Union Pacific RR unwilling to share right-of-way with HSR
- Published Thursday, June 5, 2008, by the Fresno Bee
Railroad doesn't want to share with bullet train
By E.J. Schultz
Bee Capitol Bureau
SACRAMENTO -- In a potential blow to California's bullet train
dreams, a major railroad is refusing to share its right of way on
portions of the planned 800-mile line.
The dispute between the Union Pacific Railroad and California High
Speed Rail Authority comes five months before voters will consider
a $9.9 billion bond measure to jump-start the $40 billion project.
As envisioned, trains reaching top speeds of more than 200 mph would
knife through the Central Valley, connecting Southern and Northern
The train requires new, dedicated tracks. Rail planners have
identified land near Union Pacific tracks for some routes, including
stretches through the Fresno area, according to planning documents.
In a letter <http://tinyurl.com/5pj8gr> sent to the rail authority,
Union Pacific said it was not in the railroad's "best interest to
have any proposed alignment located on Union Pacific rights of way."
The railroad wants to preserve the option to build its own tracks
on the land to meet rising freight demand, Scott Moore, a company
vice president, said. He also raised safety concerns, saying that a
collision between a freight train and fast-moving passenger train
would be disastrous.
"High-speed [rail] needs to be in a sealed and separate corridor
from a freight corridor," he said.
Mehdi Morshed, the rail authority's executive director, dismissed
the railroad's position as "much ado about nothing." He said safety
barriers would separate passenger trains from freight trains.
"Look to Europe and Asia for evidence: High-speed train travel
has been in use for decades and has proven to be the safest, most
reliable form of transportation in the world," he said in a statement.
The authority never specifically targeted Union Pacific-controlled
land, Morshed said. Instead, land could be acquired near, but not
on, the railroad's property, he said.
"We anticipate that we will pay the full price whether we buy it
from railroads or we buy it from someone else," he said.
But state Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, said that adjacent land
might prove more expensive.
"The authority and railroad are simply going to have to sit down
and resolve their differences," said the senator, who recently held
hearings on high-speed rail.
The rail authority, established in 1996, has already spent $58
million on the project, according to a report issued Thursday by
the state Senate's Transportation and Housing Committee, led by
The bond on November's ballot would cover less than a third of
the total cost. Planners hope the federal government and private
companies will pick up the rest of the tab.
Lowenthal said voters deserve assurances that the additional money
can be raised so that taxpayers are not "stuck with a massive bill
in future years."
Lowenthal also called for greater state oversight of the project.
The rail authority is governed by a nine-member, part-time board but
does not report to the California Transportation Commission, which
oversees other state transportation projects.
The reporter can be reached at eschultz@... or 916.326.5541.
[BATN: See also:
HSR backers alarmed by UP ROW snafu; officials unflapped
Comment: What's behind UPRR opposition to accommodating HSR?
HSR backers say HSRA and its plan ignored UPRR opposition
UPRR opposes HSR on its land or near its trains; HSRA undaunted
CHSRA officials brush off UPRR refusal to sell ROW for HSR
8-group coalition blasts HSRA on Pacheco vs. Altamont route pick