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HSR releases business plan for costly train


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#1 DET63

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Posted 01 November 2011 - 12:27 PM

SAN FRANCISCO -- A business plan for California's high speed rail is expected to be released this week, but there’s already plenty of criticism.

High Speed Rail is huge project requiring 800 miles of track, up to 24 stations all with a promise of getting passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in less than two hours and 40 minutes.

The plan will cost more than $40 billion, so anticipation is high for the business plan expected to be released by the rail authority on Tuesday.


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#2 Alice

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Posted 01 November 2011 - 01:34 PM

Somebody at the Sacramento Bee got a look at a different version than the KTVU reporter, "Building California's high-speed rail project could cost $98.5 billion over 20 years, more than twice what was previously thought, according to a draft copy of a business plan obtained late Monday by The Bee." They do say this is "still far less" than expanding airport and highway capacities.

Read more: http://www.sacbee.co...l#ixzz1cToo3oql

#3 Trogdor

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Posted 01 November 2011 - 01:39 PM

Well, technically, $98.5 billion is "more than $40 billion."
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#4 Alice

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Posted 01 November 2011 - 02:21 PM

Pretty much all the local papers have articles now, comments will be flying since the plan needs legislative approval. The new business plan was released at 11am today at the Sac rail museum.
All 230 pages

#5 Anderson

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Posted 01 November 2011 - 03:23 PM

Put a fork in it, it's dead. The cost hikes are going to be just a bit too much for anyone to stomach, especially on this scale. When the federal appropriations to date would've covered something like 15% of the total project, that was one thing, but now they're substantially under 10%. What I want to know is where the [bleep] all of the extra costs are gushing in from. Something is very wrong here.

Edit: The problem is that you're not doubling the cost of a highway bridge, or even an expressway or a railroad bridge replacement. You're more than doubling the cost of a "megaproject". I know the numbers will go up with inflation, but this isn't inflation.

Also, a point: I think the $40 billion was in "chained" dollars. In "chained" dollars, this is still about a 60% increase in costs.

Edit 2: Well, I found out what happened. "Wait, we actually have to build bridges and tunnels to make this work?!?"

Edited by Anderson, 01 November 2011 - 03:37 PM.

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#6 leemell

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Posted 01 November 2011 - 03:38 PM

Put a fork in it, it's dead. The cost hikes are going to be just a bit too much for anyone to stomach, especially on this scale. When the federal appropriations to date would've covered something like 15% of the total project, that was one thing, but now they're substantially under 10%. What I want to know is where the [bleep] all of the extra costs are gushing in from. Something is very wrong here.

Edit: The problem is that you're not doubling the cost of a highway bridge, or even an expressway or a railroad bridge replacement. You're more than doubling the cost of a "megaproject". I know the numbers will go up with inflation, but this isn't inflation.

Also, a point: I think the $40 billion was in "chained" dollars. In "chained" dollars, this is still about a 60% increase in costs.


Actually, it was inflation. The project plan has stretched to timeline by thirteen years, increasing completion by more than 50%. That and the inflation rate assumption has been increased from 2% to 3%. Those two factors alone account for almost all of the projected cost increase.

#7 Devil's Advocate

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Posted 01 November 2011 - 03:38 PM

Sounds absolutely tiny compared to China spending something closer to SIX HUNDRED BILLION on HSR in the span of five or six years. But of course they're not busy sending the world's most expensive military all over the globe on behalf of oil companies, defense contractors, and other war profiteers. Apparently this project is still cheaper than most other options, but that sort of reasoning won't save passenger rail in an anti-logic era like ours.

Any views expressed are my own and do not represent the views of my employer, parent companies, partners, or subsidiaries.

Over 50,000 people just like you recently signed a petition to expand high speed passenger rail in the United States of America.

Long live The Coast Starlight, The California Zephyr, The Empire Builder, The Southwest Chief, and The Canadian.


