CHSRA Leaders Working To Repair Relationships in Central Valley

Feb 15th, 2012 | Posted by

New California High Speed Rail Authority board chairman Dan Richard has been busy in the Central Valley working to repair relationships and rebuild trust, especially with farmers who have been critical of the project:

“I’m extremely unhappy with the kind of approaches that have been made to farmers and business people along the potential alignments,” Richard said. “Those have not been right or fair or just.”

Monday was Richard’s third visit to the valley in the past month. He met recently with farmers and property owners in Kings County, where frustration with the authority has resulted in lawsuits by residents against the agency and votes of opposition by the Kings County Board of Supervisors and the city councils in Hanford and Corcoran.

“One of the main problems that the High-Speed Rail Authority has had in the past is that it’s been mainly focused on building a train,” Richard said. “And when all you’re focused on is building a train, you tend to tell people to get out of the way because you’re coming through with the train.”

Richard said he believes treating owners honestly may overcome some of the built-up mistrust. Once the authority completes its environmental review and selects a final route through the valley, it can begin negotiating to buy land.

“I think that as we are legally able to approach people, and particular if we come to them with the philosophy of making them whole as opposed to jerking them around, we hope that process will go more smoothly,” he said.

It’s good to see Richard and others at the CHSRA doing what they can to address local concerns. Of course, they should realize that many of the critics are unlikely to ever agree to any aspect of the high speed rail project, at least not without gutting it for their own purposes. Frank Oliveira made that clear:

Now, Oliveira said, about the only option that would appease him and his neighbors is if the authority moved the tracks to the valley’s west side, along Interstate 5, bypassing the cities along Highway 99.

But Oliveira acknowledged that is unlikely, given the schedule that the authority has to complete work on the first 130-mile stretch from Chowchilla to Bakersfield by the fall of 2017.

“Richard seems to be a little more into talking to us about it, and that’s good,” Oliveira said. “But if they stay on the same time schedule and don’t address the flaws in the project, I don’t know what talking is going to accomplish other than to stall us or waste more of our time.”

At least he gets that an I-5 alignment isn’t going to happen – nor should it, since trains should go where the people are and that’s on the current route being proposed further east. I don’t know what Oliveira’s price is, but the notion of slowing down the project – presumably pushing it back beyond the September deadline to sign contracts for the federal stimulus money that is helping fund the Initial Construction Segment in the Valley – is not a good one and should be soundly rejected.

Still, it is good for Richard to be doing this kind of outreach work. It neutralizes the argument that the Authority is somehow mean and unwilling to work with communities – in fact, in recent months they have bent over backwards to work with communities to address concerns and accommodate them, where possible. If HSR critics and opponents reject this outreach and persist in their attacks on the project, they show themselves to be unreasonable and motivated by a basic animus toward the project, rather than being motivated by something the Authority somehow did wrong.

While HSR critics think they’ve got the project on the ropes, it’s seeming increasingly clear that the project is well positioned to survive its most difficult test. If and when the legislature votes to approve spending Prop 1A bond funding later this year, the project will be alive and well. And depending on how the November elections go nationwide, there could be billions in federal funding available to extend the system and get an Initial Operating Segment up and running.

I’m feeling optimistic. But there is a lot more work to be done, and HSR advocates need to continue pushing hard.

  1. Roger Christensen
    Feb 15th, 2012 at 22:32

    The press treated the event as a mea culpa to farmers, and essentially it was, but I felt that a lot more time was spent aggressively refuting the claims of the critics. Mike Rossi, who carefully combed through ridership model issues said that he regretted that the critics weren’t held to the same accountability and transparency as the authority.

    The quoted remarks from Dan Richard were actually in response from a harebrained remark from the mayor of Kingsburg about being concerned about HSR creating air pollution.

    We should never relax from the opponents. Even after construction begins, they will continue to delay or stop the project. Remember Expo LRT in LA.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Fresno of the future:

    There are two characteristics of the default CHSRA scheme – pandering and waste. If you follow those two threads you will have a pretty good vision of how this thing is going to play out.

    The scheme was designed to benefit three cities primarily: LA, Fresno, and San Jose. LA will indeed be the big winner as it will receive copious BART’s for next-best-to-free. But neither Fresno nor San Jose will receive so much reward as they contemplate. Fresno will stay close to the top of the list of most auto thefts in the country and San Jose will come to realize that being a terminus is not such a big deal.

    Big losers such as Oakland, SF and Sac will just have to fuss and fume loud enough until some bribes are directed their way. Hush money will be the pattern all along the route. The CHSRA will find out the vices and wish lists of the squeaky wheels and grease them with slush funds, from contractors under the table if they have to.

    Forget the brain-dead Moonbeam – he is just a prop, a talking head. The real power resides with the regional influence peddlers, the agencies and authorities, and the contractors. The fixes are in – Tehacapi and Pacheco detours, Ring the Bay – and that’s that.

