Shockingly, Jeff Denham Still Skeptical of HSR Project

May 28th, 2013 | Posted by

Are you sitting down? You sure? You’ll want to be in a safe, comfortable position before reading this truly shocking news:

Rep. Jeff Denham came to the Madera Community College Center on Tuesday with plenty of questions about plans to start building a high-speed train system in the San Joaquin Valley.

The Turlock Republican, who is the chairman of the House subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, left his committee hearing just as skeptical as he arrived, decrying the lack of private investment in the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s proposed bullet train and declaring his intention to continue blocking federal money for the project.

“I’m going to work with my colleagues to make sure that money is held up until there’s a full business plan and a private investor,” Denham said.

I mean no disrespect to Tim Sheehan of the Fresno Bee, author of this article, as he’s doing his job covering the hearing and giving an honest report on Denham’s attitude. No, the absurdity is entirely Denham’s, who built a career out of claiming to be some kind of moderate Republican but turned out to be the same kind of fire-breathing right-winger that populates the House Republican Caucus.

Denham’s concerns include not only the inflated cost of statewide project — now estimated at $68.4 billion to connect San Francisco and Los Angeles — but uncertainty about other issues: where the money will come from, how many farms and businesses will be affected, how much it will cost to acquire right-of-way property, and how frequently the state will have to resort to eminent domain or condemnation to get the property it needs.

Of course, as we’ve always pointed out, Denham is in a position to do something to resolve every last one of these issues. He could guarantee project funding, which will help the Authority nail down the final details about how many farms and businesses will be affected (that won’t be clear until a construction contract is finalized), the cost to acquire right-of-way, and the use of eminent domain. But rather than help solve these issues, Denham simply stands back and pretends to be a dispassionate observer rather than someone who has more power than almost anyone else outside of Sacramento to do something about it.

Denham is even positioning himself as a defender of Prop 1A:

“I believe we need to get back to a plan that the voters voted on, and if not, then we need to go back to the voters,” he said. “Right now this initial construction segment will not be electrified, will not be high speed, and will be operated by Amtrak. That is far from what Prop. 1A was. So it leaves a lot of questions for Valley residents.”

Denham did vote for AB 3034, which became Prop 1A, in August 2008. But as he knew well, the Prop 1A plan was for the federal government to come through with a commitment of at least $10 billion to fund the project. So if we want to go back to “a plan that the voters voted on” Denham needs to step up and deliver the federal funding that the 2008 plan envisioned, rather than throw bombs from the sidelines.

Of course, the current HSR plan conforms to Prop 1A – it’s a more detailed approach to the phased development of the system. But if Denham wants what he thinks was suggested in 2008, he needs to look in the mirror rather than place blame at the feet of others.

  1. Walter
    May 28th, 2013 at 23:29

    You read Bob Dole’s recent comments and they ring so true when you see stuff like this. The Republican Party is truly the party of “no.” Dole specifically critiqued the modern GOP’s anti-everything platform. No ideas, no long-term vision–I don’t know, say, investing in many kinds of transportation now to spend less on airports, highways, and environmental costs later, not to mention stimulating the economy and creating jobs, which adds tax revenue. No, high-speed trains are expensive and foreign and liberal and supported by Obama (and Biden) and a waste of money.

    VBobier Reply:

    Yet after WWII the idea for Interstate Highways took off cause US Troops seeing the Autobahn in Germany and pushed Interstates as part and parcel of National Defense, oh sure turnpikes and the like were already here, but outside of the NEC, I’m not sure if any crossed too many state lines, if at all.

    In any case an Interstate Highway costs more to build from scratch than HSR and carries a pricetag that HSR does not share, lung diseases like: cancer, emphysema and asthma, especially among children…

    Jeff Denham is a bait and switch member of Congress, to get votes claimed He was a moderate, once in office He went full boar RADICAL in favor of BIG OIL and BIG AG…

    He needs to be shown the exit to Babylon in 2014 at the very least…

    Him and McKeon over in the 25th district for that matter…

    synonymouse Reply:

    The freeway concept dates back to the founding of the highway lobby, way before Hitler.

