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Plan for 'blended' rail system gains steam
Original post made
on Aug 30, 2011
A proposal by three lawmakers to blend high-speed rail and Caltrain on the Peninsula received a boost Friday when a panel of experts retained by the California High-Speed Rail Authority decided to lend its support to the idea.
Read the full story here Web Link
posted Tuesday, August 30, 2011, 1:03 PM
Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Aug 30, 2011 at 3:44 pm
The California High-Speed Rail Authority has been engaging in a lot of Madison Avenue double-talk lately. They've been coining new phrases which are code and highly misleading.
The latest is called the "Blended, two-track Caltrain/HSR Solution." It means they will take the existing infrastructure of Caltrain's two tracks and modify them minimally for running some high-speed trains as well. We'll get back to that in a moment.
The other phrases, like "phased implementation," "initial construction segment," and "value engineering" conceal much more about their intentions than what they reveal. When you read between these lines, what we are actually being told is the following.
a. They will do the cheapest thing possible. The lowest cost will drive the design. This ignores the requirements of mitigating environmental impact and they will double-talk their way around that.
b. They will violate the requirements of the authorizing legislation by not having all the funding in place to build a HSR-usable segment, but will go ahead anyhow by claiming that completion will take a lot longer but they will get a start regardless.
c. They will not build a required, operational segment first, but merely lay as much track in the Central Valley as they have money for. That locks up their "territory" while they lobby for more funds, regardless of how long that takes.
This project could take decades to become operational. Meanwhile, they remain in business and on the government payroll. The more they can put on the ground the soonest, the more their eternal future is assured, even if they never complete and make this train operational. As we keep insisting, it's not really about the train. It's about money and politics.
So, back to this blended business on the Caltrain corridor. "Blended" means squat! They state that they are going to accept the recommendations of Congresswoman Eshoo, State Senator Simitian and Assemblyman Gordon to use only the existing two tracks, and run both high-speed trains and Caltrain during the day. That makes for about ten trains, combined, each hour, or twenty trains north and south. Without grade separations, it will be a show-stopper! By which I mean traffic will seriously back up at intersections.
That, of course, will add to the urgency of grade separations which, in turn, will add to the urgency of elevated viaducts. And if the tracks are going to be elevated, they might as well put all four tracks up there for Caltrain and HSR. Problem solved. (Of course, nobody has asked UPRR's opinion yet, but that's another discussion.)
Ten trains per hour also means that the trains won't go faster than 110 mph (if that fast) and HSR wouldn't be able to meet the time requirements of the legislation. But, who cares?!
In order for this "phased implementation" modification to happen, the rail corridor will have to be electrified, necessary for HSR and a dream come true for Caltrain. The rail authority will also require additional tracks for passing, so it will no longer be a 'true' two track system. (They already have four short additional passing track segments along the whole corridor, but will 'blend' in a lot more.)
While our jolly three politicians stipulated that this 'blended' solution would be the final one, with no future modifications, the rail authority has not accepted that. Remember, their intention is to have four tracks elevated on a viaduct. They are agreeing to this reduced version only because they don't have an extra $6 to $10 billion right now to build the four track elevated viaduct, but they sure will when (if) they get the cash from D.C..
Once they have the funding for that, the 'blended' two track solution goes out the window. The article below tells us that they estimate a cost of around $1 billion to do this blended version. Don't believe that either. It's not as simple as they make it sound.
Oh, yes, and what has been built for the 'blended' two-track version, including electrification, will all have to get torn out once they start building the elevated viaduct.
All this is typical of how this project continues to unfold in California. Lies, deception, false promises, endless, pointless negotiations, threats, and lots of double talk in the rail authority documentation and Senate hearings, as well as their own monthly board meetings.
With all due respect to all our well-intentioned colleagues, we still don't begin to appreciate the determination and ruthlessness of Van Ark and the rail authority. They are arrogant because the know there is no one to stop them from doing whatever they damn please. "Don't like what we are doing? Sue us!"