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In the War Room of California's High Speed Rail

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There isn't a ton of new information in yesterday's New York Times magazine story about the proposed California high-speed rail, but it's still an entirely satisfying article. Mostly because reading about the train makes the completion of the line--the most expensive infrastructure project in US history--seem like a reality, even if the obstacles to getting it built seem insurmountable. Additionally, the Times shows off a bit of the inner workings of the California High Speed Rail Authority in Sacramento, interviewing Tony Daniels, project director on the rail plan. Some of the bigger hurdles to seeing the train completed: Financing, NIMBY lawsuits, and anticipated station upgrade difficulties (Union Station is on the National Register of Historic Places which may complicate the process of getting it renovated). But the biggest difficulty is finalizing the route. Via the paper: "Significant purchases of land will have to be made, and in some places the state might have to exercise eminent domain. At one point Daniels took me down into what he calls his war room, a large space with huge maps on the wall and thousands of pages of regulatory documents piled on tables. One thing you notice if you spend time with rail planners is that it’s difficult to separate engineering concerns from economic and political issues." Complicating the route issue is that by law (aka the bond measure), the train has get from San Francisco and Los Angeles in 2 hours 40 minutes, so adding extra miles or adding a detour isn't always a possibility. More takeaways: The line could result in Bakersfield becoming a bedroom community for Los Angeles, and U.S. secretary of transportation Ray LaHood tells the Times that Californians “are obviously way, way ahead of everyone else.” Nice.
· Getting Up to Speed [NYT]
· California Mentioned First in Prez's Bullet Plan [Curbed LA]