Reports: High-speed rail to start in Central Valley

FRA announces grant that earmarks $715 million for rail construction in Central Valley

Construction of California's controversial high-speed rail project will likely begin in the Central Valley thanks to a $902 million federal grant the Federal Railroad Adminstration announced Monday.

The Los Angeles Times reported today that the grant also includes $16 million for the rail corridor between San Francisco to San Jose. It did not specify how these funds would be used.

The grant specifies that $715 million would be used to build the Central Valley segment of the line -- the first phase of the 800-mile project. Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, held a press conference Monday to celebrate the fact that his segment would get priority over other parts of the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles line.

"This will begin the first phase of the construction of state-of-the art, high-speed rail in our nation," Costa said in a news release. "This is the largest sum allocated in the U.S. for the first phase of any high-speed rail corridor."

The grant is a "tremendous vote of confidence" for the project," Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger, a fervent supporter of the rail project, said in the release.

State officials estimate the initial phase of the project linking San Francisco and Los Angeles will cost $43 billion. California voters approved a $9.95 billion bond for the project in November 2008, when they passed Proposition 1A.

"As the nation's largest infrastructure project, California's high-speed rail system will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, reduce pollution, boost economic growth and link Californians from one end of this great state to the other," Schwarzenegger said.

"I thank the federal government for recognizing the value of accelerating the pace of our project and (I) look forward to the many groundbreakings sure to follow."

The rail project has drawn intense opposition in the Peninsula, where several cities have called for the FRA and the state officials to cut off funding for the proposal in light of a series critical audits.

The Palo Alto City Council recently adopted a stance of "no confidence" in the California High-Speed Rail Authority. On Monday night, the council unanimously voted to oppose a possible high-speed rail station in Palo Alto.

The new grant announcement suggests that it could be more than a decade before high-speed rail comes to the Peninsula. Nevertheless, the rail authority plans to complete its analysis of Peninsula design options by the end of this year and to release an environmental impact report for the San Francisco-to-San Jose segment in December.

Palo Alto Mayor Pat Burt said Monday that the authority's announcement is consistent with previous statements by authority CEO Roelof van Ark.

The grant announcement didn't specify which of the two Central Valley segments would get built first.

Burt said van Ark indicated that if the first segment is Fresno to Bakersfield, the second would likely stretch from Bakersfield to Los Angeles. If the first Central Valley segment will be Fresno to Merced, the Peninsula segment would likely follow.

The goalis to stretch the rail line between two metropolitan areas within the next 10 or 20 years, Burt said van Ark indicated.

Burt, who sits on the council's High-Speed Rail Committee, said Monday that the delay in bringing high-speed rail to the Peninsula makes the authority's decision to release an EIR for the Peninsula segment in December hasty and unnecessary.

"It would serve no legal purpose -- it would be a stale EIR," Burt said. "It would do detriment without any benefit."

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Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Oct 26, 2010 at 11:54 am

Even though they may start in the Central Valley, the Peninsula Caltrain corridor will live in the anticipated construction shadows for the foreseeable future.

Burt is right. The rush to complete the project-level EIS Central Valley to Bay Area serves no useful purpose. It does however confirm what is becoming obvious to everyone. This project is about spending money; it’s not so much about building a train.

This will be a ten-year project at least. During that time, there may well be a decline in travel for business purposes promising fewer train riders if the train ever does become operational. Also, we are at the beginning of an automobile revolution promising faster, safer smart highways, with safer, fuel-efficient, smarter cars. Air travel with the next generation of aircraft will be more fuel-efficient and air congestion will be managed far more efficiently with NextGen. All these transformations will make this train project ever more inappropriate.

Furthermore, what is intended to be built will certainly be obsolete ten years from now as other countries accelerate train speeds well beyond what we will offer here in California. We are no longer the “cutting edge” on anything; instead we are the shoppers and consumers of other nations’ goods.

We are watching a group of amateur rail politicians force a mega-infrastructure project into existence (and down our throats!). This train project embodies Thorsten Veblen’s “conspicuous consumption” explained in his “Theory of the Leisure Class.”

