Judge Makes Unfavorable Ruling – But What Does It Mean For Project?

Nov 25th, 2013 | Posted by

Judge Michael Kenny today delivered his ruling in not one but two cases involving the high speed rail project. The rulings invalidate the 2011 Business Plan, do not validate new bond sales, but also do not require a halt to construction using the available federal funds.

Despite some of the initial media reports, this ruling does not jeopardize the project. What it does is screw with its timeline, requiring the California High Speed Rail Authority to go back and revise the funding plan. But what that means is entirely unclear. So the Authority has work to do, but we don’t know whether that work is simple and therefore this ruling is a speed bump, or if that work is difficult and therefore this ruling is a bigger problem.

Tim Sheehan of the Fresno Bee has a good summary of the ruling:

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny denied a request by the California High-Speed Rail Authority to validate the sale of more than $8 billion in bonds from Proposition 1A, a high-speed rail measure approved by the state’s voters in 2008.

In a related case, the judge sided with Kings County farmer John Tos, Hanford homeowner Aaron Fukuda and the Kings County Board of Supervisors, who are suing the rail agency over its compliance with Prop. 1A. Kenny agreed to issue a writ of mandate ordering the rail agency to re-do its 2011 funding plan before spending any state bond money on construction of the proposed high-speed rail system.

Kenny did not, however, order the rail authority to rescind its approval of contracts for work on the first 29-mile construction stretch from northeast Madera to the south edge of Fresno.

Together, the two rulings appear to hamstring the rail authority by severely limiting its available state funds and by delaying its spending efforts. The effect may jeopardize the agency’s plans to use only federal transportation and stimulus funds to begin building the rail line in the central San Joaquin Valley.

The two rulings can be read in full, though they don’t shed a whole lot more light on the matter: Tos v. CHSRA and CHSRA v. Everybody.

Tos v. CHSRA is the lawsuit brought by Kings County, John Tos and Aaron Fukuda that hoped to stop the project dead in its tracks by claiming it was violating Prop 1A. They didn’t win on that claim. What they did get was a favorable ruling back in August that the Authority’s 2011 financing plan was flawed because:

the identification of funds must be based on a reasonable present expectation of receipt on a projected date, and not merely a hope or possibility that such funds may become available.

Specifically, he said the Authority needed to identify the funds for the entire Initial Operating Segment, whether Merced to Los Angeles or Bakersfield to San Francisco, and merely listing where those funds might come from isn’t sufficient.

The problem is that since Republicans seized control of the House of Representatives in 2011, they have denied all efforts at future federal HSR funding. Judge Kenny is basically holding the Authority responsible for this, rewarding obstructionists who denied more federal funding to the project and then complained that the project had been denied federal funding so it had to be killed. It’s a nice racket they have going.

Judge Kenny today ordered the Authority to write a new financing plan. In theory that doesn’t take very long. But the challenge will come in actually identifying the funds the project needs to build the Initial Operating Segment and satisfy the judge.

The other ruling was in the “CHSRA sues everybody in California” case, a preemptive strike by the Authority and the Attorney General to get a ruling that would allow the Authority to spend bond money even though CEQA review has not yet been completed for other Central Valley segments. Judge Kenny ruled that it would be premature to grant this validation. My understanding is that this does not necessarily present the same obstacles that the other ruling does, but it’s still something of a setback, especially as the September 2017 stimulus deadline approaches.

I don’t agree with the judge’s August ruling or today’s rulings, but they are what they are. The Authority, the Legislature, and the Governor will need to determine what the path forward looks like.

My takeaway is that this makes it more important than ever that California develop a plan to build HSR that doesn’t rely on federal funding. Such a plan is feasible, as SPUR showed last year. I suggested that the SPUR plan be broadened to fund many types of passenger rail across the state, not just HSR. We don’t know how much longer the Tea Party will maintain control of the House of Representatives. It may be until 2014, it may be until 2022, who knows. But for California’s sake, it’s time to start working hard on the plan for California to embrace its future without being held back by teabaggers.

Ultimately I don’t think this ruling is cause for panic, and it’s not true that the project is in mortal danger. This ruling isn’t what we wanted, but it can also be dealt with, we hope, without too much trouble or delay.

  1. John Nachtigall
    Nov 25th, 2013 at 17:51
    #1

    Sha na na na …. Sha na na na ….. Hey hey hey. Goodbye

    Spin it any way you want. There is no “pot of money” for them to match the fed funds and unless Brown convinces the CA legislature to add more money to the pot they are stuck.

