Building of road bed, track systems and elevated bridge and grade separation structures sufficient to support high-speed train operation requires development of entirely new facilities from foundations to rails, as well as state of technology electrical power and operational systems for optimal performance and service. The best maintained of existing railroad track systems and facilities may be strategically located to serve high-speed trains, with the least modification or reconstruction; but are likely to be among the most productive and valuable rail sections of privately owned and operated railroads. As important and integral parts of what are primarily freight railroad systems, main line tracks and rights of way may prove difficult, and expensive to acquire and adapt to high-speed use. Furthermore, productive sections of railroad rights of way are not likely to be offered for sale or conversion to high-speed use.
High-speed train roadbeds and rail systems should not be treated as upgraded and reinforced versions of traditional railroad tracks. Specifically constructed and dedicated to exclusive use as high-speed railways, employing continuous, seamless rails, integrated and continuous roadbeds and supporting structures are more than upgraded railroad track systems. As such, the engineering, construction and budgeting of high-speed rail track and facilities have no history in the US, and must rely on imported and adapted applications of European or Asian systems and technology to new domestic projects. The extensive use of grade separated street and highway crossings required as critical safety measures will significantly increase construction, as well as, right of way costs; as numerous extended ramp and elevated structures designed to smoothly elevate and descend on either side of roadway overpasses become promenent features of high-speed rail systems.
New high-speed rail systems should be assumed to require separate, exclusive and impenetrable property and rights of way, developed to provide significant mitigation and safety facilities necessary to buffer and protect the environments and settings through which the high-speed trains pass. Roadbed berms rising three to fifteen feet above adjacent property grade are likely to form barriers resembling earthen levies used to contain river and tidal flood waters. These berms must be assumed to be a continuous, impenetrable feature of any landscape or setting through which high-speed rails pass. Additionnaly, the mile-by-mile design and construction within high-speed rail rights of way should include the full extent of required setbacks, sound walls and turbulence-buffering structures, grade separations, safety and vehicle crossing equipment, and other mitigating elements necessary to reduce disruptive and hazardous impacts of high-speed rail operations. Environmental impact assessments should project well beyond the initial construction phase of development, to assure that that the long-term impacts of high-speed rail operation are properly addressed and mitigated in the initial design of the system. Numerous high-speed rail systems in operation world wide, should provide environmental and performance measurements suitable for accurate estimation and projections of the impacts and requirements of high-speed rail system development in any US venue or environmental setting.
Construction of high-speed rail facilities and systems will, in most cases, require grade separation at a majority, if not all points of crossing or intersection with roadways, streets, highways and virtually all other forms of transportation. The safety that such separation ensures can not be sufficiently provided by other configurations or technological devices.
In an apparent attempt to avoid as many conflicts and difficulties as possible in the initial phase of construction, planners and managers of the California High-Speed Rail Project have chosen to begin construction of its first segment in a remote area of the state’s San Joaquin Valley. By proposing to build the first 65 miles of high-speed rail between two small rural towns, the High-Speed Rail Authority has avioded or postponed many of the most significant environmental, operational and safety issues facing implementation of 220 mile per hour, at grade train services. With the majority of measures employed to mitigate problems and hazards associated with high-speed rail operations dependent on built facilities and system configurations, construction design and related contracts will necessarily become more elaborate and critical elements of the project’s successful implementation.
*Run planned CA Valley HSR route video
 Rich Connell ,Central Valley farmers take issue with proposed high-speed rail route. Los Angeles Times, 2010
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