Voters Approve High-Speed Rail
Caltrans is assisting the California High-Speed Rail Authority in developing a contemporary high-speed train operating on dedicated rights of way. In the November 2008 election, California voters approved Proposition 1A, authorizing a $9 billion bond for an 800-mile train network capable of speeds up to 220 miles an hour. It also provides $950 million to finance capital improvements to commuter and intercity rail, as well as local transit lines that will connect existing infrastructure to the high-speed train system.
When it’s completed, travelers will be able to go from Los Angeles to San Francisco in two hours and 38 minutes, from Anaheim to Sacramento in two and a half hours, and from Fresno to San Jose in one hour. A high-speed train system between Los Angeles/Anaheim and San Francisco with extensions to Sacramento and San Diego will eventually carry more than 90 million passengers, generating $3.6 billion in gross revenues, with fare levels around half the cost of airfares.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) has spent more than a decade on research. Now Caltrans and the Authority are partnering with local agencies to build the system. First, six segments of the system must be engineered: Los Angeles to Anaheim, Los Angeles to Palmdale, Palmdale to Fresno, Fresno to Merced, Central Valley to San Jose, and San Jose to San Francisco.
The Authority expects construction to start in 2012. The Los Angeles to
San Francisco backbone of the system is scheduled to be completed by 2020. The system will be built along, or adjacent to, existing rail transportation facilities to reduce unplanned growth by linking local
and regional transit systems.
Caltrans will assist the Authority by securing rights of way, testing materials, inspecting construction and determining where the train system interfaces with state transportation facilities. The Department’s intercity rail program will complement the high-speed rail system by providing a critical feeder link, connecting all parts of the state to the high-speed rail system.
Legislative Efforts Drive Transportation Forward
Caltrans sponsored seven transportation bills during the 2008 legislative session. Gov. Schwarzenegger signed
all seven bills into law. These bills increased penalties against individuals who assault highway workers during the course of their duties, gave Caltrans National Environmental Policy Act responsibilities, and streamlined contracting procedures. In addition, Caltrans sponsored legislation that provided funding for installing solar panels on Department facilities.
During the budget negotiations in late 2008 and early 2009, Caltrans
was able to secure three important changes in law that will allow the Department to more efficiently accomplish its mission; ABX2-8 (Nestande) streamlined the approval process for a small group of transportation projects to allow the Department to quickly award contracts and create jobs during the economic recession. In addition, with SBX2-4 (Cogdill), Caltrans obtained authority to use a design/build method of procurement for some projects. Skilled contractors can shorten construction time and costs by designing and building a project concurrently.
This legislation also secured unlimited authority for Caltrans to enter into public-private partnership agreements for the development of transportation infrastructure through 2017. This method of financing has proven beneficial to both the public and private sectors and is routinely used worldwide. It will also provide significant new capital investment that the state is not able to afford while improving and expanding our transportation infrastructure.
Construction Promotes International Trade for U.S.
A Presidential Permit was issued in December 2008 for the State Route 11/Otay Mesa East Port of Entry Project, allowing Caltrans to work on the design and construction of the new connecting freeway and port on this international border. The project will reduce border wait times and promote the transportation of goods and services across the border, which will boost the economies of the two nations. The SR 11/Otay Mesa East Port Project will feature a new four-lane freeway that will stretch three miles from SR 905 south to the new port. Estimates for improvements to SR 11 range from $300 million
to $360 million, and the new port may cost $350 million. The Presidential Permit opened the door for Caltrans and the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) to seek investment dollars through public-private partnerships and collect toll fees to pay for the new freeway. An added $75 million was designated for construction from the Proposition 1B Trade Corridors Improvement Fund. The project is scheduled to break ground in 2012 and open in 2014.
New Trends in Transit -
Technology Includes Magnetic Buses
The Vehicle Assist and Automation (VAA) automated bus guidance system was demonstrated on State Route 185/East 14th Street in San Leandro in September 2008. With magnet technology, a precision docking function, and rail-like ease of boarding at bus stations, time for loading and unloading passengers will be reduced.
