Sovereign Wealth, Pension Funds May Help Build High Speed Rail

Dec 3rd, 2012 | Posted by

A report out of Bloomberg News today indicates that California is beginning to walk down a path this blog has long suggested: looking to pension and sovereign wealth funds to help fund the high speed rail project.

CalPERS

From the article:

California is courting sovereign- wealth funds, pensions and endowments for more than $50 billion to build Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed bullet train to link the state’s largest cities, the most expensive public-works project in U.S. history….

“We have active interest in and outreach to sovereign funds and foreign consortia that are looking at us,” Jeffrey Morales, chief executive of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, said Nov. 29.

In addition to sovereign wealth funds, or state-owned investment pools, other potential investors include companies that will build and operate trains and stations, he said.

“Pension funds are definitely a potential investor,” Morales said. “They have been increasingly looking at infrastructure as an investment opportunity.”

These sources of investment all make a ton of sense. Infrastructure provides stable returns, especially high speed rail. Virtually every high speed rail line around the world from turns a profit, from Japan and France, Spain, Russia, Taiwan, to even the Amtrak Acela. Now those are operating profits, and if people investing in construction are expecting a profit, then they’re going to have to be patient or expect at least small returns for a while. Which for sovereign wealth funds and pension funds is fine.

The Bloomberg article includes some typical skepticism – costs could soar, ridership might not materialize – but assuming there’s no political or legal meddling to drive up the cost, I doubt overruns will be a problem. In fact, under Governor Brown’s leadership, costs are being driven down. And ridership has never been a problem for any HSR route in the world.

Will California’s pension funds be interested? After all, they have been investing in infrastructure in recent years, including their 2010 purchase of a stake in London’s Gatwick Airport. Here’s what the Bloomberg story has to say about that:

Neither the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, which is the largest U.S. pension, nor the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, the second-largest, have committed money to high-speed rail, according to spokesmen.

In 2011, the Calpers board voted to invest as much as $800 million in transportation, energy, natural resources, utilities, water and communications in California during the next three years. Calpers has a target of investing 2 percent of its $244.2 billion of assets in infrastructure.

A spokesman for Calpers, Joe DeAnda, and a spokesman for the teachers’ fund, Ricardo Duran, declined to comment on whether asset managers were considering high-speed rail, saying their funds don’t speculate on possible investments.

My guess is they are indeed looking at investing in HSR when the time comes. It’s a smart investment for them, and it’s only appropriate that the public’s pension dollars are invested in the state’s infrastructure.

I wouldn’t want these kinds of investors to be the primary source of additional HSR funding. They have a role to play, no doubt, but it should be in combination with other public funding sources. SPUR showed how California could pay for HSR all on its own even without recourse to CalPERS or sovereign wealth funds. But if those latter groups want to bring money to the table, it’s worth listening to them.

  1. Stephen Smith
    Dec 3rd, 2012 at 21:32
    #1

    Interesting that the article didn’t make any reference to the only private investor that’s ever expressed a serious interest in the project: SNCF America.

    Then again, it would have been hard for the author to find any evidence of it, given that the LA Times has scrubbed the article from its website (here’s the blog post promoting it, but when you click the link, you get a 404 error). I emailed Ralph a few weeks ago when I discovered the page was missing, he said they’d “look into it.” Emailed him again afterwards to follow up, no response. Anyone who can find access to it on Lexis Nexis or in their cache, please do the world a favor and post it somewhere! Or at least email me a copy: smithsj@gmail.com.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Sorry, SNCF wasn’t the potential investor – the investors were the banks it brought along to its meetings with the CHSRA.

    joe Reply:

    Serious?!?

    SNCF made a non-binding Powerpoint Presentation. That’s not serious. It takes a a few hours time to make one – hours.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    “A few hours”?? You’re joking, right? Denis Douté moved his family to the Bay Area (and eventually died here!), hired an engineering staff to evaluate the project, and found bankers who had worked with SNCF in the past and were interested in financing SNCF America’s ideas. It was much, much more than just a Powerpoint presentation.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Here’s the problem with your “theory”:

    France in the world marketplace is a competitor to California: wine, cheese, technological products, etc… They were as serious as Vivendi is when they come into a third world country, build irrigation systems and then force developing nations to pay extortionate rates for water. For Schwarzenegger (yes that guy), it made way more sense to flirt with the French and then get the Japanese or Chinese (who trade with us a lot and make pretty awful cheese and wine) pony up the dough to build the infrastructure. (Unlike Vivendi, when the Chinese go to Africa they build roads to access raw materials like copper which then get taken back to China..)

