HSR Construction May Be Delayed to 2013 By NIMBY Activity

Feb 29th, 2012 | Posted by

Tim Sheehan at the Fresno Bee has the news that construction on the high speed rail project may begin in 2013, as opposed to this fall as originally intended. The reason: NIMBY complaints in the Central Valley have caused the California High Speed Rail Authority to make amendments to its EIR in order to address these concerns.

Construction of a high-speed train line in the central San Joaquin Valley was supposed to start late this year. Now, officials say, it’s not likely to start until early 2013, even if state legislators approve billions in bond money this spring.

At its meeting Thursday in Sacramento, the California High-Speed Rail Authority will learn about an updated schedule for the $6 billion construction project.

The slowdown in the schedule is the result of revisions to environmental reports for the 120-mile Fresno-to-Bakersfield section of the rail line — part of the backbone of a proposed 520-mile system of electric trains connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles. Later extensions would add lines to Sacramento and San Diego.

About $3 billion in federal stimulus and transportation funds earmarked for the project in 2010 and 2011 were based on construction starting by September 2012. But a 2013 start isn’t expected to endanger the funds, high-speed rail officials said, because the more important deadline is having the work completed by late 2017.

An environmental report for the track segment was issued last fall, but two months of comment and public hearings across the Valley attracted a slew of objections, including opposition in Kings County to a route that would take trains through farmland east of Hanford.

That uproar prompted rail authority engineers to withdraw the environmental report in order to revise it with a new alternative that bypasses Hanford to the west. The authority expects to issue the revised draft report this summer, triggering another round of public hearings and comment, months after the authority originally expected to have a final version approved.

The CHSRA didn’t have to propose any changes at all. They could have plowed right ahead. But in an effort to be responsive to community concerns, they are taking the time to revise the EIR and propose the West Hanford bypass option. That still doesn’t make the NIMBYs in Kings County happy, but it is a sign that the CHSRA is genuinely interested in finding ways to accommodate concerns – within reason, and as long as doing so doesn’t actually undermine or block the project, as so many NIMBYs want.

The delay is unfortunate, especially for getting thousands of badly-needed jobs to the Central Valley. But neither is it a serious problem. The federal government has given its blessing to the delay, and it is not expected to affect the completion of work by the end of 2017.

Of course, we can still expect HSR critics and opponents to paint this delay as a sign of weakness or severe flaws in the project, even though they themselves are responsible for it.

  1. Paulus Magnus
    Feb 29th, 2012 at 17:14

    Serious question: Has the Authority had anything on time? This strikes me as simply being a convenient excuse.

    Tony d. Reply:

    Lets see: violent attacks from the Far Right, starved of funding, and frivolous after frivolous lawsuits meant only to delay/derail…AND YOU HAVE THE AUDACITY TO CLAIM THE CHSRA IS ALWAYS LATE?! Outrageous! Kind of like Republicans crying that Obama hasn’t got anything done in office when all they do is obstruct and say no.

    Joe Reply:

    I demand you respond to all our concerns!
    Stop spending money pushing paper work!
    You are always late!

    Walter Reply:

    You’ve gotten to the crux of why nobody is listening to the whiners, NIMBYs, and concern trolls on the Peninsula anymore. If they chose one of these concerns, they’d have plenty of legitimacy. When they start whining about the problems THEY HELPED TO CAUSE, it’s clear that *gasp* they actually don’t want high-speed rail.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    If they’re always late, it’s hardly audacious to point it out. And given that the Draft business plan was a shit sandwich, crying about Libertarian attacks is fairly meaningless (and let’s drop the hyperbole about it being a violent attack, shall we? If you think that loud criticism by the right is violent, one wonders what you think it is when protests by the right require riot police to defend them from actual physical attack by the left).

    Jack Reply:

    You mean the plan that was praised by both sides as being honest and more sensible. That plan?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    More honest, yes, but not any better. All the plan did was admit that the construction was so wretched that costs had doubled.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Look, if NIMBYs delay a rail line, they shouldn’t complain about it.

