Ray LaHood Urges America to Catch Up on High Speed Rail

Jan 31st, 2013 | Posted by

In what’s billed as an “exit interview” for the outgoing Transportation Secretary, Sam Stein at the Huffington Post sat down to talk to Ray LaHood about his tenure and the future of transportation policy. Among the points LaHood made was that America is falling behind the rest of the world on infrastructure – including high speed rail.

“For the first time since people have been looking at infrastructure, America is behind,” LaHood said. “We are behind other countries because other countries are making the investments that we used to make. We got a two-year [highway] bill because they could only find $109 billion. We need to do better and we need to make sure that America does not fall further behind when it comes to infrastructure.”

Beyond their stinginess, however, LaHood criticized lawmakers — his fellow Republicans in particular — for lacking a comprehensive vision for improvements to infrastructure.

LaHood’s views on the matter were shaped, in part, by his attempts in spring 2011 to convince Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) to accept federal funds to build high-speed rail lines in his state. Scott, in a nod to the fiscal hawks in his party, declined to take the funds, arguing that the project would have required too heavy an investment from his own budget.

“My thought was there is only one person in Florida who doesn’t want this money,” LaHood said of the episode. “He is a governor without a vision when it comes to transportation.”…

“Look, we are behind on high-speed rail,” he said. “But because of the president’s vision and because of the work of those of us here at DOT, we have come a long way … As long as President Obama is in the White House, whoever sits in this chair will have high-speed rail as one of their top priorities.”

I have no doubt that LaHood is right and that as long as Obama is president, his administration will strongly back high speed rail. I also hope LaHood is right when he suggests that Congress will eventually come around on transportation funding.

But I would not hold my breath. Today’s Republican Party is the party of decline, of decay, of failure. They are solely focused on making sure the rich never have to pay another dime in taxes, and that means they are willing to let this country’s physical infrastructure collapse if that is the price that must be paid. As California has learned, progress toward solving 21st century problems can only be made when Republicans are thrown out of all positions of power. Solutions cannot be started when power is held, even in part, by people who are ideologically opposed to solutions.

If Democrats get organized enough to focus on winning back control of Congress in 2014, then high speed rail could have a brighter future in terms of federal funding as early as 2015. If we have to wait until the House can be un-gerrymandered for the 2022 elections, then we’re looking at another 10 years of delay. California would find some way to keep their HSR project going. But the rest of the country would just fall further behind.

Ray LaHood is not a Tea Party Republican, but he is a moderate business Republican. Who knows if any of them still exist in meaningful numbers in elected office. But they do remain out there in the world, including the corporate world. Perhaps LaHood’s next act can be to convince them to help throw the Tea Party out of power.

  1. StevieB
    Jan 31st, 2013 at 22:12

    Democrats have organized “Battleground Texas” to identify and mobilize progressive voters in the state. Their time frame is long term, two years is too short for hope of much change in a state with Republicans in every statewide office. Money in the hundreds of millions will have to be raised for any hope of success.

  2. Reedman
    Jan 31st, 2013 at 22:51

    If CA can build HSR on-time, on-budget, and shows that HSR can be operated without continuous subsidies, then Florida, Wisconsin, et al will build HSR in a heartbeat.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Now that the Florida East Coast is doing Miami-Orlando privately and has plans to do Orlando-Tampa in the future, I highly doubt there will be any public competition, for better or for worse.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    If CA can build HSR on-time, on-budget…

    Well, that ship has sailed.

    Eric Reply:

    really? its 2017? holy crap!

    VBobier Reply:

    My how time flies….

  3. synonymouse
    Feb 1st, 2013 at 00:23

    The hsr subsidy is to be assumed nationally by Amtrak to control the danger of privatization and subsequent political embarrassment of the line being finally liquidated at scrap value.

    Where is the NdeM; where is the electrification to Queretaro?

    Trust no one:


    Nathanael Reply:

    Queretaro-Mexico City is getting high speed rail. I’ll say this for the PRI, they believe in infrastructure. PAN was awful, but that’s what you have to expect from “right-wing” parties.

