High-speed rail may debut in small Central Valley cities

Staff recommends a segment between Borden and Corcoran as the starting point of a statewide rail system

California's proposed high-speed rail line, which state officials say will compete with airports and connect San Francisco to Los Angeles, will make its debut between the small Central Valley cities of Borden and Corcoran under the latest proposal from California High-Speed Rail Authority engineers.

The staff recommendation, which the rail authority's board of directors is scheduled to consider on Dec. 2, also calls for construction of two high-speed rail stations -- one in downtown Fresno and another one east of Hanford.

The rail authority decided earlier this month to begin construction of the rail line in Central Valley -- a decision driven by a Federal Railroad Administration grant that earmarked $715 million for this region. The rail authority was widely expected to choose either the Fresno-to-Merced or the Fresno-to-Bakersfield segment as the first state of the statewide project.

Instead, staff is now recommending that the project kick off with a 65 mile segment that begins just south of Madera (about 40 miles southeast of Merced) and ends at Corcoran, between Fresno and Bakersfield. The staff report claims the route would give the rail authority the "flexibility to build in either direction -- north and west to the Bay Area or south to Los Angeles -- as more federal dollars become available."

The recommendation has already run into intense opposition from one Central Valley lawmaker. U.S. Congressman Dennis Cardoza, a Democrat whose district includes Merced and parts of Fresno and Madero counties, immediately blasted the recommendation, calling it a "fundamentally flawed" choice and a case of "Thanksgiving Day fraud" by the rail authority.

"The Authority staff has never vetted the Corcoran-to-Borden route with the public, and instead has wasted the community's time and good will with endless public workshops and meetings on the other routes," Cardoza said in a statement just after the rail authority announced the staff recommendation. "This deceit harms the long-standing trust and support that the Merced community and others in the Northern Valley have provided.

"This will completely undermine future support of the project," he added.

The high-speed rail line, for which California voters approved a $9.95 billion bond in 2008, is slated to ultimately stretch between San Francisco and Los Angeles. But the authority estimates that the project will cost about $43 billion and it's not clear where the rest of the money will come from.

The estimated price tag for the Borden-to-Corcoran segment is $4.15 billion. If future funding doesn't materialize, the authority would connect this segment to existing rail service.

Last week, the authority decided to delay its environmental analyses for the Peninsula segment of the line because of the recent decision to begin construction in Central Valley.

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Like this comment
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 27, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Borden? Corcoran? Good gravy, there can't possibly be enough population in those communities or in between for there to be any kind of meaningful demand for HSR service. Just think, you could travel at very high speed all the way from Fresno to ... Hanford? It won't even go to Bakersfield and thus won't even compete with the existing Amtrak service. Isn't there anything better to spend $4.15 billion on?

Borden and Corcoran -- this has really become the California equivalent of the "bridge to nowhere".

Like this comment
Posted by Paul Loach
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 27, 2010 at 6:16 pm

I am a Democrat, and for the most part find Republicans to be way too dogmatic around taxes and cutting spending. But here is one where I will join the next Congress for a cup of tea.

This but the latest example of CHSRA attempting to justify its bogus existence. Will some adults with the governing power to do so shut down this boondoggle?

Like this comment
Posted by Palo Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 27, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Meg would have killed it.

Like this comment
Posted by Geoff
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 27, 2010 at 9:19 pm

This Palo Alto Online story fails to report one material fact: HSR will NOT be buying actual trains for those 54 miles of tracks to nowhere (Borden to Cochran)... trains too expensive, just wouldn't be prudent.

The Central Valley Business Times has the full story:
Web Link

"No HSR trains will be purchased for those tracks," California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Roelof van Ark earlier admitted, "until the track goes either to Los Angeles or San Francisco."

Los Angeles to Borden sounds like a high demand route to me. This HSR story just gets more bazaar with every revelation.

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 28, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Sounds to me like a little competition. Frisco or LA?

Like this comment
Posted by Richard Placone
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 28, 2010 at 2:12 pm

I heard before the recent election that Meg Whitman, if elected, would shut down HSR. The same message is repeated above. Does anyone know if the governor actually has the power to do this? The bonds were voted by the people, and the legislature seems to have considerable power over the project. Would be nice to have the correct information before people start making this formal proposal.

Like this comment
Posted by stanhutchings
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 28, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Please let's stop pouring our tax dollars down the HSR money pit.
The future of transportation is not a multi-dozen-billion track to just a few destinations, to which the majority of taxpayers have little desire or need to go. Our future is with the students who will become the doctors, teachers, scientists, entrepreneurs, and other working folk who need an adequate education NOW to fulfill their future roles. This is where our priorities must be focused
Instead of a destination impaired HSR, much better use of research funds would be fuel-efficient autonomous vehicles and smart roads. For example, Stanford University working with Audi developed a vehicle that climbed Pikes Peak – without a driver. See Web Link for details. There is also a clip on Youtube. With this kind of technology, our vehicles will be able to take us in safety and comfort wherever roads go.

Like this comment
Posted by Enough
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 29, 2010 at 9:51 pm

Kill HSR.
I'm a Democrat who voted for Meg Whitman for two simple reasons - I was hopeful she would kill HSR and clamp down had on illegal immigration. Aside from Ms. Whitman, I voted a straight Democratic ticket.
HSR is a boodogle that will will suck our taxes dry - all for something we do NOT need.