#8 Anderson

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Posted 01 November 2011 - 06:24 PM


Put a fork in it, it's dead. The cost hikes are going to be just a bit too much for anyone to stomach, especially on this scale. When the federal appropriations to date would've covered something like 15% of the total project, that was one thing, but now they're substantially under 10%. What I want to know is where the [bleep] all of the extra costs are gushing in from. Something is very wrong here.

Edit: The problem is that you're not doubling the cost of a highway bridge, or even an expressway or a railroad bridge replacement. You're more than doubling the cost of a "megaproject". I know the numbers will go up with inflation, but this isn't inflation.

Also, a point: I think the $40 billion was in "chained" dollars. In "chained" dollars, this is still about a 60% increase in costs.


Actually, it was inflation. The project plan has stretched to timeline by thirteen years, increasing completion by more than 50%. That and the inflation rate assumption has been increased from 2% to 3%. Those two factors alone account for almost all of the projected cost increase.


Part of it was inflation, but the chained dollar amount jumped by $20-odd billion. Refer to page 3-6, page 68 of the PDF. Tunnels and viaducts went from $10 billion to $29-34 billion. That's a big "oops". The trenches-and-walls budget also took a sizable shock.
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#9 leemell

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Posted 01 November 2011 - 06:57 PM



Put a fork in it, it's dead. The cost hikes are going to be just a bit too much for anyone to stomach, especially on this scale. When the federal appropriations to date would've covered something like 15% of the total project, that was one thing, but now they're substantially under 10%. What I want to know is where the [bleep] all of the extra costs are gushing in from. Something is very wrong here.

Edit: The problem is that you're not doubling the cost of a highway bridge, or even an expressway or a railroad bridge replacement. You're more than doubling the cost of a "megaproject". I know the numbers will go up with inflation, but this isn't inflation.

Also, a point: I think the $40 billion was in "chained" dollars. In "chained" dollars, this is still about a 60% increase in costs.


Actually, it was inflation. The project plan has stretched to timeline by thirteen years, increasing completion by more than 50%. That and the inflation rate assumption has been increased from 2% to 3%. Those two factors alone account for almost all of the projected cost increase.


Part of it was inflation, but the chained dollar amount jumped by $20-odd billion. Refer to page 3-6, page 68 of the PDF. Tunnels and viaducts went from $10 billion to $29-34 billion. That's a big "oops". The trenches-and-walls budget also took a sizable shock.


A quick back of the envelope calculation gave interest and time extensions put that at more than $75B.

#10 rrdude

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Posted 01 November 2011 - 09:45 PM

Sounds absolutely tiny compared to China spending something closer to SIX HUNDRED BILLION on HSR in the span of five or six years. But of course they're not busy sending the world's most expensive military all over the globe on behalf of oil companies, defense contractors, and other war profiteers. Apparently this project is still cheaper than most other options, but that sort of reasoning won't save passenger rail in an anti-logic era like ours.

And you couldn't convince GWB of this? C'mon man, get involved in politics! Posted ImagePosted Image




#11 Anderson

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Posted 02 November 2011 - 05:31 AM




Put a fork in it, it's dead. The cost hikes are going to be just a bit too much for anyone to stomach, especially on this scale. When the federal appropriations to date would've covered something like 15% of the total project, that was one thing, but now they're substantially under 10%. What I want to know is where the [bleep] all of the extra costs are gushing in from. Something is very wrong here.

Edit: The problem is that you're not doubling the cost of a highway bridge, or even an expressway or a railroad bridge replacement. You're more than doubling the cost of a "megaproject". I know the numbers will go up with inflation, but this isn't inflation.

Also, a point: I think the $40 billion was in "chained" dollars. In "chained" dollars, this is still about a 60% increase in costs.


Actually, it was inflation. The project plan has stretched to timeline by thirteen years, increasing completion by more than 50%. That and the inflation rate assumption has been increased from 2% to 3%. Those two factors alone account for almost all of the projected cost increase.


