Getting the Reporting Right on HSR Cost Estimates

Aug 29th, 2011 | Posted by

Tim Sheehan of the Fresno Bee has a new article out at California Watch on the “ballooning” costs of high speed rail. It’s a classic example of how the media in the United States obscure more than they reveal in their reporting, and shows the unstated assumptions that often drive reporting on public spending.

Sheehan’s article sets the tone in its intro:

For two years, the California High-Speed Rail Authority said it could build 520 miles of high-speed train tracks between San Francisco and Los Angeles for about $43 billion.

But that figure – long derided as unrealistic by critics – went off the rails this month when the authority released detailed environmental reports for its proposed Merced-Fresno [PDF] and Fresno-Bakersfield [PDF] sections, the first two segments the agency wants to start building next year.

The assumptions in the first two paragraphs are clear:

• Government always lies
• Government claims are objects of derision
• Critics of government spending are always neutral, even heroic people who never bring any biases to the table
• Cost overruns are always treated as a sign of a project that is in trouble, rather than a sign of a project that is becoming more accurate and effective in its estimates.

The other move that the media makes is to ignore the low estimate and assume the high estimate is the most likely to be realized:

The authority’s most optimistic estimates for the San Joaquin Valley sections alone total about $10 billion; route choices could run the price to $13.9 billion.

That’s a far cry from the 2009 estimate of $8.1 billion.

If projected costs can rise by as much as 71 percent in the Valley – a relatively flat, straightforward stretch – what will happen when tracks must be built through mountains and across cities in the Bay Area or Southern California?

If costs escalate statewide as much as in the Valley, the price to build the system from San Francisco to Anaheim could leap from the 2009 estimate of $43 billion to as much as $67.3 billion, even before buying any trains.

Actually, $10 billion isn’t a far cry from the 2009 estimate. And the graphic that accompanies the article indicates that the low-end estimate for the entire SF-LA-Anaheim route is still $48 billion, which isn’t much higher than the $43 billion estimate from 2009.

Sheehan does spend a lot of time actually explaining why the costs have gone up, noting the different options for constructing the segment in the Central Valley. He gives a lot of quotes to members of the CHSRA, including CEO Roelof van Ark and board member Lynn Schenk:

Lynn Schenk, a former congresswoman from San Diego and a member of the rail authority’s board, said the 2009 plan was created in “an atmosphere of wishes, hopes and faith, and … was more of a sales and marketing piece” than a reliable prediction of costs.

Schenk said the October business plan will be “just about our last chance to rebuild confidence in this project, and us, that we can get this done” in the face of growing statewide concern over the rail project.

Van Ark also understands the implications of the new business plan, which will detail not only the costs for the statewide system, but also how the authority expects to pay for it.

And, he added, it will paint a much more realistic picture than the 2009 plan.

“We – I say we even though I wasn’t around – we were a little bit optimistic in those days,” van Ark said.

This suggests that the new estimates are much more accurate and, therefore, less likely to rise. Earlier estimates were made based on less detailed information, and therefore had less certainty. Sheehan’s article criticizes the new cost estimates, but in fact they should be praised for being more realistic.

Of course, the main failing of the article is the same failing that most members of the media make when assessing the cost of a big project – there’s no discussion of the costs of not building high speed rail. Those costs have been estimated at $100 billion. Readers ought to have been given that information, which is important to an honest and accurate assessment of the costs and benefits of the project.

I’m not saying Sheehan is a bad reporter. He’s a very good one, and has shown a good understanding of the details of the project. The problem is instead with the basic assumptions and biases of investigative journalism these days, where government is assumed to be lying or lacking controls, where critics are never shown to have anything other than neutral intentions, and where the bigger picture of costs and benefits tends to not get shown. It may help get more eyeballs on a story. But I’m not sure it helps get us better public policies.

