California High-Speed Rail High-Speed Rail

California Planners Recommend Fresno-Hanford for First Phase of State’s High-Speed Line

» Choice of the Central Valley for the initial corridor suggests a serious commitment to full build-out of the California system.

If there were ever a time to question the future of the American high-speed rail project, this may well be it: Republicans in Congress have threatened to reduce transportation spending, several states have backed away from previous commitments to projects that once seemed set in stone, and a couple of already funded projects are likely to be canceled.

And yet California is steaming ahead, its new Governor Jerry Brown a strong supporter of the $45 billion state high-speed rail project and its rail authority endowed with billions of dollars in state and federal funds to advance the scheme. What has always been a long shot is coming to appear increasingly realistic, despite the difficulties that must still be surmounted before the full 520 miles fast train network is in place.

The commitment of both California and the federal government to the project was solidified this week with the announcement by the rail authority that its engineers had selected a 65-mile route in the Central Valley to begin construction roughly between Fresno and Hanford, where two stations will be built. This choice makes clear that the state assumes that the entire line will be constructed, since other sections of the full corridor arguably have more independent utility.

The recommendation will be considered in full by the rail authority on December 2nd when the final decision will be made, but in all likelihood this corridor will be the first constructed. It could be ready for intercity rail service by 2017. To make clear just how much of a service improvement this project will offer, consider this: The current Amtrak San Joaquin service between Fresno and Bakersfield completes the 113 mile run in just over two hours; the fast train link will reduce it to just 37 minutes. (Only about half of that corridor will be completed thanks to the dollars being dispensed here.)

Other corridors under consideration for the first $4.3 billion in expenditures included the routes between San Francisco and San Jose; Fresno and Merced; and Los Angeles and Bakersfield. But in awarding California some $715 million for the project last month, the Federal Railroad Administration made clear that it wanted its dollars spent on the Central Valley. This left the state with virtually no choice but to pick a segment between Bakersfield and Merced.

The advantage of this route is that it confirms that the rail authority’s mission really is to complete the whole project. As CEO Roelof van Ark noted,

“Starting here gives us flexibility to build in either direction – north and west to the Bay Area or south to Los Angeles – as more federal dollars become available. The funding other states are sending back to Washington – if redirected to California – would allow us to extend initial construction all the way to Bakersfield.”

Indeed, by choosing to concentrate in the state’s hinterlands rather than its urban centers, it is emphasizing the fact that high-speed rail is above all about intercity connections. Had the money been used in a place where it could have been used for local commuter rail in the interim before construction of the whole line, there might have been little motivation to move forward with a political push for more money to complete the project. And this route will also feature the highest speeds in the system at 220 mph, not true of other sections. It will be a showpiece.

Of course, the choice of the Fresno-Hanford route comes with a number of risks, mostly related to the potential future lack of funding. If Congress fails to authorize future funds for the project, California will be stuck with a route between a mid-size city and a small one. Links to the economic powerhouses of the state — in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and San Diego — and even to the state capital in Sacramento will not be available. And that may make the project less visible and therefore less of a long-term goal for the state’s political and economic leaders. It may be easier to promote a scheme in a dense urban zone that clearly demands improved transportation than one that some Republicans are surely going to start labeling the “bullet train to nowhere” by the time the holiday break is over.

Nevertheless, the rail authority notes that it expects to have about $150 million left over from the total expenditures to spend on connections to the existing Amtrak route if necessary; this would at least allow the San Joaquin trains to speed through this segment more quickly. Moreover, the state has an additional $5 billion of its own money to eventually be devoted to the rail project; these funds could theoretically be liberated for more construction even without federal dollars in the future (the current law requires them to have a 50-50 match from other sources to be spent).

Most importantly, momentum is on this project’s side. The election of Mr. Brown to the governorship and the state’s strongly pro-high speed rail delegation in the U.S. Senate and House means that there will be continued support for the program over the next several years. On Thanksgiving, that’s something to give thanks for.

Image above: Map of the initial route segment, from California High-Speed Rail Authority

174 replies on “California Planners Recommend Fresno-Hanford for First Phase of State’s High-Speed Line”

Deciding to commence construction of California HSR in the Central Valley is a policy landmine. Just imagine the following. The Fresno-Hanford sector is built and put into service, but a political shift in thinking cuts off further funding for other sectors, the 2020 West Coast equivalent of Chris Christie’s Great Tantrum of 2010. The result? A foreclosure-valley stubway that will be co-opted by President Palin into “Governor Brown’s Railroad to Nowhere.” Will there be any use for this as a stand-alone railroad? Probably not, although if Fresno continues growing at these rates it will be bigger than Boston in a decade. I assume the equipment of this HSR will be incompatible with conventional rail, meaning Hanford-Fresno-Sacramento service (with the Hanford-Fresno stretch via HSR tracks) will be technologically impossible.

1) This is only the first step. Other segments will begin construction probably as quickly as they are funded.

2) If no other segments are constructed, then there will be no “incompatible” HSR trains. Instead, the new tracks would be used to dramatically speed up the Amtrak San Joaquins, using regular FRA-compliant Amtrak California rolling stock. There is $150 million left over in case they need to connect the new tracks to the BNSF line currently used by the San Joaquins.

If Amtrak bought several eletric oil powered locomtives that could switch from oil to eletric and they where able to go at least 125 miles on our or faster depending on what is out there they could have a very fun time in that his high speed rail link would at least knock over a hour off of the existing Amtrak route and then Amtrak could run more trains a day on the route which would realy raise the Amtrak ridership in the area. Or they could buy a high speed locomitve and hook it up to a oil powered locomitve and then have the oil powered locomtive turn off when they reach the eletric and then the high speed one kicks in and rockets them from one end to the other. I bet Amtrak would really like this to happen in that knocking over a hour off of a existing Amtrak route would make a lot of people happy.

They probably won’t install the catenary until the track is completed to Los Angeles or San Francisco. No reason why they can’t run diesels until then. Or even after the catenary is installed.

They may install catenary for a portion before then, since they need test track. But diesels can run under the wires, the New South Wales Countrylink trains do it every day of the year, many times a day.

Its more tunnel stations and diesels that don’t mix, but there’s no such foolishness being put forward by anyone in the CV, that’s mostly the supposed geniuses of the Silicon Valley spreading that rose fertilizer around.

Diesels run under wire in Korea, too. The low-speed intercity trains are still diesel-powered, even where the lines have been electrified to allow high-speed trains to continue into low-speed territory.

That said, best industry practice is to electrify main lines. It’s not all that expensive, and the savings coming from using EMUs and not having to buy fuel are large.

I’m not sure that the fuel savings are all that large. Going off Amtrak’s average gallons per mile, cost per gallon, and total train miles for the Pacific Surfliner, that route only uses about seven million dollars of fuel per year.

For passenger rail, it’s not just the fuel that’s expensive. It’s also rolling stock: the EMU market is much larger and more competitive than the diesel loco market. On top of it, EMUs can be maintained more cheaply.

In addition, EMUs have much better performance, which means that Amtrak could significantly cut trip time on the short-interstation Surfliner with electrification alone; this would translate to lower labor costs as well as higher ridership.

Bear in mind, the best industry practice I refer to involves main lines with much heavier passenger traffic than on the Surfliner, so the fuel costs are a much bigger issue abroad.

If they are running a Bakersfield/Merced shuttle, with only the central bit at speed, they only need two trains.

And what we are talking about, after all, is a pro forma plan to satisfy Prop1A(2008). In reality if they launched a pre-ExpressHSR service use of a segment completed early, of course they’d electrify the corridor.

A lot of complaints from Palo Alto officials are just posturing for more goodies and regional status. Caltrain’s Board of Directors received clearance to electrify the 51-mile route between San Francisco-San Jose:

Caltrain is equally confident about purchasing EMUs to support 90 mph service in 2014,

Once all route overpasses, the 1.4 mile tunnel to Transbay Transit Center, a few more curves get eased, fencing, and sound mitigation projects complete by 2018, Caltrain Baby Bullet will run 12/peak hour between SF-San Jose and leave plenty of headway time between for 100-110 mph CAHSR trains. Once CAHSR leases service rights on the route, Caltrain solvency issues will be a thing of the past. I can imagine a number of well-heeled SF, Palo Alto and San Jose execs paying extra for CAHSR rather than Caltrain between SF-Millbrae/SFO-Palo Alto-San Jose, just to shave 10-15 minutes from trip time.

Having lived near and rode Caltrain many times and been stuck in traffic to cross its tracks many times, I can testify with certainty commuters will celebrate the absence of delay crossing tracks. Residents will appreciate the absence of loud train whistles and less fumes from remaining diesel trains retrofit to new standards. Though residents also demand landscaping & station aesthetics, there is no reason to anticipate catastrophic CAHSR delay on this route owned by Caltrain Joint Powers Board.