Part of it was inflation, but the chained dollar amount jumped by $20-odd billion. Refer to page 3-6, page 68 of the PDF. Tunnels and viaducts went from $10 billion to $29-34 billion. That's a big "oops". The trenches-and-walls budget also took a sizable shock.


A quick back of the envelope calculation gave interest and time extensions put that at more than $75B.


Ok...so that means the cost rose by about a third rather than 50%. A serious question: Did the folks who drafted the initial plan simply not count how many bridges would be needed? That was, in so many words, the reaction of a friend of mine in CA when I mentioned this to him.

Honestly, I'm inclined to reserve judgment until the Valley segment gets rolling...it might get bashed as a "train to nowhere", but if the "valley only" HSR chunk can knock serious time off of the LAX-SAC/LAX-SFO times and start making a noticeable dent in the operating situation of the San Joaquins (even if these trains definitely need a direct link to LAX so the bus links can be dropped on that particular line), I'll buy the viability of the plan. The problem, as I see it, is that costs have just been rising in estimate after estimate in chained dollars...which makes me suspect that the plan may run into legitimate budget concerns at some point.

To put this another way, China spent $600 billion on their HSR system and got a lot of links in the deal. With this plan and the NEC HSR doorstopper, we're spending at least 1/2th of that and we're getting two isolated lines with no envisioned expansions beyond the corridors in question. I don't doubt that the NEC plan can make money (and ditto the CA HSR plan), but at some point I start wondering if certain speeds of service are worth the cost.
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#12 WICT106

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Posted 02 November 2011 - 10:43 AM

The critics -- who would have opposed this no matter what -- will repeat and repeat the $ 98.5 billion figure over and over until the HSR project is ended. I'm afraid this will be the death knell of HSR projects. How shall the members propose to counter the inevitable attacks to this and other HSR projects ? How are we in the Midwest to advocate for expansion of passenger rail improvements when the critics terminate something like this?

How shall we go about our advocacy in the face of repeated, vocal associations between spending on passenger rail and government waste ?
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#13 leemell

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Posted 02 November 2011 - 06:08 PM





Put a fork in it, it's dead. The cost hikes are going to be just a bit too much for anyone to stomach, especially on this scale. When the federal appropriations to date would've covered something like 15% of the total project, that was one thing, but now they're substantially under 10%. What I want to know is where the [bleep] all of the extra costs are gushing in from. Something is very wrong here.

Edit: The problem is that you're not doubling the cost of a highway bridge, or even an expressway or a railroad bridge replacement. You're more than doubling the cost of a "megaproject". I know the numbers will go up with inflation, but this isn't inflation.

Also, a point: I think the $40 billion was in "chained" dollars. In "chained" dollars, this is still about a 60% increase in costs.


Actually, it was inflation. The project plan has stretched to timeline by thirteen years, increasing completion by more than 50%. That and the inflation rate assumption has been increased from 2% to 3%. Those two factors alone account for almost all of the projected cost increase.


Part of it was inflation, but the chained dollar amount jumped by $20-odd billion. Refer to page 3-6, page 68 of the PDF. Tunnels and viaducts went from $10 billion to $29-34 billion. That's a big "oops". The trenches-and-walls budget also took a sizable shock.


A quick back of the envelope calculation gave interest and time extensions put that at more than $75B.


Ok...so that means the cost rose by about a third rather than 50%. A serious question: Did the folks who drafted the initial plan simply not count how many bridges would be needed? That was, in so many words, the reaction of a friend of mine in CA when I mentioned this to him.

[snip]


The original plan had a $2B contingency fund and in the new plan it has been raised to $16B.

#14 Anderson

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Posted 02 November 2011 - 06:10 PM






Put a fork in it, it's dead. The cost hikes are going to be just a bit too much for anyone to stomach, especially on this scale. When the federal appropriations to date would've covered something like 15% of the total project, that was one thing, but now they're substantially under 10%. What I want to know is where the [bleep] all of the extra costs are gushing in from. Something is very wrong here.