  2. Alon Levy
    Nov 25th, 2013 at 17:56
    #2

    Sorry, but Kenny is right here. You’re giving the HSRA too much credit when you say,

    Specifically, he said the Authority needed to identify the funds for the entire Initial Operating Segment, whether Merced to Los Angeles or Bakersfield to San Francisco, and merely listing where those funds might come from isn’t sufficient.

    The problem is that since Republicans seized control of the House of Representatives in 2011, they have denied all efforts at future federal HSR funding. Judge Kenny is basically holding the Authority responsible for this, rewarding obstructionists who denied more federal funding to the project and then complained that the project had been denied federal funding so it had to be killed. It’s a nice racket they have going.

    It is irresponsible to propose a program and going to ballot on it without identifying funding sources in advance. It’s especially irresponsible to require a 1:1 match for 1A without knowing in advance that the matching funds would materialize. At the time 1A went to ballot, there was no financial crisis yet and hence no talk of stimulus; there was no federal HSR budget, nor was there any talk of one until well after the stimulus. Based on the 2008 business plan’s cost estimate, there is enough money in 1A to build LA-Bakersfield, which is an adequate IOS, but the 1A language kneecapped any such approach by requiring a match and delaying the environmental work on LA-Bakersfield and concentrating on the bookends and the CV.

    The cost of the project in 2008 was $43 billion in YOE dollars. The ballot proposition only asked for $9 billion and left the rest as a magic asterisk. It’s completely right to ask what they hell they were thinking, and why they’re so sure that they’ll get the money in the future. The Teabaggers actually had a net positive effect on the project’s finances by canceling other projects that competed with it for grants; if I remember correctly, California got another billion dollars in federal funding from the carcasses of Ohio, Wisconsin, and Florida. The Teabaggers in Congress refused to commit additional money, but they did not cancel any preexisting HSR funding stream, unlike in the case of Florida (or, for other rail, Wisconsin, Ohio, and New Jersey). In Congress they’re acting less like Christie, who stopped an approved and funded project, and more like Cuomo, who’s not stopping anything but merely refusing to find money for HSR studies or for transit on the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement.

    There is such a thing as political risk. If I try drilling for oil in the US or Canada, I can get investors as long as I demonstrate low geological and economic risk (Idle No More isn’t strong enough to shut down tar sand production, which we both think is a bad thing but know to be true). If I do the same in Iraq or Libya, I will need to demonstrate adequate security from insurgent attacks, and if I do the same in Venezuela the investors may charge me a hefty interest because of the risk of nationalization without compensation. The investors aren’t going to cut me any slack if I say it’s not my fault and they’re rewarding Chavismo or insurgencies and making it harder to invest in developing countries.

    morris brown Reply:

    @Alon Levy

    In 2008 there was no talk at all about YOE dollars; the only cost estimate was $32 billion (2008 dollars). Only after the FRA refused to deal in anything but YOE dollars did the Authority start to use YOE dollar amounts.

    In 2008 there was constant advertising that private equity was coming. It was not coming as now is proclaimed only after a good portion has been built, but it would come right away before construction would start. Furthermore, a promised business plan that was to be delivered well before the Nov 2008 election, written into AB-3034, was not fulfilled until a day or so after the vote.

    Finally Robert’s saying the State should build it on its own, is clearly not what the public was led to believe, when Diridron and others were are preaching, “voters you approve this bond measure” and that is all the money you will be asked to provide to the project.

    The hurdles mandated in Prop 1A were installed to make sure the bond funds would indeed go to build a true HSR rail system. Even with these mandates in place, the current Authority board, is spending funds to “modernize rail in California”. The regional agencies have been lusting for these funds, and the Legislature accommodated them with the SB-1029 appropriation.

    joe Reply:

    It is irresponsible to propose a program and going to ballot on it without identifying funding sources in advance. If only the HSR Prop1a had some funding sourced tied to it.
    Funding should have been include din the ballot initiative.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Exactly. The ballot prop included 21% of the YOE cost, and 27% of the constant-dollar cost, and assumed 1:1 matching funding without specifying where it would come from. As a result, California now has $6 billion instead of $12 billion. Heckuva job.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    It is actually worse than that.

    1) The 2008 Business Plan mistakenly assumed the $9 billion in state funding was in YOE – oops.
    2) PB and at least Mehdi Morshed knew in 2008 that the cost was way, way more than $33 bn (2008$) but didn’t force the issue because the math was already pretty shaky – even assuming that $9 billion had some kind of inflation adjustment factor.

