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California's Adventure - Part 3 (We skipped Part 2)

Agenda:

  • Faster Headlines

  • United in Fort Collins

  • California HSR, Chapter 3

  • The Effects of the Environmental Study

Faster Headlines


A 'low cost' plan for California bullet train brings $800 million in overruns, big delays

Los Angeles Times


Going cheap on section of high-speed rail project in Calif. has created hefty cost overruns

RT&S


Mountain lions, monarch butterflies complicate high speed rail line to Palmdale

Bakerfield.com

Boom Supersonic on Mission to Cut Flight Times in Half

cheddar



United bringing 'wingless flights' to Northern Colorado Regional Airport

The Coloradan

California High Speed Rail: Chapter 3

(we skipped Chapter 2)


So for the last few weeks the group has been reviewing the newly revised California High Speed Rail Business plan. This week the group is to read chapter 3.


Chapter 3 dives into the details of where the project is today (Chapter 2 was just on Covid). While last week the justification for high speed rail was fantastic, this week just had heads shaking of whythis project has been such a train wreck (pun intended).


The good news is that it looks like since 2017 Cali has its groove going as the project is finally moving forward quickly. Never mind those first 7 years, those were just practice.


Some of the major points of Chapter 3, include:

  • 24 miles of rail completed (from Shafter, CA to Kernell, CA) by beginning of 2022

  • 79 miles of guide way built, 55 miles of structures built

  • By the end of 2021 will have 90% of the acquisitions needed for construction (1,771 parcels acquired, 354 will be acquired in 2021, 165 remaining)

  • Environmental Impact Statements for 200 miles are now complete with 119 miles in active construction. Goal is to have all environmental impact statements along the 500 mile route completed over the next 24 months.

Goals by the end of 2021:

  • Complete Environmental Documentation for 291 miles of the 500 miles from LA to SF

  • Complete all critical land rights and conveyances

  • Construction of 83 of the 93 structures on the 119 miles of guide way already built


In a weird connection, Brightline West is working with the California high speed rail. Brightline West has completed the environmental review from Victorville to Las Vegas. Caltrans (California Department of Transportation) and CalSTA (California State Travel Agency) are also collaborating with Brightline West

By the end of 2021, the plan is to award a single contractor a 30 year contract to design, integrate, construct, and maintain the trains, signalling systems, and power systems.


From the Captain

The Impact of the Environmental Impact Study

So where is the Texas Project -> well it's in the middle of an Environmental Impact Study.


Where is the California Project -> well after several years, it is also in the middle of an Environmental Impact Study.


Where is Hyperloop -> They haven’t even started an environmental impact study (good luck to them)

So let me understand this..... these projects will:

  • Be run with 100% renewable emissions

  • Will reduce the number of planes and automobiles driving between the two cities

  • Improve Air Quality / Reduce Pollution

  • Save hundreds of lives

  • Will make travel faster

However, we have to wait years and millions of dollars spent on consulting and legal fees for their environmental impact study to be completed?


Why does this make sense?


I am not arguing the value of the EIS, as it is a very good process that helps formalize the approval of a project and identifies very valuable information (such as the effects of HSR on those cows in Texas). However, can the process be sped up?


For example, over 10 years California high speed rail has over four different reports containing volumes of studies which makes it nearly impossible to figure out which the most current. Then we have Texas which only has one master study which has taken over 3 years, but also divided into many different studies.


The problem with the Environmental Impact Study is not the fact of having to do it. Rather, the question is how do you take into consideration environmental concerns that cross agencies and aren’t directly related to land use? Most importantly how to speed it up. For example, carbon emissions due to mode of transit substitution are not taken into consideration in excluding high speed transportation projects. Yet, the earth is hitting a critical point in climate change!


So there isn’t an easy answer, but if we want to make a greener more sustainable world; which should focus on the very items that restrict that from happening?


Implications For the Hyperloop:

In December of 2020, the head of HTT Technogy stated that the Hyperloop could be operational by the end of this decade (which itself is a push back from the 2023 startup quoted a few years ago). However, we got news for them. While the technology may be viable they still have not taken on the challenge of the Environmental Impact Study. Boy wait till they start that process. If California HSR is an example, it will delay THE START of construction of a Hyperloop tube but 8 to 10 years.


Implication for Brightline West

So compared to California HSR, Brightline West is moving at light speed. As mentioned in the CHSR business plan, Brightline has already completed its environmental study. How did they do that so fast? Well, they used the highway. Yep, by using the right of the way of Interstate 15, they were able to fast track the whole environmental review process. They still went through the process, however, it went fast.


Implications for the Future

The question is, for a project that has strong environmental net positives, is there was way to speed up the process? Perhaps instead of a decade (as in California) could do it in a year…maybe 2? Instead of 10 yrs?


For Further Information:

https://hsr.ca.gov/programs/environmental/

https://ceq.doe.gov/laws-regulations/agency_implementing_procedures.html

https://ceq.doe.gov/nepa-practice/categorical-exclusions.html



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