  2. Peter
    May 29th, 2013 at 03:18

    “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”
    “Your winnings, sir.”
    “Oh, thank you very much.”

    Jeff Carter Reply:

    “Round up the usual suspects.”

  3. joe
    May 29th, 2013 at 06:35

    Wanna meet Morris Brown?

    Marian Lee, executive officer of the Caltrain modernization program, will be in Menlo Park on Wednesday (May 29) to present new studies about the impacts of electrification and track options for a blended system of high-speed rail and Caltrain.

    The meeting starts at 7:15 p.m. at the Arrillaga Family Recreation Center at 700 Alma St.

  4. StevieB
    May 29th, 2013 at 07:06

    The Sierra Sun Times has provided links to video of the Congressional field hearing in Madera.

  5. trentbridge
    May 29th, 2013 at 08:54

    Well God Bless Rep. Jeff DEnham – he’s a Republican and that’s what Republicans do – stand in the path of progress.

  6. synonymouse
    May 29th, 2013 at 11:22

    “Of course, the current HSR plan conforms to Prop 1A”

    Au contraire, no way the DogLeg can make 2:40.

    But who cares – just spend the money.

    Perhaps that foretells the fate of Deserted Xprss. Spend all the money fast without completing so you won’t have to deal with the embarrassment of turning a wheel and showing the real world there are hardly any passengers.

    Eric M Reply:

    Have any data to back that up?

    EJ Reply:

    Syn doesn’t like Vegas – therefore no one wants to go there. QED!

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    He likes Las Vegas, he’s just pissed that he won’t be able to get there as easily as people near an HSR station.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I favor building out Deserted Xprss as soon and as fast as possible.

    Only way to break the witch’s spell on the Cheerleaders.

    Eric M Reply:

    I was talking about your statement of 2:40 not being possible?

    synonymouse Reply:

    The level of precision you seek will not be possible until you have a hard and fast route and operating details finalized.

    I assert that even with Tejon and I-5 2:40 is difficult. I agree with the UP CEO whose opinion was that 160mph will be the approximate top operating speed of CAHSR.

    In time a Tesla will be able to do 160. Apparently a walk in the park for a Bugatti today.

    StevieB Reply:

    The newer faster trainsets available when dedicated tracks are completed from San Francisco to Los Angeles will be able to make the run in 2:30.

    synonymouse Reply:

    the blend is not dedicated. Besides Caltrain will dominate. Better find another entree.

    Joey Reply:

    Dedicated tracks discourage well-designed transfers.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Chicken marsala instead of shrimp fra diavolo?

    Clem Reply:

    The choices being presented to us are more like Shit sandwich or crap salad? Take your pick, one of them has to be better than the other!

    joe Reply:

    You forgot the choice Starvation.

    No eating is offered as the superior choice because it doesn’t leave a bad taste.

    We can talk about the delicious meal we’ll never have as we waste away.

    The President’s current annual Afghanistan budget is 4x that nation’s GDP and at 84B it’s about the size of the HSR project. And we can build one every year.

    jonathan Reply:

    You forgot the Cholera Casserole.

    Brought to you by the letters I (for Incompatible) and .. well, modesty forbids.

    Michael Reply:

    How does the UP CEO qualify as an expert on HSR? We can pick up used ICEs or TGVs that will do 185.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Opinions of freight RR CEO’s aside, top operating (i.e. everyday revenue service) speeds tend to be lower than maximum design speeds on trainsets.

    Michael Reply:

    Poorly worded, I guess, on my side. ICEs and TGVs have run in service, for many years, at 185, for long distances, not as a fluke or special event. 185 technology is decades old now and no big deal. I thought this was common knowledge for people who like to read and post on HSR sites. Guess not.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    That’s because the owners use them for passengers, silly silly owners, and passengers object if you stick them in a canvas sack and throw them on the platform as the train passes by. Kills average speeds when you have to stop…..