It’s a train we don’t need, either in the Central Valley or anywhere else. And it’s a train we can’t afford. Meanwhile, our politicians who are so aggressively promoting this gross, wasteful boondoggle, ignore the real needs of both the Bay Area and the LA Basin; that is, an effective, multi-modal, coordinated/integrated and convenient urban and regional public mass transit system.

The intentions of the rail authority will devastate our Peninsula with a vast, intrusive, concrete, elevated structure that will loom over our lives. And the costs to the State will be high and perpetual. What is the price of urban blight and who will pay for it? You know the answers to those questions already.

Like this comment
Posted by R.Gordon
a resident of another community
on Oct 26, 2010 at 12:24 pm

All of you naysayers are not addressing the HSR. You are about wanting to have control over where it eventually goes and as I have mentioned before, I KNEW it is inevitable even with Mr. Gibonney removing my posts emphasizing and backing the program.
The idea is to progress into the 21st C. for our state and the PENINSULA is a very tiny part of those of us who know what the HSR will mean to people of this state, our country and eventually the entire world.
It is about the future. Not small things like local businesses and creating a few jobs but hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Like this comment
Posted by Don
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Oct 26, 2010 at 3:15 pm

I think they chose the Valley to build the first segment because that's where the local population most supports it. Anything out there that provides jobs -- prisons, waste dumps, etc. -- goes over big. You know, the 1800s were the heyday for railroads when every little burg HAD to have a train connection. But train enthusiasts persist, with fond memories of past train glories and rose-colored glasses, with little grounding in how many people will actually use high speed rail, how much subsidy it will need, and how high the ticket prices will be (quite high). What a waste of money. The Valley has Amtrak service already.

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Posted by rail advocate
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Oct 26, 2010 at 4:54 pm

There is real need for rail service from Bakersfield to LA, HSR or whatever. None exists now.
You have to take a Bus from Bakersfield to connect with an eastbound Amtrak out of LA.
If you live in the Bay area, forget it - you would have to stay overnite in LA to make an eastbound connection.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 26, 2010 at 6:22 pm

Rail Advocate:

so what's your point? If I want to go east I FLY just like most everyone else in this country.

Like this comment
Posted by TheDuke
a resident of another community
on Oct 27, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Which of our many airlines do you prefer? Also, there isn't much happening in most places in the U.S. so what foreign carriers do you prefer?

China Airlines is coming out with a luxury all first class flight and aparently getting a license to fly the U.S.
Shanghai Air was my favorite for years.I am excited about the bullet train in America, finally. It made us look so creepy to the rest of the world with us being the former power we were and without a bullet train.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Please avoid posting under multiple names. It can give a false impression that there are more people expressing a view than there are.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 27, 2010 at 8:35 pm

The Duke:

or should I say R Gordon? the two of you sound like the same person. It's "creepy" that we don't have HSR? How so? Sounds exactly like something R Gordon would say.

Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 27, 2010 at 10:33 pm

I travel all over the world and I've never heard anyone lament America's absence of high speed trains. Ever.

I've made this point before. About every 15 minutes during the day, you can fly from any of 5 or 6 Northern California airports and arrive in just one hour at any 8 or 9 Southern California airports for as little as $39. Government has nothing to do with it and it seems like several airlines are making money doing it.

So let's see... the existing system is faster, cheaper, more convenient, more departures, more variety, private industry, making money, paying taxes, employing people. Yup, that sounds like a perfect opportunity for a major government project, especially for a state that has such great schools, roads and public safety!

Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 27, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Hey, MV. Don't I owe you a lunch?

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 28, 2010 at 7:08 am


I think maybe you do. Name it - where and when. I look forward to it!

Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 28, 2010 at 8:24 am

Thur Nov 18 noon at California Cafe behind Nordstroms. Rez under my name.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 28, 2010 at 10:49 am

Your on! See you then.

Like this comment
Posted by R.Gordon
a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2010 at 1:15 pm

ONLY my valet knows my secret identity, but thanks for the comparison to the DUKE.

How does Menlo Voter get to write a short little love note to POGO and I have a paragraph directly from government officials removed for being OFF TOPIC?
My attorney (retainer) says I could make a legal issue. Need to help get that HSR rerouted, so may not have time.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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