Like this comment
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 30, 2010 at 6:01 pm

You've got to be kidding! 54 miles of track and no rolling stock? Why on Earth would anyone spend $4 billion to build 54 miles of railroad track and not even run trains on it?!?!?! If you want proof that the HSRA is out of their ever-loving minds, there it is.

The election is over. No use whining about what Meg would have done. What needs to be done is a referendum to reverse Prop. 1A from 2008.

Like this comment
Posted by P.A. Native
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 1, 2010 at 9:55 am

The reason why they're starting out there are all the whiny NIMBYs living here. "Meg would have done this." "We should re-vote on 1A."


You can't re-vote. Californians rejected Meg clearly. You want to talk about a boondoggle? How about Meg's campaign for an example.

Just build it already. Just because some Palo Altans, in their infinite wisdom, don't want to ride the train doesn't mean the whole state doesn't want to either. As a matter of fact they voted on it. Remember?

Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Dec 1, 2010 at 9:56 am

Folks calm down,

54 miles is enough to test rolling stock, not buying it until construction is underway towards either or both SF and LA is certainly smart. The only reason they are starting in the middle of nowhere is because our Peninsula and the LA-Anaheim corridor have proven too complicated to meet federal funding deadlines. I'm not addressing the bigger, overturn the referendum discussion because I doubt is is feasible. The Republican rep's who want to send the money back will need to be accountable in their districts for the construction unemployment that continues if we don't start somewhere. Feel free to disagree that HSR will be invaluable by 2025, and get going on those petitions.

Like this comment
Posted by Greg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 1, 2010 at 12:14 pm

P.A. Native,
If the train were in your back yard, you'd care how it was built too. I object to the term "NIMBY". It is designed to intimidate those who object to an ill conceived poorly planned project that will ruin the character of our community. How were voters supposed to anticipate CHSRA's mismanagement of the entire project?

Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Dec 1, 2010 at 1:17 pm


If you live directly along the Right of Way, you are certainly entitled to your own opinion about what is or is not good for you and your neighbors. If CHSRA had had money to do detailed design to the satisfaction of all communities before the initiative voted on they might now just have an expensive set of plans and no project. Every project needs to progress from planning to design to construction. My only request is that you be careful what you wish for. If construction had started here on the Peninsula with the most expensive techniques available to minimize local controversy, we would either pay much more for the system or stop forever when other communities decide they are "entitled" to the same construction methods regardless of feasibility or cost. Now more detailed design can proceed in complicated areas while federal funds provide jobs and a tangible start in a simple more straightforward section of the project.

Like this comment
Posted by P.A. Native
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 1, 2010 at 5:42 pm


If the train was in my backyard, I would have made a conscious decision to live right next to the tracks. You object to the word NIMBY? Ok, I'll stop using it. I object to the word boondoggle. Anyone willing to give that one up? You can't just label something as a failure before it even gets a chance. I see the people of Palo Alto and neighboring communities to the North making such a big stink, but never taking into consideration the millions of people who passed Prop. 1A. I've always lived near the tracks. Sometimes they blow the horn and it wakes me up, and then I go back to sleep. It's not THAT big of a deal, really. I knew the Pacheco Pass route was chosen before I voted, because I bothered to read up on it. It seems like many are complaining after the fact, but it is too late. Stop the obstructionism and get on board (no pun intended!).

Like this comment
Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 1, 2010 at 10:30 pm

The argument that the people who live near the tracks should have known better when they bought their homes, just doesn't hold much water. No one could have predicted that the state would run a 20 foot high concrete overpass in that right of way. Sure, complaining about train noise is ridiculous, but that's not what the objection is. It would be similar to folks living on Bryant Street complaining when the city decides to totally close off the street to cars and only allow bikes. It is Bike Blvd after all, isn't it? They should have known better...

Like this comment
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2010 at 11:10 pm

$4.15 billion to test rolling stock? Sorry folks, that rolling stock had better work when it gets here from Asia. We shouldn't be building a multi-billion dollar test bed in the hinterlands.

Like this comment
Posted by Pro HSR
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Jim H.

Sorry, I don't agree with you. They are not closing your street or changing the tracks into a freeway. They are upgrading the railroad system. Too bad you did not envision a wall being built. You did get a discount on your property and knowingly moved next to railroad tracks. It will still be railroad tracks. And an overpass was not a big stretch of an upgrade for a railroad. It's common to replace grade crossings with over/underpasses. Regardless it was tracks and will be tracks.

No sympathy for people who want to have their cake and eat it too and prevent progress for the community at large in the process.

Like this comment
Posted by Pro HSR
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Another reason they are building the first segment in the Central Valley as opposed to the Bay Area or the LA/San Diego areas, is that in the latter areas the train won't be going at full speed and so the work done there won't allow testing of the train at full speed.

(Heard on the radio today)

Like this comment
Posted by Greg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 3, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Pro HSR,
Your assertion that this is an "upgrade" is ridiculous. Four elevated tracks, 30 foot towers, Alma cut in half, properties taken...I mean come ON!!!

Like this comment
Posted by Perspective
a resident of Meadow Park
on Dec 5, 2010 at 7:08 am

I believe that everyone who loves the HSR should buy homes by it, at full price of homes further from it, and live there. I believe that then they should pay for the HSR.

That would stop a lot of the complaining, wouldn't it? Odd for your own bad ideas, reap the consequences of your own bad ideas, and stop forcing everyone else to pay the price and consequences! Folks who vote for it either were misinformed, or thought they would get something for nothing...

Boondoggle heaven.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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