June 2008 CHSRA Meeting Report
Dennis Lytton attended the CHSRA board meeting in Los Angeles on June 11, and wrote up this report of the meeting. The next meeting is July 8 in San Francisco. Thanks to Dennis for writing this! – Robert
HSR Board Meeting in LA:
The Spain/California Connection and the Coming Campaign
Early this month the High Speed Rail board traveled to Los Angeles Metro Headquarters for their monthly board meeting.
Newly appointed board member Tom Umberg was at the meeting. The board also voted, wisely, to keep Judge Kopp as chair.
It was also heartening to hear Republican appointee to the board Curt Pringle rail against UP’s opposition to the project. This is an opportunity for both the state and UP, Pringle opined. Things seem to have changed in the last several months as climate change and oil prices have brought mainstream Republicans in Congress together on boosting rail and public transit recently (see below). Maybe the state’s Republicans will finally come around.
In other business, the Authority entered into an agreement with Fresno COG to cooperate on their project to consolidate the two freight railroads together, BNSF and UP. Potentially, like the Alameda Corridor, this could lead to better passenger and freight train service while reducing the rail lines’ already small footprint (compared to freeways) through their community.
There was a fascinating presentation from the Infrastructure Management Group and Lehman Bros. They were hired as consultants by the Authority for the issue of bringing private equity investment into HSR. Their presentation to the board
Long story short, there’s lots of interest in it but it would require at least 60% public financing. Probably at least 75%. The good news is that if we get both the bond money and a matching federal amount under veto proof legislation (S.294 and HR 6003) pending in the Congress we are there. $20 billion S.F. to L.A. and beyond to Sacto and San Diego.
There was also a presentation from the L.A. to Palmdale consultant team on their planning work for the first several miles of the alignment north of Los Angeles Union Station. The Taylor Yards region around the current Metrolink yard has been a social justice issue for the neighboring Glassel Park neighborhood in Los Angeles. The consultants recognized the need to expand the developing Taylor Yards Park and also access to the L.A. River and are working with local stakeholders and elected officials staff to this end.
There was also a great presentation on the Spanish HSR system presented by Spanish HSR contractors and train manufacturers Talgo, Insolux Corsan, and Renfe. The Spanish will soon have the largest HSR system in the world. They have the added complication of having multiple track gauges in Spain, which we don’t have. More importantly however, Spain and California are comparable in terms of area and population. Spain’s conventional railways were also in poor shape by European standards 20 years ago.
At the end of the meeting I made public comment for my two groups, the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), and the Rail Passenger Association of California (RailPac). We are supporting getting the bond passed this November and are looking forward to working with the campaign and the grassroots/netroots on this important issue.
Also, reportedly, the campaign machine for HSR is ramping up. Kopp and Umberg are looking forward to a vigorous and well funded campaign for the project and expect some Republican support to be garnered up by board member and former Assembly Speaker Curt Pringle.
Just a few months ago I would have been doubtful about California Republican support. However, with the way gas and climate change have gone lately, and with Congressional Republicans recently joining House Democrats to pass a bill to aid local transit agencies to the tune of $1.7 billion over two years by a vote of 322-98, you’re got to wonder whether the anything-but-transit/trains Republicans like Tom McClintock will still dominate.