An early stage of California’s plan to build a network of high speed trains faces engineering challenges that will make it the “project of the century,” UC Berkeley civil engineering professor Bill Ibbs says.The proposed 140-mile route from Bakersfield will send the bullet train through two mountain ranges, over canyons, across a desert, and into Los Angeles, according to the LA Times.
The route, part of a larger plan to connect the northern and southern regions of California, is estimated to cost $20.2 billion. The high price tag is understandable, given that the Bakersfield-LA stretch includes the Tehachapi and San Gabriel Mountains.
The plan is to build the tracks on a combination of tunnels as deep as 500 feet, and on viaducts over canyons as much as 300 feet above the ground. On top of that, the route crosses a dozen earthquake faults.
While Ralph Vartabedian, the journalist who wrote the LA Times article, notes the project is possible, he still provoked an annoyed response from Robert Cruickshank at the California High Speed Rail Blog, who wrote:
Of course, Vartabedian could have mentioned that high speed trains have been operating in the very seismically active country of Japan for nearly 50 years without being negatively impacted by earthquakes.
The engineering challenges are formidable but not insurmountable: Southern Pacific Railroad built a rail line through the Tehachapi Mountains in the 1870s; it is now reserved for freight trains.
The new bullet train will travel at 220 mph and use 2.7 million kilowatts of electricity daily, according to the AP. That’s the equivalent of one fourth the output of Hoover Dam.
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