Orange County Branch Newsletter

February 2015

Transportation Technical Group

California High Speed Rail—a Transformative Investment in California’s Future

By: Ted Rigoni, PE, PMP,  ASCE OC TTG Chair

On January 13, 2015, Mr. Sam Alameddine, Southern California Regional Delivery Manager, California High Speed Rail Authority, spoke to 65 transportation professionals and university students at UCI’s University Club, about the present and future for high speed rail within the Golden state.  His PowerPoint presentation and talk was titled “A Transformative Investment in California’s Future.”   This presentation on high speed rail was hosted by the American Society of Civil Engineers, Orange County Transportation Technical Group, as part of their ongoing series presenting topical projects and programs addressing regional transportation needs.

As noted by Mr. Alameddine, the corridor between San Francisco and Los Angeles, as currently served by air transport, is the busiest short haul market in the US.  Currently, one out of every six flights from Los Angeles is destined for the Bay area.  Six of the top 30 most congested urban areas are located in California, and projections for future population growth estimate there to be 50 million Californians by 2050.

Connecting California


Based on these facts and projections, high speed rail would function as a competing, alternate mode of transportation, to freeway (automobile) and air, for the Los Angeles to San Francisco corridor.

Mr. Alameddine spoke about the political, rights of way, environmental, permitting and contracting issues, as well as touching on some of the design challenges related to railway grades, geotechnical variability, seismicity and structural concerns that will be resolved during the design-build process for the various segments.  The alignment for the high speed rail will largely be separate from existing transportation corridors, due to insufficient curve radii and grade, and will make use of existing rail transport technology to the extent possible.  The railway will be constructed to be solely used by high speed trains, although additional railway lines benefiting freight may be included in respective locations.  Should projections for ridership be met, trains could run as frequently as 10 minutes apart, and depending upon ultimate destination, some trains would make stops at most stations and other trains would bypass most stations.  The tracks would be fully grade separated at all conflict points with existing transportation and would include safety features designed to detect and protect against intrusion within the dedicated rail right of way.  The design life for the railway components is to be 100 years, and the system is to improve air quality through the use of electrified trains, meeting AB 32/ SB 375 requirements.

Sam Alameddine, Southern California Regional Delivery Manager, California High Speed Rail Authority


The planned line is forecast to connect Los Angeles/Anaheim with San Francisco by 2029, with speeds up 200 miles per hour (320 km/h), travel times between these two destinations of as low as 2 hours and 40 minutes, and future extensions to San Diego and Sacramento. Initial funding for this mega project was approved by California voters on November 4, 2008, and authorized the issuance of US $9.95 billion in bonds for the project. Proposed statewide alignment exhibit map.

The first phase of the line is to be constructed in three interconnected segments: one in the Central Valley, one linking the Central Valley to the Los Angeles Basin, and another linking the Central Valley to the San Francisco Bay Area. Future segments include routes to Sacramento and San Diego.

Statewide sections underway


The project's cost and scope have long been a source of controversy. The California High-Speed Rail Authority has estimated the project's year-of-expenditure cost at $68.4 billion (2011 estimate).   Funding shortfalls are planned to be resolved through a combination of Federal and private sources, as well as other as yet unidentified sources.

Last year, preliminary construction began with the demolition of various buildings, mapping underground utilities for relocation and testing soils and concrete so engineers can complete designs for bridges, overpasses, underpasses and embankments.   An official groundbreaking ceremony was held in Fresno on January 6, 2015 to mark the beginning of sustained construction.

The TTG Transportation Vision scholarship winners were recognized at the meeting.

Presentation of student Transportation Vision Award scholarship winners.  At left, Daniel Siow (UCI) and at right Bowen Liang (UCI).

Additionally, the TTG Board of Directors presented a plaque to Julia Wu, outgoing TTG President, recognizing her 10 years of service to the ASCE OC Transportation Technical Group.

TTG Board, left to right: Matthew Dennerline, Dennis Mak, Adrian Anderson, Julia Wu and Ted Rigoni.