CARRD to Board: Postpone your vote on Grapevine

CARRD send the California High Speed Rail Authority an email today asking them to defer their board vote on the “Grapevine” alignment.

Our message said:

“We are writing to urge the Board to defer a decision until additional analyses on these issues are provided:

1) Express route west of Bakersfield –  Project EIR work has shown that the impacts to residents and businesses in Bakersfield are much higher than originally assumed to be. In accordance with this, the city of Bakersfield passed a “No-confidence” resolution. One likely result will be the consideration of at least express trains bypassing the city center.  By observation, a west bypass would be a much shorter route via a “Grapevine” alignment.
2) Bear Trap Canyon alignment –  The Bear Trap Canyon was selected by the original QUANTM study in 2002 and is shorter, straighter and presumably cheaper an faster to build. The study indicates that the reason for its elimination is the proposed Tejon Ranch project.  We would note that the market capitalization of the Tejon Ranch company (which includes many other assets) is $500 million, significantly less than the cost savings from using such a route.  Even if a decision is made not to pursue this alignment, the costs and engineering analysis should be presented and discussed publicly.
3) Sprawl – The potential sprawl impact of the two routes should be revisited.  The conclusion in the analysis that faster service to Bakersfield would be more sprawl inducing than direct service to Palmdale is premised on the previous study’s conclusion that the Grapevine would offer significant time savings. If this is no longer true, this conclusion should also no longer hold.  We would also note that the issues previously identified with the ridership model (de minimus amount of induced travel) will underestimate sprawl potential from a station like Palmdale.
4) Cost – Significant “risk adjustments” have been added to the costs for the Grapevine alignment but none at all for the Palmdale route. While the Palmdale route has gone through some additional scrutiny, it is also at an early stage and it is not credible that this analysis should be so lopsided. Indeed, once engineering got past the “program level”, the cost adjustments to Palmdale have generally been downward as cost savings were found as the route was further optimized. Why is this not a possibility as well for the Grapevine alignment?  At a minimum, the Grapevine analysis should include both positive and negative “risk” factors.”
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