In terms of minor construction delays on the route, one rumor I heard from a Palo Alto resident who took Caltrain Baby Bullet to SF, is that Palo Alto officials are making a stink because they want CAHSR funding to build a huge parking garage adjacent to Palo Alto Station, perhaps on Stanford University property. Such a garage would help downtown Palo Alto businesses on University Avenue and be a shuttle hub to Stanford Football Stadium. But if Palo Also puts up too much of a stink that escalates costs without local contribution, Menlo Park next door might get picked as the CAHSR station stop.

Lastly, Caltrain JPB wants CAHSR funds to electrify the 26 miles between San Jose-Gilroy. Today, Caltrain can’t justify the cost per patronage mile below San Jose Tamien Station. But by 2025, greenfield development between San Jose-Gilroy will boost Caltrain and CAHSR patronage. Hence, the CAHSR Gilroy should be viewed as a forward-looking station.

Caltrain is equally confident about purchasing EMUs to support 90 mph service in 2014

They’ll need electricity to make them useful.

They should be confident that 90MPH commuter cars will be available. they have been for decades.

I am not sure whether it has already been discussed, but could the San Francisco – San Diego line be FRA-exempt?

Just imagining KISSes on that line…

Do you mean San Francisco-San Jose? If so, then it will be exempt from the FRA regulations that make the trains overweight, but still have to follow all other FRA regulations. Caltrain obtained its waiver in consultation only with the largest rolling stock providers, which do not include Stadler; it’s possible but likely that modified KISS trains will be able to run on the line. One can hope, though.

Its okay to be a skeptical about Caltrain before 2005, but since they introduce 79mph Baby Bullet trains into service, patronage jumped.

The San Bruno overpass will open in 2012, relieving the worst safety hazard and bottleneck in Caltrain’s line. The old train sets reach end of useful life in 2014. For another patronage boost, Caltrain JPB desperately wants electric trains (as required) to enter SF Transbay Transit Center opening 2017. So their best option is one they can sell to local, state and federal transit funding authorities — we’re on the right track and now we need EMUs and electrification to take it to the next level.

To Alon: … never write a comment so early in the morning…

Of course I meant San Francisco – San Jose. And, according to the specs, the 4-car KISS (with two motor units) is among the hottest on the market for this kind of service…

Max: It’s fine – I’ve made far worse typos. I once posted a full rant that said “is always right” where I meant “is always wrong.”

Anyway, I hope the KISS would make it, but it’s unlikely. The waiver was a collusion with Alstom, Bombardier, Siemens, and Kawasaki, and was designed around their 1990s-era bilevels.

Thomas: the San Bruno project is actually a very bad one. Although it improves service in the short run, it’s missing a very important component, namely straightening the curve near the station. Although this requires some eminent domain, the curve is the single worst on the entire Caltrain line, barring curves right next to the SF and SJ stations or the curve around the mountain; it costs trains 30-40 seconds.

Alon: I wasn’t aware of that agreement. The waiver should definitely be reconsidered, as the crashworthyness of 2010-designed vehicles is considerably higher than of 1990-designed cars. You can see that by comparing the front of Talents or Flirts or GTWs over the years.

I assume the equipment of this HSR will be incompatible with conventional rail, meaning Hanford-Fresno-Sacramento service (with the Hanford-Fresno stretch via HSR tracks) will be technologically impossible.

You assume wrong. The section is being designed so that if nothing else gets built, a short connection at each end will allow the San Joaquins to use the track. That’s why the section begins and ends near the existing BNSF line.

Given that the existing San Joaquin trains could do 110 mph if they had a decent stretch of track this would be a significant improvement to journey times, though obviously nowhere near as good as full high speed rail.

I think the California cars are rated to 125mph. If they could find a diesel locomotive that can go that fast, they could do that since the newly built track will be a closed corridor.

I agree with Alon, 36tons/axle is awfully heavy. The Class 43’s are half the axle load, and could be retasked to Regional HSR once the Express HSR corridor is long enough to launch service.

Vossloh España has the Euro 3000 engine in their catalog, and in the passenger version, it is rated at 200 km/h (125 mph) (and guess what, it uses EMD prime movers…). So, 200 km/h would be feasible.

The mentioned Bombardier ALP45DP is rated 125 mph in electric and 100 mph in diesel operation. So, theoretically, 125 mph would be possible in diesel operation, but probably not very economical (not enough power to pull much…).

However, assuming that the new line has to be electrified for testing purposes, something like the ALP45DP would be a candidate for regular trains to use the new line. Of course, the signalling equipment has to fit.

ALP45s are part of a family of locomotives. They put all sorts of signaling into them. NJTransit was going to use the ALP45s on the NEC, which means they could wedge ASCES into them. ERTMS or similar things could be installed as well.

They could possibly hold off on building the catenary then if the hard high speed only line is noth built at at a lenth longer then 200 miles in that if they put in a 65 mile eletric line they will make a new catenary Anomily that would be far worse then the one in Washingtion DC in that a oil powered Amtrak train would have to change over to eletric kill 40 minutes and then go down the 65 mile line and then change back over to oil. The only way to prevent this if they do let Amtrak trains on a line with catenary is to have a dule mode oil eletric locomtive that could do over a 125 miles on hour which would knock over a hour off of this route.

Or Amtrak California could continue using its current diesel equipment and shave 45 minutes off without having to invest in new equipment.

Quite … if it came to that, raising the speed limit to 110mph through to Stockton and Oakland would have a bigger impact on transit time than a quick burst of speed between Madero and Corcoran (sp?).

Your spelling is correct. By the time this section is completed, PTC will be in place (hopefully), and the trains will be able to run faster on to Sacramento and Oakland. Although the route to Oakland is stunted by its many curves along the Delta/Bay.

On the crappy, poorly maintained track we’ve got spread around the country, we get derailments on a regular basis. They should be changing a regulation in pursuit of more derailments?

What is the big deal with cant deficiency if we build dedicated Express track and superelevate it as dedicated Express track, leaving the flatter track for slower services?

The 3″ restriction has nothing to do with derailments; it applies even to well-maintained track. The reasoning behind it is passenger comfort, based on bad tests done in the 1950s. That’s why tilting trains are allowed higher cant deficiency even when hauled by heavy freight locos. The Talgos on the Cascades are allowed 6″, the same as non-tilting trains in most other countries, and even that is a safety limit imposed by the ultra-heavy, high-center-of-mass locomotive.

So you are saying that the cant deficiency of non-tilt trains is determined by a passenger comfort standard, and the cant deficiency of tilt trains is determined by safety considerations.

So what cant deficiency would the Cascades be allowed with lighter and lower traction like an HST Class 43?

There are some additional considerations for high-CD operation. Crossties must be more closely spaced, and perhaps even made of a more permanent material such as concrete, and the ballast must be more frequently maintained and augmented in order that the increased lateral forces do not move the rails out of alignment. A 12 month inspection cycle might have to be reduced to 9 months, for example.

North Carolina is running some non-tilting passenger trains at 4″ CD on the NCRR between Raleigh and Charlotte. Non-tilting equipment (Amfleets) are authorized for up to 5″ CD on the NEC.

Bruce: yes, exactly – the current 3″ limit is a comfort limit. The safety limit is higher, though it depends on the train and track. I would guess that a modern European train could do about the same as in Europe, i.e. 5-7″ for non-tilting equipment.

Orulz: I didn’t know about the NCRR CD. I knew about the Amfleets. The FRA’s official line is that high-speed trains are built to be more comfortable, so it’s okay for them to run at higher CD.

Both of you: the lateral forces on the outside rail would not be higher than they already are, not in the US. Those heavy freight trains and Amtrak locos run at a CD of 3″, with an axle load of 30-something metric tons. Run multiple units with an axle load of 14 t at any safe CD and the tracks wouldn’t even feel it.

It’s my understanding that railroads are generally designed with cant such that freight trains operate at equilibrium, or zero cant deficiency. Passenger trains operate with positive cant deficiency because they move faster around curves.

Of course, some freights are faster than others (intermodals vs locals etc) so there is going to be some CD for freights no matter what, regardless of whether equilibrium is set for intermodals, locals, or if they split the difference. But generally passenger trains will experience the maximum CD.

You’re right, usually they try to design the cant to perfectly balance freight trains. But they frequently run hot intermodals with some CD on flat, curvy track. I believe they try to keep it to 2-3″ to prevent it from completely demolishing the track.

So the cant deficiency allowed to express freights is in the same neighborhood as the cant deficiency allowed to most (FRA compliant therefore not the lightest feasible axle loadings) passenger rail.

Huh, imagine that.

“Why can we build highways so quickly but the much simpler construction of train track now takes forever???”
We build highways quickly in the USA?? Really? A major highway project for a 65 mile segment with bridges and elevated segments can easily take 5 years or longer to build from start of construction. And that after 10 or 15 years of studies, meetings, and political debate.

A major benefit of the stimulus funding 2012 deadline to start construction is that it gets them off of the pot, get the engineering design work done, make decisions, and award construction contracts. Otherwise, it could be another 5 years to start construction even with federal funding on hand.

Startling amounts of highway work is exempt from the environmental impact statement requirements which cover practically every other action by the federal government. This accelerates a fair number of (bad) highway projects. Highway projects which trigger the full EIS requirements take at least as long as rail projects.

