Federal Government Delivers Another $1 Billion to California for HSR

Nov 22nd, 2011 | Posted by

Today the US Department of Transportation put another $928 million into the hands of the California high speed rail project and out of the reach of House Republicans:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today awarded a $928.6 million grant to the California High-Speed Rail Authority for initial construction of California High-Speed Rail. Construction will begin next year in Fresno, creating tens of thousands of jobs in California.

“California’s population will grow by 60 percent over the next 40 years,” said Secretary LaHood. “Investing in a green, job creating high-speed rail network is less expensive and more practical than paying for all of the expansions to already congested highways and airports that would be necessary to accommodate the state’s projected population boom.”

Today’s grant, when combined with voter-approved state support and previously-awarded federal dollars, will fund the construction of the first usable segment of the California system in the Central Valley. In the recently released business plan, the Authority embraced a phased implementation similar to those used for international systems. The first construction project will put more than 100,000 people to work during the next five years. Over the course of the network’s construction, more than one million jobs are expected to be created, and the economic activity spurred by the new system is expected to add up to 450,000 new non-high-speed rail jobs to the California economy by 2040.

As Californians For High Speed Rail’s Executive Director Daniel Krause explained in an email to their members, this has the effect of keeping that money out of the hands of anti-rail Republicans:

Previously, almost $3 billion had been obligated (including money for the Transbay Terminal HSR station project). Today, the final $928.6 million was obligated, bring the total guaranteed federal funding close to $4 billion. The only thing that can threaten this money now is if state lawmakers don’t move forward with construction in the Central Valley in 2012. Now is a great time to contact you representatives to remind that we now can start this visionary project and create jobs at a time we desperately need them.

Republicans are still planning to try and get that money though. Ralph Vartabedian, the anti-HSR reporter at the LA Times, wrote about their newest efforts:

The case against the bullet train is being led by a group of California Republicans, including Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Atwater) and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), the House majority whip, who have argued the project is deeply flawed and has become unaffordable as the cost has spiraled to $98.5 billion.

Denham, a subcommittee chairman on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he believes all of the project’s grants can be rescinded by Congress and should be reallocated to highway construction in the Central Valley. Republican staffers are formulating plans to grab the bullet train money, which they said has not been spent or put under contract.

This isn’t news, of course. Jeff Denham has been trying since February to defund California high speed rail. Apparently he believes his constituents do not want jobs but instead want dirty air.

Denham is a first-year member of Congress who will face a stiff battle to keep his seat in 2012. Last month former astronaut Jose Hernandez announced his candidacy for the CA-10 seat, which has been drawn to be more competitive and include more Latinos. Denham apparently thinks that going hard right against rail and jobs is going to help him in 2012. I’m not so sure.

Vartabedian also hints at a new strategy for House Republicans in their quest to kill California high speed rail: convince Northeastern Democratic Senators to take California’s money and spend it on the Acela corridor:

Even if the House were to rescind all or a portion of the California funding, the U.S. Senate would have to agree. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has been a resolute supporter of the project. One political strategy that has surfaced to entice votes from East Coast Senate Democrats is to propose reallocating the California funds to passenger rail projects in their states.

The upcoming House hearing will be chaired by Rep. John Mika (R-Fla.). Mika has often expressed support for the concept of high speed rail, citing the East Coast as having the necessary population density and urban environment to support it. California officials say Mika supports high speed rail, but he has never endorsed the state’s project and now appears to have joined the skeptics.

Let’s pause a moment and laugh at Vartabedian’s inability to properly spell John Mica’s name.

OK, back to the story. California has the necessary population density, but facts never stopped Republicans before. The bigger question is whether Senate Democrats would screw over Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer this way.

Somehow I have a hard time seeing John Kerry, Charles Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand, and the other Democrats who represent the NEC states agreeing to do this and to undermine Obama as well.

Still, it’s another sign that Congressional Republicans hate high speed rail and are determined to kill it. Tens of thousands of jobs are at stake for California, and if the state legislature moves ahead and agrees to spend the money voters approved to start the project, California high speed rail will begin construction and become that much harder to kill.

  1. Drunk Engineer
    Nov 22nd, 2011 at 23:15
    #1

    In the recently released business plan, the Authority embraced a phased implementation similar to those used for international systems.

