So as the sun set in the West, the California high speed rail folks were going to build the initial segment of the proposed high speed rail route down the middle of the Central Valley, between Bakersfield and Fresno, in the middle of nowhere, along a route that in itself could not possibly support the effort and amortize its multi-billion dollar cost. The feds expressed their disinclination to give the near-insolvent state of California any more money, so that the California high-speed rail authority was left to hope that the Lord would provide the funds necessary for doing the job as sold to the voters in 2008, since voter approval was necessary in order to issue that $9 billion in bonds that would fund this effort.
One of the largest, most ambitious public transportation programs in U.S. history, the California High-Speed Rail project will allow passengers to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour, making the trip in just 2 hours and 40 minutes, compared to almost 6 hours by automobile. The system will connect California’s mega-regions, contribute to economic development and a cleaner environment, create jobs and preserve agricultural and protected lands.
Using federal and state funds, including Cap and Trade auction proceeds, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (the Authority) plans to begin high-speed operations by 2022, and connect San Francisco to Los Angeles in under three hours at speeds of 220mph by 2029. Eventually, the system will extend to Sacramento and San Diego, totalling 800 miles with up to 24 stations. The Authority is also working with regional partners to implement a state-wide rail modernization plan to improve local and regional rail lines.
WSP has been helping shape high-speed rail in California from the earliest feasibility studies in the 1990s to the latest business plans in 2014. The firm is now serving as the Authority’s Rail Delivery Partner (RDP), a seven-year engagement from the planning and preliminary design phase to project delivery and operations.
The RDP role builds on the firm’s previous work as the Authority’s Program Management Team. In this earlier role, WSP coordinated the activities of more than 35 sub-consultants, prepared the statewide program-level Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and produced the full suite of technical memoranda comprising 130 program-wide technical guidance documents, technical requirements, a 1,400-page design criteria manual, and standards and directives that will define the high-speed train system in California and will assist the Federal Railroad Administration in defining standards and regulations for the U.S. market.
Now, following a familiar law of politics (like nature abhoring a vacuum, politics abhors the presence of unspent money), the $9 billion pot of high-speed rail money is attracting a swarm of governmental bees that want a piece of the action so they can spend it in their own back yards. You’d think meeting their desire would be impossible, since a railroad, whether high speed or not, can only run on one route, so if you build it in the form of a dedicated high-speed rail corridor in the Central Valley, you won’t be able to build it elsewhere. Right? Wrong. If you think so, it only goes to show that you don’t understand how the government mind works.
Employment of civil engineers is projected to grow 20 per cent from 2012 to 2022 (read more about civil engineering careers here), which is also much faster than the average for all occupations. As infrastructure ages, civil engineers will be needed to manage projects to rebuild bridges, repair roads, and upgrade levees and dams. Its no surprise, with countries world-wide competing in high-speed rail, to lay down faster transport all across the country. Europe, Asia and even the middle east have all invested huge amounts into high-speed rail. The US is behind the times and is now playing catch-up.
According to a recent issue of the Los Angeles Times (Dan Weikel and Ralph Vartabedian, Bullet Train Focus Shifts to Local Rails, February 20, 2012, p. AA1), various local government bees are buzzing around that $9 billion pot of money. Instead of starting the proposed high-speed rail in the middle of the proposed Central Valley route and building out to its termini, these folks are plumping for the “bookends” approach, which we frankly don’t understand because it does not mean, as you might suppose, that they want to build the termini and then lay the high speed tracks inward to meet in the middle.
No, what these folks want is a piece of the action in order to “upgrade local rail corridors that could become part of the proposed high speed network.” (Emphasis added). This proposal would require spending $4 billion now, “which would leave just a few billion in the state’s voter-approved finance package.” As the proponents of this new proposal would have it (quoting from the L.A. Times):
“Giving local rail improvements a higher priority . . .represents a retrenchment from the original vision that the bullet train would be a state-of-the-art system, running on dedicated track its entire length. The new proposal would blend the bullet train into existing rail corridors and make it share track with commuter trains and even freight railroads.”
We don’t know about you, but it will take ten strong men to get us, kicking and screaming, aboard a 200-mph train that shares its tracks with lumbering freight trains. But what do we know?
More importantly, our feelings aside, this is not what the poor, dumb, screwed California voters voted for when they approved the issuance of $9 billion in bonds for a state of the art, high speed, 240 mph “bullet” train. But hey man, what’s a little bait-and-switch between friends?
And that’s the way it goes. Stay tuned.