That’s another reason why the timelines for the Emerging and Regional HSR corridors can be so much shorter ~ building in already degraded rail corridors already in use makes it much easier to get environmental impact statements cleared.

O ye of little faith, California HSR will be built between SF-San Jose-Fresno-Bakersfield-LA by 2018.

California is a progressive state with the largest Congressional delegate — the largest pro-rail delegate who have a $9.9 Billion voter-approved HSR bond backing them. A billionaire anti-HSR governor candidate was roundly defeated, partly because the voting majority want HSR and other green sustainable jobs. California is not asking for federal money to expand its major airports NOR add lanes to I-5 and US 101 Freeways. For years, California has only received 80 cents for every dollar sends to the IRS while plenty of red states have received $1.20 to $1.50 for every dollar sent to the IRS. By 2017, Transbay Transportation Center and the underground tunnel from 4th and King will complete, enabling California HSR to stop in downtown San Francisco. Palo Alto folks causing a snag in SF Peninsula want HSR, but they want it run underground or other noise & visual mitigation.

If red state U.S. Reps fight California’s Governor, U.S. Senators and Reps and the President getting the rest of California’s #1 transportation priority funded, there will be “red” blood on the walls of Congress.

I think this is awesome that they are getting ready for construction and will build a stretch where there can be some maximum speed. Isnt this also going to be the test track?… so that would mean real HSR trains and catenary, no?

Though I do have to ask about spending this initial money on starting the segments that do not currently exist, Gilroy-Merced and Bakersfield-Palmdale/Lancaster. Theoretically once these are in place a slower train could start running the SF-LA route. Caltrain already has service and train slots between SF-Gilroy and Metrolink already has service and train slots between LA-Palmdale/Lancaster. Amtrak San Joaquins serve the Merced-Bakersfield segment.

For the state bonds, the independent segments have to be able to run without operating subsidy.

That slow train “with a couple of fast stretches” SF/LA would require subsidy. Bakersfield/Fresno, with a big acceleration north of Corcoran, could run as a single set shuttle, scheduled to complement the San Jaoquin, and generate an operating surplus.

And if more funds become available, or if they are coming in under budget, they can extend the track further toward Bakersfield, since the “independent utility” on the ARRA side is to connect to the BNSF corridor and continue through to Bakersfield, and with the HSR corridor running alongside the BNSF track along that stretch, that can be done at a wide variety of locations between Hanfield and Bakersfield.

Unfortunately Bakersfield-Palmdale requires additional engineering work (quite a lot) before it can start right-of-way acquisition (let alone construction) — and it’s going to cost a *lot* to dig those tunnels.

I don’t think the CHSRA has the ready money to guarantee completion from Bakersfield to Palmdale given that there are still arguments over the aerial in Bakersfield. The aerial in Fresno is somewhat more expensive than the one in Bakersfield, but comparable — consider adding a major set of tunnels to that. Basically, they didn’t have the money in hand to do that segment as the first segment, since it requires a large lump.

If they work their way south to Bakersfield, the Bakersfield station can be usefully built before the money is there for the Tehachapi tunnels, which allows greater segmentation of the project.

CHSRA certainly does not have the funding to reach Bakersfield, let alone go beyond it, that’s why the southernmost of the three alternatives with the money in hand was not-quite-Fresno to not-quite-Bakersfield, which would have left them hemmed if some but not a large amount additional was available to apply for.

From the preferred segment, they have a lot of flexibility of extending that alignment south toward Bakersfield if more funds become available.

Hear Hear.Thomas..We ARE going to get this built! and yes we pay for all those “REDS” roads so at least gives us the HSR money..and if the talked about international funding is serious we will need even less from DC thou I think it wil be 2020 before anything is open for true HSR

Prop1A has at least 7Billion left..the ARRA match was 1.6 Billion and the 2010 funding was around 300million and some for the planning

I looked at this place where this new line is going to go and it’s all flat open very rural land where you can see miles and miles in front of you. They only have to built a lot of overpasses or underpasses for all the roads in the area. But This place is very rural and the town at which the high speed rail line is not that big and it’s like the high speed rail line is starting in the middle of nonewhere to get to a place that somewhat in the middle of a kind of somewhere. Having Amtrak run though this new high speed rail line will help it make more sense in that the Amtrak lines run 300 to 400 miles across the state while this 60 mile section of high speed rail track would turn into a joke if it only went to the two places on the map.

Why do you doubt that CHSR from SF-LA will get built this decade. Per my statement of California facts above, the only concern we should have is will it be 2018 or 2019.

I’d love to see DC-Richmond get the $400B HSR funds turned down by Ohio. But Virginia DOT doesn’t have plans ready to extend 160 mph Acela service (the real capability of current trains) or 185-200 mph future Acela service. Its unclear they can do a 20% local match too.

I’d love to see 220 mph Milwaukee-OHare-Chicago get the $822B turned down by Wisconsin. Illinois would likely jump at the opportunity, but they don’t have Wisconsin political support or 2011 shovel-readiness.

Florida pretty much has what it needs for Tampa-Orlando, but has not decided on the Orlando-Palm Beach-Ft Lauderdale-Miami route. Nor does the state appear ready to make a 20% local match.

That leaves California as the best candidate for thse $1.22B additional HSR funds. Using the California HSR bond money 50% match criteria and 2011 shovel-readiness criteria, California can put up $1.22B local match for $2.44B to combine with the $4.3B already committed. By late 2011, $6.57B can be breaking ground between Fresno-Hanford-Bakersfield. Furthermore, CHSR states that they anticipate a $10B private contribution as well. That’s a lot of leverage. My guess is a huge chunk of that money will chime in once either endpoint extends to LA or SF. Lastly, California HSR does not rely on Amtrak and exceeds the criteria for support by Rep. Mica heading the Congressional Transportation Committee.

If there’s any more states out there who don’t know what to do with there HSR funds, California will show you how to use them and keep the pressure on Congress and USDOT to finish SF-San Jose-Fresno-Bakersfield-Palmdale-LA-Anaheim by 2018-19.

The real question is, when will Nevada/USDOT chime in with the CHSR connecting plan for 220 mph Las Vegas-Barstow-Palmdale-LA-Anaheim. That line will break patronage records.

The $400 million that is certain to be be returned by Ohio and $810 million (probably minus engineering study and some Milwaukee-Chicago corridor work) likely to be returned by Wisconsin is ARRA stimulus money, so there is no state 20% matching requirement. Have to keep in mind that $1.2 billion does not go that far, but it can help further a number of already funded corridor projects.

Virginia & DC have gotten funding for complete Preliminary Engineering and EIS work for the DC to Richmond corridor including $2.9 million for the Long Bridge replacement and $45.5 million for DC to Richmond and a new Appomattox River bridge. I don’t think Virginia is in line for more HSIPR funds until they have completed a large part of the PE and EIS work.

The Chicago to St. Louis and Chicago to Detroit corridors are only partially funded. Those 2 corridors along with NY, and based on LaHood’s public comments, NC are likely candidates for some of the $1.2 billion.

The question I have about the CA HSR project is how close are they to be able to fund to complete a second segment south to Bakersfield? There appears to be a lot of reserve in the $4.3 billion to build the Madera-Corcoran segment. The sooner they can announce the selection and funding of a second segment after they select and start on the first segment, the better.

Looking on the map, the way that alignment is designed is starting in the north at the point where the UP/BNSF Wye unceratinty starts, running through Fresno, with the biggest civil works in the middle of the segment, and then down toward Bakersfield until the money runs out.

They have a lot of flexibility to extend south from there, and could indeed put in a mop application for a series of small segments starting from the end of the corridor to the outskirts of Bakersfield (the balance of the not-quite Fresno to not-quite-Bakersfield alternative) to mop up any funds available. Hopefully if they do that, they offer an 80:20 match rather than the 50:50 that is burning through their state bond funding at an expensive clip.

The state bond is being burned quite slowly. It’s the bond that requires a 50/50 match, or else they’d have the full $9 billion available to construct a more usable segment than Fresno-Hanford. With the full $9 billion plus the existing federal funds, they could even do LA-Bakersfield, which is the most pressing gap in the rail network.

The bond does not require a 50:50 match, it imposes a maximum 50:50 match. It allows the state match to be as low as the other funding source(s) will allow.

At 50:50, $9b in bonding authority stretches to $18b of construction. At 75:25, it stretches to $36b of construction. At 80:20, it stretches to $45b in construction.

The more California burns through at or near the maximum allowed match, the earlier in the project that the bond funding runs out.

You’re right about CHSRA bond match options. IMO, its strategically wise for CHSRA to go 50/50 for Fresno-Bakersfield, then 30 bond/70 USDOT for Bakersfield-Palmdale to demonstrating 220 mph trains running a longer stretch and expand public demand at the Bay Area and LA endpoints and entice Las Vegas interests+USDOT to connect with CHSR. Afterwards CHSRA should just go 20/80.

