Will Curt Pringle Serve Another Term on the CHSRA Board?

Apr 27th, 2010 | Posted by

Curt Pringle was only recently made chairman of the California High Speed Rail Authority’s board of directors, but his term on the board runs out in December. It sounds like he wants another term:

And, while not specifically saying he wants to keep the job, Pringle said: “I have every intention to make sure the (rail planning) process is done well and the very best outcome occur.”…

Buena Park Mayor Art Brown, who sits on the board of the Orange County Transportation Authority along with Pringle, is also eyeing the position. Both Pringle and Schwarzenegger are Republicans but Brown is a Democrat.

Brown sought the high-speed rail seat four years ago “and Pringle beat me out of it,” said Brown, who is a Democrat. Nonetheless, “I’ll throw my hat in no matter who’s governor, Republican or Democrat.”

Art Brown has been critical of some elements of the HSR planning process, including the initial six-track proposal (including two dedicated HSR tracks), between LA and Anaheim, and played an important role in getting the Metro/OCTA letter drafted that called for track sharing studies.

I don’t think that disqualifies him to serve on the CHSRA board. But I see no compelling reason to not give Pringle another term. The HSR project benefits from continuous, ongoing leadership and with a new Executive Director coming on board soon, and particularly with Pringle only now being able to place his stamp on the project, it seems logical and legitimate to reappoint Pringle in December.

  1. Peter
    Apr 27th, 2010 at 16:38

    Completely off topic, but …

    Does anyone know what the status is on the Authority’s noise study that they are working on? Any idea when it is supposed to be released?

  2. rafael
    Apr 27th, 2010 at 17:34

    Russian “Sapsan” HSR going from prestige project to problem for Russian railways RZD.


    Conclusions: running trains at high speed on legacy track with retained grade crossings is now politically infeasible even in Russia. Having been ignored during the planning stages, individual residents near the tracks are now resorting to acts of sabotage.

    Implications for California: fully grade separated tracks with adequate quality and capacity for both legacy and new high speed rail service are essential. That doesn’t necessarily mean HSR has to have dedicated tracks in the LA-Anaheim or even the SF-SJ segments, but whatever they do run on will still need to be fully grade separated to avoid snarling up vehicular cross traffic and risking grade crossing accidents.

    Sharing track in these segments would require at least the following changes:

    1 – updated FRA/CPUC regulations on mixed traffic
    2 – integrated signaling feat. positive train control
    3a – timetable-based operations for all services in the corridor (or dedicated hours of operation)
    3b – integrated timetable and associated traffic control (=> close co-operation of multiple agencies)
    4 – easing of top speed mismatches (=> impacts on ridership forecast)
    5 – greater acceleration for legacy services (=> new lightweight rolling stock, mixed traffic issues)
    6 – bypass tracks in selected locations (preferably stations served by legacy services)
    7 – integrated planning and funding across rail operators

    In other words: many, many cans of worms. It’s not surprising that the bureaucrats at CHSRA are planning dedicated tracks for HSR throughout (except DTX tunnel in SF), in spite of the associated capex and resistance from nearby residents. Unless politicians force them to, their natural instinct is to stay out of each others’ turf if at all possible.

    Nathanael Reply:

    In the case of Russia, these are their first high speed trains… and apparently they’ll be able to use them on the new tracks (which they are planning to build). The Russian government will not suffer any prestige loss. It also has a long history of ignoring local residents in much worse ways than anything in the US (unless you’re a native American, of course).

    I have to agree with all your analysis of the implications for the US, of course.
    Now here’s the thing:
    1 – updated FRA/CPUC regulations on mixed traffic
    — absolutely essential for so many reasons it’s not funny. Let’s GET this. It’s a huge blocker for so many things.

    2 – integrated signaling feat. positive train control
    — available now, just buy ERTMS

    3a – timetable-based operations for all services in the corridor (or dedicated hours of operation)
    — trivial

    3b – integrated timetable and associated traffic control (=> close co-operation of multiple agencies)
    — straightforward — look at Metrolink/Coaster/Amtrak/BNSF in the LA-San Diego corridor.