    Yes, meeting the prop 1a rules is hard but they would be possible if the cost estimates had been in the ballpark.

    There were, and are, different and more viable approaches to developing an intercity train network in California, but visions of bond dollars danced in everyone’s head.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    One note Alon.

    There is no match required for environmental work. The slowness in planning mountain crossing was a purposeful choice by Authority. It is at least 2 more years behind schedule from the timeline in the revised 2012 biz plan.

    synonymouse Reply:

    But to what end?

    VBobier Reply:

    Elizabeth do you have a link to this eir schedule? I can’t find it with either Google or Bing…

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Compare the dates in here http://www.calhsr.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/2013-08-PMT-Monthly-Program-Report-1.pdf (which are still too optimistic) to dates here http://www.hsr.ca.gov/docs/about/business_plans/BPlan_2012Ch2_Implementation.pdf pate 2-28

    VBobier Reply:

    Thanks Elizabeth.

    VBobier Reply:

    I made this map from one of the two PDFs above, I made up a route that avoids Kings County and is very near to Visalia CA(to the west) and skirts several towns(to the east) that are south of Fresno that would like HSR as long as HSR doesn’t go through their towns. Sure it’s crudely drawn, but the software is old. The res is only 1024×768 at most.
    Kings County Bypass

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    Any numbers for route-miles compared to the preferred route?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    which ones are more viable?

    Clem Reply:

    The ones that don’t serve Las Vegas.

    joe Reply:

    The Senate majority leader is from NV and he would be a good ally when planning to expand CA’s rail system. That means Las Vegas.

    The F-35 is subcontracted in 41 states.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The F-35 is a good example of what not to do. Some of us think infrastructure shouldn’t be a program of graft for power brokers.

    joe Reply:

    What graft? Knee-jerk reaction to criminalize anything not done your way to your values.

    Politicians band together to get legislation passed. If you have a powerful senator who wants HSR and you want HSR then you work together. We have the minority leader in CA and two senior senators.

    If CA needs funding then working together will help them build a system.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If the placement of factories, or the decision of where to build infrastructure, is based on political considerations, it’s graft. It leads to fighter jets that nobody needs and few want and that go far over budget, just because people in Congress like the job creation aspects. That’s why (some) privatization schemes work: they remove the politicians from the decisions.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They get created because people who piss in their pants when someone whispers “Commie” think it would be a good idea.

    joe Reply:

    Prop1a was a bond fund Alon. If you think it was irresponsible, that would be have been better written in 2009 or 2010, 2011, 2012 or a week ago.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I wrote that six months ago.

    joe Reply:

    Wow, and to think prop1a passed in 2009.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You said a week ago.

  3. synonymouse
    Nov 25th, 2013 at 18:38
    #3

    I see two unknowns:

    1. Will Jerry appeal?

    2. Will the ultra-rich soi-disant conservatives pony up the money to put Prop 1A back on the ballot, now that the odds favor overturning?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    If Jerry is smart (and I think he is) he will declare this law un achievable.

    Pass another law without all the pesky controls they can’t meet

    Pass a tax to fund it

    Sell bonds base don’t he tax revenue

    All of which he can theoretically do with the Dem supermajority assuming he can heard the cats. They are not going to win an appeal

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    That should read “sell bonds based on the tax revenues”

    synonymouse Reply:

    AFAIK, and Morris can correct me on this, this law would have to be by ballot measure. The “pesky controls” were designed to make the measure palatable and salable to the electorate. The presumption on Jerry and Dan’s part of carte blanche furthermore is what prompted the litigation.

    There are other specific provisos in Prop 1A, in particular 2:40, which may be pursued later on, if I am understanding correctly that the Judge threw out the principle of no more lawsuits against PB-CHSRA.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Bonds have to be ballot measures…unless they are revenue bonds based on future tax revenue. With the Dem supermajority they can pass that tax. As for the law, again, they can pass a law on HSR any time they want. It shows how unpopular it is if Jerry can’t rally the forces in the CA legislature on it

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    The answers are:

    1. Maybe
    2. No

    Lewellan Reply:

    A 200mph HSR system is absolutely unnecessary. The ‘blended’ rail system through LA County and Bay Area Peninsula addressed grevious concerns about impact while reducing cost $30 Billion. These rail corridors gained demonstrable safety improvements. Central Valley interests however refuse to consider similar means to reduce cost and impacts and still cling to the idiotic notion that the sparsely populated Gilroy & Los Banos route remain ‘preferred’ instead of the ACE Altamont Stockton-Fremont route where traffic is horrible and population centers assure sufficient ridership. The Antelope Valley route is likewise questionable CAHSR Authority judgement as traffic there isn’t bad. These questionable routes will undoubtedly generate suburban subdivision housing compounds and worse traffic. The Tejon route (along I-5) reduces costs as it is 34 miles shorter than the Tehachapi route and has fewer miles of expensive viaduct and tunnel.