The Commonwealth English term for leverage is “gearing” ~ using 50:50 gearing to get started may have been needed … but once the ground has broken, the CHSRA is going to have to shift into a higher gear.

Bruce, that’s exactly what I said. Prop 1A requires its own funds to be matched at least 50/50 – i.e. California can’t just spend all the $9 billion plus the $2.5 billion in federal funds on one segment and hope that funding for the rest will materialize.

Thomas, in principle, California should seek as much federal money as possible. In practice, its chances of getting a federal 80/20 match are not much higher than my chances of being elected President in 2016. Its best shot is to get about 50/50 or a little better, and then get the rest from private or third-party investors like Richard Branson or the Chinese or Korean government.

Why is California’s chances of getting 80:20 funding so much worse than the other states that have received just that?

Hell, Florida was basically no match at all in ARRA, so effectively its close to the Interstate 90/10 range.

California is asking for much more money than the other states. If everyone gets 80/20, then California will get a large majority of the money, pissing off 98 Senators and about 382 Representatives.

“California will get a large majority of the money, pissing off 98 Senators and about 382 Representatives.”

Not so pissed off that they are willing to pass a bond measure like California has to grease the skids. Only the Northeast could complain if they don’t get $20-25B over 15 years, but its likely they will.

It doesn’t matter what the details are. If California gets $34 billion in federal money, then the other state delegations will demand similar amounts of money for something. If they can’t come up with a 20% match for rail, then they’ll demand zero-match projects, more highways, or maybe unrelated pork.

“If California gets $34 billion in federal money” …

That’s way above the amount the Caltrans boss claimed they want from the Feds. From a video I’ve seen in July 2010, but can no longer locate on the website, the number he stated was about $20 Billion from Federal sources with Private kicking in $10 billion and the Bond providing $9.9 billion. If the total cost is held to $42-45 billion, that suggests $22-25 billion from the Feds.

Michigan was an applicant for the no-match funds that Ohio and Wisconsin won instead, as well as for the 20% matching funds. Indeed, the balance between their corridor applications and their corridor funding comes to not far from the $375m (maybe plus some more, depending on whether they let the final design finish early) that Ohio will be turning back.

Giving the 3C line money to the Wolverine line, serving Ann Arbor instead of Columbus, would be the best revenge that the Obama administration could take against Kasich.

But this money does not require new authorization or appropriation, if its turned back, the FRA can simply pick up the applications already in place, find out which applicants are still interested in pursuing those applications as put in, and turn the money around very quickly. A month or two should be long enough.

And together with NY, NC and WA, MI is a state with a substantial corridor application submitted that could be funded in exactly that way.

Only the FRA would known their internal scoring of the best projects that were not funded, so only the FRA would know whether that outcome would happen naturally, or whether a thumb would have to be put on the scales.

If NY had put in a corridor application a bit short of “give us all the money”, I would expect NY to be next in line, but they did, so I’m skeptical, unless the new governor comes in and collects the highest priority projects out of their $7.9b corridor application and says, “Oh, BTW, these are the first priority projects in that full application”.

if I remember correctly the huge application was all the little projects applied for in the first round, all wrapped up into two big projects Buffalo-Albany and Albany-NY. Shouldn’t take the NYSDOT long to prioritize the lists.

The USDoT can move very quickly after the eyes are crossed and tees dotted … but a wink and a nod from the FRA could easily see him set forth a package of priorities that line up quite well with the bits and pieces that were on the bubble the first time around.

Thomas, North Carolina has requested money for the pretty-much-all-designed Raleigh-to-Petersburg, VA 110mph line. (I believe only the Raleigh downtown alignment is under active dispute. All the environmental work is funded, so this would be *construction*.) That’s a pretty solid candidate to compete with California.

NY State has requested money for a number of important small bottleneck-elimination projects. Those are good candidates (though hardly competing with California).

Assuming your comments are true, NCDOT and VADOT should know that Rep. Mica plans to rally a LOT more upgrade funds for the Northeast Corridor for “True High Speed Rail”, as in 185-200 mph service.

They meet with Mica asap to request some of that redeployed money for Phase II Engineering Studies to upgrade DC-Richmond-Raeligh to 185-200 mph service. But I can’t see that taking more than $100M. Similarly, NYDOT should how NYC-Albany overpass and curve straitening are steps towards 185-200 mph service. Lets say they get $322M.

That still leaves $800M that California can match with $800M. That makes $1.6B applied to the Bakersfield extension.

DC-Richmond-Raleigh is curvy. It’s not too bad for 110 mph, but impossible for much higher without so much eminent domain that it’s cheaper to just build a new line along I-95.

New York-Albany is even worse. The existing line is fine for medium speed, but the terrain is so mountainous that high speeds would require a lot of tunneling. In northern Westchester County, the mountains rise at a 45 degree angle from the water.

The tunneling in Westchester is almost certainly not justified for service to Albany alone – Albany just isn’t that big. It would work better if there were concurrent HSR construction between Albany and Buffalo, and preferably Toronto. But that means the line can’t possibly take any partial upgrade – it’s all or nothing then.

DC-Richmond-Raleigh is interesting.

The first 11 miles, there are five curves: the 1st St tunnel meets the Landover sub, the viaduct switches from Virginia Ave to Maryland Ave, the viaduct meets the Long Bridge, just south of Alexandria station and the flyover where the RF&P sub joins the NS Washington District. It’s very hard to see how those 11 miles can be covered in less than 15 minutes, whatever rolling stock is used. And there’s no good alternative route.

From the Occoquan river to Richmond, there’s room in the median of I-95 to build a new line and the RF&P sub crosses the river close to the I-95 bridge. I-95 isn’t that straight, but it’s comparable to I-5 between Tampa and Orlando airport.

Through Richmond, there’s no real alternative to the CSX RoW, but south of Petersburg the curve easing that’s already proposed for the S-Line should make 150mph+ possible along most of it, particularly if there won’t be freight traffic and so greater cant can be allowed.

DC-Richmond in a little under an hour; Richmond-Raleigh in a little over an hour: New York-Raleigh (a bit over 500 miles) in four hours, or even under. Not that bad.

Thanks for that insight on NYC-Albany terrain and tunneling requirement. With that insight, upgrade $ beyond 110 mph for NYC-Albany should be a later priority.

IMO, the USDOT should redeploy that $1.2B in 185-220 mph projects turning shovels by late 2011-early 2012. I know that can be accomplished in Fresno-Hanford-Bakersfield. I think it can be accomplished in Milwaukee-O’Hare-Chicago too. At least they would have Mica on their side going forward.

Since CaliforniaDOT can mach USDOT funds dollar for dollar, it would be wise for IllinoisDOT to contribute 100M and request $300M from the USDOT. That would leave $900M for CaliforniaDOT with matching $900M bond money to extend from Hanford to Bakersfield. But I’m not sure if $1.8B more is enough. Could someone in this forum estimate that cost?

Nathanael, I meant to say,

“NCDOT and VADOT SHOULD meet with Mica asap to request some of that redeployed money for Phase II Engineering Studies to upgrade DC-Richmond-Raeligh to 185-200 mph service…”

Maybe, as Alon suggests, a 185-200 mph DC-Richmond segment should be studied for building along I-95. But there is straight-ish railroad ROW to purchase between Richmond-Raleigh. Southeast HSR website mentions it, but I don’t know the cost. Thats where more study comes in and the opportunity to paint a wider 185-200 mph landscape for Amtrak NEC extension plans, USDOT, Mica and more state DOTs.

We don’t know what Amtrak plans to do with all the $8B ARRA funds. I also know Amtrak should dropkick that lousy 17 hour Carolinian/Piedmont service. This is an opportunity for VirginiaDOT, North CarolinaDOT, USDOT and Mica to convince Amtrak to plan an upgraded 185-200 mph mega-route costing $30-35B over 15 years:

Boston-Providence-New Haven-NYC-Newark-Philly-Baltimore-DC-Richmond-Raleigh-Greensboro-Charlotte (+ spurs to Norfolk, Harrisburg and New Haven)

And if Amtrak wants to float another $120B trial balloon plan, wise up. Extend 185-200 mph Charlotte-Columbia-Savannah-Jacksonville-Orlando
AND Charlotte-Greenville-Atlanta-Macon-Jessup-Jacksonville-Orlando with both connecting to Florida HSR. That plan should include 185-200 mph NYC-Albany-Syracuse-Rochester-Buffalo service.

IMO, once America learns that such an East Coast mega-route means fewer flights for business and vacation on both the East and West Coasts, public support will grow leaps and bounds in between. People are fed up with near-strip searches, especially for short flights.

Bruce: yes, New York-Poughkeepsie is by far the hardest. North of Poughkeepsie, and even just south of it, the terrain flattens, and it becomes pretty easy to construct a cutoff. Curve easing on the legacy line remains hard, but a cutoff would actually serve towns better: it could get much closer to Rhinebeck than the existing line.

