260 properties had been acquired of the nearly 1,100 needed (in whole or in part) for the first two construction sections. Since December 2013, 259 resolutions of necessity have been adopted by the state's Public Works Board, the necessary step before issuing eminent domain resolutions and acquiring the land through litigation. By July 2015, the pace of acquisition was clearly speeding up with the increasing pace at which the state adopted its eminent domain resolutions.
Parts of this article (those related to the 2018 draft business plan) need to be updated.(June 2018)
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 will connect with BNSF tracks at each end for passenger trains. 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."
The Initial Construction Segment (ICS) runs from just north of Fresno to Bakersfield, 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)  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 Amtrak San Joaquin, the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE), the Amtrak 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 Amtrak San Joaquin 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. 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 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 2 hours and 40 minutes between the two metropolitan areas 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.
Proposition 1A compliance
The lawsuit John Tos, Aaron Fukuda, and the Kings County Board of Supervisors v. California High-Speed Rail Authority was first filed in late 2011. On November 25, 2013 Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny issued two rulings in this lawsuit concerning the release of funding from the passage of Proposition 1A. First, the state did not have a valid financing plan, and he ordered the Authority to rescind its business plan and create a new one. Second, he also ruled that the state had not properly approved the sale of bonds to finance the project. The Brown administration sought an expedited appellate court hearing, but that was denied. However, on July 31, 2014, the 3rd District Court of Appeals three-judge panel reversed the lower court ruling and ordered Judge Kenney to vacate his decision. The final ruling was that the requirements for 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. Finally, in October 2014, the state Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of this decision.
However, Judge Kenny split the aforementioned case into two parts, and the second part was continued to Feb. 11, 2016. The issues to be decided concerned other Proposition 1A legal requirements: (1) Can the train travel from Los Angeles (Union Station) to San Francisco (Transbay Terminal) in two hours and 40 minutes? (2) Will the train require an operational subsidy? (3) Does the new "blended system" approach meet the definition of high-speed rail in Proposition 1A? On Mar. 8, 2016 Judge Kenny ruled the issues raised were "not ripe for review". The plaintiffs raised compelling questions, but the Authority hasn't yet submitted its funding plan, and the project is still too much in flux. Thus, this case was ended, however, there is a possibility of further action on these issues in the future.
Also, on June 5, 2015 the Kings County Grand Jury released a report critical of the Kings County Board of Supervisors in pursuing this lawsuit. Three specific objections were noted: (1) no public hearings were held before litigation was started so public sentiment was not obtained, (2) grants that would have benefited the public were denied because the Board did not want to show any support for the HSR project, and (3) no county land would be affected by the project (except for road crossings), so the county was pursuing this suit for the benefit of individual property owners and not the public.
Other problems and lawsuits
The lawsuit Kings County, Kern County, the First Free Will Baptist Church of Bakersfield, Dignity Health in Bakersfield, and the City of Shafter v. California High-Speed Rail Authority concerns the environmental certification and route selection of the Fresno to Bakersfield segment.
In TRANSDEF (Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund) v. the California Air Resources Board, the Authority is named as an affected party because it is the beneficiary of cap-and-trade fund allocations that are being challenged in the suit.
In Kings County, the Kings County Farm Bureau, Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability, the Bay Area-based Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail, California Rail Foundation and TRANSDEF v. Surface Transportation Board, the litigants are challenging in the federal Ninth Circuit Court a ruling made in 2014 by the Surface Transportation Board that federal environmental laws trump state environmental laws. The Authority is intervening in this suit, and the outcome will directly affect the Authority.
Friends of Eel River vs. North Coast Railroad Authority is a lawsuit held before the California Supreme Court, and is similar to the Surface Transportation Board suit regarding the federal decision trumping the California Environmental Quality Act. Two state appellate courts have issued conflicting decisions on this issue. The Authority is filing a friend of the court brief, and the outcome will directly affect the Authority.
In December 2011 Legislative Analyst's Office published a report 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." However, initial concerns regarding the projects legality were resolved.
In May 2015, Fresno City Councilman Steve Brandau used $3,000 of his campaign funds to put up billboards along state route 99 proposing that some of the rail funding be used to provide more water to farmers, such as the construction of the Temperance Flat Dam. The words "Dam" and "Train" appear in large bold letters on the billboards.
While some officials agree with Brandau, others like Fresno County Supervisor Henry Perea says they need both water and transportation.
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