The system will also improve efficiency and reliability over the course of an entire bus route. The roadway is embedded with a series of magnets. Special sensors and processors on board the bus detect the magnets in the pavement and control the steering. The driver maintains control of braking and acceleration, but the steering is completely automated, allowing buses to pull into stops within a lateral accuracy of one centimeter. This test is now being expanded to public bus lines. One test will be on Alameda County Transit’s TransBay Express on a four-mile stretch of State Route 92 from Hesperian Boulevard to
the San Mateo Bridge toll plaza. The other test will be performed with the Lane County Transit District in Eugene-Springfield, Oregon, on its EmXBus Rapid Transit System.
Movable Barrier Machine Improves Mobility
Caltrans opened an eight-mile middle segment of the Interstate 15 express lanes in July 2008 that will allow use of a movable barrier machine to configure the lanes to accommodate the morning and afternoon peak directional traffic and to handle special events or incidents in San Diego County. The adjustable lanes are available for free to public transit, carpools, vanpools, motorcycles and permitted clean air vehicles and for a fee to single-occupant vehicle drivers. The lane configuration will remain two lanes in each direction until the entire project is completed in 2012. Travel through the corridor will improve with new access points, advanced traffic control devices, FasTrak® electronic toll collection, and transit stations with Park & Ride lots connected through direct lane access ramps. Work continues on the remaining north and south segments. All three segments of the project have a combined investment of $1.3 billion, including $350 million in 2006 transportation bond funds.
Amtrak On-Time Performance
The on-time performance between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009 increased to 86.6 percent on California’s intercity passenger rail program. Caltrans, on behalf of the state, contributes about $86 million annually to Amtrak for its operation of the largest state-supported intercity passenger rail program
in the nation, which includes the Pacific Surfliner, San Joaquin and Capitol Corridor routes. Ridership on the routes reached a record 5.3 million in fiscal year 2007-08.
Metering Lights Move Motorists
Caltrans worked closely with the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) and successfully implemented metering light rate changes for the FasTrak® system to provide a 68 percent advantage to FasTrak® users. This has helped speed the flow of vehicles in bridge toll plazas as FasTrak® can process up to 1,200 vehicles per hour while cash booths can only process 300 vehicles per hour. BATA reports that on average 47 percent of Bay Area motorists use FasTrak® with that average increasing above 50 percent during the commute period.
Caltrans Responds to Wildfires
In November 2008, fires broke out along State Route 91 in Orange County and jumped across State Routes 57 and 142, spreading rapidly into the cities of Brea, Yorba Linda and Anaheim Hills. Wooden posts, guardrails, metal signs and plastic culverts were destroyed, and thick smoke blocked drivers’ visibility. Maintenance crews and traffic management personnel responded immediately by coordinating the opening and closing of freeways and toll roads with local agencies. Emergency contracts were authorized to restore access to the highways. After repairs were made, SR 142 reopened in two days. Erosion control work for SR 91 was completed within two weeks.
Doubling Capacity on State Route 22
The State Route 22 Design/Build High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Project, in partnership with Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), is a $550 million upgrade and improvement project that added 12 miles of HOV lanes and six miles of general-purpose lanes. Interchanges, which included the “Orange Crush,” a congestion prone area where Interstate 5 and State Routes 22 and 57 meet, were improved. Also, ramps, bridges, sound and retaining walls, and drainage were added or improved. The Garden Grove Freeway hadn’t been improved since it was built for 115,000 cars a day in the early 1960s. It can now handle 250,000 vehicles per day, and was the first design/build project on an operating freeway in California.
Synchronization Gives Mobility the Green Light
The $19.9 billion 2006 transportation bond-funded Traffic Light Synchronization Program provided $250 million to local governments to update their traffic signals. Modern traffic signal software allows cities to synchronize traffic lights from intersection to intersection from traffic management centers. Timing can be adjusted to accommodate real-time traffic demands, for commute congestion, and to help clear traffic after an incident. Synchronized traffic lights allow the flow of traffic to move more smoothly down major streets, saving drivers’ time, reducing fuel wasted from idling cars, and reducing pollution from cars accelerating after light changes.
Between June and December 2008, 29 projects received funding allocations. Three of these projects have already been completed, and
11 are under construction. Another 54 projects should receive funding allocations by June 2010.