More Details Emerge on the Disastrous Plan B
The battle is on in Sacramento over the future of the high speed rail project. For a good overview of the situation, see Damien Newton’s post at Streetsblog LA. We’ve learned some more details about the “Plan B” being pushed by State Senator Alan Lowenthal and other opponents of the high speed rail project:
According to rail advocates who have been briefed on the idea, Plan B’s top priorities include:
- A $2 billion tunnel through downtown San Francisco to bring commuter rail service — and, eventually the bullet train — into the city’s new Transbay Transit Center from the Caltrain station more than a mile away.
- $1.5 billion in Los Angeles-area rail improvements, including a redesign of Los Angeles Union Station’s rail access and construction of rail overpasses. Together, the projects would speed rail service for hundreds of Amtrak and Metrolink trains each day and end chronic traffic bottlenecks.
- A $1.5 billion San Joaquin Valley bullet train line between Fresno and Madera — but with no immediate connections to Merced or Bakersfield.
In a statement, Dan Richard, chairman of the state High-Speed Rail Authority, asserted that Plan B couldn’t be done.
“There are no legal, practical or contractual ways to move the money out of the Central Valley,” he wrote. “The Authority’s revised plan already makes major investments to rail across the state.”
The Central Valley spending would be tokenistic at best, just a few miles of track as a sop to the Valley while the rest of the money is siphoned off for other projects. It’s my understanding that the Obama Administration remains unwilling to support this proposal, meaning it jeopardizes the entire project since the federal government would pull its $3.3 billion in stimulus were the legislature to move in this direction.
Californians For High Speed Rail explained some of the reasons why “Plan B” is a bad plan:
“This idea for a so-called ‘Plan B’ is a non-starter. It has no realistic legitimacy due to federal restrictions that stipulate the creation of a robust full-speed high-speed rail infrastructure,” said Daniel Krause, executive director of Californians For High Speed Rail.
“The Plan B being floated would build a mere 28 miles of new track designated for high-speed rail, creating an orphan section of track in the Central Valley, killing all momentum toward building a true high-speed rail system. The current plan will build up to 130 miles of track, solidifying California’s commitment to true high-speed rail. It’s time to end the games and move forward on Governor Brown and the Authority’s plan to make high-speed rail a reality,” Krause added.
“While the individual bookend projects being considered have merit on their own, Californians for High-Speed Rail believes that accelerating these projects at the expense of building a huge section of true HSR track is a shortsighted and irresponsible strategy,” said Krause.
Of course, “Plan B” fits with Lowenthal’s long-held goal of destroying the SF-LA bullet train and taking the money for other pet projects in Southern California.
For a richly detailed discussion of Lowenthal’s actions in pushing Plan B, and more explanation of why it’s such a bad idea, I encourage readers to look at Bruce McF’s post titled Will Alan Lowenthal Kill or Save California HSR?:
So, if you want to push California closer to higher speed intercity passenger rail between SF and LA ~ if that is the goal ~ then the Initial Construction Segment helps get California there. It helps get California there whether California gets there along the direction contained in the CHSRA Business Plan, whether California postpones one or both of the expensive parts of the Express HSR corridor in favor or quicker incremental upgrades, or whether it shuts down the CHSRA and starts over almost from scratch.
But it only moves California in that direction if California takes the Federal funding presently on offer and breaks ground. If the California State Senate plays the game of plundering the Prop1a funds in pursuit of commuter rail upgrades, it seems very likely that the US Dept. of Transportation will simply shift the funds elsewhere, likely to a combination of Illinois and to one or more swing states.
The full post with worth reading, with solid analysis of where things currently stand.
The stakes are enormous. If you haven’t let your legislators know where you stand, visit StandUpForTrains.org and let them know you want true HSR and stimulus in California – and want Lowenthal’s attack on the HSR project to be stopped in its tracks.