Poughkeepsie-Springfield is a marginal option for NY-Boston at best. First, it’s circuitous. Second, it involves two mountainous regions – east-west through central Massachusetts, and north-south through the Hudson Highlands. And third, it doesn’t allow through-service from Washington unless trains go through Grand Central, which would require using a (future) tunnel with low curve radius and very heavy commuter traffic.


The key figure for DC-Richmond-Raleigh is Pat Simmons. He’s the chief of the Rail Division of NCDOT. Virginia’s DRPT (which handles rail, VDOT just does roads) follows his lead wrt SEHSR. It was his decision to go with 110 mph diesel: “we get 85% of the benefit for 25% of the cost.” If he can be persuaded that Mica would listen to a Boston-Raleigh electrified c. 300 km/h proposal, then there’s some hope it would happen. Without him, it won’t.

The RoW that’s for sale in VA-NC is the S-line. The northern portion is abandoned — the rails torn up. CSX still has a few customers on the southern portion and runs an occasional train to service them. There’s supposed to be an MOU between NCDOT and CSX which details the procedures to be followed if NC wants to buy it from CSX: how the RoW is to be appraised, what trackage rights CSX would retain etc.

The line between Petersburg and Raleigh is being designed for higher speeds than 110mph. How much higher I’m not sure, but I’ve heard 150mph or more. Per current designs, as much as 40% of the line will be built on brand new alignment. It wouldn’t be a flat-out, pedal-to-the-metal 180mph route (there would be some curves with restrictions) but there would be numerous straight segments of 20-30 miles that would allow for 180+mph.

Initially, trains will not run faster than 110mph for two reasons:
(1) Maintaining track to above-110mph standards is very expensive
(2) Diesel trains do not accellerate fast enough to make speeds above 110mph wothwhile.

When the tracks are eventually electrified, trains will then be able to move faster.

Thanks for the insights Jim and Orulz,

I don’t now the organizational and regional political dynamics that would convince Pat Simmons to propose a 185-200 mph Phase II upgrade in concert with his counterparts in VADOT, but if NCDOT and VADOT want more funding support from Mica, they would be wise to go big and like such plans to the NEC upgrade plan. Thats not opinion. Mica is on record critisizing 110-125 mph lines and wanting major upgrade to the NEC.

I -speculate- that the reason very little public mention of the potential to upgrade the NC-VA line to speeds over 110mph has to do with a sort of unholy alliance with CSX. In order to make this happen, they need to buy the abandoned S-line from CSX. The initial plans call for 110mph passenger trains to use the line during the day and freight trains (likely fast intermodal trains) to use it during the night. Maybe it would cost more to buy the line from CSX if they didn’t also agree to carry freight on it.

But for freight, the gaps in double-track on the A-line should really be closed instead.

I’m worried about what is going on with the funding in Califorinia in that I don’t think they should put anymore money into it intill construciton starts on at least one of the route sections so that they don’t have all the funding eggs in one basket.

For myself, I don’t think they ought to shift any funds already allocated to Regional HSR corridor funding into Express HSR corridor funding ~ if Florida were to hand their money back (I am a bit skeptical that that Republican governor will do that, since Disney wants the HSR), I’d support that going to the California system, as the only other Express HSR system ready to break ground.

I’ve seen site plans for the S Line up grades in North Carolina and it is very amazing in that they plan to remove every grade crossing with overpasses and underpasses from the Richmond Main Street Station in Richmond Vriginia all the way down to Raleigh NC. They also plan to to make some major upgrades to the old railroad bed by cutting out large sections of curves with more streighter sections of track that go on new right of way so if North Carolina where to get Ohio’s 400 million dollars they could get a true high speed rail line that would only need a few dozen speed Acelas train sets and a few thousand steel Pennsyvinia Railroad H beams and two Static Conveter stations and they would be set for 150 and 180 mile on hour high speed rail.

180 (185) mph capable track is something that would catch Mica’s interest. Now, how much is needed to get DC-Richmond to the same speed level? As a follow-on tied to the NEC upgrade, VADOT and NCDOT can include 185-200 mph Raleigh-Greensboro-Charlotte service as part of the Eastern mega-route Boston-Charlotte.

P.S. Mica strikes me as a guy with a strong ego who to build something with his legacy.

I do give Mica some resprect in that if he is running the building the high speed rail line south of Richmond to Charlotte NC the plans are fairly highly repsected in that in that they are going to get rid of every one of the grade crossings and chop off many of the turns in the track so he might secertly not openly have plans for the eletric lines to head south in the future. The Richmond. The rail line it’s self looks like that say 30 or 50 years after he retires would be fully comptable at up grading with out much trouble to at least 150 miles on hour.

As for the rail line from Washingtion DC to Richmond it’s more of like a grand railroad plan from the 1900’s in that the Pennsyvinia went on turning their Philli to Pittsburg double track main line into a four track main line and at least removed 80% of the grade crossings on it. And this project is more of a grand track widing idea that doesn’t really reomove any grade crossins so it would fit more in with something from the 1900’s then a bullet train.

Has there been over a billion of dollars of Federal and over a billion of dollars of State funding dedicated to any HSR corridor before?

We’ve actually passed one or more “I’ll believe it when I see it” milestones for HSR already.

There really is exactly one hurdle to go, satisfying the state bond requirements to release the state funding. If that hurdle is cleared, then the first segment is a funded project and will break ground.

I’ll believe it when I see it because there have been plans for HSR or new passenger rail in this country (not commuter rail, and not trains running on freight lines) for the last 20+ years.

Longer than that. Lyndon Johnson signed the High Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965 They were aiming for 2 hours between NY and DC which would have been an average speed of 112 MPH. HIgh speed for it’s time and respectable even today.

Maybe the northeast corridor but I’m not sure if that is truly new track (providing service where there was _none_ before) or just an upgrade to support the Acela.

There’s places on the NEC where the track is straight enough that HSR could run today. If I remember correctly test trains that ran in excess of 150 more than once. The design speed for Metroliner IIs was to be 165.

From the Wikipedia article on the Northeast Corridor:

The UAC Turbotrain set the speed record for a production train at 170.8 miles per hour (274.8 kilometers per hour) on the Northeast Corridor between New Brunswick, New Jersey and Trenton, New Jersey on December 20, 1967, when that portion of the line was still under Pennsylvania Railroad control.

The stretch through New Jersey is mostly dead straight until you get past Newark, apart from a curve at Metuchen. Penn Central couldn’t avoid bankruptcy unfortunately.

There’s a really nasty curve just south of the Elizabeth station.
I can’t find references, the PRR and Budd or the PennCentral and Budd tested Metroliners at speeds higher than 150 between New Brunswick and Trenton. I seem to remember 164. There were also tests in the early 90s of trains being considered for what became the Acela. Videos on Youtube of a test train blowing through at 150+.

I believe the main speed-limiting problem at the moment in the Trenton-Newark section is lack of constant tension catenary — the existing catenary in New Jersey might be destroyed by a 150 mph train.

Well, that and the defective concrete ties they’re currently replacing, but that should be finished soon enough.

Acela trains and large portion of the NYC-Baltimore tracks are capable of 165 mph. The catenary and FRA cant and track spacing between tracks regulations are problems. The catenaries will be addressed in the NEC upgrade What would it take to get the FRA to ease up or will the track spacing have to be widened as part of the upgrade?

I to I’m getting tried of the studies and dreams and having our rail being comparied to Eroupe or China and Japan. I don’t think they should put any more money in to Florida and Califroinia intill we as tax payers see something getting built. I saw the place on Google street view where they want to build the new trains and I don’t see how they can’t build for one thing a longer section of track with the high speed rail money and another thing I don’t understand is why haven’t they started building anything. If they keep puting money into Califorinia and Florida there is a very high risk that these two high speed rail projects will fail and they will take out the high speed rail funding like a basket of failing eggs.

I really hope they exetend the NEC at least south to Richmond to get rid of the 40 minute wait at the mouth of the Pennsyvinia Railroad eletric Catenary Anomily. But I think Vrginia needs to change their battle plans for carring out bring high speed rail South to North Carolina instead of trying to shallow the thing up at once by trying to built it all in one shot they should try nibble attacks on it such as instead of doing studies and building plans for the whole 110 mile route at once they should try to nibble at it in five to ten mile sections.

A example of the nibble attack on the CSX mainline from Richmond to Washingtoin DC would be to stard north of the existing 11 mile long Powell’s Creek thrid track railroad widening project and go north five to ten miles and spend the resources on hand to expand the old double track crossing of the Arkendale Creek railroad bridge and go five miles north of that. That would be a example of nibbling at the long term up grades of the future NEC Mainline to Richmond.

They need to do full environmental and engineering work before starting to build. That’s why no HSR has been built yet. On top of that, California’s $9 billion in Prop 1A bonds have to be matched 1-to-1 from outside sources to be spent; since the feds have only provided about $2.5 billion and private and foreign-government investors are waiting to see whether the feds will provide anything more, only a small portion of construction is funded. That’s why they’re talking about Fresno-Hanford and not something much larger and more usable.