    However, accidents being what they are, once it was clear the China option wasn’t working, the Japanese had no reason to bid (because Chinese technology is essentially there’s if illegally modified) leaving the French with more leverage, who in turn used van Ark (yes that guy) most likely to argue for cutting costs by running it down I-5 and going through Tejon because again, that works better for their model of service anyway.

    The problem there is that the Holy Trinity of Pelosi, Reid, and Obama all don’t want to abandon the CV route, and they all had more than enough juice to stop that train dead in its tracks (pun intended).

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Your wine- and cheese-based theories about railroading intrigue me, and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter!

    joe Reply:

    Stephen;

    It’s a powerpoint presentation. Engineering design, plans and proposals are not written in powerpoint.

    A crummy NSF grant requires about 12-15 pages of technical and budget information – 20 pages if you are lucky to get the extra room.

    You don’t capture billion dollar projects with info from 20 PPT slides.

    This was possibly a pitch to get some funding. The funding would 1) bootstrap a proposal and 2) help attract investors.

    It’s common to pitch like this in R&D – you pitch to DARPA and get some seed funding to mature the idea and write a full proposal. The pitch is usually ambitious – high pay-off. The seed funding then helps the proposer to attract partners.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    SNCF America already had potential investors – it didn’t need to attract any. It brought representatives from two large private banks to the meetings. At least, that’s what the people who were at the meetings told me.

    Wdobner Reply:

    Except that in the only documents made available to us proles, the Powerpoint presentation Joe referenced, does not say that. It makes it clear that SNCF’s participation in the program is dependent upon a decade of cost-plus contracts which then can result in penalty payments if SNCF is not selected as the operator of Phase 1. You can bitch and moan that Prop 1A and AB3034 aren’t being followed to the letter, but SNCF’s “offer”, at least what the general population here has access to, reeks of the exact sort of cronyism many here accuse the CHSRA’s contractors of practicing. If you have information which contradicts what that presentation from SNCF America says on Pages 15 and 16 then please, by all means allow the rest of us to see it so we can evaluate the SNCF proposal in a more favorable light than their own documentation creates.

    WADR, and of course IMHO, you’ve gotten your panties in a twist because SNCF figured out they could slide a lowball bid now, gather up an inadequate amount of private financing, and then make up the difference over the next decade shaking California’s taxpayers for every dime they’re good for.

    That’s not to say fixed price contracts will necessarily save money, and indeed some cost plus contracts will likely be required to complete the project’s construction in particularly high risk areas where insurance on a fixed price contract would be exorbitant. But at least with a lot of the contracts going out as fixed cost the CHSRA can have some idea of how much money they’re going to be spending in the decades to come. IMHO the worst thing they could do at this point is align themselves with an operating contractor seeking a cost-plus arrangement for upwards of a decade. That’s simply a recipe for California to be completely fleeced.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    well said

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    It may be your opinion that SNCF’s offer was not a good one, but how does that excuse the author of the Bloomberg article from at least mentioning it?

    I’m not looking to get into a debate about the merits of the SNCF proposal – we’ve done that already. I’m merely saying that it seems bizarre to write an article about potential private investors in the project without mentioning the ones that were already spurned.

    joe Reply:

    20 slides isn’t an offer.

    It’s a pitch to shake loose some money – see if SNCF can get some easy money to write a proposal. Use that score to bootstrap some investors.

    Wdobner Reply:

    It’s not my opinion. It’s an easily verified fact that a publication from SNCF called for cost-plus operating contracts to recoup capital expenditures. You can even click that link in my prior comment, scroll down to Page 15, and see for yourself. Given that, why would Bloomberg report on what can only be described as a proposal in the loosest definition of that word? And worse, it’s a “proposal” that didn’t meet even the most basic requirements of the legislative structure within which the system is being created.

    I’m not looking to get into a debate about the merits of the SNCF proposal – we’ve done that already.

    No, we really haven’t. Several people have attempted to point out the critical failing in the SNCF “proposal” and the fundamental hypocrisy of accusing one contractor of cronyism while supporting another contractor’s rather blatant attempt at rent-seeking, but apparently you weren’t looking to debate the SNCF proposal back then either.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Me: “It may be your opinion that SNCF’s offer was not a good one…”
    You: “It’s not my opinion. It’s an easily verified fact…”

    Um, sorry, but cost-plus contract = bad is not a fact that a journalist writing for a straight news publication is allowed to determine. It’s an opinion.