    In short, project funding should not be the main point of discussion. A low-impact 110mph system (Talgo XXI) would increase the travel time from 3hrs to 5hrs, not bad considering the Coast Starlighter trip is 11hrs. A 5hr trip would give passengers an incentive to make stopovers in Bakersfield or Fresno and take a later train to finish their LA-to-Bay Area (including Sacramento) trips.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    So you just want to ignore the law and the 2:40 requirement? Ignoring the law is not working so well so far

    Lewellan Reply:

    Be careful what you wish for. In this case, you wished for a ficticious 2hr 40min train ride, disregarding exhorbitant cost, grevious impact and the political strings attached to an exclusive demographic of upper-class would-be patrons pretending that luxury travel is environmentally conscientious. Our worst problems related to traffic, energy consumption, air pollution and economic development are within metropolitan areas, not between them. The 2hr 40min legislative mandate is NOT a law as much as wishful thinking and suspiciously poor planning. I am hoping a modest speed HSR project for California can be salvaged from the initial mismanagement. LA County and Bay Area Peninsula communities found a solution. Why coudn’t Central Valley interests do the same? Answer: Central Valley is NIMBY Central.

  4. joe
    Nov 25th, 2013 at 19:04
    #4

    Such a plan is feasible, as SPUR showed last year. I suggested that the SPUR plan be broadened to fund many types of passenger rail across the state, not just HSR.

    SPUR’s plan is regressive and build HSR on the backs of the lower and middle class. it includes tolls on roads from the central valley to the coast. That’s unfair and a burden to the part of CA hurt the most with this recession. How many SPUR employees and precious corporate supporters would ever pay that tax?

    We need an Oil Extraction tax like Texas, Oklahoma Alaska and other oil conservative, anti-tax producing States. Tie tax revenue to the HSR project and when prop1a is exhausted, revisit the plan.

    nbluth Reply:

    Those free roads and highways are subsidized on the backs of the lower and middle class right now through sales taxes and general fund transfers to the HTF, including from millions of people who don’t drive or can’t afford a car. Tolls are user fees that attempt to rationally set the price of a highly demanded resource at the appropriate level of demand. Congestion, the result of setting prices of a scare resource too low, is regressive in that the money a person in a lower socioeconomic bracket loses from sitting in congestion makes up a FAR greater portion of their income than does the money lost by a wealthy person.

    Just because YOU personally drive everywhere and YOU personally would be negatively affected by having to pay the true cost of using an under-priced public resource doesn’t mean that user fees for roads wouldn’t benefit the lower and middle class (in fact, simply by looking at anywhere else in the world, we DO know that building widespread public transit networks funded by internalizing the some of the costs that drivers normally push onto society at large do benefit the lower and middle class)

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Irrelevant. You can’t covert freeways to toll roads without reimbursing Feds for all money used on roads. It will not be done

    flowmotion Reply:

    John – The most recent highway bill removed that prohibition. It is now OK to add tolls to a free road, so long as the money goes to expansion and maintenance of that facility.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    That was only a pilot program. You can apply for a pilot program, it is not removed

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Proof.

    http://www.pewstates.org/projects/stateline/headlines/states-push-to-convert-interstate-highways-into-toll-roads-85899375043

    nbluth Reply:

    Thanks for rebutting your own argument (“It will not be done”, followed by proof that it is being done).

    Anyway, a variable VMT would easily get around this.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    You missed the pilot part didn’t you

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    VMt is as solution in search of a problem. Taxing the fuel is cheap and easy and doesn’t involve having the government track your movements.

    flowmotion Reply:

    Your article is from 2011, this is no longer a pilot program as of the 2012 highway bill.