  1. Michael
    Aug 29th, 2011 at 21:13
    #1

    6.8 miles of widened I-5 in LA. $1.6 billion.
    http://www.metro.net/projects_studies/30-10_highway/images/AHP_I_5_Widenign_HOV.pdf

    Another document, which I can’t find right now, listed something like (and this is from memory) 300 properties will be acquired for the project.

    Part of the cost of doing nothing. It isn’t cheap to widen an urban freeway when there’s no ROW (landscaping) left from past widenings.

    peninsula Reply:

    So the cost of doing nothing = cost of freeways. And are you saying HSR would prevent this particular freeway widening? When the vast majority of vehicles on that road are likely either a) local commuters and/or b) commercial? How would the cost of doing ‘something’ called HSR actually prevent this expenditure on road work? It wouldn’t. We’d be doing both.

    Cost o
    Here’s the equation: Where
    “cost of doing nothing” = freeway and airport building, then,
    The cost of doing HSR = Cost of HSR + Cost of doing nothing.

    Joey Reply:

    Building HSR would theoretically free up some capacity at existing airports and on existing roads such that some future expansions would be unnecessary. Then again traffic to/from stations might increase traffic on some regional corridors. And then there’s the fact that if all you wanted to do was reduce traffic/road expansion you’d be better off investing in local and regional transport. It’s a complicated issue.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Traffic to/from stations would be equivalent to the same portion of an intercity road trip, and if the closest HSR station is on average closer than the closest equivalent airport, then would be a net reduction compared to the drive to the airport.

    If all you wanted to do was to eliminate traffic/road expansion, you’d invest across the board. But of course, before going all out on local common carrier transport, you’d have to have the operating subsidies lined up.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    What about induced trips?

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    The LA-ANA and LA-IRV segment will actually directly affect this section by drawing commuter traffic (and speeding up Metrolink).

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    I doubt it. The LA-IRV section is probably going to make Metrolink service damn near impossible.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Because…? If they decide to simply continue with the 90-110mph of LA-ANA, it’s going to be a simple matter of catenary and signals is all.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Oops. Hehehe. I meant LA-IE section. The LA to OC stretch of track that Metrolink uses has already been conceived as a triple track, so you are right. My bad.

    trentbridge Reply:

    Part of the cost of doing nothing is the realistic expectation that, as capacity is constrained by lack of airport development, air fares rise substantially between LA and SFO. Restricted supply meeting increased demand results in higher airfares. If you live in Orange County the cost of not developing El Toro as an airport to replace John Wayne is substantially higher fares to anywhere. Furthermore, it is not economic for most airlines to waste a landing slot at John Wayne to shuttle passengers to the Bay Area when longer-distance flights back East generate more revenue.

    Derek Reply:

    Los Angeles is about to start construction on a $290 million, 25-mile ($11.6 million per mile) alternative to doing nothing: http://www.metro.net/projects/expresslanes/

    At that price, extending it all the way to San Francisco would cost only $5 billion, compared with $43 billion for HSR.

    William Reply:

    It is a project to convert HOV to HOT lane, and buy some new bus. No ROW expansion = low price tag.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    It’s pretty sad that it is that expensive as it is however.

    Derek Reply:

    Is it too expensive for permanent congestion relief, something even HSR can’t achieve?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    How is an HOT lane more of a congestion relief than an HOV lane?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    If only you’d been to community college you’d understand.

    What’s that? The price signals … they’re … trying .. to tell me .. something. I must … what? I must … kill my landlord! Is that that … the signals … are saying? Must obey … must obey … the price … signals.

    Derek Reply:

    Actually, for permanent congestion relief, they need to be pure express toll lanes. HOT lanes can still get congested with nonpaying high-occupancy vehicles.

    joe Reply:

    “Conversion of HOV lanes to HOT lanes” costs 11.6 M per mile.

    Let’s convert one lane between LAX and SFO via I-5 to HOT. Using the national ave rate per mile of 0.12 per mile, the 380 miles is about 47 dollars each way.