Edit: The problem is that you're not doubling the cost of a highway bridge, or even an expressway or a railroad bridge replacement. You're more than doubling the cost of a "megaproject". I know the numbers will go up with inflation, but this isn't inflation.

Also, a point: I think the $40 billion was in "chained" dollars. In "chained" dollars, this is still about a 60% increase in costs.


Actually, it was inflation. The project plan has stretched to timeline by thirteen years, increasing completion by more than 50%. That and the inflation rate assumption has been increased from 2% to 3%. Those two factors alone account for almost all of the projected cost increase.


Part of it was inflation, but the chained dollar amount jumped by $20-odd billion. Refer to page 3-6, page 68 of the PDF. Tunnels and viaducts went from $10 billion to $29-34 billion. That's a big "oops". The trenches-and-walls budget also took a sizable shock.


A quick back of the envelope calculation gave interest and time extensions put that at more than $75B.


Ok...so that means the cost rose by about a third rather than 50%. A serious question: Did the folks who drafted the initial plan simply not count how many bridges would be needed? That was, in so many words, the reaction of a friend of mine in CA when I mentioned this to him.

[snip]


The original plan had a $2B contingency fund and in the new plan it has been raised to $16B.

Alright, mixed opinions here on that: I like it because it should arrest further increases. I don't like it because it jams the sticker price up by $14B.
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#15 WICT106

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 08:31 AM

Maybe all isn't lost after all: "High costs threaten CA HSR, but wider context should be understood."

I remain worried that opponents will use this in an effort to kill all passenger rail investments and improvements. Rail advocates (that means us, folks, even if you don't advocate for better train service) can use some of the points mentioned in the link in order to counter the onslaught of negative publicity that is coming out against CA HSR.
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#16 CHamilton

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Posted 04 November 2011 - 06:32 PM

Today's NARP Hotline brings out a point that hasn't been covered much:

...without the high speed rail system, the state will need to build as much as 2,300 additional lane-miles of highways, 4 additional runways, and 115 additional airline gates to accommodate the travel needs of the state’s growing population—projected to increase from 38 million people today to 60 million people by 2050. Those projects would cost an estimated $171 billion, in total, making the rail line seem like a bargain in comparison.


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#17 Anderson

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Posted 05 November 2011 - 03:35 AM

Today's NARP Hotline brings out a point that hasn't been covered much:

...without the high speed rail system, the state will need to build as much as 2,300 additional lane-miles of highways, 4 additional runways, and 115 additional airline gates to accommodate the travel needs of the state's growing population—projected to increase from 38 million people today to 60 million people by 2050. Those projects would cost an estimated $171 billion, in total, making the rail line seem like a bargain in comparison.


Neither choice takes into account the "third option": California just doesn't accommodate the growing population, infrastructure-wise. Between the current GOP attitude toward spending, the state's financial position, and (sadly) the fact that the state is "electorally misaligned" against the GOP (Dubya didn't break 45% there in 2004, and the state's Democratic trend certainly feels inexorable), it's entirely possible that the GOP could more or less write it off and the state could be told to "suck it up" and the state simply fails to provide the transportation capacity needed.

In particular, I think the airport situation that's listed may be unsolvable...the problem you are running into in the LA area is a lack of airspace, not to mention that southern CA is juggling multiple semi-major airports in the same airspace. Simply put, unless CA is going to start kicking some international flights to Phoenix, Las Vegas, or San Diego, there may not be the airspace capacity to be had. The problem there is a combination of air dispatching and physics: You can flog a bit more out of the region's airspace, but at some point you simply can't get more planes in safely.

