Report: California High-Speed Rail Won't Meet Travel Time Requirement

In 2008, California voters approved the country's only true HSR project with a travel time of 2 hours, 40 minutes from L.A. to San Francisco. Anything more than that might cause legislators to balk at proposed cap-and-trade funding for the train.

2 minute read

March 31, 2014, 8:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

"Louis Thompson, chairman of the High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group, a state-sanctioned panel of outside experts, testified (at a hearing held on March 27 by the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee) that 'real world engineering issues' will cause schedules for regular service to exceed the target of two hours and 40 minutes," writes Ralph Vartabedian.

The time is critical if the train is to meet the requirements specified in the 2008 ballot measure, Proposition 1A. The Ballotpedia version states.

The train, if built, will run between San Francisco and Los Angeles, with Anaheim, California, designated as the southern terminus of the initial segment of the high-speed train system. Estimates are that the train system, if it is built, will be completed in 2030, and that it will take passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles in about 2 hours and 40 minutes.

A court ruling last November has prevented legislators from authorizing the Prop 1A, $9.95 billion of general obligation bonds. "Projected trip times are a point of contention in that court battle."

However, Gov. Jerry Brown is counting on $250 million in cap-and-trade funds to provide the required share to tap federal funds as we noted in January, and "a third of all the revenue from cap and trade revenue in future years." Yet those funds must be approved by the state legislature, and the chairman of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee clearly wasn't pleased with the findings of Thompson's report.

Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), the transportation panel chairman, warned rail officials that they may not have the votes needed to pass Brown's request. DeSaulnier said he would probably vote against it himself.

Thompson added that "(t)he state might be able to demonstrate a train that could make the trip that fast, but not on scheduled service, he told lawmakers. High Speed Rail Authority officials said after the hearing that they would meet the requirements of state law, but did not specifically say that trains would operate at the faster travel times," writes Vartabedian. 

Mother Jones political blogger, Kevin Drum, didn't mince his words in his blog on the Peer Review Group's report.

Somebody put a stake through this project. Please. LA to San Francisco is just not a good showcase for high-speed rail. Even the true believers [e.g. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom] have to be getting cold feet by now.

Thursday, March 27, 2014 in Los Angeles Times

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