    $47 is about the amount a HSR opponent will quote for the cost of an airline ticket.

    Adding the per diem cost, 0.55 per mile, the trip is 255 dollars one way. About the price of wanting to fly on demand between the two cities.

    I think HSR can compete with 255 between LAX and SFO.

    Derek Reply:

    Express toll prices rise and fall throughout the day to keep the HOT lanes mostly but not completely full at all times. This permanently eliminates traffic congestion.

    If the rush hour price were $255, do you think the I-5 would still be mostly full at rush hour, or is that price too high?

    Would the redeye price be competitive with HSR?

    joe Reply:

    Maybe. Maybe companies will move rather than pay the price – that’s part of the free-market solution – corporations leave.

    But have you driven I-5 as a red-eye? I have never been successful trying to drive that hypnotic road and have to pull over and rent a motel room. It is monotonous. I have driven 24 hours straight like to MT and other long road trips but I-5 is a killer.

    Derek Reply:

    Yes, some companies will move, but others will adapt. They’ll offer flexible hours, they’ll schedule deliveries outside of rush hour, and they’ll move more freight by rail.

    The consumer and taxpayer wins when we stop overbuilding the freeways.

  2. Paulus Magnus
    Aug 29th, 2011 at 22:01
    #2

    • Government always lies
    • Government claims are objects of derision

    Pretty generally true.

    Actually, $10 billion isn’t a far cry from the 2009 estimate

    It’s a 25% increase in cost, which is fairly major. I suspect actually bidded and awarded costs will be closer to the 8 billion mark (assuming the 10 billion route) due to the recession, but that won’t last the whole project.

    And the graphic that accompanies the article indicates that the low-end estimate for the entire SF-LA-Anaheim route is still $48 billion, which isn’t much higher than the $43 billion estimate from 2009.

    And was the $43 billion estimate low end or a higher end estimate with a high probability of not being overrun? Furthermore, has the rest of the system gone through the same detailed engineering work which has resulted in the raised costs of the CV route?

    Peter Reply:

    “has the rest of the system gone through the same detailed engineering work which has resulted in the raised costs of the CV route?”

    From what I can tell, all the sections from San Jose to LAUS have gone through detailed engineering, though none are quite as far advanced as Merced to Bakersfield.

  3. Chris
    Aug 30th, 2011 at 07:19
    #3

    “This suggests that the new estimates are much more accurate and, therefore, less likely to rise. Earlier estimates were made based on less detailed information, and therefore had less certainty.”

    The new estimate should be equally likely to rise as the previous one, if the previous one was not systematically understated. They should both be just as likely to rise as to fall. It’s nonsensical to offer an estimated cost with the tacit understanding that the actual cost will very likely be higher, and to the extent boosters of any project are doing that they deserve to be taken down a peg for it.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    In-credible isn’t it?

    Redefinition of “estimate”: the guaranteed minimum.
    (“Overestimate” is thus oxymoronic in Cruickshankese, and “underestimate” a tautology.)

    joe Reply:

    Why isn’t cost estimation error random?

    Budget, Risk and Schedule are linked. As the project goes forward the likelihood of dropping requirements and retiring risks at no cost is less than the likelihood of adding requirements and finding risks to mitigate.

    So it’s common for a budget to increase since the requirements are likely to increase and risks are uncovered and it’s common to have the budget stabilize when requirements and risk stabilize – i.e. the design is complete and TBDs are known.

    Since these factors varying with cost are not random, cost estimation errors are not random.

    I’m sure the private sector is different but where? Software projects rarely come in under budet and in time. Internal run and consultant run and etc. They often drop requirements and slip schedule.

    Now if you run projects with enough slack to allow for substancial under runs during planning you’ll find the stake holders take the slack away as soon as you identify it. This also what the Project manager does to the sub-element leads – all slack belongs to the project manager.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Oh OK. Got it. They’re deliberately committing fraud, since they know risk is high — but make no allowance for it — and they know requirements do change — but include no contingencies. And doing so qualifies them for even larger undertakings and more responsibility.