    On which Planet?

    Loren Petrich Reply:

    Ours. Consider:

    Paris – Lyon (1981) – Valence (1992) – Marseille (2001) – planned to Perpignan (Fr-Sp) and Nice
    Paris – Lille (1993) – Brussels (1997) – Amsterdam (2009)
    Paris – Lille (1993) – Chunnel (1994) – Fawkham Jct. (2003) – London (2007)
    Paris – Baudrecourt (2007) – u.c. Strasbourg (2016)
    Madrid – Lleida (2003) – Barcelona (2008) – u.c. to Figueres (2012) (Fr-Sp)
    Rome – Naples (2005 – 2009), Rome – Florence (1978), Turin – Novara (2006) – Milan (2009), Milan – Bologna (2008) – Florence (2009)
    Tokyo area – Morioka (1982) – Hachinohe (2002) – Aomori (2010) – u.c. Hakodate (2015)
    Tokyo – Osaka (1964) – Okayama (1972) – Hakata (1975)
    Etc.

    Joey Reply:

    Notice that all of these projects connected to at least one of the large metro area endpoints from the time they opened.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    However, Paris – Lyon was opened in two sections; the southern section opened in 1981, and the northern section, beginning some 30 or so km south of Paris Gare de Lyon about two years later. In the meantime, the TGVs were routed over the old line until somewhere in the middle of the Bourgogne.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    The actual LGV was indeed “nowhere to nowhere” but both nowheres had seamless (though slower) links to the endpoints. That may be what Drunk Engineer has in mind.

    Peter Reply:

    If his comments were substantive in nature and not powered by snark, we might actually know what he had in mind.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Could be that he meant that. Well, it boils down to the fact that a big handicap of the California project is the inadequate existing network. One has to see the big picture to appreciate this first piece. …and that is something many people have a problem with.

    VBobier Reply:

    That & California is not only a Big place, but is a bit geologically challenged as well. Yeah, this was the what was in the way of the I5 Freeway(Interstate Highway 5) before It was built.

    VBobier Reply:

    Yeah, this was what was in the way of the I5 Freeway(Interstate Highway 5) before It was built.

    Clem Reply:

    key phrase: One Seat Ride

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    In France, transfers are ridership killers and I don’t see why it would be any different in California.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    On the other hand, they are less so in Germany. Well, transfers are at the same platform, and well coordinated. In most cases, it is sufficient just to cross the platform and be in the “same” car. The best example is in Mannheim, where the ICEs from Basel and Stuttgart/München meet to continue to Frankfurt-Fulda-Hannover-Hamburg and to Frankfurt Airport-Köln and beyond. The connections are guaranteed if a train is not too much delayed (I believe they wait up to 10 minutes).

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    What I had in mind was long trips with transfers from TGV to non-TGV, which may be comparable to LA-SJ + transfer to SJ-SF.
    An illustration is Paris-Les Sables d’Olonne before Nantes-Les Sables was electrified.
    At first, passengers had to transfer to a DMU at Nantes. Very few Paris-Les Sables tickets were sold.
    Then SNCF decided to offer one seat-rides by having TGVs pulled by Diesel electrics from Nantes to Les Sables. It was an instant success. Yet, it wasn’t faster since adding the locomotive took time.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Cultural.

    German speakers expect (require!) public transportation transfers to be coordinated and to work.

    French, on the whole, don’t, since SNCF historically hasn’t made transfers work and hasn’t cared to operate a network. (This is changing, but slowly.)

    Americans don’t expect trains to work at all. Either a transfer that worked or a direct train that arrived on the same calendar day as timetabled would both be equally novel experiences.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Americans outside of metro New York. But then people who live in metro New York aren’t Real Americans(tm)