    Wdobner Reply:

    I didn’t realize a journalist for a straight news publication was allowed to determine:

    “Obviously it would also have been in Parsons Brinckerhoff’s interest to ditch the SNCF plan, and of course there are many people who have been employed both at PB and CHSRA.”

    So again, why do you cast aspersions based on little or no real evidence against one contractor while touting a PPT from another potential contractor which drips rent seeking?

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Am I a journalist for a straight news publication? Where have they been sending my check??

    Wdobner Reply:

    Sorry, I thought you were referring to yourself. But in any event SNCF’s Powerpoint does not constitute a proposal. If they’d submitted a formal proposal then your accusations of conspiracy and cover ups on the part of the CHSRA and Parsons might have some traction. If there was a formal proposal that was covered up, then by all means you’re absolutely correct, and the people in the CHSRA responsible for that need to be held accountable. But all we have to go on is a 20 page pamphlet which doesn’t do a particularly good job selling their services. And with that Bloomberg was absolutely correct to ignore SNCF’s Powerpoint, if the author was even familiar with it in the first place.

    But by dismissing SNCF’s rent-seeking out of hand despite the overwhelming evidence contained in the presentation in their own words you’re standing up for the very same sort of graft and cronyism you’ve previously claimed was bringing down the CHSRA project. I hold no illusions as to whether or not P-B has links to the HSRA (they undoubtedly do), but to claim SNCF’s proposal was a panacea for all that ails the project is simply naive, especially in light of what they actually said.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    If I just kept on giving you one- two-sentence responses without engaging you in the argument you desperately want to have, would you respond every time with a rewrite of the same rant about how it was all a scam on the part of SNCF?

    joe Reply:

    The LATimes reports SNCF went the Legislature and Agencies including HSR critical Lowenthal and they didn’t do anything. No one bit. No one ran to the press, public or advocacy sites to spill the beans on this offer.

    It’s like the car engine that runs on water, but GM bought the patents and killed it.

    Jonathan Reply:

    SNCF a “private investor”? Are you _really_ that clueless?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    “After 12 months, Operator forms consortium with capital sources and contractors to provide required private equity, debt and construction services for next stage.”

    Wdobner Reply:

    Why don’t you scroll down to the next slide where we’re told it will be a cost-plus contracts for the design-build, and operate/maintain portions of the project, with SNCF making out like a bandit regardless of whether they’re selected as an operator? Most critically, precisely what percentage of the project’s cost does the SNCF “proposal” envision their private backers putting up for the project? Right, it doesn’t say, because it’s not a proposal, it’s a powerpoint and is thus completely useless.

    But it’d be very easy to say they’d set California straight, offer 30% of a $50 billion Phase I construction cost. Then, with cost-plus contract in hand set about recouping both that investment and much, much more from California’s taxpayers through the construction and operation of the project as “costs” balloon beyond their “projections”.

    Why do you attack what is debatably graft and cronyism in one contractor while defending another contractor’s very blatant attempt at rent seeking?

    VBobier Reply:

    SNCF sounds like a low ball bidder with Military type cost overruns, no thanks, next…

    Joey Reply:

    SNCF has a history which suggests otherwise.

    VBobier Reply:

    Maybe if they’d put in a proper bid and along the present alignment and not the crappy sprawl inducing 5, maybe they’d be in the running, the SNCF planned as if the CV cities were in France, that’s not how railroads built Railroad Towns here, most towns in the west were started by the railroads and planned by them.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    along the present alignment and not the crappy sprawl inducing 5

    Fun fact: Highway-99 is called “the Tokaido road of the Central Valley” by locals.

    Wdobner Reply:

    It doesn’t much matter what their history if they’re seeking an operating agreement which is specifically forbidden by Prop 1A or AB3034. California has erected a few impediments to rent-seeking, and while some organizations have gotten around them, SNCF was pretty clearly tripped up by the CHSRA’s prohibition on cost-plus operating contracts.

    VBobier Reply:

    Sounds like the French left in a huff upon discovering that little fact…

    Jonathan Reply:

    Powerpoint engineering. As George Orwell might put it: PB PoewrPoint Bad; SNCF PowerPoint, Better!
    oh, I forgot.. consistency is the bugaboo of _small_ minds. Or more completely:

    A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

    Stephen Smith did not say “follow-on consirtum”; he clealry implied that SNCF was a private investor:

    nteresting that the article didn’t make any reference to the only private investor that’s ever expressed a serious interest in the project: SNCF America.

