Posts Tagged ‘Interstate HSR Network’
Today, California’s highways and airports are straining to meet demand. Congestion on roads results in $19 billion annually in lost time and wasted fuel. According to the Texas Transportation Institute's 2011 Annual Urban Mobility Report, six California urban areas rank in the 30 Most Congested in the Nation:
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana
Flights between Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Area, the busiest sub-500-mile air travel market in America, are the most delayed in the country -- one of every four flights are late, rippling flight delay across the nation. California also dominates the America Lung Association list of smoggiest cities.
Forecast to add the population of today's New York state by 2050, California is not waiting for these problems to get worse. In addition to major transit system expansions in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego and Sacramento, California will build a showcase 220 mph High Speed Rail (HSR) system and enhance Amtrak California routes for 90-110 mph service connecting additional cities.
In July 2012, California state legislature and the governor approved the $68 billion plan requested by California High-Speed Rail Authority. With completion of the HSR system, drivers will see significant relief in traffic congestion on California’s primary north-south highway, as HSR cuts 320 billion vehicle miles traveled over the next 40 years. California HSR System will also remove regional flights as a causal factor in national flight delay. Two major transportation centers in San Francisco and Anaheim that will host California HSR will complete this decade.
As quiet as its kept, California is the the smoggiest state in the nation. Cutting those 320 billion vehicle miles and regional flights will lower air pollution. It is very important that electric-powered trains used by California HSR will lower air pollutant emissions by up to 90%, compared to the current diesel-powered Amtrak trains. Electric-powered trains are also quieter.
California HSR System generates supplemental benefits as well. Two project bookends will improve Caltrain commuter rail in the San Francisco Bay Area and Metrolink commuter rail in Los Angeles metro area. The bookends will feature upgraded "Blended Track" to reduce urban road congestion this decade, then be shared with California HSR next decade. Generating over 1 million job-years along the way, California HSR System will complete in phases:
2018: San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles metro area enjoy upgraded commuter rail on the Blended Track.
2022: 300-mile Initial Operating Segment extending from Merced to San Fernando Valley in northern Los Angeles will complete. Existing Amtrak California trains from Oakland and Sacramento that currently stop in Bakersfield, extend to San Fernando Valley.
2026: California HSR initiates service over 410 miles at speeds up to 220 mph in rural areas of its Central Valley and slow to 110 mph in urban areas. One-seat ride from San Francisco's new Transbay Transit Center to San Fernando Valley.
2028: California HSR's 520-mile San Francisco-San Jose-Gilroy-Fresno-Bakersfield-Palmdale-San Fernando Valley-Los Angeles-Anaheim segment completes. Passengers enjoy San Francisco-Los Angeles trip times of 2 hours 40 minutes and San Francisco-Anaheim (home of Disneyland) in 2 hours 57 minutes.
2033: Extensions to Sacramento, San Diego and Irvine complete the California HSR System.
That all sounds good, but where is the money to pay $68 billion?
Over the term of the project, California is committing $10 billion from a voter-approved state HSR bond and will use $12-15 billion/15 years from an innovative Pollution Credit Cap & Trade fund, in case federal funding lags. Commuter transit agencies in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area own the most expensive urban rail rights of way, thereby speeding up the construction timeline, lowering costs and permitting state and metro transit agencies to contribute about $5 billion over 16 years.
Although California HSR Authority treads lightly on the subject at present, private investors will play a significant role in system funding. By 2026, anticipate private companies initiating contributions that total $10-12 billion towards completion of California HSR System.
The reason to tread lightly about their contribution is, private companies avoid risk until the key segment is operating. The key segment is San Francisco-San Fernando Valley, targeted to open in 2026. If similar Los Angeles-Las Vegas HSR service commences by 2022, they might jump in earlier. Californians can be confident that private companies will invest those percentage (or scale) of funds for several reasons.
First, 135 mph, less frequent Amtrak Acela running between NYC and Washington generates an annual profit and patronage is growing. Amtrak patronage in California and other regions has significantly grown in response to adding more trains per day and reducing bottlenecks. These are proof points that Americans like faster, more frequent, more dependable trains. Second, from experience worldwide, private companies know that 185-200 mph, more frequent HSR systems generate far more operating profit than Acela. Third, private companies have already contacted California HSR Authority about potential investment once the Initial Operating Segment opens. In case one or two back out, plenty of private companies have a track record investing substantial sums in European and Asian HSR routes after the key operating segment is operational.
Despite the fuzzy funding calculus common to big infrastructure projects, California politicians have constructed a realistic approach to raise $37-40 billion/15 years from public and private sources within the state. The remaining $28-31 billion, must come from federal transportation funds approved by Congress and the President. If our national leadership agrees on significantly higher HSR (and Transit) funding, the 800-mile California HSR System can deliver these compelling benefits vs. more costly alternatives:
• its cheaper than $120-170 billion otherwise needed for freeway and airport expansion
• avoids taking 60% more land for 6-8 new lanes of north-south freeway
• avoids larger legal battles for land-takings to add runways to major California airports
• creates 150,000 jobs across the state that increase tax revenues to help repay the California HSR bond
• saves up to 12.7 million barrels of foreign oil per year
• saves 5.5 million tons of greenhouse gases from cars and airplanes/year
• prevents several dozen freeway accidents/year for less roadway congestion days
Does California deserve this special funding status? Yes.
California has been the biggest tax donor to the federal treasury for decades and receives far less than it contributes in federal taxes. Furthermore, in 2011, the Department of Defense spent $20 billion/year on air conditioning alone in Iraq and Afghanistan. Surely the President and Congress can commit $2.5 billion/year for California HSR in the next 6-Year Surface Transportation Bill. That $15 billion in federal funds, coupled with California's increased funding commitment can accelerate milestone completion by 2-4 years and vanquish public doubt, like rapid construction of Interstate Highway did from 1956-65.
For larger context of the role California HSR System plays extending a route to Las Vegas and as part of the Interstate HSR System, read Part 6 and Part 7 of America Must Build Interstate High Speed Rail.