Thursday, February 19, 2009

Trains, Planes, Automobiles and Plenty of Sun; San Diego Invites Comparisons with Hawaii

SAN DIEGO, CA – A short getaway to California’s southern-most city for a battery recharge offers sights not often or never seen back home.

Take last night’s green flash – observable from hundreds of restaurants and other vantage spots along the California coast. You have to be defiant or indifferent to not see the setting sun here, unlike just about all of Oahu east of the Waianae Mountains.

Then there are the clouds, of which there are none. This cloudless weather partially explains why the solar energy industry here seems to be in super expansion mode despite the economy (with 1100 solar installers and contractors in San Diego County alone!).

A Different Kind of Train

Cars are everywhere during commuter drive time, of course, but some workers travel by “commuter rail” – combinations of double-decked passenger cars pulled by robust-looking engines that look like they could take on the Sierras. These trains run at grade and therefore pose a hazard to drivers and pedestrians. The tracks parallel the coast, so their engines have graphics painted on their sides to warn off the surfers who cross the tracks to reach the beach.

Unfortunate encounters with surfers and cars will be impossible once Honolulu’s rail project is up and running. Honolulu’s trains not only will be lighter and of a completely different design but will ride on elevated guideways above the surface traffic. Commuters will be immune to at-grade congestion and potential hazards.

Series of Benchmarks

The rail project has been moving ahead smartly in recent weeks. A Request For Proposals has been issued for a design-build contract for the first 6.5 miles of the elevated guideway between Kapolei and West Loch. Potential vendors have until March 13 to respond on this first segment, which is valued between $550-600 million.

The project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement comment period closed early this month after several hundred comments were received. They’re now being processed, and all comments will be included in an appendix to the Final EIS that will be released this summer.

The Federal Transit Administration likely will issue a Record of Decision on the project this Fall, which is when a design/build contract is expected to be awarded for the project’s first phase. Groundbreaking is still set for late this year.

As for planes, all those high-rises near the airport were built since the last time we flew into San Diego. We wouldn’t exactly use “cozy” to describe the feeling you get looking up at apartments as your plane touches down….


Anonymous said...

Now, can you please explain what a "commuter rail" is to Sean Hao of the Advertiser?

Doug Carlson said...

Heh...I see you're back with the same complaint. Maybe I should snap a few photos of the "commuter rail" train before I leave San Diego!