    Joe Reply:

    prop 1a specifies faster top operating speeds.

    So the UP CEO should know 160 top speed is not compliant.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The truth is I may not even have quoted perfectly but as I recall it was 160. He operates trains and he knows California. I consider it a rational real world estimate.

    Forget Prop 1A – Lord knows Moonbeam and lackeys have. This is not Switzerland or Japan. Remember this is a guvmint operation with union maintenance guys. strike-happy 13 undocumented no-shows. Did you ever see what a Muni bus looks like? There is a trolley bus out there on the street with a plastic garbage bag held with plastic ties wrapped around the trolley poles at the base I guess as an insulator. The patronage machine’s favorite union on the case

    When the operating deficits pile up maintenance is the first to be deferred.

    Y’all are the ones soiling yourself about global warming. The Valley has dust and sand issues and the general consensus is weather extremes will tend to become more extreme. Moreover with the DogLeg you are adding 50 miles of more window to trouble.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    He operates freight trains. That’s like taking the advice of truck drivers when asking about how Bugattis handle.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    The Amtrak CEO says it will be 160 mph, at least for the foreseeable future:

    “Keep your vision,” Mr. Boardman told his audience, noting that California is proceeding with federal help on a starter 220-mph system. “We may not get to 220 quickly. We may not get there at all very fast. But maybe we’ll get to 160.”

    Joey Reply:

    Realistic or not, are you really citing Amtrak for having a clue about anything?

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    They are the ones designing the train for CAHSR.

    jonathan Reply:

    hey are the ones designing the train for CAHSR.

    Utter nonsense. Amtrak isn’t designing a train for _anyone_. (You’re not a drunk engineer; you’re not an engineer at all!)

    Amtrak is barely even _specifying_ a train. And CHSRA have only issued an RFI.

    Now, I grant you that anyone competent to hold an informed opinion, understands that the order-of-magnitude differences in curve radii between (parts of) the NEC, and a true HSR alignment, mean that a trainset suitable for one is sub-optimal for the other. I further grant you that “competent to hold an informed opinion” excludes the CHSRA Board and their Chief Executive.

    But even they should understand the difference between 255 km/hr, and a system engineered for 350 km/hr, and engineered for 400 km/hr in suitable flat, straight areas (per CHSRA’s Technical Memoranda).

    What’s a factor of two between bureaucrats?

    Jon Reply:

    He’s clearly talking about Chicago in that quote.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Hmm perhaps, but if that’s the case, then what Chicago project was he referring to?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There’s places between Philadelphia and Baltimore that with a bit of work are perfectly fine for 220. Trenton to New Brunswick and West Baltimore to New Carrollton too but those probably aren’t worth it.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    …and by the time they are buying 220 MPH trains the new track between New Haven and Westerly should be in service. Unless they go and build Providence to Hartford instead. By the time either of them are in the market for 220MPH trains the vendors who answered the RFI in 2013 aren’t making anything that was in the RFI.

    Joey Reply:

    The question is whether there’s a tradeoff between top speed and cant deficiency, higher cant deficiency saving time south of New Haven.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It won’t matter on the bridge across the Sound. Or on the Main Line, the Main Line is very very straight.

    Joey Reply:

    That’s assuming that you actually build a Sound crossing. And that you can find a transition to the main line with a sufficiently large curve radius (where exactly?). And that you don’t want to replace or add to the existing Acela stock before said crossing is complete.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They are going to replace Acela stock by 2020. Acela is a hangar queen, it’s gone as soon as they can get new rolling stock. The movers and shakers in Washington DC just love to go to talk to rich contributors in Philadelphia and the mother lode of rich contributors in Manhattan and vice versa. There’s not going to any problem with replacing Acela with Acela IIs and once the track is improved some more replacing Regionals with Acela IIas, so that they can keep up with the Acela IIs. More likely the Acela IIs become the Regionals and the AcelaIIAs become the expresses but there isn’t going to be any problem having all the intercity traffic in something 21st Century by 2030.
    Start now on solving capacity problems on Metro North or the LIRR and something gets done by 2030-2040.