    Joey Reply:

    adirondacker: NY is better than the rest of the US, but that’s not saying much. You’ve still got agency turf battles where they refuse to share tracks of platforms (mainly at Penn Station) or impose ridiculous operating restrictions on each other (e.g. Metro North’s 75mph speed limit between New Rochelle and New Haven) and only a handful of moderately well-designed transfers hampered by mediocre schedule adherence.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    My (rather limited) experiences in Jamaica were not thaaat bad (switching between Penn Station and Long Island City bound trains on the same platform… with island tracks. But yeah, that’s probably as good as it gets in north America.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Running a catenary powered train to a platform that only has third rail or third rail powered train to a platform that only has catenary doesn’t work out well in the long run. Doesn’t work too great in the dhirt run either. And running twelve car trains to the nine or ten car platforms has the same kind of problem.
    For the first 50 years of Penn Station’s existence it was run by one railroad with the occasional long distance train wandering through. They’ve had over a century to try out different service patterns. I’m sure you with all you experience in scheduling hundreds of trains a day into 21 platforms could do better.

    egk Reply:

    Compare rather with the first ICE lines in Germany. Construction started in 1973 – after six years the first section Hannover-Rethen (12km!) was opened. The subsequent sections (for a complete length of 327km) were built over the course of the next 12 years) with the following operational segments opening gradually:

    Burgsinn–Hohe Wart (24km 1986)
    Fulda–Würzburg (94km; 1988)
    Edesheim–Nörten-Hardenberg (13km; 1988)
    Göttingen–Nörten-Hardenberg (13 km 1990)
    Hannover-Würzburg (remaining 170km; 1991)

    The largest of the cities connected by this first section of new high speed rail was Hannover which has about Fresno’s population. NONE of West Germany’s major cities (Munich, Hamburg, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Dusseldorf) was on this line.

    Joey Reply:

    Germany’s approach is largely about strategically building short sections of high-speed track in order to increase speed on existing routes. Again, this requires a strong legacy network which California lacks.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Connect Sylmar to Bakersfield and all your objections melt away.

    In the meantime, the Sacramento-Bakerfield route is in fact burgeoning with demand. Even the roundabout Oakland-Bakerfield route can be improved with the currently-funded track.

  2. Jerry
    Nov 22nd, 2011 at 23:21
    #2

    It’s always great to hear good news.

  3. synonymouse
    Nov 23rd, 2011 at 00:03
    #3

    Orphaned stilts in Corcoran will be California’s salute to the NdeM electrification to Queretaro, ripped down after just a few years with a change of government.

  4. StevieB
    Nov 23rd, 2011 at 01:37
    #4

    Jeff Denham polls 38% of voters would like to reelect him, while 49% would prefer someone else. The Public Policy Polling surveys were commissioned by the House Majority PAC, which can raise unlimited money to support Democratic candidates with an independent expenditure campaign. Conducted between October 19-23, in CA-10 500 registered voters were interviewed with a margin of error of +/-4.4%.

    This is the only district of 12 polled where House Republicans weren’t under water, with 43% of voters seeing them favorably and 41% negatively. Only 2% more see House Republicans as favorable and well less than half which must worry Denham. Redistricting also has Denham positioned to run in a Stanislaus County district that’s far less GOP friendly than the seat he currently holds.

    Denham is also on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee “Drive for 25” radio campaign target list. “Congressman Jeff Denham is part of the problem in Washington. Protect taxing breaks for billionaires instead of Medicare for seniors and jobs for us. Tell Congressman Denham to fight for California,” a narrator says in one spot.

    Denham does know how to party however. America’s New Majority PAC, which he created, according to online FEC filings detail $85,000 in contributions from a fundraising party the PAC hosted to welcome freshman members of Congress the night before Denham took office ($50,000 came from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians alone). The event at the W hotel in Washington D.C. featured a performance by Leann Rimes and ended up costing $80,000, netting the PAC only $5,000.

    Donk Reply:

    Denham is adopting the scorched earth policy.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The stock market took another dump today and why, you ask? Because no one believes todays’ politicians can budget, at all. They are addicted to spending like the airhead hollywood gangster’s moll.

    The giveaway is the perennial emphasis on future cuts. Nothing is ever really in the here and now, and you know nothing will ever materialize from these promises on paper, when the pols crap their pants at the mere thought of the pending triggered cuts.

    What does this mean for hsr. No more funding and any rank stupidities like Borden to Corcoran will be all the hollow core that is poured.

    Why not try to secure private sector construction loans for Tejon using the tunnels as collateral?

