California Choo-Choo (Cont’d.)

Having evidently confronted the absurdity of beginning the high-speed rail project by first building a 130-mile stretch of rail in the Central Valley, between Bakersfield and Modesto (aka the high-speed train from nowhere to nowhere), the California train builders have evidently decided to provide a useful segment of it without delaying it for some 10 years as originally contemplated. This they plan to do by also building a stretch of rail between Burbank and Palmdale — a heavily populated suburban area north of Los Angeles. Then, the Lord willin’, the Burbank end would be eventually connected to the center of Los Angeles, and eventually the contemplated “bullet train” would actually be completed so that it would run between Los Angeles and San Francisco. See Ralph Vartabedian, Burbank-Palmdale Segment Added to Bullet Train Timetable, L.A. Times, June 30, 2014; click on http://www.latimes.com/local/countygovernment/la-me-bullet-strategy-shift-20140701-story.html#page=1

The problem with this proposal is that local politicians want the new railroad segment to serve their constituencies, but given the relatively short distance between Palmdale and Burbank, it is difficult to see how that train could run fast enough and yet serve the population living in the corridor for which it is proposed.

Of course, actually doing what that new proposal would entail, would involve much more money, which, it would appear, the California railroad builders don’t have, at least not yet. We recommend that you read the above-cited LA Times article in its entirety because, if nothing else, it provides an insight into the great engineering feats that would have to be accomplished to execute this part of the plan — such as 8-mile-long tunnels and crossing a mountain range in an area that also contains the San Andreas fault.

Lacking the requisite civil engineering skills (our admittedly stale engineering background involved rocket engines) we are unable to express an opinion on the engineering and fiscal¬†feasibility of it all, but we reflect on the fact that the great American railroads of the 19th century crossed over even more forbidding terrain in the Rocky Mountains. But those old boys of yore, didn’t have to face the cost and the ensuing financial problems that today’s bullet train builders face. And finances are what it all boils down to because anyway you slice it, California is broke, so it remains to be seen how this latest caper will work out. So stay tuned.

 

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