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High-speed rail line through San Joaquin County in planning stage

Local lawmakers look for public comment on $42.6 billon project

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Posted: Thursday, January 28, 2010 12:00 am

It will be many years before a high-speed rail train will race through San Joaquin and Sacramento counties, carrying residents from the capital to as far south as San Diego.

But the planning stage has started for the estimated $42.6 billion project.

The California High Speed Rail Authority is accepting public comments on possible alignments for the tracks, where the stations should go, how to prevent noise and disturbances to animals and plants, and other issues, said Gene Endicott with Endicott Communications. He has been hired to educate city and county leaders in Sacramento and San Joaquin counties about the project.

The planners will accept comments through Feb. 26 and will hold another series of public meetings once it starts planning more specific routes. Before any construction starts on any of the sections, studies will have to be completed on the environmental impacts.

The priority is to start with the high-speed rails running from San Francisco through Fresno all the way down to Anaheim, Endicott said. The trip from the Bay Area to Los Angeles will take two hours and 20 minutes.

The second phase will be the Sacramento to Downtown Merced portion that will continue south and the Los Angeles to San Diego portion. The trip from Sacramento to Los Angeles will be even shorter at 2 hours and 17 minutes.

The authority is looking at two different routes through Sacramento and San Joaquin counties, but once they start researching land acquisition and possible challenges, the routes could change. One possible route would run similar to the current Union Pacific tracks in use. Another option is to go along the Central California Traction route, which is also owned by Union Pacific but not currently in use.

While the statewide agency is working on the large high-speed rail project, there is also another local effort to work on commuter rail that will run from Sacramento to Downtown Merced.

Endicott said the California High Speed Rail Authority is supportive of sharing the high-speed rail lines with a commuter train. Endicott said one possible advantage to combining the two projects is that money could flow faster to that section of the high-speed rail project.

Lodi City Councilman Bob Johnson serves on the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission and said the commuter and high-speed rail projects are morphing together.

Because both projects are in the beginning stages, Johnson said it is hard to say what the future will be of either project.

"Everything is up in the air, and not to be negative, but this high-speed rail is terribly complex, terribly costly and is still in the design phases," Johnson said.

Councilman Darryl Clare serves on several committees related to rail issues in the area. He said the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee is working with Union Pacific to see if they can put a commuter train on existing rails. The trouble with that plan is that railroad companies often do not like limiting freight traffic for commuter trains, because freight is more profitable. So the committee is also looking at high-speed rail.

"We are pursuing multiple avenues and seeing which one can be done the earliest," Clare said.

Endicott said he knows people have concerns about the cost, and said he has never said the project is inexpensive. He said he believes that when the voters approved selling a $9.95 billion state bond in November 2008, they realized it would put the state in debt, but thought the economic recovery the project would bring is more important.

One of the biggest challenges with getting public support for a new transportation system is that a high-speed rail doesn't exist anywhere in the United States, he said, although 11 projects are in various stages of planning throughout the country. He said in Europe and Asia, high-speed rail has been around in some cases for decades, he said.

"They don't have anything to look to to know what this is. We are not developing something out of fantasy," he said.

The rail authority estimates the project will create an additional 600,000 jobs and another 450,000 permanent jobs statewide. The timeline is to finish the environmental reports in 2011, begin construction in 2012, open sections for passengers in 2017 and have the first phase from Anaheim to San Francisco fully operational by 2020.

Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at maggiec@lodinews.com or read her blog at www.lodinews.com/blogs/citybuzz.

Comments sought

The California High-Speed Rail Authority is requesting comments from the public on the proposed routes or issues that should be included in the environmental impact studies.

Send comments to Dan Leavitt, Deputy Director, Merced-to-Sacramento California High-Speed Rail Authority, 925 L Street, Suite 1425, Sacramento, CA 95814.

Comments can also be submitted by e-mail to comments@hsr.ca.gov.

What is the plan for financing the project?

— State funding: $9.95 billion from Proposition 1A bonds, which voters approved in November 2008.

— Federal funding: $17 to $19 billion in stimulus funds, other federal loan programs and transportation appropriations.

— Local funding: $4-5 billion in contributions, right-of-way acquisitions, parking fees and transit-oriented developments.

— Private funding: $10 to $12 billion in public-private partnerships, vendor financing and availability payments.

Source: California High Speed Rail Authority

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  • posted at 5:22 am on Sat, Jan 30, 2010.


    HSR is going down the 99 corridor with stops in Fresno, Merced, Modesto, Stockton and Sac. They rest of the communities will be linked through local transit. With large parking garages at each location. They are also working with Disney on the tram system between the station and the parking lots. The tracks will be elevated 25-27 feet off of the ground with two fences on each side. They have thought this thing out, they are professionals.