    All this stuff can be and has been measured, across a large number of projects, but they choose to ignore those data and instead lie systematically about project costs, benefits and schedules, in order to push a pre-determined “solution” at all costs past some bad-money-after-good point of no return.

    Oh, and the people who “evaluate” and “estimate” are the very same people who profit from cost overruns.

    What a strange world this is in which (presumably) disinterested members of the public make an effort to defend this sort of unethical and unprofessional looting of the public commonwealth.

    Clem Reply:

    Sounds like joe might work in aerospace for government customers. The parallels are sad indeed.

    joe Reply:

    “They’re deliberately committing fraud, since they know risk is high — but make no allowance for it —
    What a strange world this is in which (presumably) disinterested members of the public make an effort to defend this sort of unethical and unprofessional looting of the public commonwealth.”

    I make no excuses. You failed to contribute any counter example. How are risks and retirement changes normally distributed? Why should cost estimate erro be random if reqs are more likely to increase and risks identified?

    You use common problems to personalize and attack individuals and public transportation projects which deviate from your personal preferences. There are systematic problems in all projects across hard and soft industries public and private.

    1) The uncertainty is high, the project is given new requirements. Risks are identified.

    “the people who “evaluate” and “estimate” are the very same people who profit from cost overruns.”
    2) Systematic problem across private and public sector – private projects do NOT come in under cost meeting full requirements and schedule as often as they overrun. It is not 50-50. You take across cutting problem for private and public, internal and outsourced and use it to push your narrow biases.

    You give no examples that unbiased estimation error is a common characteristic that should be expected, that the cost drivers are random or distributed normally. What industry?

    Fraud.
    3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Rich gave a public talk on the F-117 and how he and his team came in under cost by reusing avionics that he was investigated for fraud for over estimating the project cost.
    If you run a firm that does over estimate costs – it’s probable you’ll be investigated for fraud – padding your budget. Putting unknown unknowns in a cost estimate is padding.

    Chris Reply:

    If the requirements are likely to increase or new risks to be uncovered, an allowance for that should be made in the initial estimate, or that initial estimate should clearly be presented as a minimum baseline that is expected to grow as more information becomes available.

    The private sector is only different in that taxpayers aren’t being asked to front the money for the projects – though that is an enormous difference! Otherwise the incentives are the same – project planners tend to have all the reason in the world to be as deceptive as they can get away with in understating costs and getting as much money sunk into a project as fast as possible. Going over budget just leads to more money being pumped into their trough, while as you point out coming under budget can be embarassing/suspicious. It’s completely understandable why project planners deliberately understate costs, but when they do it’s fair to label the practice as deceptive.

  4. Andrew
    Aug 30th, 2011 at 08:25
    #4

    off topic – I would be grateful if someone could post a link to the proposed location(s) for the Hanford/Visalia station

    Alon Levy Reply:

    http://dl5.activatedirect.com/fs/distribution:wl/z1cmuaeryp1blc/ztcwpedvw9tqf3/daid/zvh40tbg8qhmwy?_c=d|z1cmuaeryp1blc|zvh40tbg8qhmwy&_ce=1311707273.c4d9a51ee8214744da625b4812e3a2e6

    Andrew Reply:

    Thank you Alon

  5. Risenmessiah
    Aug 30th, 2011 at 08:59
    #5

    Actually, what I came away with is that the author didn’t do that great of a job explaining what would drive potential cost increases. And that if you look at the chart, costs for HSR might not expand that much at all, depending on what they do. Which begs the question: did Sheehan write something more complete and his editors cut it down?

