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Report: Bullet train officials rebuffed proposal from French railway

Monday, July 9, 2012

Gov. Jerry Brown is scheduled to appear with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in Oakland, just three days after the Legislature approved $8 billion in state and federal spending for California's high-speed railroad and related projects

Gov. Jerry Brown makes a victory lap stop in Oakland today with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood after last Friday’s key state Senate vote to keep the bullet train project alive. But if he takes questions anywhere, he’s likely to be asked about a Los Angeles Times scoop over the weekend that state transportation officials spurned a possible partnership with the French national railway, which knows something about bullet trains. The Times says the French thought it made more sense to run the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco route along Interstate 5 and piggyback on existing resources.

From the LA Times piece:

Instead, the rail authority continued to concentrate planning in the hands of Parsons Brinckerhoff, a giant New York City-based engineering and construction management firm. Although they have occasionally consulted with high-speed railways, officials decided that hiring an experienced operator and seeking private investors would have to wait until after the $68-billion system was partially built. Last week, the state Senate approved — by a single vote — $8 billion to get construction underway.

"It's like California is trying to design and build a Boeing 747 instead of going out and buying one," said Dan McNamara, a civil engineer who worked for SNCF's U.S. affiliate. "There are lots of questions about the Parsons Brinckerhoff plan. The capital costs are way too high, and the route has been politically gerrymandered."

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