    4 – easing of top speed mismatches (=> impacts on ridership forecast)
    — new (electrified) rolling stock. Highly desirable anyway.

    5 – greater acceleration for legacy services (=> new lightweight rolling stock, mixed traffic issues)
    — new (electrified) rolling stock. Highly desirable anyway.

    6 – bypass tracks in selected locations (preferably stations served by legacy services)
    — already planned, basically

    7 – integrated planning and funding across rail operators
    — I think we need this whether or not we have shared track. :-( But very complicated interagency projects seem to be managable worldwide, so I think they are in California too.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    straightforward — look at Metrolink/Coaster/Amtrak/BNSF in the LA-San Diego corridor.

    ….but but but BART doesn’t do it so it’s obviously impossible to do.. You just have to ignore all the places in the world where it’s done sucessfully.

    dejv Reply:

    In the case of Russia, these are their first high speed trains…

    Not exactly true – Sapsan runs at 250 km/h on tracks where other trains have run 200 km/h since 1970’s.

  3. Alon Levy
    Apr 27th, 2010 at 19:02

    But I see no compelling reason to not give Pringle another term.

    You mean aside from the fact that his pet project, the LA-Anaheim section and ARTIC, is the only one that’s gone over budget so far?

  4. HSRComingSoon
    Apr 27th, 2010 at 23:52

    Keep Pringle on the Board. He has done a good job thus far; he is not like Kopp, and it’s good to have someone who is more politically moderate, regardless of his party affiliation. Moreover, it’s good to have institutional memory remain in leadership positions as the project evolves from planning to construction. Plus, he would have more time to devote to HSR once his term is up as mayor of Anaheim come December. On the other hand, can we get new members representing Northern California who are supportive of the project, not agenda driven, know what they’re talking about and also know the political lay of the land? Or am I asking too much?

  5. TomW
    Apr 28th, 2010 at 06:08

    I dislike how a board member’s party affilication is considered relevant to their abilty to oversee sucha major project. Their membership of teh board shoudl be based on their skills, not their politics.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    True. And so far, Pringle has made Kopp and Diridon look like models of efficiency and cost control. Part of it is not his fault: his section is truly redundant, unlike Kopp and Diridon’s, which means that part of the cost excess on it was there before he came on board (cf. San Jose, where the Diridon Intergalactic complex’s size is entirely due to Diridon). But instead of reining in costs, Pringle caved in to tunnel demands, leading to cost escalations before dirt was ever turned.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    But instead of reining in costs, … caved in to …, leading to cost escalations before dirt was ever turned.

    You’ve not heard of the SJ-SF “alternatives” analysis, I take it?

    Quick: name just one party with any non-zero influence involved anywhere in the process who has any interest in cost containment.

    Oh no! Please Mr Local Community, don’t throw us in the briar patch of over built, super expensive, unnecessary civil engineering! That would be the worst thing ever to happen to us poor widdle old engineering consultancies! Oh noes!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    That’s what I mean when I say Pringle makes Kopp and Diridon look like angels. The SF-SJ gem du jour is SSFF, which is bad, but not quite as bad as burying the HSR tracks and leaving the commuter tracks at grade.

    (And, while we’re at it, even Pringle can’t hold a candle to the brilliance of New York’s planners. The city’s new proof-of-payment bus line makes the bus sit aside for five minutes while the inspectors board, check everyone’s tickets, and drive off in their SUV. Give me BART to San Jose and the Foothills Extension over that any day.)

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    As long as board members are appointed by the governor, such things will matter.

    Although not to me. I’m a vice-chair of my county Democratic Party, but don’t mind seeing a former Republican Speaker of the Assembly reappointed if he’s doing a good job for HSR.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    I think he is doing a good job…stability and funding are what the project needs right now ..At this critical
    point quality longer term board members and staff are a must.

    Nadia Reply:

    They’re not all appointed by the Governor – from the website: Kopp is appointed by Senate President Pro Tempore, Umberg and Burns by the Speaker of the Assembly.

    I thought Diridon’s appointment was actually done in December 2009? Anyone know everyone’s various terms?

