What to Do
Using Federal Grants in the Near-Term
CHSRA was able to win over $3 billion in federal grants, which come with a very tight deadline: funds must be spent by 2017. We believe the CHSRA will not be able to meet the requirements of Proposition 1A to qualify for bond funding with its current 130-mile Central Valley project, and will lose these funds. The following proposal is intended to be able to qualify to quickly use those funds under amendments to the grant agreements. It is based on the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee’s July 2012 An Alternative Strategy for Developing High-Speed Rail Service in California, which provided a Plan B if the Legislature did not authorize the use of Prop 1A bonds that month. This project list is consistent with its Principles Governing High-Speed Rail Funding, with these exceptions: 1). The Madera-Fresno HSR project is dropped in favor of improving the existing San Joaquin Corridor and 2). Caltrain electrification and Los Angeles-Palmdale improvements are deferred until clarity can be achieved on the future of HSR. This list is partly based on the State Rail Plan.
These projects are incremental HSR-compatible improvements to the statewide passenger rail network, which will cost-effectively build ridership, demonstrate demand for HSR and restore public confidence in the State’s role in passenger rail. Most segments would ultimately be upgraded to become part of the HSR main line, while the San Joaquin Corridor would greatly improve service to Central Valley cities at a modest cost and little disruption, tying into the HSR north-south main line for one-seat trips to Los Angeles and the Bay Area. While the proposed near-term projects are all essential elements of a future statewide HSR network (with the exception of the bus platforms), accessing Prop. 1A bond funds may require voter approval of modifications to the bond measure.
Improve existing intercity corridors (Amtrak California service), aiming at double track with a speed of at least 110 mph (with more tracks where necessary)
* Build projects to increase speed and reliability on the San Joaquin Corridor ($1.7 billion) from Sacramento to Bakersfield
* Build projects to increase speed and reliability on the Surfliner Corridor ($1.7 billion) from San Diego to San Luis Obispo
Make near-term improvements in LA, OC and Bay Area
* LA run-through tracks ($400 million)
* Build grade separations for the 3 most dangerous rail crossings in LA-Anaheim segment ($264 million)
* Caltrain Downtown Extension ($1.1 of $2.5 billion total cost.)
Speed up the bus connection between LA and Bakersfield
* Fill in the inexpensive portions of the California rail network’s gap: Extend San Joaquin tracks south from Bakersfield via Arvin branch to Wheeler Ridge
* Install level boarding from bus to rail at Wheeler Ridge and Santa Clarita to speed up loading
* Contract for Metrolink trains to meet buses at Santa Clarita
* Buy new high-capacity bus fleet with roll-on handicapped access
TRANSDEF believes that no new corridors should be built without a private partner directing their development. New corridors would therefore be economically feasible without operating subsidies, or they won’t be built. We think the Pre-Development Agreement process offers the optimal way to select a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) private partner experienced in operating passenger rail. The PPP private partner should be offered bond funding for the environmental/planning process.
New routes that will be part of the future HSR system should be planned and built in the following order:
* Grapevine connection from Bakersfield to LA, to be shared with San Joaquin trains
* Altamont connection to Bay Area, to be shared with San Joaquin trains
* High-speed connection between LA and Bay Area on I-5