    They delayed it. This is honestly the first time the Authority has been late due to a reason other than “legislature didn’t fund us”.

    So, Paulus, the conclusion from this is that you’re full of shit. “Late” is not a problem emanating ffrom the authorities.

    By the way, there have not been protests by the right which required riot police to defend them from physical attacks, not in decades, so I wonder what the hell you’re talking about.

    flowmotion Reply:

    Keep in mind this is HSR Authority version 3.0. Should be no surprise that Jerry Brown’s people want to tweak the project before construction actually begins.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    CHSRA Version 1.0: run by PBQD.

    CHSRA Version 2.0: run by PBQD.

    CHSRA Version 3.0: run by PBQD.

    I can, however, readily agree that some tweaking might be involved somewhere in the process.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yes, PBQD got out the sawed off shotgun and made the elected officials responsible for the project select PBQD as the contractor.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    You must be fresh off the boat. Welcome to our most wonderful country.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Then it’s your fault for electing them.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Richard, you’re a moron. Go away. I’m tired of your conspiracy theories.

  2. jimsf
    Feb 29th, 2012 at 17:24

    what have they been late with? Clearly this delay is due to having a do over to appease kings county

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    The Draft Business Plan and the Final Business Plan (supposedly tomorrow, a month late) come to mind.

    Joe Reply:

    No. The delay is not due to the business plan. It is due to objections to the alignment.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    And you need remedial English classes. I explicitly was referring to what they’ve been late with, not a cause for the lateness with this.

    joe Reply:

    So HSR is late with irrelevant artifacts, irrelevant to the reason for the delay which is appeasing Kings Co.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Ah, so you’re pointing out that they were late with the things which…. they didn’t receive funding for promptly? Yes, when not given funding to do something, it DOES tend to be late. What fucking ever.

  3. Jo
    Feb 29th, 2012 at 18:17

    I am not sure that a west Hanford bypass would do anything to appease HSR opponents in Kings County. But given the situation in Kings County, I guess they should study alternatives. Also if they do put a high speed rail station there it would be even further from Visalia; too bad an alternative through Visalia can not be considered. Also if Obama loses, can a republican president reverse the funding?

    StevieB Reply:

    If Ron Paul is elected president and implements his vision of government things will be very different. While closing all foreign military bases and eliminating the agencies of Education, Commerce, Energy, Interior and Housing and Urban Development he might have time to privatize transportation and bring back the private turnpikes and their tolls of the 19th century.

    jimsf Reply:

    If Ron Paul is elected president


  4. jimsf
    Feb 29th, 2012 at 18:38

    The people in Kings County are not interested in being appeased. They just want to kill the project period. They don’t care about what the rest of California voted on. they only care about getting their way for the sake of getting their way and killing the project completely. Its a place populated for the most part by the same time of reactionary, “no to everything” folks that we are seeing nationawide. Its an ideological fight for them.

    It has nothing to do with mitigation. REst assured that if the taxpayers voted for a giant water pipe to deliver unlimted water to them they wouldn’t care how diagonally it crossed their land they would suddenly find a way to farm around it.

    joe Reply:

    Kings Co does want Delta water reallocated to them because they have high unemployment and their Congress Reps claim it is due to the lack of water.

    So: “No HSR and give us your water. “

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    That’s because fine upstanding yeoman farmers would using the water. Trains are for dirty farking hippies who eat bagels while discussing the finer points of San Francisco values.

    wu ming Reply:

    fine upstanding yeoman farmers would be using the water selling the water to LA developers.

    there, fixed it for you.

    wu ming Reply:

    hmm, my strikethrough html on “using the water” didn’t work. snark fail.

    jimsf Reply:

    and those fancy europeans.

  5. jimsf
    Feb 29th, 2012 at 18:50

    I don’t know why we would spend money putting in a tulare/kings station when they don’t want one. well, actually lots of people, espeically in visalia, do want one, but might be denied one thanks to these nimbys. no point in spending money there. They want to live out their old west home on the range fantasies. So leave them behind to do so and they can skip the economic benefits as well.

    joe Reply:

    Agreed, the train can whisk by at 220 and I would propose we rethink milk support payments. If they don’t have enough water, maybe they shouldn’t be raising dairy. i suggest wheat.

