Environmental objections in path of bullet train California
The California bullet train is promoted as an important environmental investment for the future, but over the next decade the heavy construction project would potentially harm air quality, aquatic life and endangered species across the Central Valley.Eleven endangered species, including the San Joaquin kit fox, would be affected, according to federal biologists. Massive emissions from diesel powered heavy equipment could foul the already filthy air. Dozens of rivers, canals and wetlands fed from the rugged peaks of the Sierra Nevada would be crossed, creating other knotty issues.A wide array of state and federal agencies is examining those effects and, over the next several months, will issue scientific findings that could affect the cost and schedule of construction. Beyond the regulators, environmental lawsuits brought by the powerful California agriculture industry are threatening to further delay work.The state rail authority is trying to push ahead with an urgent plan to start construction of a 130 mile segment from Madera to Bakersfield as early as December, arguing that any delays could put more than $2 billion of federal funding at risk. Even if the Legislature appropriates the states share of money this summer, the construction schedule will depend on friendly and quick decisions by often tough regulators.Among the most difficult issues will be air quality, which is regulated across eight counties by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. The district worries that the construction project would exacerbate already problematic levels of nitrogen oxides, particulates and volatile compounds.
Trains, even ones that creep along powered by diesel engines, are inherently efficient ways of moving people and cargo. This has to do with factors such as wind resistance (one cargo train has less wind to fight than an equivalent 280 trucks) as well as the fact that steel wheels slide more easily on steel tracks than rubber wheels do on pavement.
As oil prices spiked last summer and major airlines started adding fuel surcharges, an increasing number of Canadians were driven to the rails. VIA Rail recorded a 10 percent jump in ridership from the previous year and increased revenue of $14 million. As accessible oil supplies dwindle, the trend is likely to become more acute, especially if passengers can get from Toronto to Montreal in two hours by train as opposed to five. According to an environmental impact study put forward by the CHSRA, Californias proposed system will save 12.7 million barrels of oil by 2030 by reducing air and auto travel.
In France and Japan, HSR enjoys an extremely high safety record. Says Langan: