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California rail plan is still going off track

By in Press Enterprise on November 9, 2017

By The Editorial Board

The disconnect between government and reality is nowhere more in evidence than in transportation planning. Exhibit A is the recently released Draft 2018 California State Rail Plan.

The plan for “efficiently connecting and updating the transportation system built on rail networks and highways from the 19th and 20th centuries” envisions $85 billion in upgrades between now and 2040 with the goal of increasing the percentage of passenger rail travel to almost 7 percent of trips from its current share — one-third of 1 percent.

The reasons for the limited use of rail are clear from the details of a survey conducted on train travel in the state. About 70 percent of Californians would use train travel for touring the state or visiting family and friends; far fewer would rely on it for commuting.

But state bureaucrats have many priorities, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions and buying high-tech locomotives and train cars.

For example, California has acquired new, cleaner, diesel-electric locomotives that have a top speed of 125 miles per hour. The Charger locomotives, built by Siemens Mobility, cost almost $7 million each and are going into service on the Capitol Corridor and in the San Joaquin Valley. But federal safety regulations won’t allow the trains to go faster than 79 mph, because they run on privately owned rail lines built for trains traveling at that speed or slower.

Another high-tech investment, BART’s “Fleet of the Future,” still isn’t carrying passengers, though the first cars were delivered in early 2016. BART has tested the cars extensively, but they can’t carry passengers until the California Public Utilities Commission, which oversees rail transit agencies, certifies the new cars are safe.

Last Friday, the Fleet of the Future flunked. CPUC inspectors were on board when the system controlling the 10 cars mysteriously forgot about cars four through 10, triggering an […]    

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