    Peter Reply:

    Even worse than the dairy are the water-guzzling corporate cotton farms in the southern SJV.

    synonymouse Reply:

    No worse than the water-guzzling slums of LA. Waste a lot of water flushing drugs down the toilet as the narcs are breaking down the door.

    Peter Reply:

    With pretty much every comment you make, you show that you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, and become more and more irrelevant.

    synonymouse Reply:

    That is probably true. But how does one achieve greater irrelevance or irresponsibility than
    twisting and literally orienting an hsr design so as to enable ferrying Californians to dump their rent money in Sin City.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Californians are going to go to Las Vegas whether you like it or not. And Nevadans are going to go to California whether you like it or not.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Bullshit, Syn. Look up actual water usage numbers. The Central Valley farmers are HOGS. LA isn’t.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Except that LA is too large, obviously. But the *average* LA resident isn’t a water hog the way the *average* farmer in Bakersfield is.

    wu ming Reply:

    i’m pretty sure CA dairies don;t get milk support payments,. that whole regime is designed to protect the midwest from CA dairies.

  6. jimsf
    Feb 29th, 2012 at 19:11

    don’t give them our water. Let them drink milk!

  7. jimsf
    Feb 29th, 2012 at 19:13

    and its hysterical to see all their signs about the congressional “water grab.” the only water grubbing, water grabbery I see going on is in kings and kern, where someone decided they could sustain crops in the desert indefinately.

    VBobier Reply:

    Agreed, tell them, NO HSR, NO Water… They’ll change their tune…

    jimsf Reply:

    can’t they farm under this? as a solution?

    VBobier Reply:

    That looks ok to Me Jimsf, if farmers can’t live with that, then their not much of a farmer.

    Jack Reply:

    I like you Jim, but we disagree here. That state has massive water issues that need to be sorted out. I do think the farmers get the short-end of the stick when it comes to water allocation. Weren’t we supposed to vote on a Dam bill a few years back?

    Peter Reply:

    The only farmers who “get the short-end of the stick when it comes to water allocation” are the ones who have subordinate water rights. Those with the “higher” water rights quite literally piss away their water in a wasteful manner and/or on SUPER water-intensive crops. The latter farmers are the main problem…

    wu ming Reply:

    delta farmers and norcal farmers get screwed, as the westlands water district in the san joaquin valley and greater LA siphon our water off.

    it’s not farmers as a class, but certain farmers playing water baron broker games with other people’s water.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “certain farmers playing water baron broker games” – these are grosso modo the same players, in the same class, as the Tejon Ranch barons. Nancy, Jerry, and Antonio et al are afraid of these whales – it is that simple.

    But they have no problem wailing eminent domain on the small Valley farmers or the demonized nimbys of PAMPA. Nimby has become the cheerleaders’ n-word.

    How do you expect anything but dysfunctional to come of this?

    jimsf Reply:

    I’m all for agriculture. Its an integral part of what California “is” I just don’t like their attitude one, and two, they waste too much, they are resistant to conservation, and they aren’t planting crops that are appriate for the amount of water in the region. Minus the canals, that area is mostly arid. So by all means farm there, but don’t do it in a damaging way.

    that goes for southern cal too, 20 million people should be using native and drought resisant landcaping.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Right…but unfortunately it’s the arid crops that are worth the most as exports. As for the drought-resistant landscaping in Southern California, well… they will get their day.