  6. morris brown
    Aug 30th, 2011 at 12:43
    #6

    You can view Lynn Schenk attempting again to get funding for LA to San Diego at the last board meeting (8-25-2011)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9i0xShiLCtQ (about 6 minutes)

    Here she has a conversation with an attorney from the AGs office, but no matter what the AG says, she just continues to probe.

    This is another illustration of how board members are seeking to get their own pet funding, regardless of what Prop 1A has to say.

    There is plenty of this going on outside of the Authority as well. Here on the Peninsula, Simitian through back door channels along with Eschoo is pushing to divert funds from the CV segment to the Peninsula and essentially electrify CalTrain at the expense of HSR. He is now saying that the “blended plan” really will work ( no time table — but who cares).

    More politicians who think they can design rail projects.

    BTW, Congress woman Anna Eschoo, (Menlo Park, Atherton etc) 69, announced that she will seek her 11th term in 2012. The big questin is where is Senator Simitian (Mr. High Speed Rail Done Right) going to go, since he is termed out in 2012.

    joe Reply:

    Representatives are obligated to be selfish for their constituents and intelligent enough to recognize when compromise is necessary.

    PAMPA Reps will fold; the State and Executive Branch along with significant members of the CA congressional delegation support and want HSR benefits and the short term economic stimulus it will produce.

  7. Useless
    Aug 30th, 2011 at 14:29
    #7

    http://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/show_story.php?id=22339

    Blended traffic in Peninsular Corridor has won the backing of the CAHSR Authority’s peer review panel.

    So that means 6 Caltrain and 4 HSR trains from SF to LA per hour, with additional 4~6 HSR trains departing from SJ to LA.

    As long as Caltrain models are high-acceleration EMUs, this could work.

    Neville Snark Reply:

    Is this for real? Wow. After studying the technical discussions (as best I could) I wouldn’t have thought that they could decide such a thing so easily. When will the board consider the plan? Will this, er, shut up the peninsula NIMBYs?

    Tony d. Reply:

    It should shut up the NIMBY s, but if not, WHO CARES! Notice it says blended system from SF to SJ, not SF to RWC to Altamont (God I love reality!).

    J. Wong Reply:

    It won’t shut up the NIMBY’s. They’re still going to get elevated (berm) tracks for grade separation, which they don’t want. (Which would even happen without HSR since that’s what Caltrain wants.)

    joe Reply:

    Devil is in the details, Nadia posted this Peer Review letter in a previous topic.

    The PRP suggest using the Caltrain EIR which, if that is even legal, would limit HSR and offer no option of upgrading unless a new EIR can be approved.

    This limited EIR, would scare off private finance since the investors have no assurance any enhanced EIR would pass review and allow increased service – ever.

    The benefit of the suggestion is it would STFU NIMBYs and allow construction of an improved ROW and seed HSR which the PRP thinks would get service started and eventually require a full build when traffic/demand appears.

    Also, Lots of Luck moving Federal ARRA funding and starting in time.

    Peter Reply:

    While it is true that using the “limited” EIR would limit HSR temporarily, I think you misunderstand how EIRs are certified (and challenged in court).

    In order to later expand the tracks, the Authority (or its successor agency) would be the sole decisionmaker as to whether an “enhanced” EIR would be certified. Once certified, parties get 30 days to challenge it in court. If they sue, the burden of proof is on the plaintiffs to prove that the analysis in the EIR is faulty. That’s all a plaintiff can argue, namely that the analysis is insufficient. As long as the Authority performs a complete analysis, there’s nothing any opponent can do to prevent the EIR from becoming final.

    Therefore, your fear that an additional EIR would likely never be certified is unjustified.

    The best chance to kill the project is politically and financially.

    joe Reply:

    Today I see the EIR as the main hang up between the CAHSRA and PAMPA.

    The PRP recognizes the EIR is the hang-up and proposed, admitting they are naive about the law, to HSR use Caltrain’s EIR to bypass the stalemate.

    Hey maybe I’m nuts but I don’t think a TBD EIR is a trivial risk.
    Political obstruction over the EIR is still an obstruction.