  4. Andy M
    Feb 1st, 2013 at 02:42

    I see real parallels here to the meltdown of Britain’s Labour Party in the Thatcher years, and the later meltdown of the Conservatives in the Blair years. In both cases the inmates were allowed to run the asylum. I remember labour politicians in the Thatcher years thinking how fighting Apartheid was more important than looking after their own constituencies. The foamers drowned out the reasonables and the more they foamed, the more voters they turned away, and the more the voters ran away, the more the foamers went into denial over it being their fault and they foamed even more and blamed the reasonables. It finally took a Tony Blair to save the party and bring back some reason, only as we know, he failed to look in his own mirror and lost the plot himself pretty soon after.

    Then the Tories did exactly the same, losing power because there was too much foaming going on and then going into denial over that. And as we know, it took a Cameron to sort that out.

    I’m sure the GOP is going to head down that path sooner or later too. But maybe things are going to have to get worse before they can get better. But remember, the farther a pendulum swings out, the harder it swings back.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It didn’t take a Cameron; it took a Clegg. A large majority of voters voted for left-of-center parties, and even with the vote splitting, left-of-center parties had a (tiny) majority in Parliament. Clegg just decided to ally with Cameron because of ego problems.

    Neville Snark Reply:

    This is correct. Cameron is not more popular than other Tory leaders when they were in opposition. When Labour self-destructed under Brown, the Lib Dems were the primary beneficiaries, and their leader, Clegg, decided out of ego-problems (!) to enter into a coalition with Cameron. Cameron is a figure of hatred in Scotland, where I live. Clegg is more a figure of fun, the very definition of forsaking principles for power.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “Pendulum” is a stupid analogy for politics.

    The long term trend is all in one direction: populist, equality-oriented, and scientific, as opposed to monarchist, hierarchy-oriented, and religious.

    For the last 250 years or so.

    Backlash periods never play like the original.

  5. BMF from San Diego
    Feb 1st, 2013 at 07:32

    I feel we need more ‘technocrats’ in office versus today’s make-up of politicians. Our elected leaders need to be making common sense decisions and not ones based on conservative god-based values.

    BMF from San Diego Reply:

    Hillary Vlinton said today that Republican lawmakers refuse to live in an evidence based society.

    Nathanael Reply:

    That’s been clear since the anonymous Bush aide declared that the Bush administration was not part of the “reality-based community”.

  6. trentbridge
    Feb 1st, 2013 at 08:52

    There’s no reason to believe that CAHSR can’t deliver on time and within budget. There are no signs of rampant inflation in either materials or labor costs – the technology is well-known and the land to be acquired is mostly agricultural rather than residential and urban. I’m sure the opponents will claim that the labor unions will ramp up the costs but the value of using skilled labor is worth the price. For example, perhaps Boeing would have been better to use in-house union labor than out-source the jobs to make the Dreamliner.

    YESONHSR Reply:

    Had the trasportation bill that Oberstar proposed passed ..,CAHSR and others would have been planning much faster results with service start dates…this is a huge must for Obamas 2 term…a solid funding plan.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “There’s no reason to believe that CAHSR can’t deliver on time and within budget.”

    See BART, the template for RoundaboutRail. Or Muni, 13 undocumented no-shows.

    Most all the manufacturing jobs that are being added are non-union, in RTW states. This process has been ongoing since the fifties.

    This thing was designed by influence peddlers and ward healers. It is just workfare; it does not need to function. Just turn a wheel. When it fails there will be a call for another generation of freeways to take its place.

    Guess who will be the engineering consultant.

    trentbridge Reply:

    Yes and the Dreamliner outsourced by Boeing to avoid its own union employees was delivered on time and within budget? Hmmm. Sometimes when you outsource to RTW states and foreign countries you get shoddy, substandard work i.e. exactly what you pay for. Good luck with unlicensed, uninsured contractors working on your building projects.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Because, you know, Americans are at the global forefront of battery chemistry and fabrication.
    Not like outsourced Asians!
    The child-like Japs clearly still have a lot of chemistry to learn from the white man.
    We could teach them a thing about building and running high speed trains too.

    USA USA USA! Always insured, licensed, unionized, above-substandard, non-shoddy, and never never never ever RTW (Resistant to Warfare.)

    Hmmm. Hmmm baby!

    Nathanael Reply:

    You’re still out of your mind.

    There’s a difference between *buying off-the-shelf parts* and *outsourcing*.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Boeing offshored production to Japan, specifically in order to get Japanese companies to buy its planes rather than Airbus planes.

    Sort of what the joint Amtrak-CHSRA procurement press release wants to happen in reverse, i.e. doing HSR production in the US.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    HSR production in the US will make a huge amount of sense if we get a rail system back like we should. This is a big country, and is very undeveloped from a rail standpoint right now.

