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bullets for high-speed rail

By enelson
Friday, December 28th, 2007 at 8:35 pm in Misc. Transportation.

lego-chsr.JPGIn the wake of the California High-Speed Rail Authority‘s decision by default to favor the Pacheco Pass, entering the Bay Area via Gilroy, I knew it wouldn’t be long until supporters of the Altamont Pass would start attacking the program itself.

Of course, supporters of both routes threatened to pick up their toys and go home if they didn’t get their way, but these threats were generally dismissed.

Today I noticed that of of our newspapers, the Contra Costa Times, and the Stockton Record (not one of ours) editorialized against both the decision and the bullet train enterprise altogether.

Our editorial writers said this:

Well, we have some news for the “bullet train” fans — the real losers are those who believe this project will become a reality any time soon.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority is conducting these meetings and planning sessions without a nickel’s guarantee this project will see the light of day.

We’re talking a project, at present, that will cost $40 billion to construct. The state will approach voters in November to consider a bond measure worth $10 billion to start the project; where the other $30 billion is coming from is anyone’s guess.

In fact, there’s no guarantee the price won’t go up significantly, as state projects are wont to do, particularly if it takes years just to raise the money.

If there’s someone out there willing to donate the money, bring it on.

With other infrastructre needs and a budgetary clawing and scraping in Sacramento, this “pie-in-the-sky project” doesnt have a chance, the piece opines.

One of the many aspects I’ve found fascinating about this story is how Balkanized everybody is on this. San Jose and San Francisco officials backed Pacheco, San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento officials backed Altamont, and newspapers tended to mirror those views.

And high-speed rail is the sort of project that can easily divide people, especially after they’ve dreamed of how it could transform their communities and then watched that dream evaporate.

Even if high-speed rail would only travel between Burbank and Bakersfield, I’d probably use it, mainly because those two points happen to punctuate a major gap in the state’s transportation network.

But every blind man touching this elephant sees something different. The South Bay sees an instant connection to San Francisco. Tracy saw an alternative to gridlock. Palmdale sees and end to islolation. Orange County sees an unclogged artery to LA.

Stockton saw itself plugged into both the Bay Area and the rest of the state, but the Pacheco plan won’t allow that to happen until years after the construction of a first leg that is looking increasingly improbable.

The Record’s editorial called it “the ride to nowhere.”

When the state High-Speed Rail Authority decided Dec. 18 to bypass the northern San Joaquin Valley, the East Bay and the greater Sacramento metropolitan area, it doomed the measure indefinitely.

Already on shaky ground, removing large swaths of the state’s population from its support base will make passage of the bond measure even more unlikely, it said.

Ignoring population trends, Interstate 205 gridlock, the capital and commuting patterns, the board accepted a staff proposal to run the rails across Pacheco Pass roughly following Highway 52 into San Jose …

The rail commission’s own survey indicates that primary support for the bullet train comes from riders looking for a better, faster way to work.

The Valley’s commute corridor is Merced, Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Sacramento counties. All four were bypassed in favor of Silicon Valley business interests.

So a remote route trumped a corridor filled with potential riders. It’s a decision that makes no sense.

One of the things that these editorials leave out was the fact that the eye of that commuter storm, the Tri-Valley Area, basically said “Not In My Back Yard” when it came to high-speed rail, ruling out taking land for the line or elevated rail viaducts as are so common on BART lines. Altamont may already have been doomed, but that had to be the final coffin nail.

If these opinion pieces represent the common sentiment among their readership area, the bond measure and the entire project may also end up buried.

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4 Responses to “bullets for high-speed rail”

  1. david vartanoff Says:

    idiotic!!! just imagine if the US Congress had listened to similar BS and canceled the Transcontinental RR project.
    HSR should be built.
    Pacheco is probably dumb, but if the goal is LA-SF quick, get it built now! As to Altamont, a “nimbectomy” seems in order. Build the tracks ON not next to 580, so they have less space for obsolete autos.

  2. Reedman Says:

    If you believe some the comments posted about the San Francisco (home of the Sierra Club) Chronicle’s coverage of the Pacheco decision, the Pacheco decision killed HSR because the environmental community is prepared to sue, and keep suing, everyone involved with the Pacheco decision, including their spouses, pets, and the horse they rode in on, because Altamont is perceived as the alternative with less impact.

  3. South Bay Resident Says:

    I wonder how much of the “environmentalist” resistance to the Pacheco route has to do with disrupting wetlands and the like and how much is due to perception that the Altamont pass alternative would have a much bigger impact on local bay area rail transit and that the Alternative would give better service to SF than San Jose, both of which are priorities for some in the environmental movement. As someone who lives near the proposed route of the Altamont alignment, I can confidently say that I prefer the Pacheco route.

  4. Capricious Commuter Says:

    SBR, I’m a little confused as to what you’re trying to say about local rail transit, but HSR, should it ever exist, would certainly have a profound effect on area rail. My feeling is that Pacheco will put the impetus on other corridors, such as Altamont and I-80, to electrify and separate from freight. I’m not sure what it will do to Caltrain, but I would guess it would become a more local service, making more stops and eliminating the “baby bullet” express trains. On the other hand, we may all be hovering around like the Jetsons by the time all this comes to pass.

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