    IMHO, if HSR tried to use the Caltrain EIR, they’d be sued. The peer Review panel PRP is missing the point. The PAMPA obstruction would continue HOWEVER I think it’s a necessary step to demonstrate bad faith and also put the political Reps in a hard place. How do the Reps get peer help to find funding to improve the PAPA ROW when HSR finally happens if they were the poison which hurt the project and put funding at risk?

    Peter Reply:

    I agree with you that just using the Caltrain EIR for HSR would lead to a lawsuit, and likely a successful one.

    However, an excellent legal argument could be made that having the Authority stage its planning by first producing an EIR for the blended system, and postponing the EIR for the full-build, is legal.

    Staging EIRs and EISs is done frequently, although not always successful. An example of a successful staging is BART to Warm Springs and BART to Silicon Valley. Objections were made to the standalone BART to Warm Springs EIR/EIS because it was argued that it was simply part of an overall plan to extend BART to San Jose. Obviously, those objections were not successful, and BART to Warm Springs was able to proceed before VTA completed all its environmental studies.

    There’s no reason why HSR on the Peninsula would have to be done in a different way.

    joe Reply:

    Maybe the Caltrain EIR will work – I suspect a nuisance lawsuit to delay construction until the clock runs out.

    ARRA deadlines are hard- the funding is uniquely difficult to move and under threat to be pulled. The Caltrain EIR is the only way to TRY to get the blended system ready for re-allocated ARRA funding by the 2012 deadline.

    I would TRY to reallocated ARRA to Caltrain blended and force the hand of NIMBYs pretending to want responsible rail AND also fund the CV work with the OPTION for additional work in the contracts.

    If the Caltrain upgrade is blocked, move the funding back to the CV and fund the contract options.

    The Peninsula will have to get its shit together after the probable blended Caltrain fail since Genetech and other non-trivial Peninsula tier one employers depend on Caltrain for recruitment to off set our high cost of living.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    I wouldn’t have thought that they could decide such a thing so easily

    40 minutes’ work. That will be $1.5 million. Thanks.

    peninsula Reply:

    sure, as soon as they PROVE that they’ll be : including grade separating all the crossings, limiting speeds (and noise) in neighborhoods and schoolyards, they’ll be doing all without viaducts or berlin walls, that they’ll compensate for property degradation impacts along with property takes, that they’ll avoid takings or impacts of key community assets – like schools, that they’ll mitigate environment impacts (like noise, air disturbance, visual blight, urban canopy, etc), that they’ll avoid damage to historic resources like El Palo Alto, historical buildings, all creeks and Bay watershed, that they’ll fund it, that they’ll provide a valid ridership study showing the usable segment and the system as whole will operate without subsidy under the limited tph allowed in the blended system, that they’ll prove they will limit tph to the blended system parameters, that they’ll contractually guarantee no future expansion grabs to 4 tracks, that they’ll avoid and/or mitigate any incremental traffic impacts related to HSR stations, that they’ll pay for HSR stations, that they’ll meet all the requirements of Prop 1A, that they have identified all sources of funding for impacted segments before breaking ground, and that the bond financing will be funded by the revenues of the system, rather than through general funds cuts to other important priorities of the state – like schools. Then, it could shut up some of the NIMBY’s – but not all.

    J. Wong Reply:

    See? It won’t shut them up.

    jimsf Reply:

    LOL

    Tony d. Reply:

    Like I said: who gives a rats ass what people like peninsula think! They can hurry up and retreat to the afterlife for all I care. Guarantee contractually that the corridor will never be 4-track? PLEASE!

    joe Reply:

    Guarantee contractually that the corridor will never be 4-track or else!!

    or else build PAMPA a trenched, covered ROW – free or else no HSR.

    It’s a game of extortion played by Pennisula Cities that threaten to screw the state unless they get the massive free trench and limited disruption.