    How many railcars can we use to get us a proper US rail service, both for HSR and regional services? Alon Levy once suggested something like 10,000 units; man, who wouldn’t want to get part of an order or series of orders like that?

    Paul Druce Reply:

    There’s no reason to believe that CAHSR can’t deliver on time and within budget.

    It’s already overbudget and delayed.

    joe Reply:

    Of course it’s delayed – opponents are suing to delay the project.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s not the lawsuits; it’s the funding. California has much less outside funding than it hoped for.

    Tony D Reply:

    I don’t think any of us expected a Tea Party-dominated congress that’s hell bent on destroying our country. HSR just one of the many casualties to date.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The funding has not been causing the delays, so far. (Well, funding was causing the delays prior to passage of Prop 1A.) The NIMBYs are causing the delays currently. Funding could cause delays in the future, but is not *currently* causing delays.

    joe Reply:

    I remember way back a few months ago when critics and the LATimes reported CAHSRA has too much money. It will spend at some OMG astronomical rate.

    HSR critics will stick to the original timeline – that’s why the project will be late. Any re-baseline is invalid.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No, they’re expecting the environmental work to finish much sooner than the 2030s. The reason they’re projecting full-build will take until then is entirely financial.

    flowmotion Reply:

    Lawsuits should be expected at every step along the way.

    As for Congress, is there another segment that’s ready to be funded? IMO, the best way to garner political support is to start building it where people can see it.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    They are already late…it is just a matter of time before hy admit hey are over budget

  7. Joey
    Feb 1st, 2013 at 11:35

    There’s no reason to believe that CAHSR can’t deliver on time and within budget.

    No, but there’s good reason to believe they aren’t doing their best to do so.

  8. Paul Dyson
    Feb 1st, 2013 at 12:18

    At and FRA forum in Los Angeles I publicly warned LaHood that the way HSR was being managed in CA we would end up with a pile of studies and drawings and no railroad. He said I was “ridiculous”. Time will tell. LaHood is a bully and if any individual carries the blame for the catastrophe of HSR in CA it will be LaHood. LaHood forced the selection of the ICS in the San Joaquin Valley where it will have zero transportation benefit.
    I have just spent 3 days at the State Capitol talking to elected officials and staffs. Of those that are informed about and support passenger rail not one believes in the ICS and the business plan. There is no prospect of any self supporting revenue service in the next decade, there is no desire to reroute the San Joaquins, which could be improved on the existing route at a fraction of the cost. Caltrain electrification would be beneficial at a 50% lower price tag.
    The so called blended plan is basically a hoax. Cost estimates have gone from $33 billion to $90 billion plus so you bring it down to $68 bill by not building the difficult urban bits or by transferring the necessary upgrades to the counties and pretending they are not part of the project.
    The project as it stands will likely give passenger rail in this country a body blow from which it will never recover.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Cost estimates have not gone up from $33 to $90 billion unless you’re comparing costs in constant 2008 dollars to costs in YOE dollars.

    Eric Reply:

    and re-routing the San Juaquins to the ICS will mean faster service through the valley (since the route is not speed limited like freight track is) and safer (with no grade crossings). Also having the ICS in place will allow them to test the HSR trainsets (eventually) at full speed which the end routes will not allow. The central maintenance facility will also be in the valley. Its makes sense from an engineering standpoint to do the middle first.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    There’s no testing function at which the CV is inherently better. The CV is required for (in the far future) testing the trainsets at full speed; the mountain crossings are required for (in the far future) testing their ability to start on an upward slope and brake on a downward slope.

    Eric M Reply:

    Not sure how much faster they will allow the San Joaquin train-sets to travel, even on the new track

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    The real question is what will it do for the revenue of the San Joaquin service? OK you may save a few minutes on a 5 or 6 hour journey, even half an hour. But how many new patrons will that bring in to offset the loss from the stations not served, and of course to pay for the new infrastructure? We won’t need a test track for years or a maintenance facility. It’s a gross misplacement of a huge investment, an investment that could have revolutionized the service on offer to millions of people in the Bay Area and Southern California and instead will gather dust for a decade.

    Brian Reply:

    Can you explain how 2017 (finish initial construction) to 2022 (initial HSR operations) is a decade?
    When I was in school it was 5 years. Has math changed?