You are contradicting yourself: you don’t want to allocate one more dime to California until something is built, which is a demand to break ground with the funds already provided, and you want a longer stretch of line where running at 150mph to 220mph gives a substantial transport benefit.

You don’t get a long stretch of Express HSR line for $1b~$2b of money unless the state already owns a suitable alignment.

Demanding that California do something that it has not been funded to do before it gets any more funds is demanding that it no proceed with the project.

I, for one, am very happy that the USDoT told California that it could not waste Federal funds building local transit in disguise after applying for funds to build an intercity line, and I am reasonably pleased that the CHSRA staff picked a first segment that can be extended flexibly in whatever sized increments they can get funded.

I too like the Central Valley choice first, but they need get it extended to Bakersfield (via a large portion of the redeployed funds), then Palmdale when the next cache of funds become available to complete the central spine as quickly as possible. There’s nothing like showing off 220mph trains 100+ miles for PR to spike demand.

Its not up to them whether they get any of the redeployed funds.

But the freedom to extend toward Bakersfield if additional funding becomes available is one of the explicit reasons for picking the alternative that they chose.

“freedom to extend toward Bakersfield if additional funding becomes available is one of the explicit reasons for picking the alternative that they chose.”

Keeping my fingers crossed for California $900M plus either Illinois or Virginia for $300M.

OceanRailroader, they are already doing a lot of “nibble attacks”. That’s how they’re getting a 110 mph route from Raleigh/Durham, via Winston/Salem, to Charlotte; that’s also how they’re getting a third track, and in some places a fourth, from the point in DC where the Union Station tunnel and the freight tunnel meet, all the way to Richmond and beyond it to Petersburg (sp?).

The S-line Petersburg to Raleigh needs to have its environmental studies done as one big unit; the law requires it, because otherwise it would be too easy to get a single dreadful highway in “nibbles”. They’re getting to the point where they could start doing final design and construction in “nibbles”. However, there’s one other thing: there’s really nothing between Petersburg and Raleigh. The only reasonable-sized nibbles are Richmond-Petersburg and suburban service to the northern suburbs of Raleigh. After that, there’s no reason to build anything less than the rest of the line.

Since Metro Charlotte is committing to build an intermodal transit center downtown, bigger & growing faster, and preparing for more transit growth than Metro Raleigh-Durham, its best for Charlotte to serve as the junction between 2 HSR lines:


With the new generation tilt trains, SEHSR should also plan concrete towards 185-200 mph top speed, 130 mph average speed, 60 miles between stops connecting the largest city within Top 50 Metro Areas. Thus, HSR routing north of Metro Charlotte is best suited for only Richmond-Raleigh-Greensboro-Charlotte stations. The 20-ish mile diversion from Greensboro to Winston-Salem is best left to NC Regional Rail. Ditto for Regional Rail addressing Durham-Raleigh-Fayettesville and Greenville-Columbia-Charleston alignments.

BTW, I can’t figure out why Florida HSR has only publicly committed to 168 mph (270 kmph) top speed. Florida HSR knows about 220 mph NextGen tilt trains and can design Lakeland Station with 110 mph run-through tracks to support Express HSR trains going 60 miles non-stop from Tampa to Walt Disney World.

the speed record for the Budd Metroliners was 160.4 IIRC, between Trenton and New Brunswick. The Acela test on the same stretch was barely faster.
The Turbotrain number 170 is correct.

Amtrak’s NEC Master Plan states two numbers for top speed that current Acela trains are capable of running on the longest & straitest segments, 160 and 165 mph. Not sure which number is official.

The good news is Amtrak acknowledges that an upgraded Washington-NYC corridor and upgraded Boston-Providence-New Haven corridor are capable of 185-200 mph even with speed limitations for noise considerations.

The top speed and the operating speed are two different things. Generally railroads don’t exceed 90 percent. So in regular service Acela gets to 150 give or take a few MPH.

Generally, railroads operate at the top service speed the rolling stock is certified for, unless track restrictions mandate lower speeds.

That said, the difference in average speed between an Acela topping at 150 mph and an Acela topping at 165 mph is tiny, keeping all else equal. It’s much more important to have shorter station dwell times, better acceleration, higher cant, and maybe also a more aerodynamic body if noise is a problem.

This is not necessarily the case. The German ICE 1 trainsets are certified for 280 km/h, but normal operation is at 250 km/h on lines certified for 280 km/h. However, if the train is late, running at 280 is permitted.

Also, during the certification process, a vehicle must prove its stability at 10% above the to be certified speed. That means, that the ICE 1 had to prove stability at at least 308 km/h during the certification process. (and this is actually also the base of the Siemens propaganda about the fastest production trains … in order to be certified for 380 km/h, they had to prove stability at 420 km/h…

Or, as we see here, the Acela trainsets must have run at 165 mph to become certified at 150 mph…

Max Wyss,

I echo Alon’s comment that I’ve read Acela trains was certified to run at either 160-165 mph between DC-NYC and New Haven-Boston.

If Adirondacker12800 is correct about 10% overhead to certify at a given speed, then all the more reason to buy 220 mph tilt trains nationwide, so Express HSR trains can certify at 185-200 mph.

To ThomasD and Alon: The 10% above certified speed is common practice in Europe and Asia. However, it is permitted to do some modifications to reach that speed under extraordinary circumstances (such as software modifications to squeeze more power out of a vehicle, or reduce the train length; locomotives usually just have the dynamometer car plus maybe one or tow braking cars, and/or an additional locomotive for braking purposes; cars are hauled by locomotives which are able to reach the speed).

So, if the Acela is certified for 165 mph, and that common practice is applied, it would have had to reach 182 mph during tests. If that has not been the case, it might be a good idea to have another look at the certification test conditions.

The high speed trains are procured with a given certified maximum speed. However, as said above, they will be pushed to more than that for the certification, and that’s it. So, if 185 mph is procured, that’s the speed the trains are designed for; if 220 mph is procured, that’s the speed. There is no need to procure trains for 220 mph, just in order to have them certified for 200.

Increasing the certified speed is possible; it may require some refurbishing, but it can be done (example, the TGV-SE (that’s the first generation TGV) has originally been certified for 260 km/h; later on, it got recertified for 270 km/h, with minor modifications, if at all.

Is it practical for Amtrak to upgrade Acela trains from 160-165 mph to operate at 185 mph in the future? If so, given their tilt restrictions between parallel tracks, which future 185 mph route would they be a best fit?

No, it’s not – the current trains are already obsolete. On a route that doesn’t require tilting, they offer no advantage over a medium-speed train, with top speed 150 or even 125 mph but high acceleration and much lower maintenance costs.

Given Acela trains entered commission around 2001, shouldn’t their lifecycle extend to 2030? If so, then after Amtrak/USDOT upgrade the NEC for 185-200 mph Express HSR service, shouldn’t Amtrak redeploy Acela trains for 165 mph Regional HSR service in the NEC until retirement?

The cost of replacing the Acelas before the trains’ expected end of life should be compared with the reduced cost of maintaining the new trains as well as the tracks.

If the NEC is upgraded to high speed, then I would guess that the best use for the Acelas is a fairly curvy line with enough freight traffic that the high axle load would not cause additional track wear issues. Probably Keystone and an electrified Empire are the best bets, before those routes are upgraded to or replaced by full-fat HSR as well.

Does anybody believe that California HSR should reevaluate its routes from Bakersfield to LA, and from Fresno to San Francisco? Should they go over the Tejon pass which is shorter in order to get to L.A. Faster? Should they also realign the connection to the Bay Area by having it go over the Altamont Pass? And should we build new tracks that don’t parallel the freight lines. Here are links to some documents from the California High Speed Rail Foundation which brings up interesting questions:

There’s still enough time left to reconsider the alignments that are currently proposed.

Plenty of people believe both of those things. People who are more interested in piggy-backing intra-metropolitan transit on the back of the HSR project would indeed like a loopy Bay alignment that goes down SF / Santa Clara, up the east Bay, out through Liverpool, and junctions the CV north of Merced.

Not what you would do if your priority was Express HSR, but there’s lot to like about it in terms of regional HSR, which is why the Altamont commuter overlay is looking at something along those lines, without express passing lines and without necessarily supporting 220mph operation until hitting the main Express HSR corridor.

And gambling addicts always love the Tejon Pass alignment with its massive project risk for, if you are sensible enough to include both Fresno and Bakersfield in the alignment, perhaps a 10 minute speed gain.

And of course, those funding mischievous proposals aimed at just killing the project love those alternatives, because it allows them to pretend that “they just want to do the project right”, when what they want to do is kill the project with delay after delay to “study more”.

Michael S,
CHSRA got the initial route right. Most people will feel safer crossing the San Andreas Fault on flatter land approaching Palmdale than going through Tejon Pass — even if it costs 7-10 extra minutes. I know, I just drove through it today and many times before. I always feel like its a dice roll going through Tejon Pass with its steep mountains and San Andreas Fault.

The other good reason is, Palmdale Station makes a nice junction point for a potential 220mph LA-Palmdale-Barstow-Las Vegas VHSR route (I prefer to call it “VHSR” because it can deliver significantly shorter trip time/mile) traveling through desert.

