Conventional roadwork can’t hold a candle to constructing Cal. high-speed rail

With reference to California high-speed-rail- versus typical road-work, there really is no comparison. The difference, to put it succinctly, is like night and day.

So, what makes the former so different?

What makes California-high-speed-rail-construction stand alone is the cleanliness or should I say “air-friendliness” of related operations.

The building of the California high-speed rail system is unlike that which has ever been done before. Take the construction equipment utilized (cranes would be one example), for instance.

Equipment adhering to and meeting the most stringent of air-quality standards for its type, the Tier 4 emissions standards, compared to typical construction fleet equipment, from “Exhibit 3.6: 2016 Fleet Criteria Pollutant Emissions” table on page 20 of the 2017 California High-Speed Rail Sustainability Report, here are the numbers for Construction Package One (CP 1), the Madera-Fresno construction section (measured in pounds):

  • Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) CP 1 fleet – 23,024; typical fleet – 46,548; % diff. = -51
  • Reactive Organic Gas (ROG) CP 1 fleet – 1,715; typical fleet – 4,085; % diff. = -58
  • Particulate Matter (PM) CP 1 fleet – 1,082; typical fleet – 2,689; % diff. = -60
  • Black Carbon (BC) CP 1 fleet – 833; typical fleet – 2,071; % diff. = -60

Something else you might not think of: the area of waste.

In 2016, more than 99 percent of all waste from construction-related activities was recycled, according to the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) in this year’s California High-Speed Rail Sustainability Report, including concrete, steel, asphalt and wood waste. As a matter of fact, 100 percent of all concrete and steel waste was recycled. Meanwhile, 98 percent of debris from demolition was likewise recycled in 2016. That’s practically zero waste from construction and demolition activities.

Furthermore, in the December 19, 2017 news release: “California High-Speed Rail Continues Leading American Infrastructure with Green Construction and Clean Energy Operations,” what was noted was that, through these efforts, 13,251 metric tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent emissions were avoided and 87,100 tons of waste did not end up in landfills. Where else do you find this kind of concern for the environment as part of infrastructure-related building?!

And, add to this, during demolition work, structures being razed are sprayed with water to keep the levels of dust created, low.

“High-speed rail’s commitment to sustainability influences a variety of activities, from procurement to system design and operations,” the Authority in the release stressed. “The system will rely on 100 percent renewable energy to run its trains and facilities. The Authority has established station performance requirements to achieve net-zero energy, meaning that each year stations will produce as much energy on-site as they consume. Additionally, every year, on average, greenhouse gas emissions avoided by riders on the system running from San Francisco through the Central Valley and to Los Angeles/Anaheim is projected to be equivalent to removing 285,000 passenger vehicles off the roadways.”

Besides the recycling-related savings, from the release, here are some other highlights:

  • “Continued safe and clean construction practices resulting in no work-related fatalities and air quality on site that was 50 to 60 percent cleaner than an average California construction site.
  • “Signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the California Energy Commission to explore the latest in green technology and renewable energy, which will help inform the operations and maintenance of the high-speed rail system.
  • “Preserved more than 2,000 acres of natural habitat.”

Here is what the Authority had to say about the report.

“Today, the California High-Speed Rail Authority … issued its annual Sustainability Report which updates the progress made in 2016 on the innovative approach it is taking to the design, construction and operation of California’s high-speed rail system. The report highlights a range of topics including energy, natural resources, infrastructure, station communities, and business & management.”

Why, you ask, does any or all of this matter?

Imagine if every other site followed suit.

Need I say more?

