The big news is that the first segment planned for construction is no longer 130 miles between Bakersfield and Fresno. The initial segment in the new business plan is now 300 miles between Merced and the San Fernando Valley, which the Authority says reduces the project price from $98 billion to about $68 billion — still many billions more than the Authority has thus far secured to build the project. So that’s one challenge.
While that initial segment is being built, Caltrain will be electrified in the Bay Area to speed commutes between San Jose and San Francisco; eventually that will be connected to the rest of the high-speed system, as will Anaheim and Los Angeles Union Station. By “blending” high-speed rail with existing rail — and providing upgrades to Metrolink also — the Authority says it can speed up construction and avoid inflation and cut costs.
Here’s the news release:
FRESNO – The California High-Speed Rail Authority today released a revised Business Plan to launch the nation’s first high-speed rail service—capable of traveling 220 miles-per-hour from Merced to the San Fernando Valley—within ten years.
“Our revised plan makes high-speed rail better, faster and cheaper,” High-Speed Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard told a news conference today at the Southern Pacific Building in Fresno. “Drawing on hundreds of public comments as well as the expertise of our technical staff, we were able to refine our thinking and improve the plan enormously. The revised plan will enhance local rail service immediately and, in the long term, cut total project costs by $30 billion.”
Under the revised 2012 Business Plan, construction begins this year on the 300-mile Initial Operating Section, stretching from Merced to the San Fernando Valley. This new plan also improves the safety and efficiency of existing urban rail systems. These improvements will bring immediate benefits to commuters and ultimately allow the integration of local systems with high-speed rail. The key changes to this revised business plan include:
· Constructing 300 miles of electrified rail from Merced to San Fernando Valley in ten years;
· Improving existing rail service in the Bay Area and Los Angeles regions to prepare those systems for high-speed rail service;
· Cutting $30 billion in costs, through the blended approach, cost savings and inflation assumptions; and
· The potential to access cap & trade funds as a backstop to federal funding.
“In ten years, Californians will be able to travel through the Central Valley and into the Los Angeles Basin in half the time it takes to drive,” said Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. “This revised plan is bold, practical and puts California out in front once again.”
The revised business plan also improves existing local rail systems in Northern California, Southern California and the Bay Area. These improvements include converting local diesel-powered rail systems to electric power and improving safety through positive train control. The new plan also includes safety and reliability upgrades to existing Amtrak/Metrolink rail corridors between Los Angeles’ Union Station and Anaheim. All these improvements will increase the speed at which trains currently in service can travel safely.
Construction of the entire 520-mile rail system will finish in 2028, with service to begin in 2029. This improved system will cost $68.4 billion in year-of-expenditure dollars, a $30 billion reduction over the previous plan. Six billion dollars in funding has already been identified for the first segment of the Initial Operating Section, including $3.3 billion in federal funding and $2.7 billion in voter-approved Proposition 1A bond proceeds. Cap and trade funds are also available as a backstop against federal and local support to complete the initial operating section. No operating subsidy will be required.
“The plan is realistic, credible and transparent,” said Authority Board Member Mike Rossi. “This plan is responsible from a business perspective and is a solid investment for Californians. There is no need for operating subsidies and the system will attract private capital once the operating segment stabilizes ridership in 2022.”
Building the first segment of the Initial Operating Section is projected to generate 100,000 job-years of employment over five years, the equivalent of 20,000 full-time jobs annually. The high-speed rail system will also reduce pollution and improve quality-of-life by saving 146 million hours of time spent in gridlock annually, reducing carbon emissions by 3 million tons annually, and eliminating 320 billion vehicle miles traveled over the next 40 years.
“I applaud the work undertaken by the Brown Administration and the High-Speed Rail Authority to lower the cost of the project and accelerate the completion of the Initial Operating Segment,” said Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin. “Fresnans will benefit tremendously from the immediate economic boost that comes with 20,000 high-paying construction jobs, as well as the long-term benefit of being able to quickly and inexpensively travel to and from the LA basin.”
This revised business plan must be approved by the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors, who will meet in San Francisco on April 12.
Participants at today’s news conference included Chairman Dan Richard and Board Members Mike Rossi and Tom Richards, Deputy Administrator for the Federal Railroad Administration Karen Hedlund, Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin and other federal, state and local officials.
A copy of the revised 2012 Business Plan is available at the Authority website.