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    It’s about a decade from now. We’ve already spent tens of millions so that investment is “gathering dust”. And of course while construction and initial HSR operations may move some of the dust around they will generate very little in terms of productive transportation.

    joe Reply:

    Paul fails to tell us how he would have gotten these billions of dollars given his awesome plan fails to meet the requirements for funding.

    CA didn’t get billions for incremental improvements so this is just a guy without any responsibility or regard for the law and political reality PRETENDING there was ever a choice.

    flowmotion Reply:

    Joe — there certainly was a choice made in a smoke-filled room somewhere, which is what Paul is complaining about. The funding requirements weren’t handed down by god, they were designed to produce the desired outcome.

    joe Reply:

    Oh please. That’s a childish explanation not grounded in any time line of events.

    My recollection:
    The President made HSR a priority. Go figure but that’s what HE did.
    Recall a tough fight over stimulus bill with attempts to take the funding back.
    CA had a HSR project in place and WI & FL were also pushing HSR.
    States compete for funding.

    WI and FL new Gov’s played politics with HSR trying to repurpose funding for more reasonable projects — exactly like Paul wanted. WI and FL lost their funding.

    CA’s project won additional funding from FL and WI.

    Pauls’ plan to repurpose HSR is completely at a odds with the rationale for the funding and the additional money. Changing the rules means the funds would have gone elsewhere to start with.

    Changing the rules after the fact – WI and FL are swing states in the election. What’s the point of being overtly political and not letting FL and WI keep that money? Why not spread the money out to all 50 states?

    Paul thinks CA could have done what Paul wants because of smoked filled rooms and deal cutting. Childish and not reality. Not even close.

    He also thought to insult LaHood in a public forum and when LaHood shot back, Paul says he was bullied.

    Nathanael Reply:

    flowmotion — you’re just lying. CAHSR has been transparent and above board.

    Prop 1A was put on the ballot. People voted for it by large majorities. It was based on designs which had actual, coherent studies behind them.

    You want to see “smoke filled room”? Look at the history of the “Deep Bore Tunnel” (for cars) in Seattle. This was chosen by a private consultation of politicians in secret *after it had been rejected for having multiple fatal flaws* in the environmental study. This is a matter of public record.

    flowmotion Reply:

    Nathaneal — Prop 1A did not mandate the Central Valley ICS, that came from DC.

    I won’t call you a liar, but you seem confused.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Congress made the funds available. They laid out certain criteria for timing and start up. Chances are these won’t be met even with the current plan and there will be some tap dancing and amendments passed. A Transportation Secretary with half a brain would have figured this out and explained to Obama that the deal was unraveling but instead pressed on even though the solution would be to build a useless folly in the middle of a field. 100% politics, zero productive transportation investment.

    joe Reply:

    The executive branch also set criteria for funding dispersion and opened the money for competition.

    If the funds were for improving standard rail – well the line forms over there with all 50 states applying for the funds.

    The funds for HSR – that’s a short line. It’s a presidential priority – go figure. We a have a unique project in place to fund. We can get a disproportionate amount of money and did.

    New Teabagger Governors wanting to use the HSR funds for other projects. That money was taken away and given to the CA HSR system.

    Paul Dyson has alternative plans just like the teabagger governors.

    Paul thinks the President can be pushed and Jerry Brown too. CA is too important to say no.

    Govs knew FL is swing state so is WI and Obama pulled the money going into an election. CA is a sure thing so what’s the incentive for the rail lobby to push back at Brown and Obama?

    Paul also thinks LaHood is a bully for responding to pauls dick-ish comment made in a public forum. What did Paul Dyson expect? Why waste the time to show the world you can act like a dick?

    I don’t trust Pauls’ judgement at all – insult a cabinet member in a public setting by disparaging his high profile HSR project and then lobby in Sacramento.

    No thanks.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    My “judgement” is irrelevant. The CHSRA plus Dot/FRA plus the White House have proven that even a great idea (High Speed Rail) can be torpedoed by poor execution, and political manipulation. I have been campaigning for HSR in CA since 1982 and I see the prospects for success diminishing daily. Of course it has to be built in segments but at the same time the segments should be prioritized so that they are productive from as early a time as possible. The legislation called for that but the CHSRA lied when they stated that the IOS had independent utility.
    In my opinion there is still a very great danger that the project will founder and be cancelled. That would be less likely if useful segments were built which provided real improved service to the millions that live at the ends of Phase One. It can still happen. Build half a mile of the ICS and leave it for 5 years, spend the money on something useful that will retain the vital political support to see it through.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Paul Dyson has alternative plans.