    Stephen is functionallyh illiterate. Societe’ National des Chemins-de-fers Fran,cais is a _French state-owed company_. It’s like calling Amtrak a “private investor”, if Amtrak had plans to operate trains in Europe.

    I guess that makes you functionally illiterate, too. Stephen didn’t say SNCF proposed</b. a "private investment consortium"; he said SNCF was a private investor.

    I wonder, Is this the same “Stephen Smith” who writes overtly biased — or in, this new light, perhaps merely functionally-illiterate — newspaper articles?

    Jonathan Reply:

    Ok crap.! Preview facility! Preview facility!!

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Are you blind? Did you not see that literally one minute (check the timestamp!) after I posted that comment – before anybody posted any follow-up comments – I corrected myself?

    In case you are incapable of scrolling, here is what I said: “Sorry, SNCF wasn’t the potential investor – the investors were the banks it brought along to its meetings with the CHSRA.”

    Jonathan Reply:

    No, I’m not blind. I was probalby busy typing –or mis-typing — the above.

    Anyone who can say “SNCIF Is a private investor” with a straight face, is too clueless to have a worth-while opinion. it’ is _exactly_ like calling Amtrak a private operator.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    btw, I’ve never written for a newspaper (do those still exist?), but I am a columnist for Bloomberg View. Which, as a non-“functionallyh illiterate” person like yourself can see, is the opinion side of the Bloomberg mothership. Being “biased” is kind of in the job description.

    (We can have a separate discussion about whether anybody who knows enough about a subject to write about it for money can truly be unbiased, but maybe we’ll save that for a later flamewar…)

    Jonathan Reply:

    yeah, like writing columns uncritically citing an “expert” who has zero, repeat ZERO experience with HSR, and who say California HSR should co-operate with freight railroads.

    That one just begs to be seen, and raised to “innumerate”.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Stephen:

    High-speed rail officials rebuffed proposal from French railway

    The French railway recommended that the state build the rail line along the Interstate 5 corridor and partner with it or another foreign firm to hold down costs.

    By Dan Weikel and Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times

    July 9, 2012

    As state officials accelerated their effort to design a high-speed rail system in 2010, they were approached by the renowned French national railway with a suggestion: The project could use the help of an experienced bullet train operator.

    Until the end of last year, SNCF, the developer of one of the world’s most successful high-speed rail systems, proposed that the state use competitive bidding to partner with it or another foreign operator rather than rely on construction engineers to design a sophisticated network for 200-mph trains.

    The approach, the French company said, would help the California High-Speed Rail Authority identify a profitable route, hold down building costs, develop realistic ridership forecasts and attract private investors — a requirement of a $9-billion bond measure approved by voters in 2008.

    But SNCF couldn’t get its ideas — including considering a more direct north-south route along the Central Valley’s Interstate 5 corridor — out of the station.

    Instead, the rail authority continued to concentrate planning in the hands of Parsons Brinckerhoff, a giant New York City-based engineering and construction management firm. Although they have occasionally consulted with high-speed railways, officials decided that hiring an experienced operator and seeking private investors would have to wait until after the $68-billion system was partially built. Last week, the state Senate approved — by a single vote — $8 billion to get construction underway.

    “It’s like California is trying to design and build a Boeing 747 instead of going out and buying one,” said Dan McNamara, a civil engineer who worked for SNCF’s U.S. affiliate. “There are lots of questions about the Parsons Brinckerhoff plan. The capital costs are way too high, and the route has been politically gerrymandered.”

    Under the authority’s management, cost and ridership estimates have fluctuated wildly. The project’s ability to lure private investors remains uncertain, the route through the eastern Central Valley has ignited a legal war with the agricultural industry and some experienced operators, such as the Central Japan Railway Co., have lost interest in the project.

    The Japanese firm, which runs the famous Shinkansen bullet train, turned its attention elsewhere when the authority decided to save money by sharing track in major urban areas with freight and passenger trains.

    Dan Richard, chairman of the rail authority board, declined to answer specific questions about SNCF’s proposal or critiques of the project. In a statement, however, he dismissed the railway’s ideas.

