High-Speed Rail Delay More than Triples Planned Cost to San Jose

A bullet train linking California’s Central Valley to Silicon Valley is supposed to be running by 2025. But certain deadline for the multi-billion dollar high-speed rail have been pushed back, which puts San Jose and other cities in the train’s path on the hook for more planning and up-front spending.

San Jose’s City Council on Tuesday will vote on amending its contract with the federally funded California High Speed Rail Authority to reflect the change in schedule. Under the revised terms, San Jose’s reimbursement for administrative costs will bump up from $270,000 to $869,688.

Last year, the state rail authority tapped the connection from Bakersfield to San Jose as the statewide priority, as well as the line from San Jose to San Francisco. About 21 miles of the railway runs through San Jose city limits, generally aligning with the Caltrain and Union Pacific tracks from Coyote Valley through the Monterey corridor, Communications Hill, Tamien Station and into Diridon Station in downtown.

Now, however, the city has to study alternatives proposed by the state rail authority, which could require railroad reconstruction and may significantly impact a fire station, a maintenance yard, bike paths and adjacent neighborhoods. It potentially requires property acquisition, either voluntary or by eminent domain.

Under its agreement with the state, San Jose will conduct engineering reviews and investigate conflicts in plans with the existing landscape. The deal requires the city to drum up various agreements to change infrastructure, rights-of-way, grade separations and maintenance.

The 220-mph train would cut down the three-hour commute from the state’s agricultural center to the Bay Area to an hour. That would make it easier for Bay Area workers to escape the region’s sky-high housing costs and may inspire more companies to build workplaces near transit centers like San Jose’s downtown train station.

But the high-speed railway has been plagued by delays, litigation and mismanagement, which makes its eventual arrival in San Jose uncertain. With help from a voter-approved bond, California managed to raise $12.2 billion for the valley-to-valley express train—still far below the estimated $20.7 billion cost of finalizing the project.

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for October 3, 2017:

  • The city approved nearly $19 million in tax breaks for four residential towers in downtown. Those subsidies will result in annual recurring revenue of about $1.6 million for the city, which means it’ll take nearly a dozen years for the taxpayer-funded investment to pay off.
  • In the past decade, the City Auditor’s Office has issued 798 recommendations to improve city services and save money. But 27 percent of those recommendations had yet to be implemented by June 30 of this year. In her status report on open recommendations, City Auditor Sharon Erickson notes that the San Jose Police Department still needs to strengthen oversight of its officers’ secondary employment. She also highlights the city’s IT department, which needs to finalize a new security policy. Meanwhile, about 29 of her outstanding recommendations come with potential cost savings of at least $12.8 million.

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

This article has been updated. 

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

36 Comments

  1. What a total waste of citizen funds for a train to no where. Please someone tell me who will use the empty piece of scrap metal. Like I need to get to Bakersfield in a hurry.

    • Bullet train to Bakersfield, then rent a car or shuttle to D-Land or LA? Day trip avoids overnight hotel stay.

  2. Hate to say we told you so….but we told you so. If it is predictable, its preventable. Only an insane person would repeat the same pattern of mistakes hoping for a change in outcome. Pathetic.

  3. Then how about this. There are plans to electrify Cal-Train. Why not electrify it all the way to LA? the right-of-way is already there and it hits larger population areas in between.
    Granted this train would only travel 120 mph vs the 200 mph of the HSR. BUT it could be completed at a fraction of the cost and be up and running while the HSR is still working on cattle crossings in the Central Valley.
    A 1 hour flight from SJ to LA will eat up half a day w/ boarding and airport congestion. getting on a train at Dirdon – and getting to Burbank in 5, 6 hours at around the same price might be a nice alternative.
    Besides because it takes HSR so long to get up to speed and then slow down – it will not travel between SJ and SF much faster than electrified Cal-Train would. Is that worth the extra billions of $$?

  4. > A bullet train linking California’s Central Valley to Silicon Valley was supposed to be running by 2022.

    Hello?

    What?

    A bullet train from Silicon Valley to the Central Valley?

    Is this something new, or is this just the warmed over Stupid California High Speed Rail (SCHSR)?

    The ORIGINAL Stupid California High Speed Rail was supposed to connect San Francisco and LA at “high speed”.

    In order to meet the “high speed” objective, the rail line had to be non-stop. The Stupid High Speed Rail can’t be stopping at every little grange hall and coaling station along the way because then it wouldn’t be “high speed”.