    New Teabaggers have alternative plans.

    Therefore, A WITCH! BURN HER!

    Get with the GilroyThink™: have no plans.

    joe Reply:

    The CHSRA plus Dot/FRA plus the White House have proven that even a great idea (High Speed Rail) can be torpedoed by poor execution, and political manipulation. I have been campaigning for HSR in CA since 1982 and I see the prospects for success diminishing daily.

    Yes the risk is greater now than in 1980’s and 1990’s when we had nothing. Nothing happening means no risk of failure. The current administrations have started something so acknowledge the success and how it was done – thinking big and transformational. It exactly like getting a proposal funded in the NSF – define a compelling project.

    In my opinion there is still a very great danger that the project will founder and be cancelled. That would be less likely if useful segments were built which provided real improved service to the millions that live at the ends of Phase One. It can still happen. Build half a mile of the ICS and leave it for 5 years, spend the money on something useful that will retain the vital political support to see it through.

    And Experts like Jerry Brown think otherwise. You need to digest that the Pols who know the State and got this to the current state think otherwise.

    The project risks being orphaned by folks content to build in urban areas to maximize “cost benefit”. That’s not going to pass the CA senate which is not population based representation. Also you add risks due to the solution being incremental and non-transformational.

    The plan is to get CV with a segment in their area and motivate the N and S urban areas to connect to the CV segment.

    You disagree – so what? That’s the stated plan and it’s gotten us this far. The risks you state are known – their is no guarantee.

    joe Reply:


    Gilroy’s HSR page.

    and the recent study.

    jim Reply:

    Let’s review the bidding.

    California offered four possible segments: LA-Anaheim, SF-SJ and the two CV segments. The Feds rejected the first two. They didn’t have to say why, but one can guess: LA-Anaheim isn’t central to LA-SF, it’s sort of an ornamental stub; SF-SJ (1) isn’t part of an existing intercity route, it’s a commuter route and ARRA was explicit that the HSIPR money was for intercity not commuter rail (2) even from Washington it was clear that the Peninsula was, still is, NIMBY central: it still doesn’t have a Tier 1, let alone being close to breaking ground. So the CV was the only acceptable choice. California didn’t offer LA-Bakersfield or the Valley to Bakersfield or even Palmdale to Bakersfield. Again, they didn’t have to say why, but it’s even easier to guess. When the segments were offered, the cost estimates for Palmdale-Bakersfield were … unreliable. Between the ’09 Business Plan and the ’12 Business Plan, they more than doubled. It was explained (in a different document, natch) that the ’09 plan had assumed the Tehachapis could be crossed more or less at grade, with only a short length of tunnel and almost no viaduct. This being an unrealistic assumption, the estimates had to be increased. I suspect this was known when California chose its four segments to bid.

    But it’s more than that. At this point, we can wish that Palmdale-Bakersfield was being built, so that trains could run between NorCal and SoCal. We can envisage San Joaquins running under diesels from Oakland and Sacramento to Bakersfield, picking up an electric locomotive at Truxton Ave., running under that to Palmdale (the diesel helping on the upgrade and being shut off before the train enters the tunnel), dropping the electric locomotive at Palmdale and running along the Metrolink tracks under diesel into LAUS, seven and a half to eight hours LA-Oakland, six and a half to seven, LA-Sacramento, single seat ride. But back when Prop 1A was being formulated and debated, noone thought in these terms. California HSR was going to be separate from the existing rail system, it was going to be 350 km/h from the start, two and a half hour trip, FRA regulations weren’t to be controlling: Fly California. Had it been conceived in an incremental style, gradually adding to the existing rail system, upgrading first to 110 mph, then to 125 mph, then to 150 mph, then to …, it’s likely that Prop 1A would never have passed.

    Project managers are constrained by path dependence. We’re here because we’re here because we’re here because ….