    “Our business plan is predicated on having private operations after the initial system is built,” Richard said. “Turning the design of the system over to a private operator would have been a bad financial move for California taxpayers. SNCF’s proposal was self-serving and not in the public interest.”

    Will Kempton, chief executive of the Orange County Transportation Authority and chairman of the rail authority’s peer review panel, said, however, that he was impressed with SNCF’s ideas.

    “It would make sense to get the operators involved early in the process, so the operator can have input in the construction and design,” Kempton said.

    SNCF built and operates the Train a Grande Vitesse system, or TGV, with 1,100 miles of track handling 800 high-speed trains a day. It carried about 114.5 million passengers in 2010 and has made an operating profit annually.

    When the French firm showed interest in developing California’s system, the eastern Central Valley route had largely been set, decided in 1995 long before the full cost of construction was understood.

    Political experts say the route was pushed by politicians from the eastern Central Valley who were instrumental in initiating and funding the project and were later backed by then-House SpeakerNancy Pelosi. Bypassing Fresno, the state’s fifth-largest city, would have been a deal-killer, the experts said.

    “If you went up the I-5, you’d get a lot of votes from the cows in Coalinga,” said Richard Katz, a member of the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board and a former high-speed rail authority board member.

    SNCF officials said that if they were hired they would propose running the bullet train along Interstate 5 through the Central Valley and then linking to San Francisco.

    McNamara said the I-5 route would have been the shortest, fastest and lowest-cost alignment, with a price tag of about $38 billion — sharply less than the rail authority’s current route, which has been estimated at various times to cost $34 billion, $43 billion, $98 billion and now $68 billion.

    According to SNCF, the I-5 route could use state-owned right of way or utility easements, reducing conflicts with property owners.

    The railway’s initial analysis indicated that the I-5 route might also be 20 minutes faster. By law, the bullet train must make the L.A. to Bay Area trip in less than 2 hours, 40 minutes, though internal authority documents raise serious questions about whether the current route can meet that mandate.

    In the French view, fast service between the state’s mega-regions would provide most of the riders and lead to the system’s ultimate success. The French contended that rail service to Fresno, Bakersfield and Palmdale could be accomplished with branch lines linked to the I-5 route and regional commuter service, such as Metrolink. Instead, the high-speed rail alignment goes through Gilroy, Fresno, Bakersfield and Palmdale, which accounts for much of the project’s 190 miles of viaducts and 48 miles of tunnels. State officials say the present route has more ridership potential and fewer construction complications than an I-5 path, though they concede it would be slower and cost more.

    From 2010 to November 2011, SNCF officials briefed California legislators and transportation agencies. They met with rail authority board members and two chief executives, Mehdi Morshed and Roelof Van Ark, both of whom have since left. The company’s message was blunt.

    “Simply put, the California High-Speed Rail Authority has a wish list, not a plan,” an SNCF presentation stated. “This lack of an investment-grade business plan is a deadly defect, particularly in a project that by law cannot rely on government subsidies for its operation and maintenance.”

    According to the railway’s proposal, an experienced operator would be hired to help with initial planning. If a decision was made to proceed further, the operator would be retained to help with final design and construction with the intent of eventually running the system — an idea that was well received by some California officials.

    “The longer we wait to have private-sector involvement, the less we can transfer the risk,” said state Sen. Alan Lowenthal(D-Long Beach), who heads a special committee that oversees the bullet train project. Private operators “are not going to accept the risk if [state officials] decide everything. That’s why I was intrigued by their proposals early on.”

    Though he urged Van Ark to listen to the French, Lowenthal said the chief executive rejected SNCF’s ideas. “He is a technocrat,” Lowenthal said. “I don’t think he understood that we were accepting all the risk. He was just there to build it.”

    Van Ark could not be reached for comment.

    Julien de Hornay, the former president of SNCF America Inc., said he never knew why Van Ark turned down the company’s proposals.

    SNCF no longer wants a role in the project, its enthusiasm extinguished as the proposal became increasingly controversial, opposition mounted in the Central Valley and company officials learned that the political establishment would not be flexible on the alignment.

    “The French are not interested right now because of what they have seen,” McNamara said. “They don’t think it is a feasible project the way it is currently designed.”

    dan.weikel@latimes.com
    ralph.vartabedian@latimes.com

    joe Reply:

    1) An unsolicited offer comprised of 20 slides isn’t an offer. Most NSF Proposals are 15-20 pages of technical/budget for a few hundred K. SNCF isn’t making an offer in 20 slides.