    Proof:
    http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/map21/summaryinfo.cfm

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    here is what your link says

    Tolling [1512]
    MAP-21 makes changes to the statutory provisions governing tolling on highways that are constructed or improved with Federal funds (23 USC 129). One significant change is the removal of the requirement for an agreement to be executed with the U.S. DOT prior to tolling under the mainstream tolling programs (though such agreements will continue to be required under the toll pilot programs). Other changes include the mainstreaming of tolling new Interstates and added lanes on existing Interstates, which was previously allowed only under the Interstate System Construction Toll Pilot Program and the Express Lanes Demonstration Program. The Value Pricing Pilot Program, which allows congestion pricing, is continued (but without discretionary grants), as is the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program, which allows tolling of all lanes on an existing Interstate highway when required for reconstruction or rehabilitation. MAP-21 also requires that all Federal-aid highway toll facilities implement technologies or business practices that provide for the interoperability of electronic toll collection by October 1, 2016 (four years after the enactment of MAP-21’s new tolling requirements).

    It allows new lanes to be tolled…yes
    It allows all lanes to be tolled when the highway is reconstructed under pilot programs…yes

    It does not allow existing lanes to be tolled without the pilot program

    joe Reply:

    Just because YOU personally drive everywhere and YOU personally would be negatively affected by having to pay the true cost of using an under-priced public resource doesn’t mean that user fees for roads wouldn’t benefit the lower and middle class…

    Me personally ?
    I don’t use the CV roads SPUR wants to toll and as I wrote, I suspect none of them do either.

    Congestion, the result of setting prices of a scare resource too low, is regressive in that the money a person in a lower socioeconomic bracket loses from sitting in congestion makes up a FAR greater portion of their income than does the money lost by a wealthy person.

    A lower socio-economic bracket means less money genius. They have the same 24 hours in a day as a billionaire.

    Congestion, time delays, rations roads by time penalty – a resource everyone has equally and can pay.

    Changing the rationing system from time in traffic to a money harms those with less money.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    there’s more than one road, If they don’t like paying the toll instead of wasting time on the limited access highway they can waste on the untolled secondary roads.

    joe Reply:

    Like the servants entrance.

    Show the backroad route from Bakersfield to Los Angeles. I don’t see one.
    http://goo.gl/maps/wJzYP

    SPUR isn’t impacted — it’s not a tax on their roads or corporate sponsors.
    654 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105-4015 | 415.781.8726 | info@spur.org
    76 South First Street, San Jose, CA 95113 | 408.638.0083 | infosj@spur.org

    Oil Extraction Tax – it can pay for rail improvements. It’s not regressive and it’s not at the pump.

    Ed Reply:

    If you think that SPUR doesn’t favor higher taxes on their donors and higher tolls on Bay Area roads, you obviously know nothing about the organization. They have proposed tolls on highways going from SF to San Jose, congestion pricing, business taxes in SF to fund housing and transportation, the list goes on and on.

    nbluth Reply:

    Reading comprehension: “the money a person in a lower socioeconomic bracket loses from sitting in congestion makes up a FAR greater *****PORTION***** of their income than does the money lost by a wealthy person.”

    A poor person losing an $8 from sitting in traffic is losing a MUCH bigger proportion of their overall income and wealth than a rich person losing a $500 from sitting in traffic.

    Eric Reply:

    Wealth yes, income no. If you work X hours a day, and lose the chance to work Y additional hours due to congestion, the proportion of income you lose is Y/(X+Y) no matter how much you earn per hour.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    What joe….no expert legal opinion on how they were out lawyers. No snide comment on how there will be no penalty. What happened?

    joe Reply:

    There is no penalty.. No injunction, no invalidation of the appropriation.

    “Judge Kenny today ordered the Authority to write a new financing plan.”

    How The Gov and Legislature move forward is unclear to me and I am very interested but the plaintiff’s lawyers blew it by missing their opportunity to challenge the appropriation. They tried and failed to include it later.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Right…they actually won. This is good news for HSR.

    They won a ruling that insists they identify all the money before they use the Prop 1a money. So they can sell them, they can’t use them. That is effectively freezing them. They won exactly what they should have a ruling that states HSR has to follow the law

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I’d rather fund it through wealth taxes too, but not funding electrified passenger trains is itself regressive given the impacts of fossil fuel dependence and carbon emissions. But one could easily substitute a higher income tax for some of the specific provisions laid out by SPUR. Their proposal is a starting point.

    joe Reply:

    SPUR shows CA can go forward and build HSR alone if necessary. Yes.
    It’s a positive step forward.

    I don’t like SPUR’s funding plan (obviously). The selective toll roads in the CV would turn the CV off to the Project and rightly it should.

    If CA wants to toll, there are many places that can be tolled and these include places where planners and urban advocates live and work. Let us all joint in the fun or no one.