    LaHood did have an opportunity to see that the project was unraveling and to pull the money. Between when it became clear that ground would not be broken by September ’12 and when Brown created his compromise to get the matching funds appropriated, LaHood could have declared that the delays meant that California wouldn’t be able to satisfy the ARRA timeline and redistributed the funds to, say, Michigan, North Carolina and Amtrak for the Portal Bridge. Had he done so, that probably would have killed all prospect of California HSR. So he didn’t. What he never had the opportunity to do was redirect the funds within California. This was what they bid. Nor, even had he the opportunity, would the funds be adequate for the needs elsewhere. Palmdale-Bakersfield would cost more than is currently to be spent on the ICS, more even than would be available if California maximally matched the federal funds.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “And Experts like Jerry Brown think otherwise.” Moonbeam is an “expert”? There isn’t any detectable expertise at CHSRA since Van Ark was fired. Amtrak is in pre-hsr mode so its politically expedient hire-aways hardly count.

    Brown is obviously impaired but hides it well, kinda like Reagan. The Valley segment, Boondocks Area Rapid Transit, will initially attract some novelty riders out for a kick but will soon settle down to mostly empty trains.

    90% of the public will agree with the conservatives’ broadside that the empty trains prove the CHSRA is a boondoggle.

    10% will subscribe to the machine party line that the trains will fill up when the3 line is longer.

    This is expert? It is a PR disaster waiting to happen.

    LaHood did not need to feel embarrassed; he needed to fell ashamed, guilty, remorseful at being a party to such an unnecessary fiasco.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Jim knows what he’s talking about.

    Paul doesn’t. Richard certainly doesn’t, and Syn… well, he lost the plot a long time ago.

    flowmotion Reply:

    Thanks for that post, Jim.

    Jonathan Reply:

    To underscore Jim’s post: CHSRA was far enough along with environmental approvals for the Central Valey segment, that it could plausibly (a) be built both within the ARRA deadline and (b) with (putatively available) funding. AFAIK, no other CHSR segment met either criteria.

    Joey Reply:

    But at some point they made a decision about which EIRs to focus on.

    Eric M Reply:

    You probably meant to direct that to the other Eric

    Joey Reply:

    Probably 100-110 mph. And Paul is right, it won’t save much time. It might increase capacity a bit, not that Amtrak California has enough trains to increase frequency at all.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Faster trains have a bit more capacity, though.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Locomotives and cars are on order funded by 1B.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    Again, why do we need to test technology that is already well understood by the rest of the civilized world?

    synonymouse Reply:

    That’s the BART-Bechtel-PB way – maximize the fun.

    Jonathan Reply:

    “fun”? ou’re channeling Bob “CBOSS” Doty, now…. if RM is to be believed about why Doty pursued blended passenger/freight operation on the CalTrain corridor.

    VBobier Reply:

    Testing to make sure it’s up to spec for one, just like a shake down cruise on a newly created US Navy warship. If anyone else would like to chime in on other such testing, ok.

    thatbruce Reply:


    There’s the test track in Colorado that is a better site for preliminary acceptance testing of train sets than the CV tracks. You can open them up to faster than 165mph on the CV after they’ve spent a few weeks in a controlled test environment.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Paul, LaHood is the best thing which has happened to the Transportation Department in years.

    Maybe it takes a bully to deal with prima donna governors and NIMBYs.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Nathaniel: Not a high bar to leap over. And we’ll see from actual results, not his hot air.

  9. synonymouse
    Feb 1st, 2013 at 13:27

    What else is to be expected other than a “body blow” given the CHSRA track record:

    1. They spontaneously and gratuitously picked a fight with the SF Peninsula over aerials which they knew would inflame the residents and which they could not win.

    2. They picked a fight with San Joaquin ag interests for very little real reason other than they are obsessed with deploying a Boondocks Area Rapid Transit along the 99 corridor. Particularly ridiculous when Fresno has no rail transit and the one conurbation that does, Sac, uses light rail effectively, nothing like BART over-built, gold-plated eccentritech.

    3. They fired their experienced exec who had, probably close to exclusively, a real grasp of the entire project. In effect they fired the messenger. Morons do that.

    4. They’ve picked the routes with the lesser utility and versatility. Look at it this way: Lee in San Francisco has a solider case for demanding Caltrain be replaced with BART Ring the Bay than Villa does for demanding Tehachapi over Tejon. There’s a pile of money to be made from redeveloping and gentrifying the land Caltrain owns in San Francisco. Villa’s machination does make any money for LA; it just panders to Antonovich and Team Tejon.

    If BART prevails there goes the SF entree. And call me crazy if you like but I believe it is likely. Pretty much what I like does not go down. I have been a diehard supporter of Caltrain, its electrification, and the TBT Tunnel for years. I am still am sore-pissed at BART-MTC, Heminger, Kopp and Willie Brown for whacking Caltrain in 1991. You have a bad precedent there and now there is a great deal more money involved. This Dogpatch scheme was a real surprise – BART has gotta be in on this.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Add “not” after Villa’s machination.