    I say call the bluff, proceed with the minimum required ROW and see what power the Mayor of Palo Alto has over the Governor.

    12% unemployment and 6 B in construction isn’t going to be stopped by PAMPA/Penosula opposition. There’s a broad set of inter-dependencies between the State and San Mateo Co. Like the Mafia; I can’t make you agree but I can make you regret you opposed us.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Give ‘em what they want. Propose nothing more than electrification and signal upgrades. Borrow some hi-rail vehicles and run them up and down the tracks at the same frequency as combined HSR and Caltrain. Make sure they have something installed to trigger the detection circuits closing the crossing gates. See how many days it takes for people to start begging and pleading for grade separations.

    joe Reply:

    That would punish the entire system right? Mountain View’s Castro Crossing would be unworkable while Palo Alto has existing underpasses on major crossings. Yes, PAMPA CARRD whiners already live in a city where they built 4 lane underpasses and took property. Oh the horror.

    The Gilroy Mayor’s answered a NIMBY critic complaining that the City’s alignment study was a waste because the results could not be forced on HSR.

    He agreed 100% that we have no power over CAHSRA but can advise the CAHSRA so Gilroy is cooperating and will advise the Authority on how the system could be built in town. It is going to happen.

    At some point the PAMPA hostage taking crosses a line and the system goes forward as is without waiting for PAMPA to raise money and co-fund aesthetic alignment improvements commensurate with their elevated social status.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    limiting speeds (and noise) in neighborhoods and schoolyards,

    Why do you northerners get so pissy about the speeds? We have diesel trains, including several large freight trains per day, going 90mph (and soon 110) next to homes and schools and nobody cares.

    Joey Reply:

    Supposedly electric trains doing 125 through backyards is not exactly rare along the NEC.

    Peter Reply:

    And people living right next to the NEC don’t even notice the passenger trains.

    My sister-in-law’s family lives less than a block from the tracks, in Prospect Park, and I asked her how loud the trains were. She said “Oh, they’re horribly loud, they wake us up at night.” After clarifying this, I realized she was talking about the freight trains. She wasn’t even aware that passenger trains run past her house every few minutes at 110 mph.

    Travis D Reply:

    There won’t be any property degradation. That only exists in the fractured minds of the local NIMBY’s. Reducing speed is also completely unnecessary.

    They are already required to mitigate impacts to schools, historic structures and the environment. They already have a valid ridership study. Just because you don’t like reality doesn’t mean you can deny it. They don’t have to contractually agree to no future expansion to four tracks because they just might need to. And if it needs to than it should be done regardless of who’s houses need to be impacted.

    I’m sure they will pay for HSR stations up to a point. If you ask for some mega-project then they should not be obligated for it.

    Got any more completely unreasonable demands so that you won’t continue to try and undermine an important piece of transportation infrastructure?

    joe Reply:

    o A 5 Billion dollar Stanford Hospital expansion in Palo Alto – Sure.
    o Move Facebook to Menlo Park (MP) – okay.
    o MP project to expand Downtown and add traffic congestion – okay. More sales tax.

    MP City Gov’t says no law exists that requires City of MP to consider or study the impact of the large downtown project and added traffic it brings in MP on private property values. So they didn’t!

    So HSR isn’t required consider or to do squat for PAMPA property values.

    This is simply extortion.

    MP got Stanford to pay them 3.5 Million in traffic mitigation money when MP dropped objections and Palo Alto approved the Stanford Hospital expansion.

    Peter Reply:

    I’m pretty sure that property values are not a relevant environmental variable to be considered in environmental review.

    joe Reply:

    Not just environmental impacts, the entire City plan is oblivious to the impact on residential property values yet CAHSR is beholden to them.

  8. jimsf
    Aug 30th, 2011 at 19:07
    #8

    meanwhile I hope someday to see our rail infrastructure reach such grand modern standards as frances in 1955

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