    Donk Reply:

    I am a homeowner with a lawn in LA. I probably use too much water. The only realistic way to force people to switch to drought resistant landscaping in their yards is to significantly increase the cost of water. That would be ok with me. Water should cost more than it does anyway. So should oil.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Gray water, especially if you do your laundry at home, can do wonders. If you really want to get serious about it, purple pipes – recycle the treated sewage for irrigation.

    jimsf Reply:

    yes gray water is excellent way to go. Even simple things such as, saving all that water you waste while waiting for the bath water to get hot. You put a bucket there and use that to water your plants. If you have a lawn, you should water it at night, and only for a few minutes. water saving shower heads, dont run the water while you brush your teeth, all seemingly small things but if 20 million people do these small things 365 days a year we can probably cut the water usage in half. This would allow continued growth so long as new growth meets new water saving requirement. The high desert would be just the place to mandate a new kind of community from scratch. New subdivisions with 100 native a nd drought tolerant landscaping and mandatory solar built in. You could take a place like california city and do this as an experimental community.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Jim, that’s all good, but it’s all in the noise. Latest data I recall, 80% of the water in California goes to farmers. And the farmers practice really, really inefficient irrigation because the water is so cheap.

  8. FiendNCheeses
    Feb 29th, 2012 at 20:36

    Does anybody know about this article in the L.A Times that popped up a little while ago? It seems the start date is still planned for the end of this year. The authority’s chief counsel sent out an erroneous memo.

    “There is a little misunderstanding,” van Ark said. “We are still aiming to get that first contract out by 2012. There is no question about it. The aim is still that the contract will be placed by the end of this year. We have basically a month of breathing space. The contractors, the bidders, are ready to go.”


  9. Tom McNamara
    Feb 29th, 2012 at 21:12

    Robert, I don’t think such hyperbole is helping your case.

    I don’t this is about NIMBYs. I think PB is straining to save as much money as possible in the design, and that requires sticking closer to the BNSF alignment. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if BNSF sells the track outright to the Authority south of Fresno….

  10. jimsf
    Feb 29th, 2012 at 21:55

    It is about nimbys. remember, up said no to their row leaving only bnsf. then hanford said no to downtown, forcing the route around through the farmland. now the farmers say no, causing a delay/reevaluation/compromise.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Yes, I know…but I don’t think the NIMBYs actually had any impact. I think Brown and Richard’s plan is to “throw the dog a bone” as they say…by letting Kings County effectively pick its own poison. But if anything I suspect at the last minute they will resurrect the program alignment from 2005 if BNSF offers to sell its track.

    And if you think about it, all the other pieces fall into place if that happened:

    Merced to Palmdale IOS with Metrolink connections to the South and ACE in the north. The San Joaquin Valley Regional Railroad Authority then buys the remaining BNSF track in the north.

    jimsf Reply:

    I don’t know what on earth would make you think bnsf would want to sell its track though. Is that what you heard? Because I understand that bnsf is actually interested in operating the high speed service. Its also a very busy freight line. (I can attest to that since I live next to it, and work on top of it) Why on earth would they sell it?

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Not what I heard by any means. What’s striking is simply that Hanford West conveniently using more the existing ROW than the East did.

    The “advantage” of freight along that route is for exports of Californian agricultural products from Oakland. If you phase out intensive crop developments in the arid part of the San Joaquin Valley (i.e. everything south of Fres-napolis) you don’t really have a need for that track there, do you?

    jimsf Reply:

    none of the trains I see all day everyday are loaded with ag products though.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    You have no idea what you are talking about re BNSF freight movements. The former Santa Fe line is BNSF’s link from northern California to the midwest and southeast. They do not carry short haul traffic from the valley to the ports. While BNSF is reasonably cooperative with Amtrak and other passenger operations such as Amtrak California Matt Rose told a conference I attended that they are not interested in seeing expanded passenger operations. This may have changed in the last couple of years if they are given enough money to share RoW but they have no plans to get back into the passenger business.

    jimsf Reply:

    they already are in the passenger business and they want to bid on the san joquin operations when the contract comes up in a couple years.

    Paul Dyson Reply:


    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Genetic engineering… they’ll have all the produce grow wings and it can fly to the supermarkets. Think of all the fuel they’ll save…..

  11. Spokker
    Mar 1st, 2012 at 00:42

    “The delay is unfortunate, especially for getting thousands of badly-needed jobs to the Central Valley.”

    In the meantime, those in search of work should migrate to North Dakota.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Just be ready to come back when the North Dakota oil boom busts out. In about five years.