  10. D. P. Lubic
    Feb 2nd, 2013 at 09:21

    Do highway users pay as much as they should? That question is still around:


    Out of curiosity, who is behind this besides Christie? This sort of thing doesn’t happen in a vacuum; someone else, someone very influential, has to be backing this. We have some idea of “the usual suspects,” but whom might they actually be in this case? East Coasters with a closer view may have something to add here.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Streetsblog has been digging into the records to figure out who exactly constitutes the Asphalt Lobby. Generally, you want to look for bribes (uh, “job offers”) from construction firms to state officials.

  11. jimsf
    Feb 2nd, 2013 at 10:48

    All this fuss over segments. No one here will ever be satisfied no matter what decisions are made. First what was proposed was a massive stand alone railroad. Everyone complained about the overkill. Then what was proposed was a blended incremental system. Everyone is bitching about that. Everyone here has their own agenda, mainly, to have things done they way “they” think is best. As if anyone here has ever built a railroad.

    Phase one was always going to be built in construction segments. That is what is about to take place. The decision to start in the valley was made for a number of reasons…. and HAS BEEN MADE, so quit bitching about that and move on cuz no amount of bitching about how you know best, is going to change it. Its boring, as are all the conspiracy theories.

    There will be an ics in the valley followed by a mountain segment – either pacheco to a an electrified caltrain allowing for an ios of bfd to tbt or a tehachapi crossing to allow an ios from fresno to la via upgraded pmd-la segment.

    In the meantime before full hsr can run through, the best will be made of utilizing any upgrades so they don’t sit idle. And the whole thing will take a while. Just like everything else does.

    BART isn’t complete after more than 50 years since conception.
    The bay bridge isn’t complete after 24 years since loma prieta.

    The state
    s highway system is still full of gaps and missing upgrades after 60 years.

    HSR was first proposed for cali in what, the early 80s, more than 30 years ago and won’t be done for another 20 for a total of 50 years. Pretty much normal for large projects that are built in phases. Even then it won’t be done as there will be calls for line extensions north and east after that.

    So instead of whining about how everything is wrong cuz its not your way, which is a useless exercise, how about showing some support for the project in general and helping move things along. Compromises are inevitable.

    Those of you who are so smart and know everything…. should be applying for a job at chsra.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    excellent remarks- Gov Brown said Tehachapi crossing first for IOS

    synonymouse Reply:

    First and foremost you have to be vetted by Team Tejon – ask Roelof.

    VBobier Reply:

    Only if You pay for Tejon syno, no one wants that pass outside of You….

    Jonathan Reply:

    Does Richard M. also favor Tejon?

    Clem Reply:

    Yes he does, as do I.

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ Clem

    Looks like Ed Lee is taking up transport issues as a cause celebre – perhaps he will become a foil to that other big city mayor. Keep a watchful eye on that Caltrain tunnel – my guess is that Lee & Co. have very good access to Moonbeam.

    VBobier Reply:

    Then You 3 are a very small & exclusive club, Tejon is off the table, nothing You say or do anywhere will change that, short of nuclear extortion & Y’all don’t have what that takes.

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ VBobier

    Yes, synonymouse would be only too pleased to vote for a tax to pay for Tejon. Oh, my, it may be $5bil or more cheaper than Tehachapi. Who does not like a bargain? Other than the very unfunny three stooges of Team Tejon – Barry, Michael and Antonio.

    “Had it been conceived in an incremental style, gradually adding to the existing rail system, upgrading first to 110 mph, then to 125 mph, then to 150 mph, then to …, it’s likely that Prop 1A would never have passed.” Sometimes you fellas make it too easy for me. Fucking A – Prop 1A never should have passed dumbed down to incremental AmBART. Stupidities like that make Joe Paycheck call for maglev, monorail, pneumatic tube, anything not designed with featherbedding in mind. No wonder the transport illiterate are so fascinated with gadgetbahns. They keep getting rooked and scammed by the Bechtel’s, PB’s, Tutor-Saliba’s and TWU 250A’s of the world.

    The public wants and demands a project modern enough and competitive enough with air to come reasonably close to paying for itself. Capiche?

