Saturday, August 27, 2016

The More We Find the Present Wanting

HSR car: $68 billion doesn't buy what it used to.
The California State Railroad Museum is mainly about the past, but during this week's trip we spent a few minutes on the glorious future, i.e., high-speed rail. Current estimates are that HSR will cost $68 billion when it's completed in 2029. Even that may be a stretch.

The seismic and tunneling issues in mountain ranges were known about when the project was approved, but the assumptions regarding solutions now seem highly optimistic.

Today's problems are trivial, however, compared to the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad:
the Chinese workers accomplished amazing and dangerous feats no other workers would or could do. They blasted tunnels through the solid granite -- sometimes progressing only a foot a day. They often lived in the tunnels as they worked their way through the solid granite, saving precious time and energy from entering and exiting the worksite each day. They were routinely lowered down sheer cliff faces in makeshift baskets on ropes where they drilled holes, filled them with explosives, lit the fuse and then were yanked up as fast as possible to avoid the blast.
The Chinese workers, who averaged 4'10" and 120 pounds, helped to complete the 1,907-mile project in six years. California high-speed rail will cover 800+ miles and will take 14 years to complete, if we're lucky.

The more we examine the past the more we find the present wanting.

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