    Are they changing the definition of the High Speed Rail AGAIN, or are they adding another even more ridiculous high speed rail project?

    • Do you know how real high speed schedules work? Without commenting on the feasibility of this project, a transit system of this type can run trains on 5 to 10 minute headways easily (time between trains). Not every train stops at every station along the route and some would be “express” trains, stopping only at the end point or at just one or two intermediate stations along the way. Some trains might even have starting points at stations along the route and not run all the way to the end of the route. Because of the potential of having only 5 minutes (probably even less) between trains, it means there can be several trains operating at the same time over the 400 miles of double or triple tracked line in this case.

      • > Do you know how real high speed schedules work?

        Fascinating! You’re very smart about train schedules.

        The only relevance I can see, though, is that the schedules will help terrorists decide on the best underpass to detonate their truck bomb to achieve maximum destruction and carnage.

  5. Dump High-speed rail and Bart to Downtown San Jose.
    The City and County should focus on more Light Rail routes.
    David S. Wall

  6. Tell me again about this reimbursement from $270,000 to $870,000 that about enough to pay for 200ft of this project.
    But then again I expect if this choo-choo ever runs it will most likely be long after most of us have died of natural causes.
    Remember the real projected cost was over $400 billion 10 or 15 years ago!

    • > Remember the real projected cost was over $400 billion 10 or 15 years ago!

      As far as I’m aware, there has been no “real” updated cost projection since the news came out a couple of years ago that the Los Angeles segment would require umpteen tunnels through 32 miles of active earthquake faults.

      Engineering wise guys suggested that no one knew how to do that.

      Cost projections for things that no one knows how to do tend to be very high.

      My cost estimate is hundred billion trillion gazillion dollars. Plus or minus.

      Bottom line: start the money printing presses now and don’t stop until you see angels on clouds with harps heading your way.

      • Good point Old Boy.
        Researching this project and others like it for tunnel cost, I find a lowball of $19000 a foot using state of the art tunneling for single bore to well over a million a foot if it’s hand dug. That could mean the cost of just that 32 mile tunnel somewhere between 140 billion and a trillion dollars for that tunnel alone and you still have the south end to dig through to get to LA. this is like telling the patient to swallow this pill and then shoving and 32 mile long endoscope down his throat.

  7. HSR is fast becoming a high speed vegetable and nut train, bankrolled by California taxpayers yet UP and BNSF get maximum benefit. Get those almonds to Seattle in a hurry!

  8. “At almost $70 billion dollars, construction of a high speed rail system from San Francisco to Los Angeles and Anaheim is certainly an expensive project. But it will cost a fraction of what the state would have to spend to achieve the same level of mobility for a population expected to reach 50 million people by the year 2030. To move an equivalent number of people would cost $170 billion in new freeways and airport runway expansions in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, assuming those projects would have both the necessary public support and environmental clearance. And while others have said we should wait for newer technology, high speed rail is a safe, reliable and cost effective system of transportation, proven around the world.” –San Francisco Examiner

    • > To move an equivalent number of people would cost $170 billion in new freeways and airport runway expansions in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, assuming those projects would have both the necessary public support and environmental clearance.

      Boy! The San Francisco Examiner really thinks we’re stupid.

      FAKE NEWS! FAKE NEWS! FAKE NEWS! FAKE NEWS!

      It’s safe to ignore. Go back to your homes.

  9. Has “High Speed” been defined in actual MPH or is it just a metaphor? If there is no real number – why can’t we just electrify CalTrain all the way to LA – on existing right-of-way, make needed upgrades to roadbed and crossings and electrification. Done in 5 years max at a tiny fraction of the cost – – put “HSR: stickers on the side of the train, make everyone happy w/ a compromise and then we wait another decade or so for the HyperLink to show up.

    • You cannot electrify the existing right-of-way to LA because Caltrain does not own it. Union Pacific owns the track from Tamien station south of San Jose all the way to LA. Union Pacific is not interested in selling that line and they have already told Caltrain that they will not allow the segment from San Jose to Gilroy to be electrified. So that means if Caltrain chooses to continue service to Gilroy after the electrification project is complete from San Jose to San Francisco, they (Caltrain) will have to run Diesel locomotives on the train sets to Gilroy. Caltrain has indicated at this time that is their plan.