    Nathanael Reply:

    Wrong, dead wrong. I play the stock market for a living, and you are simply wrong about why it tanked.

    The stock market tanked because nobody believes that the economy will recover, and most people expect a collapse of the criminally-infested, bankrupt banking system, *and* of the Euro, which is completely tied into the criminally-infested, bankrupt banking system. The proximate cause of the collapse was people bailing out of German government bonds on expectations that the Euro will collapse.

    Why will the Euro collapse? Because the ECB refuses to print money,
    Why won’t the economy recover? Because the criminally infested banks won’t lend money, and because the worlds’ governments mostly refuse to bypass them by printing money.

    Those governments which *have* printed money *and* arrested bankers have done well — in other words, Switzerland. Switzerland actually declared that it was going to print as much money as it needed to in order to keep its exports competitive!

    Eseentially, the problem is that politicians are NOT addicted to spending! If they WERE, the stock market would bounce right back up.

    Don’t talk about stuff you know nothing about. I think you’ve been listening to Republican propaganda outlets.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Thanks for digging into that research. Proves the point that Denham is in serious trouble.

    StevieB Reply:

    Denham does have a $600,000 warchest and is a proven fundraiser. He has surrounded himself with former and current lobbyists from big money political campaigns.

    He received more than $1 million in contributions in his run for Congress, mostly from crop producers. His Democratic opponent only raised $30,000, and his primary Republican contender, Richard Pombo, raised more than $660,000.

    Meg Whitman was unable to buy the California election on a statewide scale but that may have been an exception to the rule that money buys political office.

    joe Reply:

    Let me introduce you to Phil Gramm:
    wikipedia
    Gramm ran unsuccessfully for the Republican Party nomination in the 1996 presidential election, for which he had raised $8 million as early as July 1994.

  5. Tom McNamara
    Nov 23rd, 2011 at 06:23
    #5

    Somehow I have a hard time seeing John Kerry, Charles Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand, and the other Democrats who represent the NEC states agreeing to do this and to undermine Obama as well.

    Already happened in the House.

    It all depends on the 2012 results. If Dems lose Senate seats in more rural states, Reid could lose his status as Majority Leader. That would allow this defection to happen. If Harry is still on top in 2013… then Mica will have to come up with a plan B.

    joe Reply:

    Tom;

    No it didn’t happen in the house. I see Mica backpedaling.

    First, a Dem congressperson supporting the redirecting of any rejected HSR money to the NE corridor makes perfect sense. We did the same for the FL and OH money.

    ““Any further money for high-speed rail needs to solely come to the Northeast Corridor,” said Congressman John Mica (R-FL), who promised to direct any rejected high-speed rail money to it.”

    This clear statement is necessary. The clowns at the LAO and even CA rail advocates must understand CA CAN’T turn HSR funding into block grants for local or conventional rail improvements – NE will drink our milkshake. Use it on HSR or lose it.

    Second, these quotes are Mica’s comments, not the Dems:

    The chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said Tuesday that nation’s best shot at a viable high-speed rail line is in the Boston-to-Washington corridor — and Amtrak can be a “full participant.”

    The NY Dem endorsement of HSR in NE broadens support for HSR. If HSR reduces down to a CA centric project we are doomed.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    It’s not really backpedaling if you start at an unrealistic position for the sake of leverage:

    This is clearly “divide and conquer” strategy by the House leadership. They very much want to pit urban pro-transit members against each other. And keeping Amtrak around is a small price to pay to that end.

    What you have to realize is that Mica wants a Transportation re-authorization bill by the end of March. He wants to put in it whatever will achieve his ends plus what will get the most number of Democrat defections so that the Speaker can drop these and other bills on Harry Reid’s doorstep in the middle of the 2012 election season.

    Democrat constituency groups seem to not understand that the “Wall Street” wing of the GOP has about had it with the Tea Party. Expect to see a lot of committee chairmen use the threat of siding with the Democrats to get the Tea Party to take positions they don’t like. And expect that on some issues House Leadership (like with the recent budget extension) will actually make good on that threat.

    joe Reply:

    This is clearly “divide and conquer” strategy by the House leadership. They very much want to pit urban pro-transit members against each other. And keeping Amtrak around is a small price to pay to that end.