    Toll 101 and 280 to fund Caltrain electrification.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You have to buy 101 and 280 from the Federal Government first. That’s gonna cost a bit more than just funding the electrification directly.

    Derek Reply:

    The Federal Government is open to tolling existing interstates.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    for reconstruction and new lanes…not for existing roads

    Derek Reply:

    Please read the linked article.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    you mean this part

    Would the federal government allow Texas to toll all the lanes on Interstate 35E between Dallas and San Antonio to speed up the hugely expensive (and badly needed) reconstruction of that interstate? It might.

    how about the summary of the actual law quoted above. specifically…

    Tolling [1512]
    MAP-21 makes changes to the statutory provisions governing tolling on highways that are constructed or improved with Federal funds (23 USC 129). One significant change is the removal of the requirement for an agreement to be executed with the U.S. DOT prior to tolling under the mainstream tolling programs (though such agreements will continue to be required under the toll pilot programs). Other changes include the mainstreaming of tolling new Interstates and added lanes on existing Interstates, which was previously allowed only under the Interstate System Construction Toll Pilot Program and the Express Lanes Demonstration Program. The Value Pricing Pilot Program, which allows congestion pricing, is continued (but without discretionary grants), as is the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program, which allows tolling of all lanes on an existing Interstate highway when required for reconstruction or rehabilitation. MAP-21 also requires that all Federal-aid highway toll facilities implement technologies or business practices that provide for the interoperability of electronic toll collection by October 1, 2016 (four years after the enactment of MAP-21’s new tolling requirements).

    Again
    It allows new lanes to be tolled…yes
    It allows all lanes to be tolled when the highway is reconstructed under pilot programs…yes

    Existing Highways tolled…no

    Derek Reply:

    That’s the existing law. Ray LaHood’s remarks imply that the Federal Government would be open to making further changes to MAP-21, provided that all the revenue collected from tolling a highway stays in the highway. From a link in the article: “LaHood said the ‘only reason’ the Federal Highway Administration turned down Pennsylvania’s application to tolls Interstate 80 last year was because some of the” revenue would have been spent on something other than the I-80.

    Derek Reply:

    it includes tolls on roads from the central valley to the coast. That’s unfair and a burden to the part of CA hurt the most with this recession.

    False. The truth is, the poor love tolls (especially variable express tolls) because they burden them less than other sources of road funding.

    Remember, the really poor don’t own cars but still have to pay taxes for the roads with today’s financing through sales taxes, and the not-so-poor don’t have 9-to-5 jobs and therefore don’t commute during rush hour when the variable express tolls are highest.

    So if you’re truly concerned for the welfare of the poor, then you should ask for higher tolls and other ways of financing the roads that don’t burden the poor.

    joe Reply:

    So if you’re truly concerned for the welfare of the poor, then you should ask for higher tolls and other ways of financing the roads that don’t burden the poor.

    I propose an oil extraction tax and progressive taxes including a raising the 15% capital gains tax to the personal income tax. That raises money and is even less regressive.

    SPUR’s proposed tolls are for the CV roads leading into the coastal areas. Not only regressive but geographically targeting regions with lower income. File that under tax other people not me.

    Derek Reply:

    Your proposal wouldn’t solve congestion, so it would be bad for the economy and bad for the environment. I think it would be better to give low-income households a discount on their tolls.

    joe Reply:

    My simcity entices riders with low transit fares and fast service which is very good for the economy and air.

    It’s also exactly what we have now, subsidized transit passes complements of work. if it were not for the limited transit service, we’d be car free. I’d expand the CC to salinas and add trains to so working families can jiggle schedules and have service.

    I also charge for parking and do not require parking for infill. I think we agree there.

  5. Paul Dyson
    Nov 25th, 2013 at 19:37
    #5

    Coming up on another anniversary (4th) of the Dyson LaHood Boxer tango in Los Angeles. “All you’ll have will be a pile of studies and nothing else to show for it” said I. Oh dear, oh dear. More recently Morales took me to task for advocating incrementalism. Only his way would work. Well, we’ll be working on Plan B pretty soon, that is if we can keep interest in passenger rail alive after this fiasco. Plan B must include early delivery of real service to lots of people, otherwise it won’t sell. And I’m pretty sure it will require a new sales effort. I could be wrong but it’s hard to see how the fabric of 1A can still be used, it’s already so threadbare.

    joe Reply:

    Gloating.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    No, just sobbing into my second Scotch. After 50 years of public transport advocacy, 30 years in RailPAC and 45 years in the industry it’s a sad day to see this project crater, even if the self destruction were entirely predictable. The death knell was sounded when the decision was made to start work in the SJ Valley. Others could point to similarly destructive decisions but I think that was the worst.

    joe Reply:

    “after 50 years of public transport advocacy, 30 years in RailPAC and 45 years in the industry it’s a sad day to see this project crater,”
    “The death knell was sounded when the decision was made to start work in the SJ Valley.”

