Rural Texans Unhappy With HSR Plan

Nov 24th, 2014 | Posted by

The backers of the Texas Central Railway plan to build high speed rail from Dallas to Houston have often tried to claim they’re somehow doing things better than California’s high speed rail plan, particularly their pledge not to use public funding.

But they are discovering that it doesn’t matter who pays for it – rural landowners still get cranky when proposing to run a rail line through their area:

Yet the reception has been less rosy from rural communities that will be on or near a possible train route. Officials and residents have expressed concern about the noise from trains whizzing past their quiet towns dozens of times a day and about a track dividing farmland and reducing property values.

“I haven’t heard anything positive about it whatsoever,” said Byron Ryder, the county judge in Leon County, which is about halfway between Dallas and Houston. “I’ve talked to other judges and commissioners up and down the line, landowners up and down the line. No one wants it.”

Texas is discovering that NIMBYism doesn’t know the difference between red states and blue states – and that NIMBYs don’t care whether or not government is paying for something they hate.

What will be interesting is to see how Texas Central deals with this. Are they going to turn to the government and use their eminent domain power to force reluctant landowners to sell? Will they shell out extra money to engineer the route to avoid the noisiest landowners?

No matter what the answer, it goes to show that California HSR hasn’t necessarily done anything wrong at all in its efforts in the Central Valley regarding rural landowners. Some people you just can’t reach. It also suggests that Texas HSR should not be quite so smug when comparing their project to California’s.

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Japanese Maglev Test Reaches 500 km/h

Nov 20th, 2014 | Posted by

Japan has built a 27-mile long maglev test track in Yamanashi Prefecture, and last week began running a series of new tests with passengers. These trains achieved speeds of 500 km/h, or just above 300 miles per hour. The BBC sent a camera crew to record one of the journeys, which included winners of a contest to ride the test train:

My invitation must have been lost in the mail.

Before people start whining about how California should be doing this instead of its current HSR plan, Japan already has built out a national high speed rail network. California should do that first before considering anything like maglev.

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Jim Costa Likely Wins Re-election

Nov 19th, 2014 | Posted by

After trailing on election night, Congressman Jim Costa – a key figure in the development of the California high speed rail project – appears to have finally won re-election:

For the second time in the past three elections, Fresno Democrat Jim Costa has rallied from an election night vote deficit to win reelection to Congress.

Costa, 62, has a lead of more than 800 votes, and all that awaits is a final report later Wednesday from Fresno County, his strongest part of the 16th Congressional District.

For Costa’s opponent, Johnny Tacherra, to have a chance of winning, the unheralded Republican dairyman from rural Fresno County needed an overwhelming victory margin in the remaining votes from Merced and Madera counties — which to date had been his strongest parts of the district. Both counties finished their vote counts, and Tacherra, 39, actually lost ground to Costa. To have even had a chance of catching Costa, Tacherra would have had to win more than 80% of those votes.

In other words, this election battle is over and Costa has again narrowly prevailed.

The question is what happens from here. 2016 is likely to be a much better year for Costa. But what about 2018? I’m purely speculating here, but Costa may come under pressure from Democrats to retire before 2016 and open up the seat for a Democratic candidate to win it then and be in a better position to hold it in 2018. Costa, of course, could respond by saying that he’s now survived two tough re-election battles (2010 and 2014) and is the more reliable pick to hold the seat.

This is good news for the California high speed rail project. A Costa defeat would not have meaningfully hurt the project, but having Costa in Congress, with his knowledge of the project and his seniority, is a big plus for HSR. Democrats will take the Congress back sooner or later, hopefully in 2016, and when that occurs Costa will be in an excellent position to help guide further development of high speed rail.

Another Central Valley Democrat and strong HSR supporter, John Garamendi, had been considering a bid for the ranking member position on the House’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. That would have put him in line to chair the committee when Democrats retake the House majority. But Garamendi ultimately decided to defer to Oregon’s Peter DeFazio, who had more seniority than Garamendi.

Finally, Peninsula Congresswoman Anna Eshoo lost her bid to be the ranking member on the House Energy Committee to New Jersey’s Frank Pallone. It’s not clear what impact this has on HSR exactly, but I thought I’d mention it anyway.

Nancy Pelosi remains the Minority Leader and, should Democrats retake the House in 2016, she would again become Speaker. We can only hope such a glorious day arrives soon.

Saturday Open Thread

Nov 15th, 2014 | Posted by

Been in New Orleans for the last week and just returned. Probably should have put more open threads and scheduled posts up. Oh well! More HSR posts coming tomorrow.