Its the San Andreas fault that makes the Tejon a high stakes gamble: there a few alternative tunnel layouts that result in passing the San Andreas in the open, and you have to pass the San Andreas in the open if you do not want to dig a new tunnel every time it shifts. The Tehachapi has much greater leeway in alternative tunnel layouts, so if the preparation for the planned alignment reveals problems with the geology in that section, there are alternatives available.

Tunneling is one area for budgets to blow out, and given the cost of the tunneling, if the budget blows out due to either very hard or very soft rock, that is easily multiple billions when you don’t have many options to redesign the layout to run through easier geology.

This is about tunnelling in general… It is possible to stay within budget with tunnels. However, it requires serious budgeting, and the budget must not be politically influenced (see, for example the Swiss Furka tunnel which ended up costing three times the budgeted amount, but where it was obvious that the budget was set so low to get it approved by the parliament).

Exceeding the budget by 10% is generally accepted, as there are imponderabilities. In cases where the geology is not known, or known to be difficult, it is very sound to add a rather high reserve for that to the budget. Yes, it will lead to a high number, but experience shows that a shock early in the process is better than at the end…

Also, one thing which happens frequently with tunnels is that, because the construction time is long, new requirements concerning safety or operation emerge during the construction time, and must be implemented.

Worse, the Tejon route crosses not just the San Andreas but also the Hayward. *Near their intersection*. The geology is awful.

The chosen route crosses every fault on the surface, and there are multiple alternative routes for each tunnel. The Tejon route would be a *VERY* high stakes gamble.

I would sure like to know how all this is sitting with Union Pacific, especially between south Fresno and the San Joaquin River. This approximate 12-mile stretch is purportedly to be built on a viaduct above and adjacent to (or atop) the UP right-of-way and in some areas as high up as 60 feet in places.

Moreover, anyone familiar with Highway 99 between Ashlan and Clinton avenues is aware that the northbound highway lanes practically hug the southbound mainline track of the UP in this location. How in the world high-speed rail is supposed to be “fit” in between the existing road and railroad infrastructure without either a relocation of a portion of the highway and/or freight railway, how this will be accomplished, is beyond me.

Then there is the matter of right-of-way (land) acquisition between the San Joaquin River and the BNSF in southern Madera County. This is all farmland. I say: “good luck!”

Also, from what I understand, the authority will be dealing with two different contractors regarding the sections from Fresno north and Fresno south. It will be interesting to see how this too will play out.

This may also be what it takes to spark smart growth (infill) rail-oriented development in downtown Fresno, because as far as I’m aware, nothing so far in the Big Raisin has developed in this regard.

It would be a nightmare in the making if they try some thin ultra modern overpass plan where they try to make this tall overpass tall and narrow to fit it into this place and then a Earthqake happens and it comes crashing down on top of Fresno. I think the heavy gauge old fashion railroad overpasses would do much better then this modern high railroad bridge in a large Earthqauke.

If it was me I would build several smaller railroad overpasses though Freseno and then build a raised earth railroad bed over top of them though it instead of having a tall and narrow railroad overpass.

For the record, I support the way the planned California high-speed rail project is to be constructed between south Fresno and Bakersfield as proposed; that is, roughly paralleling the BNSF freight rail corridor. However, from south Fresno north into Madera County, it’s another matter entirely.

I suspect the city of Fresno is inflexible regarding its choice for location of its proposed downtown high-speed rail station. It is to be situated along the UP corridor between Ventura and Tuolumne streets. It is also to be elevated. As well the HSRA authority seems inflexible in its selection of routes for HSR through town. Twelve miles of elevated viaduct to carry both local and non-stop trains through town seems silly. Highway 99 essentially runs parallel to the UP in town and why the HSR line could not be located in close proximity and for all intents and purposes parallel to and to the west of the highway, I just don’t understand. Using this alignment, it is my belief no such elevated trackage would be required except where intersecting roads and one or (at most) two freight railroad branchline(s) would be crossed. And a downtown station could still be possible, only it would be located west of 99 rather than east of it.

Invariably, money would be saved by not having to build 12-miles of elevated concrete viaduct.

The UP is straight as an arrow; CA99 is not. Express trains paralleling Hwy 99 could not whiz through town at 220mph. With curves like that they would probably be restricted to 100mph or so.

Imagine driving the curves on that highway at 55mph, then imagine going for times as fast, and remember that centripetal force is proportional to the SQUARE of velocity, so therefore a train passenger would experience 16 times the lateral force of a car passenger. This is one of several reasons why highway alignments don’t always work well as HSR alignments.

Please keep in mind that I wrote “in close proximity and for all intents and purposes parallel to and to the west of the highway just as I wrote “roughly” parallel to the BNSF between south Fresno and Bakersfield. Although I’m sure it is not obvious to everyone, I for one recognize the HSR tracks can’t be built side-by-side with existing infrastructure due to certain curvature restrictions. Where the curvature would be too tight, the HSR line and highway rights-of-way could diverge and then rejoin again where it is physically possible.

I hope my suggestion now makes more sense.

(1) Count the intersecting roads.
(2) Count the number of houses and other buildings which would need to be demolished.

Railroads have eminent domain powers over non-railroads (since the 19th century!) ROW acquisition of farmland will be straightforward.

They also have the right to cross other railroads (since the 19th century!), so if worst comes to worst, UP cannot stop the overpass construction. Even if it’s 12 miles.

This is assuming the CHRSA forms a railroad subsidiary to do this, obviously. :-)

The whole CAHSR project lives or falls on the crossing of the Tehachapi and the mountains into Los Angeles. So why not get on and build the tunnels? Even, if only, the Tehachapi tunnel was built there would be great benefits for passenger and freight rail in California. In 30 years time we may see 220mph trains as something of an indulgence….

Can’t build the tunnels until the design of that segment is finished and the EIS/EIR is done. Can’t do that in time to meet the ARRA construction deadlines. Plus, the total amount was not enough to complete from Palmdale to Burbank, and it has to be a usable segment with two stations.

And in the timeline, its necessary to have a test track to pick a train and get the FRA certification on the train done, so getting track laid in the CV is more time critical than starting the tunneling in the Tehachapi.

The tunnels are not going to be used for freight service. To minimize construction cost the plan is to push the ruling grade to the limit of HSR, which is 3.5%, well beyond what heavy freight trains can handle without helper engines.

Thanks Bruce and Alon for the clarification. However, I still think it should be a priority. Even for an existing San Joaquin service, getting through the Tehachapi (quickly) could provide a whole new level of service between northern and southern California. Or at least the Central Valley. As for freight, why shouldn’t the tunnel operate in a similar fashion to the Channel Tunnel that has HSR and truck carriers. Just because US frieght railroads currently operate very long underpowered trains, doesn’t mean they always have to.

The alternative to the Chunnel is a slow, labor intensive ferry.

Freight doesn’t care much if it takes an hour to get between Bakersfield and Palmdale or if it takes ten hours. It can sit in the yard for hours waiting for the overnight high speed freight window or it can be lumbering along the slow line.

Short, high powered freight vehicles are available between Bakersfield and Palmdale. Trucks.

Britain and France both have huge networks of electrified freight to feed the Chunnel. It’s not like in the US, where all freight trains run on diesel, even those running on the few electrified lines. In addition, to be viable the Chunnel has to carry both high-speed trains and car shuttles, which means speeds would have to be limited anyway. Thus there’s very little loss in capacity coming from running freight trains there.

You’d want that passenger train to be able to get further than Burbank ~ LA-Union-Station to Burbank and CV/Palmdale and then connecting the two pieces via the Tehachapi link to start up a preliminary run works just as well.

a surprising amount of freight arrives at the chunnel diesel hauled at the uk end and switches to an electric class 92 to be hauled through the chunnel to France.

over here the amount of diesel haulage under the wires is a matter of some debate ! It arises partly because many freight sidings are not electrified nor are many of the non passenger networks.

For example freight from the Port of Felixstowe on the uk east coast across to the north west is on a diesel line. Some mostly container freight is hauled electrically via London but as this is further and hinders capacity for passenger trains the cross country route is being upgraded to also allow 9’62” containers to be carried – forget double stack this line cant yet do single stack !!

oh and I am following the California HSL with interest as the UK govt wishes us to have one as well but the NIMBYs and deniers are out here too, mostly by those who too be fair will be near the proposed route. Many believe the line will cut a swathe utterley destroying pleasant countryside. The route in fact starts in tunnel then runs alongside a busy road then follows a disused railway formation. However there will be impacts and residents have a right to mitigate these as well as trying to get some benefit. Unfortunately those against HS lines sometimes seem to make up so called facts as they go
along. i.e. quote the cost of the whole line to the North for the first 100 mile section to Birmingham basically doubling the actual quoted number !!!!

I believe that a majority of Congresspersons don’t want to be on the wrong side of history when state voters have approved a $9.9B billion bond to build CHSR. They don’t want their legacy to be similar to the handful of luddites who voted against the interstate freeway system.

