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New debate erupts over California bullet train: should it be faster?

A new and fundamental debate has arisen in the battle over California’s high-speed rail project that could significantly reduce the annoying effort again: should trains also be faster when the system starts?

It is a negotiation between the Democrats in the State Assembly, which wants to release about 4 44 billion in bonds for the project. The California High Speed ​​Rail Authority said it needed the money to continue construction beyond next summer. Democrat Gavin Newsom included it in his state budget, but talks between his administration and the legislature have stalled. He hopes to reach an agreement when he returns for a legislative session in January.

This is the latest blow to the project, which is actually expected to cost $ 33 billion and be completed last year. Today, the dream of closing passengers in less than three hours between Los Angeles and San Francisco is a distant dream. The first phase of the ride-able track, which connects the two cities in the Central Valley, will not begin until at least 2029, and the cost of the project has reached 98 98 billion.

There seems to be little political desire to either scrap the project altogether or to give it more resources, which is why construction continues without a long-term plan.

At the heart of the latest controversy is how quickly the line can be electrified, with rail officials saying the train needs to be speeded up – the whole idea of ​​the project on which voters were sold. He wants to sign a contract next year to design and build an electric track and system for a firm and maintain it for 30 years.

Current plans call for the first rideable leg to get to Merced from Bakers Field, where passengers will ideally be able to take the second transit line to get around the San Francisco Bay Area. Rail officials and local transit agencies plan to partner to build a single station in Merced, where passengers can get off the high-speed train to another system, but the construction is not fully funded.

This has prompted Laura Friedman, a Democratic lawmaker, chair of the transport committee and a key negotiator on funding, to ask if there is any point in fully electrifying the line right now. She believes the authority’s money could be better spent on ensuring that Mercedes has a single station. This will ensure that passengers can reach coastal employment centers from the Central Valley, even on a diesel train. If you have more money, more listening electrification can be done later.

“I’m not arguing that this is the best solution, but I think people need to be honest about how much money we have right now,” Friedman said.

High-speed rail officials and supporters say running less than an electric train is against voter support and will not bring the benefits of clean energy.

“How does it show that you have invested well in infrastructure if you continue to run the same equipment that we are running today, at a relatively similar pace?” The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission, the ultramont corridor express and the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority’s regional operations manager, are all partners with High Speed ​​Rail, Dan Lewitt said.

Officials at the 4. 4.2 billion Bond Money Rail are the last of the 10 10 billion fund voters created in 2008, and some lawmakers are reluctant to give it away.

Friedman has proposed a ڈالر 2.5 billion release and rail officials need to return for approval before signing a track and system agreement.

She wants more money for high-speed rail, although her proposal does not say how much she has for projects in the Los Angeles area. The state senate has not shared any spending proposals.

Newsom’s management wants electrification.

Spokesman Daniel Lopez said in a statement: “We believe that the time for slow, diesel-powered trains is over, and we are committed to the future of transportation that moves people faster and It does so without further polluting our environment. ”

Lou Thompson, chairman of the rail project’s peer review group, said how to approach the bond amount, and which wires to connect, would mark a key turning point in the project’s future.

“If we’re going to adapt the whole system to the (belt initiative) requirement, then the Mercedes High Speed ​​Rail Line from Bakersfield is the perfect part of the system,” he said. “If we’re not going to completely dismantle the system, I think you’ll think long and hard about electrifying the line from Merced to Bakersfield.”

The ambitious project has been closely watched across the country to see if the United States can move away from its car culture and join other nations on the high-speed rail. Proponents say the completed project will radically change the way people travel by reducing carbon emissions. Opponents say it is a taxpayer-funded BondoGel.

“The idea of ​​high-speed rail has become a bit toxic because of the California project,” said Ethan Elkind, an expert on transit projects at the University of California, Berkeley.

In some ways, the project was set up to fail when voters were given a low ball cost estimate for the project. Later, President Barack Obama’s administration conditioned federal funding to begin construction in the Central Valley.

Elkind said the plan is still viable, but if it’s not electrifying, if Congress approves President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan, which includes tens of billions of dollars for rail projects, California’s money. Has the ability to compete.

“The federal government is going to say: ‘Look, California has abandoned high-speed rail.’ This is the message he sent.

The plan recovered only $ 1 billion in federal money, which was scrapped by President Donald Trump’s administration, and the new deal specifically mentions an electric train. Democrats Sense-Alex Padilla and Diane Feinstein urged lawmakers in July to release the bonds, especially with the new federal dollar.

“Now is not the time to step down from the California High Speed ​​Rail,” he warned.

The project has already spent $ 2.5 billion in federal funds and raised more than 7 3.7 billion from California’s Carbon Pollution Credit Auction Program, called Cap and Trade. The program is set to end in 2030.

Whether electric or not, the project is still short of tens of billions of dollars – railway officials say the reason for the project being torn to pieces.

“We don’t have that much money and we never have that,” said Rail Authority spokeswoman Melissa Figueroa.

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