    I wonder if Jerry had Lionel or American Flyer as a kid? Maybe that’s the problem. He did not have either. After you have wrecked a few toy trains you want to build layout that works.

    VBobier Reply:

    If You want Tejon, pay for it on Yer own Syno, Yer alone or nearly so.

    Keith Saggers Reply:


    Jonathan Reply:

    Presumably Roelof Van Ark, former CEO of CHSRA.

    BMF of San Diego Reply:

    Love it! Why fret over something that is outside of your control. And, if you want to influence the project and be apart of solutiuons, seek a job with CAHSR.

  12. Jonathan
    Feb 2nd, 2013 at 11:37

    Meanwhile, Politico quotes Villaraigosa as “ruling out Ray LaHood’s job” — at least until July 1, 2013, when Villaraigosa’s second term as mayor of LA ends.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Given how long it takes for anyone to be confirmed in the US Senate (the US Senate being completely broken), this doesn’t rule out anything.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Quite — which is why I mentioned it the way I did.

  13. joe
    Feb 2nd, 2013 at 14:10
  14. Paul Dyson
    Feb 3rd, 2013 at 08:33

    @ Jim above, given the evidence that you present LaHood should have cancelled the fed funds for the project. If projected costs for a key link (Tehachapi route) were that far above estimates, and/or if political and local hostility to the project were deemed insurmountable, then it is criminal and folly to piss my and your money away on the “easy” part in the SJV just for the sake of getting started. Mr. Micawber would have been proud of all those responsible for this fiasco. Of course most of them will not be here to not enjoy it.

    joe Reply:

    There are high risks and uncertain when building and tunneling in mountainous terrain that is seismically active with unmapped TBD faults.

    Also CAHSR has to spin up a construction team that has never worked together before. It will require HSR expertise, CA expertise and meet reqexities when starting a new project with subcontractors with requirements for local and minority business involvement.

    joe Reply:

    Also CAHSR has to spin up a construction team that has never worked together before.

    It will require HSR expertise, CA construction expertise and meet requirements for local and minority business involvement.

    The CV segment is less complex and less risk.

    synonymouse Reply:

    And very little utility or relevance.

    BART’s Transbay Tube makes it indispensable. The Tejon punch-thru could render the same service and advantage to the CHSRA.

    Boondocks Area Rapid Transit is so far down the list of priorities.

    Jim Reply:

    The original sin of California HSR was that costs were originally lowballed. $30B could reasonably be split between the State, the Feds and the private sector, the State coming up with $10B. So the estimate came out to $30B. This may have been deliberate; it may have been the result of everyone hoping it’d come out around there. All the people responsible have left the project, so we’ll never know.

    At this point, thanks to Van Ark, we have reasonably accurate estimates. But because a bunch of actions were taken based on the original estimates, the project has problems. It is mired in the consequences of its original sin.

    It is very hard to punish a project because it has finally got its numbers right. Among other things, to do so screws up incentives. In this case, the original sin was committed under a Republican administration. The new numbers and a plan to deal with them came out under a Democratic administration. LaHood should cancel the project because the previous State government screwed up despite the new government, of the same party as his boss, admitting the previous error and seeking to do right from here on in?

  15. Paul Dyson
    Feb 3rd, 2013 at 08:35

    And @ Jim again, you think LaHood could not have redirected funds within CA? He who pays the piper calls the tune!

    VBobier Reply:

    Just look what the DOT did with FL when FL wanted to use the funds meant for HSR for highway use, the DOT gave the money to CA, the DOT has been quite firm on this, any other answer ignores stated facts and is delusional thinking. You and others will not and can not use DOT HSR money for anything other than HSR or the money goes back to the DOT, no ifs, ands or buts…. Don’t like that? Too bad, so sad.

    Jim Reply:

    Yes. Federal officials can’t behave arbitrarily or capriciously. The terms under which the ARRA funds were to be distributed were announced and advertised. LaHood had no power to simply ignore those terms. The original legislation limited the use of these funds. LaHood had no power to ignore those limitations. Redirect to what?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Just about everything about the CHSRA is redolent of arbitrary and capricious behavior.

    Of course these politicos can effect major changes and adjustments to the scheme. They just do not want to. They prefer to circle the wagons around the Fix. The Van Ark incident tells all.

    This thing has no relation to functionality. If the PB worshippers think otherwise, y’all are in the wrong church. PB doctrine is all about the bottom line. Period. Amen.

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