    Yes, the House leadership wants to divide and conquer. This is an amateur act – as if this kind of stunt is novel. Mica’s Jedi Mind tricks will not work.

    A counter argument can be made the NY Dems are playing Mica – getting the GOP chair to endorse HSR and undercut the GOP meme that HSR is a waste. They’ll run on the HSR promise and as always, will need to find suport for the project with the house minority leader. Dems can get both, funding for NE and CA’s systems.

    Democrat constituency groups seem to not understand that the “Wall Street” wing of the GOP has about had it with the Tea Party. Expect to see a lot of committee chairmen use the threat of siding with the Democrats to get the Tea Party to take positions they don’t like. And expect that on some issues House Leadership (like with the recent budget extension) will actually make good on that threat.

    The Wall Street Wing of the GOP has lost control. It’s cost the GOP the Senate in 2010. They may want to threaten the Tea Party but the Tea Party is the core voting base of the Party.

    So if the GOP need Dems, those Dems will have to go against their Minority Leader and pull finding from her district. Oh and since CA has seniority, if the house switches, the CA Dems will be in leadership. So the risk of Mica peeling off Dems is low.

    VBobier Reply:

    If Harry is still on top in 2013… then Mica will have to come up with a plan B.

    Well that would all depend on if Congressman John Mica is even still around in 2013…

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Mica will sooner die than lose his seat.

    VBobier Reply:

    We shall see in 2013 then, Stay tuned folks, to this Bat Channel…

    Nathanael Reply:

    Redistricting is the elephant in the room. I think Mica’s likely to have a seat gerrymandered for him in Florida, but he’ll be a minority member.

    Currently, it looks like Democrats are going to gain two seats in Texas. Yes, you read that correctly.

    Democrats will also gain seats in California.

    Republicans will lose seats in NY under any map (NY is losing seats overall, and they have to be upstate).

    New England is going to throw its Republicans back out again. Wisconsin is probably going to throw its Republicans out. On the whole, it looks like the only way the GOP can retain the House is to steal massive numbers of elections, or win every contested contest.

  6. Steve
    Nov 23rd, 2011 at 10:23
    #6

    Regarding phasing, I’d be curious to hear from someone who knows more than I do about how Kyushu Shinkansen worked during its interim phase (the Relay Tsubame connection at Yatsushiro), and what sorts of lessons there might be for California.

    swing hanger Reply:

    As far as I know it was adequate for what it was designed for, that is, as a stop gap. JR connecting trains (such as these “relay” services) benefit from excellent schedule discipline, where seamless connections can be relied on, typically with a 10 minute or less transfer period. In the Shin Yatsuhiro case, the transfer was cross-platform, allowing for a 3 minute transfer time. This video shows such an operation cycle- first the narrow gauge Relay Tsubame arrives from Hakata at Shin Yatsushiro, while a shinkansen trainset awaits. Three minutes later, after all passengers have boarded, and the shinkansen departs for Kagoshima Chuo. Later, the Relay unit, after spending time in the layover track, returns to the platform, and accepts passengers off the next shinkansen service from Kagoshima Chuo. It then departs for Hakata.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbFazUZaRC0

    *It must be noted that the relay service was used on the more direct portion of the narrow gauge line from Hakata to Kagoshima- the more mountainous and roundabout southern portion was first to be replaced by a high speed line. Which, in California terms, would have the Los Angeles-Bako portion be built for HSR, rather than the valley.

    Steve Reply:

    Thank you — useful information is much appreciated.

  7. Reality Check
    Nov 23rd, 2011 at 11:38
    #7

    O/T: Chinese left guessing over high speed rail crash, amid wider railway construction boom woes

    The investigation into a bullet train crash in China last summer that killed 40 people has come and gone with no public report on what led to the disaster.

    The secrecy surrounding the probe, which ended in September, is typical of the sensitivities shown toward wider troubles plaguing the showcase high-speed rail program.

    The accident inflamed criticism that the powerful Railway Ministry may be sacrificing safety in its costly quest to quickly roll out the bullet train network. Shortly after the July 23 crash, Premier Wen Jiabao called for a sweeping and transparent investigation.

