The high-speed rail has been roundly criticized for selecting a first leg of nowhere to nowhere in the lower San Joaquin Valley. The full plan calls for high-speed trains to run from San Francisco to downtown Los Angeles and then on to Orange County.
The first San Joaquin Valley segment was to continue through the Tehachapi and San Gabriel mountains across the high desert and then into the San Fernando Valley. The expense and engineering challenges (bridges and tunnels) to cross the mountains have apparently resulted in some fresh thinking.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the initial segment may be shifted so it runs north from Bakersfield to downtown San Jose in the Silicon Valley. The Mercury News quoted Carl Guardino, the CEO of the influential Silicon Valley Leadership Group, saying, “One of the big winners would actually be our efforts to electrify CalTrain (which runs from San Jose along the Peninsula to San Francisco). High-speed rail comes to San Jose and we electrify CalTrain between San Jose and San Francisco; the winner is everyone who depends on additional speed, with less noise and less pollution.”
The rail potentially could alleviate congestion of I-580 through the Livermore Valley as well as on Highway 152 that runs from Los Banos to Gilroy. A high-speed train could travel from the Los Banos area to San Jose in about 50 minutes—that compares very favorably with the two more or more hour commute for many workers.
It also provides an alternative for residents living in San Joaquin and Merced countries south on I-5 to catch the train to the Silicon Valley instead of slogging up I-5 to I-580 into the Livermore Valley.
1. An equivalent of the Altamont Commuter Express along the Highway 152 corridor could be built for far less money and give commuters an option.
2. Extending BART to the Greenville Road area of Livermore at the foot of the Altamont Pass so there’s a multi-modal station with ACE and local buses is a much more cost-effective alternative.
Of course, Southern California, which has the vast majority of the taxpayers in the state, will not want to be left out. SoCal elected officials and business leaders can be expected to argue strongly about what’s in a different plan for their constituents.
Nonetheless, it is refreshing to see that the leadership of the high-speed rail boondoggle take another look at the plan for segments.
Polling shows that high-speed rail is at the bottom of a list of potential uses of taxpayer money. The officials responsible are already 2 ½ years late on breaking ground and have yet to produce a viable business plan that shows how they will build the system and operate it without a taxpayer subsidy (the bond measure forbids a taxpayer subsidy).
Perhaps, it is time for the governor to let this “legacy” project go into the dust bin of history and instead pursue cost-effective measures to improve transportation and repair aging roads and bridges.