Saturday, November 6, 2010

California High Speed Rail to Break Ground in Central Valley in 2011 and Eventually Tracking a Path to Palmdale, Ca. But, Is It a Train to Nowhere?

The Federal Government seems to be forcing the hand of The California High Speed Rail Authority. Recently, the Feds provided $715 million toward the rail system. The CalHighSpeed Rail Authority press release this week stated that the Federal Railroad Administration forwarded their requirement that the full amount of the $4.3 billion be allocated to infrastructure investment for the proposed system in California’s Central Valley. These funds have to be directed to the rail lines from Merced to Fresno or Fresno to Bakersfield. These funds were part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and California has received more funds of this type then any other State.

We wonder if this is choreographed or a knee jerk political reaction by the Obama Administration to reward California for staying in the Democrats Camp. GOP elected Rep. Mica trashed the idea of having the federal government continuing to fund a Tampa to Orlando high speed rail line, as he spoke to the Associated Press this week “I am a strong advocate of high-speed rail, but it has to be where it makes sense,” Mica said. “The administration squandered the money, giving it to dozens and dozens of projects that were marginal at best to spend on slow-speed trains to nowhere. The Republicans and the Obama Administration differ in how to pay for fast trains as a Republican Congress wants the rail transportation system to be self supporting, but the Obama Administration expects states like Ohio and Wisconsin to absorb operating losses for their rail systems. California lacks the funds to absorb losses. The newly elected Governor of Ohio John Kasich said via news reports that “the train is dead” He was referring to the Ohio slow passenger train from Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland. Also, The Wisconsin Republican Governor Elect Scott Walker promised to cancel the Wisconsin High Speed rail (Milwaukee to Madison). BizTimes Daily reported this week that the Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation told contractors to halt work on the $810 million project.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Roelof van Ark said in their press release
“The Central Valley is indeed key to creating the core of a true high-speed rail system in California, as that is where our trains will travel truly high speeds of 220 miles per hour,” van Ark said. “But no matter where we start building, the goal remains the same: a statewide high-speed rail system up and running in 2020 connecting the Bay Area with the metropolitan area of Los Angeles and Anaheim, that creates thousands of jobs, improves air quality, and provides us all with a cheaper, faster and more convenient way to travel.”

The Mercury News indicated that the agency says it could build just half of the 50-mile track from San Francisco to San Jose section with the funds available while they can build the entire 60 miles Merced to Fresno corridor or 113-mile Fresno to Bakersfield span. In Southern California, the authority thinks it could build two thirds of the 30 mile stretch. "We have to build a system that is going to be operable as soon as possible and that means building many miles of track that are connected to each other," van Ark said.
But a Central Valley segment will have no operational significance van Ark said major population centers need to be linked and the agency will not bother starting service there.
"We will not have trains when we build this first segment," he said. CalHighSpeedRail Authority release also indicated that they will discuss target constructions locations and other business in their next meeting in December.

We have tempered our celebration since at first glance this would be a track to nowhere, with only rails, bridges, with empty stations, and no train or passengers. This is not a proposal that a Republican influenced Congress would approve as it will not pay for itself. Would Governor Elect Brown call this living within our means? Would the Chinese Banks cover the additional funds needed?

A possible land investment opportunity could be buying land ahead of the rails especially near Fresno, Ca. as that city is certain to be on the trains map. We will keep track of this news and events as it progresses.

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