      The FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) which regulates High Speed Rail in the US, has 3 different tiers of HSR defined. (1) Emerging HSR 90-110 MPH (2) HSR-Regional 110-150 MPH (3) HSR-Express 150 MPH +.

  10. Good grief!

    To understand what a stupid idea a $100 billion dollar High Speed Rail system is in the age of low intensity warfare and global terrorism, just look at the sunny, utopian picture of the sleek, blue and gold choo choo train in the reference article above.

    A High Speed Rail right of way at grade level with a public highway one hundred feet away separated by a mesh fence.

    Oklahoma City. Murrah office building.

    Nice, France. Promenade des Anglais.

    Berlin, Germany. Christmas Market.

    Tanker truck.

    Ammonium nitrate.

    Ka-boom.

  11. > Hint: Stay away from the National Enquirer, Fox News, and Breitbart

    Mark:

    I always find it hilariously amusing when “smart” people give out advice on what NOT to read and what speeches NOT to listen to.

    I assume you think that if you read nothing and listened to nothing you would be a genius.

  12. Willful stupidity file:

    http://www.latimes.com/local/politics/la-me-cap-bullet-train-20141222-column.html

    “You can’t drive a train off a track into a building. It just is not as attractive a target for terrorists as airplanes.”

    — California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Jeff Morales, on why security will be lighter for train passengers than air travelers

    ——————————————————————

    “Why high-speed rail might be a target for terrorists”

    http://www.latimes.com/opinion/readersreact/la-le-1226-friday-high-speed-rail-20141226-story.html

    “To the editor: George Skelton’s and Jeff Morales’ fanciful musings about the security advantages of high-speed trains trivialize a substantial risk. Trains cannot be flown into buildings, but they are attractive targets for terrorists. (“An upside of high-speed rail? It’s more traveler friendly than flying,” Dec. 21)

    During rush hour on March 11, 2004, four commuter trains in Madrid were hit by 10 nearly simultaneous explosions in a coordinated attack that killed 191 and wounded more than 2,000. On Jan. 26, 2005, a car parked by a suicidal man on train tracks in Glendale derailed three trains, including two Metrolink commuter trains, killing 11.

    The Alvia high-speed train from Madrid to Ferrol derailed due to driver recklessness on July 24, 2013, killing 79.

    Securing aircraft requires securing only airports. Securing trains requires securing the entire right of way. High-speed trains are particularly vulnerable to attack.”

    James E. Moore II, Los Angeles

    The writer is director of USC’s transportation engineering program.

  13. A total waste of time and taxpayers` money. The people who came up with the original numbers should be named and fired.

  14. What makes these people think you will be able to waltz on to the High speed choo choo without going through the same search and feel party that is in the airport today? Then you have to secure 500+ miles of track from anyone with in rifle range.
    How much is that ticket going to cost or will it be subsidized by the stupid ones that pay the taxes?

  15. I would be interested in how many of the commenters have ever ridden in a state of the art train…..
    To date, I have – never – been searched, gone through a metal detector etc. on any train anywhere in the world.
    Maybe the US is a particularly dangerous place?
    There are countless ways to disrupt any infrastructure – how long has Hwy 1 / Big Sur been closed now? And that was “just” mother nature.
    It’s about time the US catches up with the rest of the world when it comes to efficient hi-speed transportation.
    Let’s be great again…..

        • > What is your message?

          Don’t ride on trains that will be bombed by terrorists.

          > Let’s go back to walking, maybe horseback????

          You think that walking and horseback are the ONLY alternatives to “state of the art trains”?

          Ever heard of buses, cars, airplanes, hovercraft, hyperloops, boats, hydrofoils, transporters, etc, etc.?

          You need to watch more TV.

          • ….. you forgot Humvees…..all of which cannot and will not be terrorist targets of course!
            I have to ask: are you still attending kindergarten?

  16. > I have to ask: are you still attending kindergarten?

    No.

    Why do you ask?

    I haven’t attended kindergarten for seven or eight years.

  17. Having just drive I-5 down to the Grapevine and back I think we should the cancel Brown Express and add a third lane in both directions.

    • AND . . . dedicate the new third lane to self-driving vehicles traveling bumper to bumper at 120 miles per hour.

      Double plus good: moves a LOT more people ON DEMAND at high speed AND reduces the traffic demands on the existing two lanes.

      Actually, TRIPLE PLUS GOOD: saves a billion ka-jillion dollars on the stupid, unbuildable, terrorism magnet — the Stupid California High Speed Rail (SCHSR).