    The outcome of all this will be a pseudo-BART on a grandiose scale. Unlike BART its patronage figures will be way low; its operating and maintenance costs way high, and its political status very controversial. The TWU or Amalgamated will demand state operation which will be challenged but privatization attempts will fail due to no buyers interested.

    Another gigantic infrastructure burden for the Golden State to add to the worn-out freeways. We’ll find out how much money can be squeezed from the Ritchie Riches of Beverly Hill, Santa Monica, Malibu. My guess is very little – those richies be pretty cagey.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Your comments read like word salad these days, syn.

    The CHSRA design through Fresno is just fine. There are no “detours”. There is no “pseudo-BART”. Operating and maintenance costs will be relatively low, ridership will be high, and political status — well, look at every single HSR line in the entire world.

    It’ll be popular.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Moderately sophisticated Turing machine most of the time. blah blah blah boondoogle blah blah witches coven headed by Nancy Pelosi blah blah blah blah blah blah blah unions bad two feet better blah blah all animals are equal unless they are Republican in which case they are doubleplus equal blah blah blah blah blah. Deleterious dogleg detour that Dagny Taggart wouldn’t tolerate…… blah

    synonymouse Reply:

    It will certainly be popular with the TWU. Passenger counts will be low and then there’s that extra 50 miles of double track and wire to operate, energize and maintain.

    The CHSRA scheme is indeed a bloated BART in the boonies. Where are BART’s profits; where are BART’s private operators?

    Just answer one question: who is going to pay for the CHSRA subsidy?

  2. jimsf
    Feb 15th, 2012 at 23:01

    After 47 years in in northern california Ive had it up to here with freakin farmers. they are the biggest babies in the state. They like to act like they are gods gift. they say things like “we are shepards of the land” “We take care of it”
    Ha, they have completely destroyed the true natural state of both valleys from top to bottom and side to side. They have poisoned the air and the soil. ruined the flow of the rivers. Been given billions of tax dollars in the form of subsidies, and massive infrastructure projects. They waste an ungodly amount of water because they are too cheap and lazy to water the crops with more efficient methods. Thy employ illegal help. iwth terrible living and working conditions.

    Just because you grow food doesn’t excuse you from responsible participation in society.

    Fuck the farmers. Really. Enough of them.

    Derek Reply:

    I bet they also charge as much for their crops as they can get away with, and pay their laborers as little as they can get away with.

    Donk Reply:

    Great rant!

    nslander Reply:

    Yes it was. Entertaining and appropriate.

    Roger Christensen Reply:

    The intensity here matches the intensity of which farmers hate SF, LA, and Sacramento. I am the liberal prodigal son (now a senior) of a large Republican farm family who spent most of my adult life as a degenerate in LA. Last Christmas I was asked to leave my cousin’s house after a heated argument about HSR. I know two families who live in the proposed row and are circulating anti HSR petitions.
    And yet when I hear the hysteria at meetings it sounds exactly like the liberal nimbies of West LA, Hollywood, and Beverly Hills. And the language is identical.
    That said. I love Jim’s rant. I love my dimwit cousins. Why can’t all Repugs be like Mayor Ashley Swearengen? The good fight never ends but we need to keep our eyes on the prize.

    jimsf Reply:

    The hippies are just as annoying as the farmers.

    The vast majority of the folks in the valley resemble middle america….(well, a “california-ized version anyway, generally open minded and forward thinking) They aren’t against progress, they are just stuck in a lower middle class rural suburban auto centric existence and trying to get by and make rent every month. They want progress, they want more options, they want more economic opportunity. They are tired and downtrodden. They don’t vote enough. Agribusiness, and large land holders have more power. Lower middle folks ten to just deal with whats dealt rather than fight. they are too busy trying to get the kids off to school to have time to fight. They rely on the politicians to do the right thing. We know how that works out.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    the guy quoted in the article is a manger of one of these big agribusiness yes its not some little midwest family

    Nathanael Reply:

    Things are so different here in upstate NY.

    We have farmers, but they aren’t dependent on massive amounts of imported water (we have water here). We have hippie farmers. Agribiz gave up and left this area a while ago (because Iowa was cheaper).

    synonymouse Reply:

    Don’t worry about the farmers. Once Jerry and Antonio get their peripheral pipeline thru all of Norcal and Valley water will be sent south to Fallen Angels. Goodby San Joaquin ag.

  3. jimsf
    Feb 15th, 2012 at 23:06

    oh and what of the millions of homes and thousands of acres of “precious priceless farmland” that has been turned into thousands of acres of stucco and asphalt. Funny how when the price is right, the formerly priceless farmland turns to stucco by the magic housing faerie.

    And you know they love to say ” oh but we will lose the “family farm” cuz when you say family farm they know people conjure up images of a couple acres with ma an pa feedin the chickens and jr out milkin the cow for breakfast. These are huge corporate farms.

    write a check, take the land, build the railroad.