Shasta Dam construction 1942

Images: California High-Speed Rail Authority (middle); Russell Lee (lower)

– Alan Kandel

6 thoughts on “Conventional roadwork can’t hold a candle to constructing Cal. high-speed rail”

  1. Are you out of your mind? The Browndoggle is a classic government waste of unlimited amounts of future taxpayer’s money for a low speed train that goes from nowhere to nowhere. It is already billions over budget, and the construction hasn’t even really started. This will saddle the state with billions of new debt on top of ridiculous state pension debts that will bankrupt California. The train fares to be competitive with cheap airline flights will have to be very low and cannot ever retire this debt nor is it likely to cover annual maintenance costs, salaries, fuel costs, more pension costs, advertising and insurance expenses, etc. The “air pollution” reduction guess is a joke………by greenhouse gases do you mean CO2? Here’s a newsflash. CO2 has no effect on the ambient temperatures…………no change in the average earth’s temperature in the last 20 years despite CO2 rising from 0.03% to 0.044%. Do you really believe one massively expensive train that covers about 500 miles and all the “sustainable” construction equipment used to build it will change the earth’s temperature? You are Moonbeam convert I see.

    • @ Randy

      “And the construction hasn’t even really started”? Can you please define “construction”? You may just want to visit: for additional perspective.

      Furthermore, way back on Jan. 1, this year, I posted: “Air of discontent: An 878-word opinion piece for the record books” and in that post I wrote: “And, seemingly in the same breath, The Fresno Bee columnist proceeds to share with the paper’s readers that high-speed rail construction in the Valley continues with dollars in the hundreds of millions yearly being injected into the economy.” The columnist referred to here is Bee Editorial Page editor Bill McEwen.

      Link here:

      “Browndoggle,” you say?

  2. “13,251 metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions avoided” may seem like a lot, but just for comparison, a large coal fired power plant burns up 10,000 tons of coal in a single day, producing around 30,000 tons of CO2. When it comes to reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, every little bit helps, but taking just one of the thousands of large coal fired power plants off line for a single day would do more.

    When it comes to the effect that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are having on global temperatures and upon sea level rise, I too am a bit of a skeptic, but we have succeeded, in a very short time, of increasing the carbon dioxide level in the air to 410 parts per million, a 50% increase since the start of the industrial revolution.

    Some time around 2100, if not sooner, we are going to hit 500 ppm, and it will not stop there. Nobody knows for sure how high we will go, but the more coal fired power plants shut down the better.

    I don’t think we can predict exactly what will happen to the world as atmospheric carbon dioxide continues to rapidly increase, but Russian Roulette is a game I never played, and we shouldn’t be playing Russian Roulette with the world.

  3. Randy is absolutely accurate!
    Moonbeam’s boondoggle is well known for their dribbling PR babble extolling their phony accomplishment only to have them refuted mere days after an HSR posting.

    Furthermore, this is a truly broken bulls*** ill managed politically skewered mega-project destined for a minimum cost of 50 billion taxpayer dollars for zero results and to mention a few, no track, no engine, no passenger cases, no stations, no speed, no passenger, but a deficit state treasury because of abusive liberal pablum drewl.

  4. We seem to have two competing prognostications.
    One says that HSR has been successful wherever it has been tried, including the not-that-fast Acela on the North East Corridor, and so a genuinely high speed train between two major metropolitan regions should be even more successful than the Acela.
    On the other hand, we have the Psychic Friends peering into the future and revealing that, contrary to all demonstrated performance from every HSR including the somewhat pallid Acela, this will magically be the one and only HSR project that no one will ride because LA and SF are “nowhere” and anyway it doesn’t match their ideological prejudices.
    So, proven performance of repeated HSR successes vs ideological fantasies in defiance of the historical record; I know which one I’m going to trust.

  5. There are some valid reasons to be concerned about the pace and financing of the HSR system, but there is NO doubt whatsoever that it will be a great benefit to the state in the future. Those nutter complaints here are just babble. In fact, there is a mountain of expert analysis on the project.

    It is impossible to predict the future fully, but the broad outlines of this project and of world climate change are known. Sadly, just because someone screams a lot and throws around insults it doesn’t make them right or even worth listening to. There were people like this, with little faith in the future, who didn’t want to build the Golden Gate bridge for many of the same reasons. Today it’s a good think no one listened to them.

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