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Right, thanks for the clarification. Didn’t mean to imply all members are appointed by the governor.

  6. jimsf
    Apr 28th, 2010 at 09:26

    Well what I don’t like… where is the northern california representation. What I see happening is that Southern California will get a project and Northern California will be on indefinite hold. There is still a sense down south that north of the Tehachapis is nothing but wasteland. I want good representation.

    Peter Reply:

    Where in the state are the other board members from? It’s not as if there’s no voice for Norcal or the Bay Area on the board…

    jimsf Reply:

    I don’t know. What I do know is that LA likes to screw over norcal if they can get away with it. Luckily, norcal folks are far more poliically active than people in socal so we can stop them. But it doesn’t keep them from trying every chance they get ( I love LA by the way.. but still, im just saying…. they are always up to no good)

    Sara Armstrong Reply:

    SoCal 4; NorCal 3; CV 2, which actually seems pretty reasonable from a representational standpoint.

    Curt Pringle – Anaheim
    Tom Umberg – Orange County
    David Crane – San Francisco
    Rod Diridon, Sr. – San Jose
    Richard Katz – Sherman Oaks (LA Co)
    Lynn Schenk – San Diego
    Fran Florez – Shafter (north of Bakersfield)
    Judge Quentin L. Kopp – San Francisco
    Russ Burns – Sacramento (I think)

    I think is more about the quality of the people than the geographic distribution

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    I’d actually support someone from SD or the Central Valley being the chair, regardless of what happens to Pringle. Both of those areas of the state have a vested interest in seeing HSR succeed, while defusing the whole North-South political tension over transit dollars.

  7. synonymouse
    Apr 28th, 2010 at 11:15

    Maybe LaLaLand hsr gurus will wake up to the stupidity of the Tehachapi detour.

    There is a new California fault map: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/04/28/california-officials-unveil-new-seismic-map/

    Maybe they will find a crack under the holiest of holies Tehachapi Loop.

    Peter Reply:

    Does it give you a warm fuzzy feeling inside that you are the only one who thinks that base tunnels through fault lines are the way to go?

    synonymouse Reply:

    It has been working for BART for 40 years.

    Peter Reply:

    With a base tunnel? Miles from the tunnel portal? *raises eyebrow*


    synonymouse Reply:

    The odds of damage to the hsr in a base tunnel thru the Garlock Fault are similar to the odds of damage to a Tehachapis alignment from a quake similar to 1952.

    Very, very long and acceptable odds – you are about as likely to be beamed aboard a ufo as to be in an earthquake while traversing a base tunnel thru Tejon.

    Joey Reply:

    Oh, it’s not so much a question of damage as it is repairing the damage…

    Peter Reply:

    Like Joey said, it’s not an issue of whether damage will occur (it will occur whether in tunnel, at-grade, or aerial/berm), it’s a matter of how long repairs would take and how many people are likely to be killed if a fault line goes while a train is transitioning the tunnel. I guess that the potential for a gruesome death toll would fit in your weird population control ideas, though.

    Peter Reply:


    Joey Reply:

    Of course! Because we should all follow BART’s brilliant engineering practices!

    Joey Reply:

    And the fate of the Berkeley Hills Tunnel will be a wildcard when the next big earthquake hits…

    synonymouse Reply:

    The incidental danger posed by the Garlock Fault pales in comparison to the perennial danger of non-profitability caused by a gratuitous 90 mile detour.

    Joey Reply:

    Subjective analysis. Unless you have a ridership study to back this up, there’s not point repeating it.

    synonymouse Reply:

    BART to SFO proved ridership studies aren’t worth the paper they are written on. If you want this thing to succeed why would you opt for longer and slower?

    Take a cue from a real world, successfull rr, the UP, which is downgrading the longer Feather River route in favor of the more direct Donner line. The base tunnels are worth the investment.

    Samsonian Reply:

    You keep bringing up the Donner Pass and Feather River lines. So I did about 5 little minutes of research, and big surprise–you don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s more complicated than that.