    Based on regulations on major transport accidents, a report on the accident was due by Nov. 20. Railway Ministry officials refused comment Tuesday.

    The few slivers of information about the probe have been quickly recanted.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Look man, I’m about as anti-HSR homer as you can get at this point because the clowns in charge of it are complete freaking idiots hell bent on spending without thinking, but what China does in terms of investigating and reporting on an incident has nothing to do with what would happen here if such an incident were to occur.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Why do some of us follow those developments? There are a couple of reasons.

    One, there is a possibility (remote in this particular case) that some of this Chinese technology may find its way into American service. If this technology has a weak spot, leading to serious consequences when something misbehaves, it’s a good idea to know about it and maybe not use it.

    The other is that some people are dead set against this or any other rail project, largely for ideological reasons. These guys will have an argument along the lines of “trains=socialism=big government=bad, cars=freedom=capitalism=good.” Believe me, I’ve seen this and been the target of this, including being personally called a Communist; others here have seen it, too. That same bunch will also look at this sort of thing and claim “trains unsafe, very bad,” despite the 100 or so people who die every day in auto wrecks in this country alone. Knowing what the cause of the accident really was can give us talking points against that nonsense.

    Don’t believe there are goofy statements about trains and socialism and cars and freedom? Take a look at some of the comments following this section:

    http://www.infrastructurist.com/2011/11/18/the-daily-dig-death-to-high-speed-rail-maybe/

    Some well-paid pundits take a similar line:

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2011/02/27/high-speed-to-insolvency.html

    Out of curiosity, what’s your take on this liberal-conservative outlook? I claim it should be neutral, trains and cars are just machines and tools from this standpoint (and I also have to admit to being a rail enthusiast), but not everybody agrees with this.

  8. Reality Check
    Nov 23rd, 2011 at 12:36
    #8

    O/T: High-Speed Rail’s Original Champions [Kopp, Morshed] Now Have Doubts

    […] they say the plan they envisioned — and that voters approved in 2008 — is not what’s being described by the High Speed Rail Authority today. They’re critical of the so-called “blended approach” that would force high-speed rail trains to share tracks with existing commuter services, like Caltrain, and, at least initially, require customers to make several transfers along the SF-LA route.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Kopp is a revisionist himself – he wanted to kill the TBT tunnel.

    If he is discontent let him sue to put Prop 1A back on the ballot for reconfirmation, with boilerplate to his satisfaction.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Revenge is dish best served cold. After disregarding the major regional transportation powers, now the MTC and Metro have the Authority right where they want them. In the scheme of things, the end product will be the same and it may take even less time.

    The difference is that Ahhhnold designed things to undercut the unions. And that’s not Jerry’s style. So now that CHSRA has come in from the cold, it’s time to celebrate not mourn….

    Tony d. Reply:

    I think most ardent supporters have doubts now, including myself. I’ve gone as far as giving up on the original concept and accepting commuter “HSR-light” if possible. But if somehow a miracle can happen and HSR gets built from Bay to Basin, great! Not holding my breath anymore, and this $1 billion grant doesn’t change that.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    What money there is should be spent upgrading, electrifying and double tracking all of the LOSSAN corridor. Get some medium speed rail on there with express service and make some bank to do the same to the other key lines in the state. CAHSR is broken, has been for a long time. They’re nothing but a bunch of flipping liars who will say anything to get what they want.

    Tony D. Reply:

    LOSSAN as well as Metrolink, Caltrain and ACE.

    Joey Reply:

    What can really be done for ACE without completely rebuilding it? As far as I can tell the route is far too bad (and far too UP-owned) for any meaningful improvements.

    Joe Clark Reply:

    Indeed.

    A curvy, single track, privately-owned, freight rail line through mountain passes can’t simply be “incrementally upgraded” to modern passenger rail service.

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    Sooner or later, California is going to have to build a decent rail link between the bay area and LA. There’s nothing to upgrade. With a century’s worth of roads, etc, in the way, there’s no way it was ever going to be cheap. This isn’t 1880. The state should take the money it has, and get started. Waiting another 25 years just means even more viaducts, even more tunnels, an even more circuitous route.

