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California backs down on high-speed LA-to-SF rail plan


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dims?quality=85&image_uri=https%3A%2F%2F Reuters/California High-Speed Rail Authority

There were concerns about the logistics of California's planned high-speed rail system even as construction began, and those practical realities are finally hitting home. Governor Gavin Newsom said he plans to scale back the rail system, building just the Central Valley segment rather than the full San-Francisco-to-LA route. It would "cost too much" and "take too long" to complete the original railway, he said.

Instead, the state would focus on a route running between Merced and Bakersfield, with cities like Fresno along the way. This would leave California's biggest cities out of luck, but it could lead to "economic transformation" for a part of the state that doesn't receive as much attention as the large coastal cities. Newsom didn't rule out completing the rest of the line and suggested he'd press for more public and private funding to flesh things out, but suggested it was better to "get something done."

This won't make proponents of the rail system happy, but Newsom was under pressure to take some kind of action. The project, which would have trains connecting most major cities at 220MPH, was originally slated to cost $45 billion. Revisions ballooned the cost to $77 billion, though, and pushed the network's completion back by four years. That made it a target for critics who saw it as a waste of money that could be spent on better causes.

Whether or not that's true, the reduced plans still leave the state in a bind. It's losing the prospect of fast inter-state transportation that doesn't involve expensive, fuel-hungry aircraft. And while the new plan is still likely to create jobs, it's definitely not going to produce the 320,000 permanent positions mentioned a decade ago.


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Crazy!  A route only running between Merced and Bakersfield, some 250 km long, would be completely useless.  "Getting something done" when it is patently obvious that the costs far outstrip the benefits should never win an argument.  Only fools (and horses) could buy it.  If you think or know that you cannot afford to pay for a project which makes sense only if fully built (eg. LA to SF high-speed rail), do nothing or do something else.

As usual in this forum, there is a lesson for us in Montreal.

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CHSRA launches environmental approval process for Burbank – Los Angeles HS section
International Railway Journal  |  Jun 9, 2020  |  Written byDavid Burroughs

CALIFORNIA High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) has released the project-level draft environmental document for the 22.5km Burbank – Los Angeles section of the California high-speed project.

Sections of the California high-speed project are already under construction.

The section will connect two multi-modal transport hubs in Los Angeles county, a new Burbank Airport station, and Los Angeles Union Station (LAUS). These hubs will interchange with regional and local mass transit services, as well as the airport and highway network in the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles Basin.

The draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) will evaluate the impact and benefits of CHSRA’s build alternative that would realign existing tracks to allow for the addition of two additional electrified high-speed tracks to be added along much of the corridor. As well as high-speed services, the new lines could also be used by Metrolink and Amtrak trains, while Metrolink, Amtrak and freight services could use the two non-electrified conventional lines.

The existing four tracks leading to LAUS will be retained, with two of these electrified.

The draft EIR/EIS is available for public comment and review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and federal National Environmental Policy Act (Nepa) until July 16.

The final EIR/EIS document will be issued in 2021 and presented to the CHSRA board for certification and project approval under CEQA and NEPA.

CHSRA will undertake the public hearings and open house for the project online, due to public health and safety requirements due to the coronavirus.

The Burbank – Los Angeles project will provide the northern access to Los Angeles for the California high-speed project. California originally envisaged a 320km/h line connecting San Francisco and Sacramento with Los Angeles and San Diego, but these plans were scaled back last year by the governor of California, Mr Gavin Newsom, due to spiralling costs and poor oversight. The line is now due to run from Avenue 19 in Madera to Poplar Road near Shafter.

Introducing high-speed services along the corridor will improve safety and operation for passengers and freight, CHSRA says, and will also increase the volume of traffic.

The project will also support capacity enhancements and reliability improvements along the United States’ second busiest passenger line, the Lossan corridor between Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Luis Obispo.

With the release of the draft EIR/EIS, CHSRA remains on schedule to complete environmental clearance for the full Phase 1 system by the federally mandated 2022 deadline.


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