    UPRR effectively consolidated Donner Pass and Feather River to be one route, with westbound primarily on Donner and eastbound primarily on Feather River. Feather River has only 1% grades and better clearances allowing double stack, but its achilles heel is that it’s susceptible to landslides and flooding, costing far more to maintain.

    Donner has steeper grades and, until recently, restricted clearances preventing double stack, but its route appears to be more maintainable. UPRR recently completed a big capital project to increase the clearances on Donner, allowing double stack.

    It appears UPRR’s decision was about increasing capacity, but particularly about maintainability and its associated costs, and little to do with however slightly more direct Donner may be over Feather River (they’re parallel and close to each other).

    It’s ironic that UPRR made its decision about maintainability, yet you use that to make the case for a base tunnel through multiple fault lines.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Rumors persist that the UP is drifting towards mothballing or selling off the Feather River route. Only time will tell. Nice to have a secondary route in case of trouble but expensive to maintain.

    The hsr will find the Tehachapi detour not only exacts a travel time penalty but will cost more to maintain and operate because of the significantly longer route mileage. Dumb move but typical of a political project.

    jimsf Reply:

    There is no base tunnel through a fault on bart. If you are referring to the berkeley hills tunnel, that isnt a base tunnel one, that tunnel is halfway up the grade. If it were a base tunnel it would start at macarthur and two, the point at which that tunnel crosses the fault is both just inside the western portal and not very deep. In other words, very accessible.

    jimsf Reply:

    with hsr current route all the main fault crossings will be at grade and this allows for one, safety, two, regular annual maintenance/adjustment to account for creep, and three, easy surface repairs after an event.

    Here is an interesting breakdown of the fault by segment Note the “central segment” (parkfield to cajon pass) which includes the the grapevine and tehachapi routes choices, where . The central segment has been fairly quiet since 1857, but research shows a long history of great ruptures that will not stop. that “great ruptures will not stop” on this portion says to me, hey maybe we better run the train on top in an open space and not through a deep tunnel at point where the fault meets another fault.

    Peter Reply:

    But synonymouse and Richard Tolmach are both smarter than all of us put together.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Obviously the term base tunnel is somewhat relative and vague. AFAIK the two Tejon area tunnels parallel to but east of the Grapevine would not be at the deepest level but would provide a fast, direct and presumably all-weather escape from LA.

    The BART Berkeley Hills tunnel demonstrates how to cope with an active fault.

    It can be done and with a risk level acceptable to the private sector. I suggest that a private entrepreneur would summarily veto the Tehachapis route as a built-in handicap. a major contributor to the likelihood of ongoing operating deficits.

    The Tejon tunnel damage risk is being blown totally out of proportion, especially when you compare it to the risk levels that rich and powerful private corporations take on in the real world of profit-seeking. Off-shore oil platfroms are vastly more dangerous and much more expensive to repair than deep tunnels thru faults yet even your pc prez inists on it.

    Supermacho on drilling wells but wooz on drilling tunnels. dumbkopf

    Peter Reply:

    The word is “Dummkopf”.


    synonymouse Reply:

    Where is that investment grade outside and independent evaluation?

    Brian Stanke Reply:

    Ever heard of this company SNCF? They are offering a 40% matching investment in the system.

    I mean at this point who really cares about how good or bad the Authority’s numbers are* if Chinese, Japanese, and French companies are all COMPETING for the right to invest $12 billion+ they must have good enough numbers to show themselves they will make money on the deal. As long as our legislature makes sure that it is the foreign investors, and not the state, are on the hook if the the numbers don’t pan out, let the investors do their own numbers, bring their, money and let’s start building.

    *O.K. I really want the Authority to have good numbers because the better we know the potential of the system the harder bargain the state can drive visa-vi the investors.

    Peter Reply:

    Don’t you remember his comment of “On ignore la SNCF”? They don’t matter.

    synonymouse Reply:

    French tv coverage of the Greece-Portugal-Spain-Italy-Ireland proto-default wories that France might be hit by the falling dominos. The SNCF may not be in any position for any overseas financial adventures.

    The entry of foreign investors onto the scene would be a welcome development. It would bring with it the hard-nosed analysis of the CHSRA scheme which has been so sorely lacking. Be nice to see the investors demanding a veto over the route.