    The federal HSR money probably won’t be transferred, in a block, to some California regional rail lines. And one can’t expect California taxpayers, who voted to fund a statewide system, to give the money to some regional agencies, instead. If the HSR project ends, the money will just go away.

    Somehow Congress keeps pouring money into the NEC. I don’t see why they shouldn’t do the same for California’s project, as long as the project is moving along.

    Joey Reply:

    Recent international precedent suggests that it should be possible to build the project for around $30 billion dollars (and no, seismic concerns, labor costs, “unique” conditions, etc don’t account for the difference).

    Nathanael Reply:

    Double that number to account for US poor bureaucratic practices. How many EISes have we had to go through?

    I support the concept of an EIS — it’s an important way to avoid massive pollution, destruction of endangered species habitat, bulldozing of historic buildings, and creation of drainage problems and flooding risks, such as happened *frequently* before NEPA. But lately they’re used to defend *parking*. Seriously? There needs to be a law passed saying that “reducing parking, reducing general road traffic speeds, and reducing LOS of roads shall not be considered environmental impacts in and of themselves”.

    I support the concept of Alternatives Analyses — they’re an important way to force “decide-announce-defend” types to pay lip service to alternative options. (Not that that’s stopped Oregon and Washington DOT from blatantly and deliberately ignoring four or five better alternatives to the Columbia River Crossing.) But in some places they’ve become endless fests for adding more and more and more very minor variations.

    I support the concept of competitive bidding. But you should see what it’s turned into in New York City.

    & so on.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Incidentally, this shouldn’t be considered an attack on “bureaucracy” — quite the opposite. One of the reasons we have such terrible bureaucratic practices in the US is that we refuse to consider bureaucracy as a necessary thing, and therefore fail to spend the money and make the effort to create GOOD bureaucracies.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Somehow Congress keeps pouring money into the NEC.

    ….because it makes it real easy to pop up to New York or even Philadelphia and schmooze with wealthy donors….

  9. Reality Check
    Nov 23rd, 2011 at 14:12
    #9

    LA Weekly story: $100 Billion Bullet Train
    Democrats fray as cost skyrockets, feds bail, and Amtrak starts to look good

    “They were just hell-bent on moving forward and building something,” Lowenthal says. “I now have to give them credit that they at least have changed somewhat. They’ve made a major step forward with this new plan.”

    But, he warns, “I’m not saying we can pay for it.”

    Like Lowenthal, Gordon believes in the vision of high-speed-rail — but is highly skeptical about who will pay for it.

    Gordon is concerned that the state would commit billions of borrowed dollars to the project when the fiscally wrecked state government is facing a challenge in even paying its current debt service. The rail authority wants the state Legislature to allow it to spend $3 billion from Proposition 1A while authorizing $3 billion in matching money from the feds. Those funds would be expected to finance construction of 130 to 180 miles of track in the Central Valley.

    “I don’t see us borrowing more — and the federal government isn’t going to give us more money,” Gordon predicted the other day, shortly before the U.S. Senate did indeed vote to cut off future money for bullet trains.

    Donk Reply:

    I don’t know why anyone reads the LA Weekly. But at least Lowenthal is saying something remotely positive about CHSRA. I am still waiting for Elizabeth to say her first positive thing about CHSRA.

  10. Tradan Djordine
    Nov 25th, 2011 at 07:32
    #10

    As a pro-HSA republican, I take issue with your partisan opening statement. We have republicans to thank for the Civil Rights Act, ending slavery, establishing the National Parks system, and a little thing called the Pacific Railway Act, which established coast-to-coast rail service in this country. Put away your Howard Dean talking points and let’s talk HSA.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Being in the same boat, I’ve come to find that won’t find that here. When the guy running the blog refers to Pelosi as the “once and future House Majority Leader” you know the site has a bias.

    I’ve found most on here are well, a bit over the top in their support of this thing, be damned the cost or where it runs. The spin is incredible to say the least. I’ve debated wasting much more time here. If your opposed to this project (myself because its cost has become so completely upside down) then you are either a “Tea Bagger”, “Repug” or idiot. It’s why this project will ultimately not move forward. The only people that continue to support it at this point are fringe supporters.

    I’m havign a good laugh though until I get bored and move on.

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