    You haz a web site and computer – also claim to be Da Man with decades of Knowledge.
    What’s that ARRA complaint plan we didn’t get behind?

    I saw griping and complaining and horn tooting – like above – but no actual thingy that gets the billions in Federal money and Prop1a State funds.

    So you’re an ambulance chaser, for sure but nothing shows you’re an advocate.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Joe, you’re a fucking idiot.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    and they start to turn on each other

    blankslate Reply:

    What you think everyone in this comment section (except you) agreed on everything, up until now? Pay attention…

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    its just fun to watch other people called idiots for a change

    joe Reply:

    Then help the idiot out like a good lad and show me the ARRA complaint and Prop1a Compliant project we turned down.

    Is it on RailPac or some comment buried on the blog?

    What IOS should we have built with prop1A funds (knowing now we need to have all funds identified) or what ARRA compliant HSR project would we have done instead?

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Really Joe, it costs nothing to be polite.
    Forget 1A, it’s a new day.

    synonymouse Reply:

    But Paul, can Jerry Brown cozy up to “Plan B” as his Legacy.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    The state’s approach works. The problem is that as with everything else in modern American society it is under assault from a political party in Washington, D.C. that is more extremist than anything we’ve seen in over a century. Every aspect of government, even those that have been successfully operating for decades, now looks unstable and uncertain thanks to the Tea Party. This is why California must start planning to go it alone.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    The state’s approach is “Beg for money from someone else.” Given that we are not, in fact, getting said money, I’m not entirely sure how you can say that it is working.

    Tony D. Reply:

    Paul,
    I’m all for revisiting the entire project. THE BOOKENDS FIRST! Let’s get Metrolink, ACE, and Caltrain electrified/modernized before any track is laid in the CV. Then, with high ridership and revenue from the get go, we could start long range planning for an eventual high-speed connection through the CV. Heck, I’ll even take an I-5 HSR routing, with DMU service connecting Fresno/Bakersfield to an I-5 mainline. Time to hit reset!

  6. BMF of San Diego
    Nov 25th, 2013 at 19:48
    #6

    I am not afraid to say, but I agree with Judge Kenny concerning the funding plan. As I recall, Prop 1A basically created a criteria that said all funds for each IOS needed to be identified… and before construction or commitment to work. Or, something like that.

    So, although I am a proponent of CAHSR, I am certainly not afraid or overly concerned. The Authority did not create a Financial Plan to let it just sit on a shelf and be forgotten. I am certain they are actively updating plans and manging the effort. I should assume that they were already working on an updated financial plan regardless of the Judge Kennedy decision. In fact, it’s that time that one should be isuued… perhaps in preparation for the next State budget cycle. Say… Winter or Spring 2014?

    BMF of San Diego Reply:

    And as I said before… however, no one at all remembers… use other people’s money first. OPM. Federal first.

    The crux maybe that the Feds may have matching State funds as a criteria and reimbursement requests may need a citation of what State funds are being matched against the Federal reimbursement.

  7. Eric Knight
    Nov 25th, 2013 at 19:56
    #7

    Interesting interview with the attorney.

    http://www.kfiam640.com/media/podcast-john-and-ken-on-demand-JohnandKen/no-high-speed-rail-4pm-1125-24020686/

    It appears as though the CAHSRA violated the provisions in Prop 1A. They have poorly managed this project.

    If CHSR is such a great investment, they should have no problem finding private investors. The Federal government is running trillion dollar deficits; taxpayers should not be on the hook for this.

    Chad Brick Reply:

    Wrong. Dead wrong. 100% uber utterly wrong.

    You do not understand the concept of externalities. When it comes to infrastructure, the externalities are enormous, often with individual externalities being on the same scale as the entire internalized costs or benefits. “Private” investors only calculate based on a modest fraction of the entire costs or benefits – the ones they actually face themselves – and ignore benefits or costs placed on third parties. Hence, their calculations are almost certain to be wrong. They ignore the effects on others health, environment, property values, commute times, and living patterns, just for starters. These are multi-billion dollar errors.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    They have managed this project just fine. This ruling is a victory for Republicans who defunded HSR in Congress and then used that to attack the California HSR project.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    “They have managed this project just fine.”