    Brian Stanke Reply:

    Sorry to break your bubble synonymouse but Britain and the US are far closer to default on their debts than France or Germany. Yes some Socialist countries are better with their budgets than the Anglo “free-marketeer” ones are. Besides their is always Japan and China. Or do they now count either?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Both Germany and France have right-wing governments with Reaganite, privatizing pretensions..

    Peter Reply:

    “Both Germany and France have right-wing governments with Reaganite, privatizing pretensions..”

    Oh, wow, your understanding of the countries is as poor as your understanding of the languages. Go watch some more Fox News.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Le P.S. n’est plus au pouvoir. Sarko, c’est un homme de droite.

    Brian Stanke Reply:

    Five minutes and Wikipedia brings:
    “Sarkozy appointed Bernard Kouchner, the left-wing founder of Médecins Sans Frontières, as his foreign minister, leading to Kouchner’s expulsion from the Socialist Party. In addition to Kouchner, three more Sarkozy ministers are from the left, including Eric Besson, who served as Ségolène Royal’s economic adviser at the beginning of her campaign.

    On 8 June 2007, during the 33rd G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Sarkozy set a goal of reducing French CO2 emissions by 50 percent by 2050 in order to prevent global warming. He then pushed forward Socialist Dominique Strauss-Kahn as European nominee to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).[

    However, as a result of the global financial crisis that came to a head in September 2008, Sarkozy has returned to the state interventionism of his predecessors, declaring that “laissez-faire capitalism is over” and denouncing the “dictatorship of the market”. Confronted with the suggestion that he had become a socialist, he responded: “Have I become socialist? Perhaps.” He has also pledged to create 100,000 state-subsidised jobs.”

    Just to repeat the last one could anyone here imagine Obama saying to the media, “Have I become socialist? Perhaps.” and then promising to create hundreds of thousands of government jobs? No Sarkozy is far more left-wing than any major US politician.

    Au contraire, Sarkozy est beaucoup plus à gauche que n’importe quel politicien important des États-Unis.

    Clem Reply:

    Our very own Richard Mlynarik has a great collection of documents on the BART Berkeley Hills tunnel. The Hayward fault is 700 feet in from the western portal, but the tunnel crosses several other fault zones.

    I liked this part: the tunnel was not designed for “tectonic offset”.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Sorry about the german term which was not meant to refer to a stupid person but to a dumb approach. I should have used the French as in folie ou betise.

    My overall point is that the nervous nellie fear-mongering over Tejon tunnels is ill-advised. The advantages way outweigh the dangers. I think you guys are too close to the forest. Tolmach is right – go for the gusto. The Tejon tunnels save much more time than miles and mile of blighty berms.

    And forget about Palmdale. A station south of the tunnels in the northern part of the LA basin would tap a market every bit as large. Like Ventura and Santa Barbara.

    Peter Reply:

    Like the “nervous nellie fear-mongering” over berms and aerials and noise?

    The one issue is about safety (of people in trains in tunnels crossing fault lines), and the other is about property values. Hmmm, which one do you think is more important.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Property values are much more important. “Money doesn’t talk; it swears.” And you have to confront the blight every damn day, just like paying taxes to subsidize the operating deficits.

    No investor is going to accept Bechtel’s numbers at face value – they are going to do their own analysis. The question is are we talking about an at-risk, venture capital type investment or a guaranteed, secured loan. The latter is tantamount to a tax-supported bond issue. Or are you going to mortgage ownership of the line itself to the “investors”. Repo time if no profits and no repayment?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    …as long as you realize that fast frequent train service increases property values. People pay premium prices to be near a train station.

    Brian Stanke Reply:

    “Property values are much more important [than human lives].” ok, in your own words you tell the world where you stand.

  8. jimsf
    Apr 28th, 2010 at 11:53

    I remember in the 70s or 80s I think there was a southern california lawmaker who said that if LA wanted to, it would dam the golden gate and take all the water. Well, that sure made everyone mad and the peripheral canal was stopped dead in its tracks. So don’t try pulling any stunts down there, we are keeping an eye you.

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