A question with this situation: Is there any examination of a "cheap" option for at least getting a through train running through the Valley on the San Joaquin route in place? IIRC, Techiapi is already at capacity and then some, so is there some way that a "high speed conventional" route (i.e. 90-125 MPH) could be done for less? It wouldn't have the same appeal, but between higher gas prices, the time savings off of the Central Valley line with the current segment, and allowing a through train, you might be able to seriously close losses simply on traffic being forced over.
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#18 George Harris

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Posted 05 November 2011 - 11:47 AM

A question with this situation: Is there any examination of a "cheap" option for at least getting a through train running through the Valley on the San Joaquin route in place? IIRC, Techiapi is already at capacity and then some, so is there some way that a "high speed conventional" route (i.e. 90-125 MPH) could be done for less? It wouldn't have the same appeal, but between higher gas prices, the time savings off of the Central Valley line with the current segment, and allowing a through train, you might be able to seriously close losses simply on traffic being forced over.

The "cheap" option would be to build a straighter and steeper passenger only line between Bakersfield and at least Palmdale. Just getting rid of the need to transfer to a bus at Bakersfield would almost certainly double, and probably triple or more the ridership on the San Joaquin trains even if it did not shorten the end to end times at all. However, the current railroad alignment is as crooked and slow as it is because there is no such thing as a cheap option between Bakersfield and LA.

#19 Anderson

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Posted 05 November 2011 - 02:00 PM

A question with this situation: Is there any examination of a "cheap" option for at least getting a through train running through the Valley on the San Joaquin route in place? IIRC, Techiapi is already at capacity and then some, so is there some way that a "high speed conventional" route (i.e. 90-125 MPH) could be done for less? It wouldn't have the same appeal, but between higher gas prices, the time savings off of the Central Valley line with the current segment, and allowing a through train, you might be able to seriously close losses simply on traffic being forced over.

The "cheap" option would be to build a straighter and steeper passenger only line between Bakersfield and at least Palmdale. Just getting rid of the need to transfer to a bus at Bakersfield would almost certainly double, and probably triple or more the ridership on the San Joaquin trains even if it did not shorten the end to end times at all. However, the current railroad alignment is as crooked and slow as it is because there is no such thing as a cheap option between Bakersfield and LA.


That's...basically what I was thinking. Actually, is there any other way out of the valley (either a current or former alignment) that could work in that vein?
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#20 George Harris

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Posted 06 November 2011 - 09:31 PM


A question with this situation: Is there any examination of a "cheap" option for at least getting a through train running through the Valley on the San Joaquin route in place? IIRC, Techiapi is already at capacity and then some, so is there some way that a "high speed conventional" route (i.e. 90-125 MPH) could be done for less? It wouldn't have the same appeal, but between higher gas prices, the time savings off of the Central Valley line with the current segment, and allowing a through train, you might be able to seriously close losses simply on traffic being forced over.

The "cheap" option would be to build a straighter and steeper passenger only line between Bakersfield and at least Palmdale. Just getting rid of the need to transfer to a bus at Bakersfield would almost certainly double, and probably triple or more the ridership on the San Joaquin trains even if it did not shorten the end to end times at all. However, the current railroad alignment is as crooked and slow as it is because there is no such thing as a cheap option between Bakersfield and LA.

That's...basically what I was thinking. Actually, is there any other way out of the valley (either a current or former alignment) that could work in that vein?

Early in the HSR project there was a study, which I think is public, that had Bakersfield as one point and downtown Los Angeles as the other. It boiled down to:
1. Generally follow I-5
2. Generally follow the current railroad line Bakersfield-Tehachapi-Palmdale-LA.

Both line require extensive tunneling and quite a bit of bridge work. Neither will be cheap. There are also several fault line crossings on either route. The current railroad line is very crooked and therefore slow. It is also heavily congested with freight trains between Bakersfield and Palmdale, particularly up the Tehachapi grade. A fast passenger route would hve steeper grades and lots of tunnel in order to get a line that has curves large enough for high speeds.



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