    2) Think about this claim: “From 2010 to November 2011, SNCF officials briefed California legislators and transportation agencies. They met with rail authority board members and two chief executives, Mehdi Morshed and Roelof Van Ark, both of whom have since left. The company’s message was blunt.”

    Not one HSR critic stepped forward to advocate CA investigate this serious offer. Think about it. Alan Lowenthal and all the legislature – GOP included – just dropped the ball and let this opportunity drift by. Critics propose CEO Van Ark cast a ju-ju spell on the entire State to shut everyone up and then he hurt SNCF’s fee-fees so they left forever.

    LATimes digs deep and finds the smoking gun – 20 slides.

    Richard’s Onit.

    More likely no one was moved by a 20 slide unsolicited offer to take over CAHSR. SNCF took their 20 slides and left.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Your last sentence is key.

    Re. the French approach- it does help that a decent legacy railway system existed before the construction of the original LGV. I wouldn’t call the CV’s railway system decent, at least by first world standards.

  2. swing hanger
    Dec 3rd, 2012 at 21:43
    #2

    Heavens, I first thought that was Millbrae Station in that pic- was relieved that it’s the Calpers building in Sacto;)

  3. VBobier
    Dec 3rd, 2012 at 21:56
    #3

    Spurs ideas are interesting, raising the gas tax by $0.08 a gallon for 20 years would raise about $21 Billion, better than the $15 billion and only $0.02 more per gallon of fuel. Plus Sovereign funds and CA wouldn’t need anymore Federal monetary involvement and DC Repugnican obstruction on HSR wouldn’t be a problem anymore.

  4. Roger Christensen
    Dec 3rd, 2012 at 22:11
    #4

    OT the LA Times reports tonight that the downtown LA streetcar has been approved by over 70% of the voters. Only residents within 2-3 blocks of the route were eligible to vote.

  5. synonymouse
    Dec 3rd, 2012 at 22:18
    #5

    Derivatives – they’ll never know their money went down the DeTour.

  6. Tom McNamara
    Dec 3rd, 2012 at 23:36
    #6

    Although I’m sure we are going to hear plenty about Singapore in the upcoming days, one particular good choice of dance partner would be the Alaska Permanent Fund. It’s not big enough to underwrite the whole project, but it could help Alaska transition from a resource based economy into something more diversified.

    Another potential investor with historical ties: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. And don’t forget LA’s Department of Water and Power….

    synonymouse Reply:

    Re: LA Water and Power

    Remember what Hollis Mulwray said: “I won’t build it!”

  7. D. P. Lubic
    Dec 4th, 2012 at 04:23
    #7

    Off topic as can be, but something that might be interesting to energy discussion readers–a Gilbert science set–a toy–that lets the kids study atomic energy, manufactured in the early 1950s:

    http://www.orau.org/ptp/collection/atomictoys/gilbertu238lab.htm

    Whooee! Can you imagine the fuss that would be raised today about a toy that includes radioactive ore samples?

  8. Derek
    Dec 4th, 2012 at 08:44
    #8

    Caltrain sets a new record, by Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal staff

    October was the best month ever for Caltrain as the agency set a new high for weekday ridership at 51,716… It was the 27th straight month Caltrain’s ridership has increased and the third time in 2012 the agency topped the 50,000-passenger-a-day mark.

  9. Jo
    Dec 4th, 2012 at 14:58
    #9

    I guess this is what is called a public/private partnership; which is why building the initial spine – Bakersfield to Merced is so important. Once that is built, hopefully with no cost overruns; is this enough to attract the type investment mentioned? Spain, France and other countries have not had any real cost overruns in building their systems. Spanish builders which are prominent in the companies bidding, have a very good record and a lot of experience in keeping things on budget and on time.

    VBobier Reply:

    I like the Spanish, Repubs probably don’t, but some are nuts…

    Joey Reply:

    Maybe we should take a hint or two from them as far as railway engineering is concerned…

  10. synonymouse
    Dec 4th, 2012 at 18:13
    #10

    And they will invest when they see “initial spine” passenger loads so light they could never produce profits?

    You are going to need some truly stupid investors; otherwise they will demand essentially the SNCF plan.

    I suggest derivatives.

    And if Jerry installs a union like this, fuggedaboutit:

    http://www.altamontpress.com/discussion/read.php?1,80600,80643#msg-80643

    VBobier Reply:

    Put a lid on it Frank…

Comments are closed.