Bullet train-2

Artist's conception of the bullet train speeding through the Tehachapi Pass.

State officials have released a draft environmental review of the California high-speed rail segment that, by linking Bakersfield with northern Los Angeles County, would be the project's most important section for Kern County.

The review provides a detailed look at the California High-Speed Rail Authority's proposal for connecting Bakersfield and Palmdale with a series of elevated, underground and surface-level tracks through Edison, Tehachapi, Rosamond and Lancaster.

Still lacking, however, is a funding commitment that would pay for the section. Perhaps the most significant aspect of the review released Monday is that it moves the rail agency closer to meeting its 2022 federal deadline for finalizing environmental reviews of its proposed phase-one route between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Regional transportation planner Ahron Hakimi, executive director of the Kern Council of Governments, said the Bakersfield-Palmdale connection would "completely transform at least metropolitan Bakersfield." But he also said it may be too early to get excited about the route.

"It's premature, in my opinion, to talk about the funding of construction from Bakersfield to Palmdale when we don't even have the funding available for construction of the tracks and the line between (the Shafter area) and Bakersfield," he said.

Last month, Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, introduced a bill in Congress that would dedicate $32 billion in federal money to extend the project beyond the Central Valley, where Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed focusing the project's activities.

It's unclear how far Costa's bill might get considering how strongly high-speed rail has been opposed by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump, who openly mocked the project during his recent visit to Bakersfield.

There is a chance the project will instead attract private investment, said former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros, who now serves as vice chairman at Siebert Williams Shank & Co. LLC, a New York-based investment banking firm focused on public and private infrastructure.

Cisneros said there is growing recognition that private money will be needed to help pay for unfunded U.S. infrastructure needs he estimated at $2 trillion.

"I have zero doubt that once this is put together in fiscally sound ways with good market analysis, good engineering designs and routes that the private sector will be available to help," he said of California's bullet-train project.

The first operational segment of the rail project, from Merced to Bakersfield, is planned to begin service in 2028 or 2029. The entire phase-one portion, connecting the Bay Area with Los Angeles and Anaheim, is supposed to be operational by 2033. Eventually the project is intended to link Sacramento and San Diego as well.

The route from F Street and Golden State Avenue in Bakersfield to the Palmdale Transportation Center measures measures 80 miles and largely follows Highway 58.

The segment would be built on raised tracks from Bakersfield to Edison before dropping to surface level and proceeding, with some underground portions, to Keene.

There would be underground tracks between Keene and the Mojave area and a mix of elevated and surface level portions through Rosamond. From Lancaster to Palmdale the project would be completed mostly at surface level. There would be stations only in Bakersfield and Palmdale.

Four alternative alignments remain in play for the Bakersfield-to-Palmdale route. But none of the four are as different as the three options still on the table for connecting Palmdale and Burbank, considered one of the project's most challenging segments to design.

An open house for the draft environmental review is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Edison Middle School Gym, 721 S. Edison Road.

The only other Kern County public meeting on the draft document is set for 5:30 p.m. March 26 at the Rosamond Public Library, 3611 Rosamond Blvd. in Rosamond.

A public hearing on the draft review is set for 3 to 8 p.m. April 9 at the Stanley Kleiner Activity Building in Lancaster's Sgt. Steve Owen Memorial Park, 43063 N. 10th St. West.

The draft's public comment period began Friday and extends for 45 days. Public comments may be made at any of the public meetings or online at www.hsr.ca.gov.

Alternatively, comments may be emailed to Bakersfield_palmdale@hsr.ca.gov with the subject line "Bakersfield to Palmdale Draft Supplemental EIR/EIS Comment."

Another option is to mail a comment to Attn: Bakersfield to Palmdale: Draft EIR/EIS California, High-Speed Rail Authority, 770 L St., Suite 620 MS-1.

To view the draft document, go online at www.hsr.ca.gov.

John Cox can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter: @TheThirdGraf.

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(23) comments

Stephen

Oh, yea, here's another inconvenient truth. The cheapest flight from Bakersfield to LA is right at $400. The highest I saw was over $700. Yea! That's to get from Bakersfield about 100 mies to LA!

While I'm not sure what the tix price for a trip on a completed HSR connection, Bakesfield to Union Station, would be but for Amtrak, this coming week, (tix originates in Wasco) Bakersfield to LA would be $20.75.

Stephen

Inconvenient Truth cited the cost of a plane ticket, LAX to SFO but didn't factor in other relevant facts. Among them the time and cost getting from SFO into San Francisco, or for that matter getting into LAX. Oh, yea, he also omitted citing the cost of flying from Bakersfield to anywhere. Like Fresno, the extra $100 the airlines add to flights from BFL to anywhere else compared to the same flight from LAX is a feature while justified in the minds of airline executives remains a mystery to the rest of us.

Where high speed rail service would shine is making those frequent connections between metropolitan areas separated by a hundred or so miles, that is networking the major population centers throughout the state between San Francisco, Sacramento and San Diego. That's where commercial air travel doesn't do so well.

With a sound HSR system, Bakersfield and Kern County would see improvements in its property values and economy, nay-saying clichés not withstanding. You can't see the future looking backwards and that is the inconvenient truth.

Gene Pool Chlorinator

Stephen, it's way too late for a "sound HSR system" and you have to know that.