Michael Schaeffer,
Here’s another reason CHSRA got the route alignment right. Though I would prefer a shorter distance between LA and SF for personal reasons, I take a larger view of what right for the state and nation: HSR should remove the most autos and regional flights with trains that are fast frequent, safe and dependable.

Note the projected growth rates for San Jose, Oakland, Fresno, Modesto, Stockton and Merced by 2030,

If CHSRA followed the straightest alignment listed here

220 mph, frequent and dependable service would bypass San Jose, Oakland, Fresno, Modesto, Stockton and Merced. That doesn’t make sense given they are the fastest growing cities in the state and Top 100 Metro Areas in the nation. At least the current alignment also serves San Jose. The only questionable station is Gilroy.

20-25 years down the road with the current plan completes, CHSRA would also better serve East Bay Residents by building another tunnel under the SF Bay from the Transbay Transit Center to Oakland, then down to the Altamont Pass over to Merced.

Pacheco is actually the shortest path from LA to SF – it even beats Altamont-through-a-second-Transbay-Tube. But relative to Altamont, more of the distance is spent in the lower-speed Bay Area than in the higher-speed Central Valley, which cancels out the speed gain.

The Central Valley-Bay Area EIR says that Altamont-through-Dumbarton is 2 minutes faster than Pacheco, though in reality Altamont is more dependent on UP routes, so that if UP keeps refusing to share its right of way, Altamont will become slower.

Wrong. If we just switched to Altamont all the problems with NIMBYs, UP and environmental groups just magically disappear.

would also better serve East Bay Residents by building another tunnel under the SF Bay from the Transbay Transit Center to Oakland, then down to the Altamont Pass over to Merced.

They’d be able to get trains from Davis and Santa Rosa in that way too. Apparently they aren’t designing that possibility into it.

They didn’t even design in the possibilities written into the local proposition, since it was designated as the SF HSR terminus over a decade ago, but they didn’t start taking seriously the possibility that HSR trains are different to commuter EMU’s until they were forced to do so to apply for HSR funding for the train box.

Given that they failed to design in possibilities entrenched in a proposition passed by a local majority, the odds of them designing in something in that they were not mandated to design in would be very long indeed.

Are you sure all your numbers are correct? For instance, the full AVE Madrid-Barcelona line cost $28 million per mile (link), and that’s using a very high Euro:dollar exchange rate; its Madrid-Lerida segment couldn’t possibly cost $53 million/mile.

Even if they’re all correct, you’re excluding some of the cheaper lines, such as the LGV Est (phase 1 at $21 million per mile, phase 2 at $26).

Downtown segments have a tendency to be budget-blowing, so I wouldn’t be suprised if the first five miles out of Madrid cost a fortune.

“Couldn’t possibly” was meant literally. Madrid-Lerida is a large majority of the Madrid-Barcelona mileage; if it cost $53 million per mile, the Lerida-Barcelona segment would need to have negative cost to make it average to $28 million.

On top of it, urban construction of tunnels just isn’t that expensive in Spain. Madrid’s new Atocha access tunnels cost about $90 million per mile. Not all cities have the cost control of New York.

So, the reason it isn’t being built between Bakersfield & Palmdale is because that route would cost significantly more than they have on hand to start the first segment?

This link would allow for the current route to Bakersfield from Oakland to be extended to LA. Even if current Amtrak trains traveled on these tracks, instead of HSR in the mean time, the LA to Oakland trip would be cut to 9 hrs, from the current 13.5 hrs. While LA to Sacramento would be cut to 8 hrs from the current 14.5 hrs.

This could not be derided as the train to nowhere, but it would likely take more than twice the time to finish. But that might be even more of a reason to start it before the rest of the segments.

Californians don’t give a rip about 9 hour LA-Oakland trip time. The first news item that matter is 220 mph service for 2 hour 38 minute LA-SF trip time, even if it takes until 2019-end.

Why so confident? California build the world’s greatest freeway system that inflation adjusted, would probably cost $200 billion. It built world class airports in SF and LA, plus major airports in Oakland, San Jose, Orange County and San Diego. Caltrans DOT has set CHSR as its highest priority. San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and Sacramento governments are advertising their train stations as CHSR hubs. When California sets its mind to building a transportation mode, it gets DONE. This train has left the station.

“So, the reason it isn’t being built between Bakersfield & Palmdale is because that route would cost significantly more than they have on hand to start the first segment? ”

That, and it requires significantly larger amounts of engineering, design, and ROW purchase work, so the shovels wouldn’t be able to go in the ground as soon.

Andy K,

No other transportation project has a bond the scale of CHSR. I’ve heard the Caltrans boss state CHSR as the largest transportation budget priority. LA, SF Bay Area, San Diego and Sacramento metropolitan transportation commission planning docs prioritize how their train stations and urban track will support of CHSR.

Beyond all of that, the litmus tests to to know its true is that California has no plans to widen I-5 Freeway, nor are their plans expand LAX and SFO airports for regional flights.

What countervailing Caltrans or metro transportation commission evidence would call that into question?

This will be a train to nowhere only if a second segment isn’t built. Oh wait, even in that case, the segment will be usable by the San Joaquins.

The California portion of the funding will be from a bond issue, so it isn’t really affected by any current budget problems.

I followed this route on Google streetview and a lot of the freight rails here though this valley are eather double track or singel track so maybe a double track passanger only railroad would be a good thing.

I think Amtrak taking over this section when it’s done would be a good thing so that the Amtrak route can knock a hour of it’s existing trip and they could run more daily Amtrak trains and have even longer trains that can run on this new section.

They have allocated some contingency funds to allow connecting to the BNSF tracks at the north and south, but those funds would be better spent on extending the high-speed line. Or, more precisely, to be reused as contingency funds for connecting an extended line to the BNSF.

Wouldn’t it make sense in an earthquake prone area to have as many connections as possible to keep service running in case of damage on one line?

Why the big worry about CAHSR running across a major fault line? BART does it every day and held up better than bridges in the 1989 earthquake.

Given a little consulting experience learned from Japan HSR, it should be no problem designing a safe surface crossing of the Hayward Fault at 110-120 mph in route to the Gilroy Station.

$624M more for CHSR for $3.1B from the USDOT in 2010, awesome news and lots of good jobs welcomed by outgoing Republican and incoming Democratic governors! This is a great example that other states should follow and stop politicizing HSR.

Given its mostly flat & straight terrain, costs should average $40M/mile to build 113-mile Fresno-Bakersfield in one phase for $4.5B. If so, California need only contribute $1.5B. In 2011, that puts California in great position to dangle a $2B carrot for $6B matching funds for Bakersfield-Palmdale and partly towards Sylmar.

By 2012 the USDOT Las Vegas-LA study will complete. Though the proposed Desert Express claims to have $4B in private Las Vegas funds backing a 140mph Las Vegas-Barstow-Victorville route, these recent developments are a game-changer. I predict they will switch to a Las Vegas-Barstow-Palmdale-LA-Anaheim route. Given its Vegas money involved, they should be smart enough to skip Victorville for 220 mph trains with 1 hour 45 minute trip time from Los Angeles and 2 hour 5 minutes from Anaheim.

This is somewhat one of the worst things that can happen in that Cailforinia and Florida are taking on hunderds of millions of dollars in high speed rail funds and they have not started construction on any sections of it. And they are stuck in hunderds of crazy lawsuits along both routes and they still keep taking on more of the high speed rail money.

They should have given the money to North Carolina and New York. As for Washingtion State getting the new money I think that is a very good idea in that Oragon got over 500 million dollars.

Has any one noticed there is not a detailed plan as to where the route really is only a general plan? With two years for breaking ground myself it appears I am a property owning and have not been contacted.

Who is going to ride this? Think about the study shows that a trip to L.A. is going to coast $75 dollars and driving a car is going to coast $85.

What is a train rider going to do when they get there pay a cab , bus ? onother $40 to get somewhere in LA

Please make since of this the politians that are for this are the same ones telling us we are going to have bigger class rooms and lay teachers off. What they are really saying is our kids are getting less education to support the train.

We need dollars for Schools,Roads,Parks,Kids,Older Generations,Water

We need to vote out the dreamers that think we should be like France or other European Countries.

Please go there and visit you will soon realize that our marginal parts here are better than their best places.

California has chosen to have and enforce a number of laws — three strikes, marijuana sales, etc –by building large numbers of costly prisons and filling them with lots of black and brown men at huge expense.

I know many Confederates get their thrills from knowing that so many black men are locked up. But the Unionists who freed the slaves should object to spending billions to support the incarceration industry.

Stop that waste and use the money saved to support education, parks, kids, older generations, water, I’m with you. But I wouldn’t waste any more money on roads. You build more roads and more people decide to drive more and the roads fill up. Time to break that vicious circle and get off the treadmill.

Its the stupidest thinh they could spend money on right now, they are only doing it for the unions, there will not be 25000 jobs and it will cut our valley in two ,im not a democrat as of this week ill never vote for them again.

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