gmhTODAY 21 gmhToday Aug Sept 2018 - Page 61

OUR INFRASTRUCTURE: HIGH SPEED RAIL UPDATE High Speed Rail – Plugging Along Written By Robin Shepherd C alifornians are an optimistic bunch. In 2008 we approved $9.95 billion in bonds to launch America’s first-ever bullet train, dazzled by the promise of travel from San Francisco to LA in about two-and-a-half hours. The original plan to complete an 800-mile rail system by 2020 for $35 billion seemed reasonable at the time. A decade later, the HSR Authority (HSR) is still in course- correction mode. The latest project estimates range from $77.3 billion to over $98 billion for the 520-mile line between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and trains won’t be running until 2029. The Authority’s recently-appoint- ed CEO Brian Kelly is making a new promise: transparency and progress. Here in South County, we’re still looking for reasons to be optimistic and ways to make this project work for us. The Authority’s current Acting Director of the Northern California Region, Boris Lipkin, says he’s eager to help. THE 2018 PLAN COMMITMENT When asked about the HSR’s current commitment for rail service from San Jose to Gilroy, Lipkin said, “We have committed to pick a preferred alterna- tive by the second half of 2019. Our Board approved to have a record of decision by 2020. Then we’ll do the studies for environmental clearance. Our goal is to break ground in 2022 for this corridor. We haven’t done sequencing of construction yet.” THE UPRR OPTION According to Lipkin, “A new concept in our 2018 Business Plan proposes using the Union Pacific Railroad’s (UPRR) existing corridor. We were looking at a dedicated system before, just high-speed rail, which involved options for new alignments and lots of land acquisition. We’ve been in recent discussions with UPRR about using their rail line and adding two electrified passenger tracks to run on. They’ve begun looking at things more holistically, at where rail improvements are happening and what makes sense within their statewide strategy.” “This option would embellish the Caltrain service to Morgan Hill. Getting to downtown Gilroy using the existing line would mean less impacts. We still have a lot of analysis to do though,” Lipkin said. At the time of this writing, the current HSR map did not reflect the addition of the UPRR corridor option being studied, or what the Authority described as “additional refinements we have made to alignments through a collaborative process with our partners in the region.” Stay tuned. THE SLOW-DOWN The High-Speed Rail system is required to deliver passengers from San Francisco to LA in two hours and 40 minutes. Thus, trains must be able to run at speeds of up to 220 mph in some but not all sections of the rail system. According to Lipkin, using a UPRR alignment, “instead of running at 180 mph through the South County corridor, trains can run at 110 mph and still meet travel time requirements.” Lower speeds may mean less “With the Authority in talks with Union Pacific Railroad, maybe they can build along the existing right of way. Q)ձɸЁٕݕȁ5ɝ!ѼЁɥݸɔ!ɅݽձЁ)!݅İЁЁݽձeЁɔȁѡєt)MѕٔQє5Ȱ 䁽5ɝ!)%1I=d5=I8!%10M85IQ%8)UUMPMAQ5 H)ѽ乍(