  • posted at 7:23 pm on Thu, Jan 28, 2010.


    weezer I seen that episode too, and I think the writers were making a point about it :PI personally don't want to see the HSR built since it'll be a faux promise as BART was once upon a time ago. Don't get me wrong, BART gets you around the Bay successfully but it would have been nice to see it serve SJ County/Sacramento County as well.

  • posted at 2:04 pm on Thu, Jan 28, 2010.


    The HSR will use the I-5 corridor, straight down the valley. The 99 corridor has too many doglegs and tracks that can't be negotiated on that 99 corridor. Besides, the parking factor has to be considered and there's literally not close to enough parking in any of these towns in the 99 corridor. There's plenty of land to be had along the I-5 corridor for parking and passenger facilities. And that HSR isn't going to stop at every little cowtown along the way. Towns like Lodi will have commuter buses to take them to the nearest HSR station. Just my opinion formed from what I see as the most feasible. The HSR won't be like Amtrak. It will mainly serve politicians, lobbyists and state and government workers and the like. Two words, Sacramento and Los Angeles are the key cities that will be serviced with BART trains being the interconnectors.

  • posted at 12:17 pm on Thu, Jan 28, 2010.


    alumn you say in your post that the HSR will stay close to towns for accessability, if they stop at all towns or even a few, would that not defet the pourpose of HSR in the first place. The idea was to move people from major cities, the trains would never get up to speed before having to slow again. AmTrac operates a train that makes a stop in Lodi around 11:30 AM and returns around 5:00 PM. I saw an engineer`s design showing the train operating without a fence and in the open, that just can`t be.

  • posted at 11:05 am on Thu, Jan 28, 2010.


    I have personally attended several of these HSR meetings around or local area. It would have been nice for the paper to run the story a few weeks ago so the locals could attend the meetings. They have been very informative. The rail will run along the 99 corridor to stay close to towns for accessibility. It will be powered electro-magnetically. It will also tie into local transit systems. This country would've never been built with all of the naysayer's we have today. They are the only thing keeping this from being reality.

  • posted at 9:19 am on Thu, Jan 28, 2010.


    pre$$ure, I rather doubt that high speed rail will be used for anything other than high speed rail. As I stated in my 11:38 post, the tracks will have to be overhead or underground and I don`t believe an overhead system could be built to support the tremendous weight of freight trains. Besides we already have trains going through Lodi at all hours anyway. With high speed rail, there won`t be regular stops, and if the tracks were to be layed near I-5 how will that affect Lodi. Look for high speed rail to operated like BART, with electricity powering the units, therefore diesel power will not be needed.

  • posted at 7:19 am on Thu, Jan 28, 2010.


    One thing for sure, with the high speed rail planned to run along the I-5 corridor, Lodi will definitely will surely become a ghost town, right along with Galt. There will be nonstop freight trains using the tracks through your towns with whistles blowing all hours of the day or night.

  • posted at 5:12 am on Thu, Jan 28, 2010.


    dyan it might take only a hour to get to LA, however the time spent in the air will be made up by driving to the airport, parking, security checks and late take offs, and the reverse at the other end. Best bet, drive your own car at off peek hours.

  • posted at 5:09 am on Thu, Jan 28, 2010.


    If High Speed rail is to become a reality the tracks will either have to be overhead or underground, similar to what BART is today. At 200 MPH or more there can`t be any crossings or anything to interfere with the train. A simple chain link fence will not do as people and animals have a tendency to take short cuts. CalTrain has enough problems at the present time due to people driving around cross arms and people walking on the tracks, plus their maximum speed is 76 MPH.

  • posted at 3:51 am on Thu, Jan 28, 2010.


    More hard-erned tax dollars down the drain. Spend billions so we can go to LA in three hours. Right now, we can do it by plane in an hour!

  • posted at 2:56 am on Thu, Jan 28, 2010.


    Reminds me of the pilot episode of Human Target.

  • posted at 2:31 am on Thu, Jan 28, 2010.


    haHaHa. CalTrans has already run up a 6 billion dollar bill (and rising) just to rebuild the eastern half of the SF Bay Bridge...the "easy" side of the bridge!The earthquake was over 20 years ago...and the bridge work has been underway for a decade. Guess what: the steel for the project comes from CHINA...nice, eh? And these dokes are talking about this bullet train??? LOL....we can't even get Highway 12 fixed!

  • posted at 1:35 am on Thu, Jan 28, 2010.


    I can't wait to purchase a ticket for that one! What a fantastic idea!

  • posted at 12:50 am on Thu, Jan 28, 2010.


    This boondoggle with cost 100's of millions before it is deemed undo-able by the CalEPA. Good place for termed out politician to waste their time and get paid.Do I think this would be a good Idea - YES - will it work in CA - never - the current ruling party has messed this state up so bad, you could build I5 in this environment.



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