  12. Arthur Dent
    Mar 1st, 2012 at 02:20

    According to the Authority’s construction schedule, they do not plan to start construction until 2013. The schedule was determined last fall, so I would question their motives — or yours, Robert — for trying to pin a “delay” on your so-called NIMBYs.

    For months now the Authority has been threatening of dire consequences if they don’t make a fictitious September deadline, knowing full well that 1) there has never been a construction START deadline, and 2) they don’t intend to start construction until 2013.

    If the HSRA were honest they’d admit to their schedule and not try to weasel out of it, scapegoat or do their Chicken Little act. You are propagating their lies, Robert. I challenge you to post a correction.

    Jack Reply:

    It’s the way things work; if you don’t threaten congress with dire consequences then they assume you don’t need thier attention because every other program has dire needs that must be addressed. Pretty Sad state of affairs.

  13. Peter
    Mar 1st, 2012 at 05:23

    Is this all construction that is being delayed, or just Fresno-Bakersfield? We already knew that F-B was going to have to be delayed due to the recirculated Draft EIR, so is this something new?

  14. Nadia
    Mar 1st, 2012 at 06:44

    I’m sorry – but Sheehan has this one wrong.

    The reason for the West Hanford by-pass isn’t community concerns, the EPA and the Army Corps told them to include it and the Authority ignored them saying they just had to work harder to convince them they were right on this one. And then, a few months later, they added the alternative back in because the EPA and Army Corps wouldn’t back down.

    Moving it because of community concerns makes a nice story – but watch the board meeting and you can hear them clearly state their reasons.

    Jo Reply:

    I think that you are correct, Mr. Sheehan may have it wrong again just like he got his story on Spanish high speed rail wrong. Mr Sheehan seems to have an affliction for appeasing critics rather presenting all sides of an issue with facts.

    Nathanael Reply:

    OK, good to know…. I can believe Sheehan reported erroneously.

  15. jimsf
    Mar 1st, 2012 at 07:41

    what about north of fresno is that delayed? I though that was going to be first. merced-fresno

    flowmotion Reply:

    Seven comments in a row makes you seem like a complete lunatic, fyi.

  16. Reality Check
    Mar 1st, 2012 at 09:10

    SJ Mercury’s story: High-speed rail construction delayed

    For years, state high-speed rail leaders aimed for a September 2012 groundbreaking to meet the assumed deadline for the federal stimulus program, which funded about one-third of the $6 billion first leg of track.

    But in a statement Wednesday, federal rail officials said the train “is making continual progress” and for the first time revealed that the law does not specifically require a deadline to start construction. Technically, it mandates the funds be “obligated” by September, and for the project to be finished by September 2017.


    In recent months, Gov. Jerry Brown’s appointees overhauled the project twice, while planners tweaked track alignments in response to community concerns. They still haven’t finished two key documents needed before construction can start: the business plan and state environmental impact reports. On Thursday, they’ll start the process of soliciting the first $1.5 billion to $2 billion in construction bids for the initial set of tracks.

    But rail authority deputy director Lance Simmens said the project remains “on schedule.”

    “Let’s not get too carried away with the dates here. It’s not like, ‘Oh my god, you guys have missed (the groundbreaking) by a year,’ ” Simmens said. “It’s a daunting task, and a daunting challenge, to say the least. But we’re moving forward in the most cost-effective and efficient way we know how.”

    Still, critics took the news as further evidence that the project is spiraling downward [….]

  17. trentbridge
    Mar 1st, 2012 at 16:49

    We have elections in November so pretty much everything dated 2013 is “uncertain”. I have no doubt either a Republican President or a Republican-controlled Senate would kill all HSR plans. Adios CAHSR. An Obama second term and a Democratically-controlled Congress and HSR would rise again – right across the US. Too early to say which way the election goes but public transit advocates know which way they have to vote..

    Nathanael Reply:

    A Republican President would probably also do something completely demented like starting a war with Iran.

    A Republican Senate would simply filibuster or block everything and leave the federal government non-functional for another two years. We can’t afford that.

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