    Clem Reply:

    Doing 2:40 via dogleg is indeed very difficult. Requires sustained 220 mph through CV downtowns (including Bakersfield, where latest plans are down to 115 mph), sustained 220 mph through developed areas of Lancaster and Palmdale, sustained 220 mph down extended 3% grades, and sustained 220 mph through the San Fernando valley. Chances of that happening: zero.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Chances of there still being bond money to be spent when they come and say “we’re so sorry, the fastest trip we can manage is 2:52 unless you want to spend another ten billion to find those 12 minutes” is slim.

    Clem Reply:

    You can get your 12 minutes without spending the 10 billion if you go via Tejon.

    Eric M Reply:

    The opportunity to connect to XpressWest HSR system is too great opportunity to pass by….BUT….if XpressWest is not to be built, by all means, go the Tejon route

    jonathan Reply:

    Tejon, all on its own, surely isn’t a 12 minute savings — 7.5% of the total route time?
    Clem, are you counting savings from avoiding downtown Bakersfield, and the concomitant 185 km/hr speed restrictions?

    Clem Reply:

    Tejon via the western outskirts of Bakersfield is 9 minutes saved compared to a 220 mph blast through downtown Bakersfield and the dog leg.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You are the one that argue that they won’t be able to go through downtown at 220 and now that they won’t be going through downtown at 220 it’s not good enough for you. Hmmm.

    jonathan Reply:

    Clem, what are those speeds in real units? ;)

    jonathan Reply:

    Synon babbles:

    In time a Tesla will be able to do 160. Apparently a walk in the park for a Bugatti today.

    Oh, for pity’s sake. A 1970s Porsche 911SC with a 3.2L engine (Carrera) can do 160 mi/hr..
    The original 3.0L might, with significant tweaks.

    or did you mean a 1936 Bugatti?

    swing hanger Reply:

    1936 Bugatti. That’s about right era-wise. He likes doodlebugs, remember.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    How fast is the Datsun with lithium batteries insteal of lead acid batteries, that breaks quarter mile records in the video, going if they put the pedal to the metal and there’s enough track after a half mile? A mile? IIRC 110 at a quarter mile.

    Eric Reply:

    In time a Tesla will be able to do 160. Apparently a walk in the park for a Bugatti today.

    On which ROW? You do know that the hard part of HSR is obtaining a straight, level, and grade separated ROW. I guess we could build such ROWs for Bugattis…

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The only place where there’s so little traffic that they can do that are called “the Bonneville Salt Flats”

    Eric Reply:


    Matthew B. Reply:

    Salt flats to nowhere.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    In time a Tesla will be able to do 160. Apparently a walk in the park for a Bugatti today.

    The Tesla is more energy-efficient than the Bugatti (or for that matter the Volt) precisely because it doesn’t do 160 mph. One of the gotchas the Tesla flaks used against that New York Times article about not making it to the charging station was that the driver drove faster than 54 mph.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Catenary over the Interstate…

  7. Keith Saggers
    May 29th, 2013 at 12:41

    California state rail plan

    expected that some San Joaquin route trains will operate over the first construction section of the IOS. For planning purposes, operating scenarios have been developed for 2020 for up to 11 trains operating on the first construction section of the IOS at speeds up to 125 mph.

  8. Jesse D.
    May 29th, 2013 at 13:20

    To win in the Central Valley, all you have to do is say you’re a farmer. All the brainless sheeple here will go “A-hyuck, dat guy’s wunna us! HAY BRANDINE! WE’S GOT A FARMER ON DA BALIT! POP OUTCHER KID N LET’S VOTE!”

    But if you’re a Mexican astronaut, they pass you over for someone that harangues people to join in his “Town Hall Meetings” not once, not twice, but FOUR TIMES in the two months leading up to the election. And whose tax money went into getting that together?

