Friday, January 20, 2012

California Gov. Pushes High-Speed Rail Project

California’s governor says his state is within weeks of finishing a modified plan that would enable construction to begin later this year on a long-planned high-speed passenger rail project that’s been met with opposition from Union Pacific railroad.
Gov. Jerry Brown revealed the information during his annual State of the State address Jan. 18.

“If you believe that California will continue to grow, as I do, and that millions more people will be living in our state, this is a wise investment,” he said. “We are within weeks of a revised business plan that will enable us to begin initial construction before the year is out.”

As conceived, the high-speed rail project would initially run from San Francisco to Los Angeles and Orange counties in under three hours via the Central Valley, at speeds of up to 220 mph, and would interconnect with other transportation alternatives. A later addition would reach even further, going from Sacramento to San Diego.

In October, the plan came under fire by Union Pacific railroad, which says the planned Central Valley route encroaches on the company’s property rights and would disrupt UP’s freight operations.

The railroad has also said that long portions of three potential routes would run about 100 feet adjacent to sections of its freight corridor, and that this would create a safety hazard.

Proposed train routes submitted by the governmental entity overseeing the project, the California High Speed Rail Authority, include overlap with both Union Pacific and BNSF rail property. BNSF, however, has already told the CHSRA that it’s willing to negotiate regarding right-of-way privileges.

In his State of the State address, Brown acknowledged that the plan has its critics, but maintained that the project, which would cover 800 miles of track and consist of 24 stations, would move forward.

“President Obama strongly supports the project and has provided the majority of funds for this first phase,” Brown, a Democrat, said during the speech, which he gave before a joint session of the state Legislature. “It is now your decision to evaluate the plan and decide what action to take,” he said.

The state has estimated project’s cost at between $65 billion and $100 million.