The technology being used was even described by Elon Musk (while at a speech given at CSUB), as two to three generations behind state-of-the-art. Maglev is state-of-the-art- why aren't we looking into that technology??

Shouldn't we expect (and demand) something better for the amount of money the California state taxpayers have already been charged??

Take action Now

STOP THE HIGH SPEED MONEY PIT !!! And fix our roads instead ! This project was presented to the voters as a $ 8 Billion project and run from San Diego to San Francisco. Now it’s estimated at $ 80 billion - Bakersfield to Merced .

Hey California voters you need to vote down ALL propositions until the government gets it’s tax and spend under control.. Have you ever noticed how so many of these propositions are presented as Educational - yet if people read the fine print. “The money can be allocated for other ( services ). Wake Up California !!!

Moose jaw

…"could 'transform' Kern"

I third lane on the 58, the four lane to the Kern River Valley (that should have been done in the 70's), and a four line on the 65 and 14 would do more to transform Kern County...

Inconvenient Truth

Bullet Trains are not progress; they are regression back to an early 19th century technology.

Japan has been building "Bullet Trains" since before the last time they hosted the Olympics in 1964; nearly 60 years.

Jet aircraft on the other hand are a mid-20th century technology and are much faster than the fastest of bullet trains.

High speed trains have only been successful where they are economical: in regions with high-density populations. California's central valley is not such a place.

Furthermore, unless the state of California spends Billions subsidizing high-speed rail even after it is completed, a ticket will have to cost more than a comparable commercial flight.

Even with heavy federal subsidies, Amtrak is more expensive than flying for all but the shortest of routes.

Right now you can get from L.A. to San Francisco in 1 hour, 22 minutes for $112 (round-trip) by plane.

Even if built to the original promises (now impossible), "High-Speed" Rail would make the same trip in 3 hours, and will certainly cost more.

Furthermore, you will have just as much security at either end as TSA, because, like commercial aircraft, High-Speed trains will be a terrorist magnet.

Finally, to make matters worse, unlike flying, where only airports at either end need be secure, High-Speed Rail will have to be guarded over its entire length of 400+ miles. (How’s that Border Wall workin’ out for ya?)

Technology and progress have nothing to do with it; High-Speed Rail makes no economic sense for California. If it did, Elon Musk, Branson, Bezos and the rest (who are all investing in commercial space flight) would be investing in it. The fact that they aren’t proves that High-Speed rail for California is truly an economic sinkhole.

Masked 2020

"The 19th (nineteenth) century was a century that began on January 1, 1801, and ended on December 31, 1900".... ?all the way back to stagecoaches and buggy's?

Inconvenient Truth

Yes, that's what I said.

The first commercially successful steam locomotive was built in 1812 - 1813 by John Blenkinsop.

Gene Pool Chlorinator

Be careful IT, you'll confuse Yorkies by using facts...

REMUDA

BFL, Bako-Muni, Poso-Kern, Majors, Shafter Minter,Epic, Atlantic, Tehachapi, Taft-Kern Delano, Costerisan--"High-Speed" Hi-Fly . . . instead of 'mountain rail' (easier park as well) -- to Palmdale regional, Fox and others near AV fields are faster, cheaper, easier, more frequent--park & fly . . . !

CA is Car-Country ever since those 'Good ole days' when we drove cars from Detroit, Chicago & St. Louis to LA, SD & SF to sell . . . singing that old roady "Route 66" song . . . !

lvalladares2

This should have been the first segment built. At the very least, If the rest of the rail does not come to fruition, Amtrak could have used this as a bypass for a route to LA. There is existing track that would get it from Palmdale to LA already.

Boris25

Really? What a crock of sh*t, if you believe this, I have some ocean front property in Kansas I'll sell you very cheaply.

2carpoor

"Still lacking, however, is a funding commitment that would pay for the section."

Now where have I heard this before? Let's finish something (ANYTHING!!!!) BEFORE WE START ANOTHER PROJECT TO NO--WHERE.

Desperado

Never going to happen. If it does, the airlines will just drop their fares so all you'll have is empty trains running around, just like Amtrak does now..

Lilyrose

Desperado,. Have you been to other countries? There is a big difference between air travel and rail. Millions of people step on to trains with ease. Cars are not needed in daily life.

REMUDA

Right . . . except . . . no "step-on" (w/back-pack) . . . as we park at least one of our (2)-family cars (they don't have) horizontally in CA (larger than most of those 2nd- & 3rd- 'worlders' . . .

. . . like . . . Frecciarossa, MTR, Shinkansen . . . Boy-San . . .? !

Gene Pool Chlorinator

So, you walk to work every day?

Veritas

You’re assuming she works...

Gene Pool Chlorinator

True.

A thousand apologies Veritas!

LOL

Stephen

What major step in progress hasn't been accomplished despite the opposition of many who can't see the future until it happens?

Lilyrose

Stephen, I agree and can't believe this hasn't already been done. However, I can't understand the diversion east.

The rail from Palmdale to Vegas will be finished by then of course, but other than that, I don't understand.

JR

Why Palmdale? What's in Palmdale?

mrdwm1

What's in Palmdale? The real reason this project is being built. Nobody really believes there will be much passenger traffic between LA and SF. This is all about HSR from the central maga-cities to outlying areas, since the big cities have become unlivable for many. Calling it a "statewide" system simply justifies making the rest of us pay for it, rather than keeping the cost where it rightfully belongs: in the tickets of those who will use it.

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