    Not to mention that we still have Olsen sitting pretty in her office due to those same Teabaggers.

  9. D. P. Lubic
    May 29th, 2013 at 16:23

    In other news, five kids die in a flaming wreck in California–just part of today’s roughly 100 traffic fatalities nationwide:

    And some calculations by the Congressional Budget Office on the cost of certain tax breaks:

  10. synonymouse
    May 29th, 2013 at 19:48

    The natives are restless down in the Valley:

    It is the machine bosses and corporate elite vs. the hoi polloi. Sounds to me like the ordinary Valley people would prefer to be fly-over with I-5 then run-over with AmBART.

  11. morris brown
    May 29th, 2013 at 21:02

    NBC TV in bay area delivers a dose of Reality Check on the HSR project

    (4 min video)

    joe Reply:

    Reality Check on Caltrain too.–207800211.html

    Apparently this popular, critical service is counting on HSR funded electrification to survive.

    synonymouse Reply:

    There is a real gem buried in this video, spoken by Tutor himself, in which he describes the DogLeg and other guvmint projects as:

    “the public works industry”

    IMHO trumps even “transport industrial complex”.

    Gotta luv Tutor’s chutzpah – he deserves to to be awarded the whole blinking thing straightaway. Cut the crap – Moonbeam-Richard.

  12. DATA1717
    May 30th, 2013 at 12:00

    Personally I like Elon Musk’s plan

    In all seriousness is something like this possible in the next 30 years?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s not only airplanes that make sonic booms when they go faster than the speed of sound.
    Personally I prefer the Star Trek transporter, everybody gets express rides that way.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If the asshole wants to mortgage all of his belongings to fund this plan, I’m for his trying it.

    DATA1717 Reply:

    Whoa why is he an asshole? And seeing as how hes a billionaire who currently has 3 successful companies that everyone doubted it seems like he would be the ideal person to push forward with it.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    A bunch of reasons:

    1. The whole space colonization thing.

    2. He thinks of himself as a great entrepreneur, and not, say, as someone whose company was on the verge of collapse when it got a federal loan in 2009.

    3. Hyperloop is both a terrible idea (think of the power required to speed trains up as much as he wants and whether his idea of powering it all by trackside solar power has any merit) and an unoriginal one. Apparently, giving credit to others is uncool if you’re a Great Innovator.

    4. His reactions when the NYTimes dared say something negative about his cars.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Think of the power costs to suck the air out of the tube so that you can go faster than the speed of sound at sea-level-ish. Physics is a bitch and you go faster than the speed of sound in the medium you are traveling through you make sonic booms. He would have to build a tube and at least partially evacuate it. Or he can’t go faster than the speed of sound at sea-level-ish. No amount of creative application of electronics or software is going to change that.

    and the solar power thing is so 2008, the people who were going to build maglev PRT in Michigan with the solar cells on the north side of the structure, sewer lines in the middle and grape vines hanging off the underside came up with it back then. It has a few technical problems after sundown. (… think about it, what do you have to do to flush the toilet and get the sewage to go over your head….. if the PRT is over almost everybody’s head…. )

    EJ Reply:

    Sounds like he’s just talking about a vactrain. The idea’s been around for a long time and it’s certainly theoretically possible.

    swing hanger Reply:

    With all the patent bungling trying to get HSR even “shovel ready”, what makes people think these untested ideas would be better? It’s not the technology that’s the problem with HSR, it’s the political system, something no billionaire can change by throwing around his coin.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “untested ideas”? Oh, really.

    All you need is a “test track” to validate any nonsense.

    Consider Bechtel:

    1. 5’6″ boffo gauge
    2. 1000vdc boffo operating voltage
    3. boffo A and B type cars
    4 boffo proprietary aluminum-steel sandwich wheel

    All you need is some engineers with too much money and time and no adult supervision.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The people who came up with those ideas are dead. Just because you are stuck in the 50s doesn’t mean the rest of the world is.

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