Thursday, March 17, 2011

California High-Speed Rail

Partial Timeline of California High-Speed Rail (HSR):
Collage of stories created from some local media coverage.
Last year's planned 65 mile 'train to nowhere' is currently a planned 170 mile train from near Merced through Fresno to Bakersfield. Following in dated chronological order are credited excerpts from some local newspaper reports, the earliest first.
Critics call the plan a 'train to nowhere'
DATED: 12.2.10
(Excerpt) “As high-speed rail officials … consider … the initial 65-mile route from the farmlands of Borden through Fresno to Corcoran, critics are already panning the proposal as the ‘train to nowhere' ...
The California High-Speed Rail Authority is … to pick a route and enter a funding agreement with the Federal Railroad Administration by the end of the year [2010].
… rail authority engineers recommended the route in response to a Federal Railroad Administration directive that federal funding must go toward a stretch of track in the Central Valley.”

Source: Daisy Nguyen, AP. The Tribune, 12.2.10, page A4.
State gets $624M for high-speed rail
DATED: 12.10.10
(Excerpt) “The [federal] Department of Transportation announced it was redirecting $1.2 billion in high-speed rail money …
California is getting the largest share … [$624 million towards an estimated total $43 billion] system that eventually would extend 800 miles, linking Sacramento and San Francisco to Los Angeles and San Diego …
Van Ark [Roelf van Ark, CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority] said the latest funding should help further construction from the Central Valley to another urban center.”

Source: Daisy Nguyen, AP. The Tribune, 12.10.10, page A4.
First portion of high-speed rail extended to Bakersfield
DATED: 12.21.10
(Excerpt) “[The California High-Speed Rail Authority] … agreed … to nearly double the length of the first segment of California’s … high-speed rail line …
[The California HSR Authority board] voted unanimously to spend an additional $616 million in federal funding to extend the segment [south] to Bakersfield.”

Source: Paisley Dodds, AP. The Tribune, 12.21.10, page A5.
Speed rail comes under scrutiny
DATED: 1.9.11
(Excerpt) “[Currently] about 170 miles of dedicated high-speed tracks would carry passengers between Merced and Bakersfield at speeds up to 220 mph across some of the world’s most fertile farmland.
That worries not only farmers whose land is likely in the path of the tracks, but also growers who have property on either side of the route …
Between Fresno and Bakersfield -- where the first … section of track is supposed to be built starting in 2012 -- one primary route is being considered by the rail authority … alongside the Burlington Northern Santa Fe [BNSF*] railroad tracks. Exceptions include a sweeping arc to take the tracks east of Hanford and several options to bypass Corcoran, Allensworth, Wasco, Shafter.
... Between Fresno and Merced [two route options are being evaluated]. One parallels the Union Pacific railroad tracks through the cities of Chowchilla and Madera … while the other tends to run alongside the Burlington Northern Santa Fe [BNSF*] tracks a few miles to the east.”

Source: Tim Sheehan, The Fresno Bee. The Tribune, 1.9.11, page B1.
To read more details about the California High-Speed Rail Authority,
click this link: California HSR Authority

HSR Stations: Growth Inducing Catalysts for Development of Built Environment
Additional land use, transportation, and infrastructure planning would seem necessary to successfully integrated a high-speed rail station into its community. Something that does not seem clear (at least to me at this time) is what level of government -- state, local, or other -- will eventually have jurisdictional authority over land use and related planning issues in the vicinity of proposed HSR stations.

There is potential for proposed HSR stations to function as regional (if not intermodal) transportation hubs. Increased densities and diversification of land uses may occur in the vicinity of, and radiating out from, proposed HSR stations in communities where there is a political will for growth of the built environment.

It is possible that communities that "receive" a proposed HSR station may also "receive" an insufficient amount of money from the State of California. In some communities, this may in some ways be similar to having a state college in their town. Just saying, there are benefits and costs.
Valley cities worried by rail station plans
DATED: 1.19.11
(Excerpt) “[California State Assembly Member Jim Beall Jr., D-San Jose, a strong high-speed rail proponent] wants Central Valley cities with … [HSR Stations] to develop environmentally friendly master plans for areas around the stations -- at their own cost …
The goal … [Beall] said, is to help [Central] Valley municipalities spur development around high-speed rail stations -- not stick them with unfunded mandates …
[HSR] stations are planned in Fresno, Merced, and Bakersfield -- among other cities -- as well as a proposed [HSR] station in Hanford. … Beall said he wants … [Central Valley] cities or local authorities … to create infrastructure financing districts around [HSR] stations to help finance transit projects …
'It’s about having the high-speed rail stations become driving forces for development," Beall said. 'Creating identities around the [HSR] stations. That’s the intention … '. “

Source: John Ellis, The Fresno Bee. The Tribune, 1.19.11, page B2.

Question for Blog Readers
In what ways can local government officials in affected communities financially cope with the impacts of a proposed HSR station?

* LIFT (acronym: Link I Found Today)
Simply the last segment to read at the end of this post and may or may not be in any way appropriate or relevant to anything ...

Next scheduled post: 4.14.11 (Subscribe FREE to receive email notifications.)