    VBobier Reply:

    Agreed, but the Authority is doing the right thing, their going after the critics base by undermining their arguments, I can hardly wait for the critics to start sounding more & more desperate as their base collapses, as that is a good idea & it’s about time too.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    So true..the mayor of Fresno stated that 50,000 acres just around Freson have been turned into housing tracts on former farm land..far more than what hsr will ever use

  4. Ben
    Feb 16th, 2012 at 07:54

    It looks like RepuB(P)licans aren’t so concerned about eminent domain and property rights when it will benefit oil companies.

    Speaking of Keystone, LA’s 30/10 Plan will create an estimated 160,000 good jobs– eight times the number the Keystone pipeline will create. The westside subway alone will create more than twice as many jobs as the Keystone pipeline but Republicans in Congress have shown absolutely no willingness to invest something that will create these jobs and improve mobility.

    DingDong Reply:

    To be fair, the Keystone pipeline, so far as I know, does not require a public subsidy, so the Republicans might consistently support it, but not support public investments on some principled basis.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I believe it does require a public subsidy through the use of *eminent domain* for a private project. Just like railroads do.

  5. Jo
    Feb 16th, 2012 at 09:01

    I know this may sound a little old. But I still think HSR should have gone through Visalia instead of Hanford/Kings County. I know Union Pacific does not want to cooperate and it would cost more going through Visalia, but Visalia would have been a better station sight vs a station outside of Hanford in a rural area. But with the great benefits HSR will bring, (hopefully farmers will see this), it is still worth it.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Visalia is a tough case, because the arguments against it are more speculative but I think valid.

    The ability of the trains to shoot due south between Fresno and Wasco is important from a time perspective. Also, agricultural land is more expensive the closer you get to the dams. What Visalia could do that would be very good is to get Hanford and the Navy in a room and design a sort of BART-Lite that would connect Lemoore, Hanford and Visalia to the HSR station. That would serve everyone’s interest and not encourage growth as much as a bigger highway because the stations would be limited.

    Peter Reply:

    Maybe in 20 years they can use a train, but a bus running coordinated with HSR departures and arrivals would likely be more useful.

    jimsf Reply:

    They are gonna drive anyway.

    Nathanael Reply:

    There was serious discussion for a while of a LRT or bus-with-stations running east-west between Hanford, Visalia, and the HSR station.

    William Reply:

    Yes, the planned Hanford station on both alignment alternatives are right next the the east-west San Joaquin Valley Railroad.

    It is not hard to imagine hourly DMU service on SJVR betwen Lemoore and Visalia

    Peter Reply:

    Or, more likely with hourly bus service. No upgrade on SJVR tracks or new rail stations needed.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Nah, they’ll have 12 passenger buses meeting every HSR train. Have to price less than the parking fee at the HSR station though.

    Nathanael Reply:

    That’s right, you’re sparking my memories. The San Joaquin Valley Railroad was quite happy with the idea of hosting DMUs running east-west, if someone upgraded the tracks for them. Maybe they’ll have the sense to actually do it.

  6. jimsf
    Feb 16th, 2012 at 13:22

    meanwhile looking good…

    Tony D. Reply:

    How come no one ever refers to the transbay SF station as “Intergalactic” ala SJ Diridon? (who cares if SJ Diridon will one day serve more train/transit lines than transbay SF) Must be partly that arrogant, SF “Herb Caen” syndrome that still persists here in the Bay.

    Tony D. Reply:

    But yes, it is looking good jim.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    1. Diridon isn’t yet dead (if you discount brain death.) The naming is obscene.

    2. Transbay’s rail capacity is about half of what SF requires (for reasons of pure unmitigated incompetence. Everybody at PTG and ARUP deserves to die in a fire. There is absolutely no excuse for this abortion. None whatsoever.) The building itself is obscenely over-cost, inutile and passenger hostile. Nobody except the consultants and agency staff could possibly defend it with a straight face. But it’s not the transit service and the level of transit service it was supposed to serve that is the problem.

    On the other hand, SJ multi-dimensional’s is about four times what SJ can possibly ever use. It’s a pure exercise in ego-boosting and destruction of public finances, all for no public gain. Bigger isn’t better. It’s just pure waste.

    Facts are stupid things

    Moreover, SJ BART (the key element, on two of five, count ’em, five levels of Diridon “Not Quite Yet Dead” Memorial Hypermodal) has utterly and totally fucked over public transportation in the entire Bay Area for decades to come.

    Joe Reply:

    Clip and save.

  7. D. P. Lubic
    Feb 16th, 2012 at 18:57

    Danger, Danger–Off Topic Post Approaching!!

    Keeping an eye on the opposition–Michael Barrone on the Washington Metro:

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Also, some interesting comments by Yonah Freemark on the roles of federal and state governments in transportation (kicker–the Feds are better at spending transportation dollars than they are given credit for by certain political parties):

    Nathanael Reply:

    Barrone has his urban history wrong. Centralization of business in downtowns has happened through most of history, with the only long-running exception being agriculture; the decline in the percentage of the population employed in agriculture led to predictable centralization which has only had a brief break during the “auto age”.

    He’s right that planners, government OR private, tend to look backwards rather than forwards. But decrying the lack of long-term thinking is kind of pointless; most people are bad at predicting the future.

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