    What would bad management have looked like? Just curious.

    Worse than a billion spent on consultants, the lead consultant’s VP revolving-doored in to head the agency, exactly zero infrastructure delivered, and the very notion of effective inter-city rail transportation made politicaland electoral poison?

    Heckuva job! And to think the Tea Party did it all without any assistance from PBQD=CHSRA! Crafty buggers, they!

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    HSR was never “funded” so it could not be “defunded”. All fed money appropriated was kept. They did not add more, that is not de-funded

  8. Nadia
    Nov 25th, 2013 at 19:59
    #8

    Then opening line of the ruling says:

    On August 16, 2013, the Court issued a ruling in this matter finding that defendant/respondent California High Speed Rail Authority abused its discretion by approving a detailed funding plan under Streets and Highways Code section 2704.08(c) that did not comply with the requirements of subdivisions (c)(2)(D) and (K) of that statute.

    To understand what the subdivisions mean, see our Nov 13th, 2011, CARRD post where we explained our concerns about the Funding Plan that was about to be approved:

    http://www.calhsr.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/CARRD-letter-to-HSRA-Board-ICS-and-Funding-Plan-v-1-2.pdf

    As you can see, the Authority must find the money AND clear the entire IOS environmentally before it can have a valid funding plan.

    Getting the environmental work for the IOS done in time to be able to match the federal dollars by April 2014 is an obstacle – depending on your level of optimism – it is either huge problem or a bump in the road….

    BMF of San Diego Reply:

    What is the significance of April 2014? Not being harsh… just do not know.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    The latest federal funding agreement with California extended credit to the CHSRA until April 2014.

    Under the terms of the contract, California is to start (again) matching federal $ as soon as they can sell Prop 1a bonds or April 2014, whichever comes first.

    Our understanding is that California will “owe” the feds about $150 million at that date, the same amount california spent on ARRA eligible expenses before being awarded federal $. If something goes wrong with California’s plan to use Prop 1a for matching, the feds *could* give them credit for earlier spending. If the feds let us spend after that, the feds have a real chance of not getting paid. There are some nasty consequences for people who promise to match fed funds but renege. Sometimes people weasel out of them, sometimes not.

    There is a new federal contract being worked on. This will presumably update the April 2014 date and give some indication as to what the feds are now thinking…

    BMF of San Diego Reply:

    A simple solution would be for the State to use non-Prop 1A funds… with the understanding that the State would be repaid later.

    It is actually quite common. If anything is unusual… it would be the State tapping another source to backfill bond funds, versus the State barrowing bond money with the understanding that those bond funds would be returned.

    At this time, I really don’t see any problems that do not have a solution.

  9. Donk
    Nov 25th, 2013 at 20:22
    #9

    My only problem with this is that if they were going to shitcan this project, they should have shitcanned it years ago. Now we just wasted like 5 years and several hundred billion dollars.

    synonymouse Reply:

    That’s why I remain so pissed about the Van Ark imbroglio. He was putting together a short list of realistic options to proceed, the best way to avoid the “shitcan”.

    And what’s with studying the “Bear Trap alignment” behind the backs of Barry Zoeller, Michael Antonovich and the Palmdale city fathers? It is not the shitcan just yet but the shit hitting the fan, as Clem has pointed out, because Tehachapi is just too ****ing spendy and so tertiary in every respect.

    So sue now, Palmdale, sue ’cause your fix costs too much.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Now we just wasted like 5 years and several hundred billion dollars.

    Cui bono?

    Donk Reply:

    I meant million not billion

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Well holy crap.

    According to the invoice, PB is migrating to the Microsoft Sharepoint document management system. So that explains where the billion dollars went. Also explains why they can’t make documents available to the public anymore.

  10. morris brown
    Nov 25th, 2013 at 20:24
    #10

    Robert wrote:

    Judge Kenny today ordered the Authority to write a new financing plan. In theory that doesn’t take very long. But the challenge will come in actually identifying the funds the project needs to build the Initial Operating Segment and satisfy the judge.

    Before a new financing plan can be certified by the Authority, it must not only identify the funds, but must also have completed Environmental clearances for the entire IOS. That will certainly take quite a considerable length of time. Only the 29 miles from Madera to Fresno has the needed environmental clearances. That leaves around 270 miles of the project that does not currently have met the need for these clearances. That is not going to be accomplished overnight.

    Lost in the discussion for even the initial 29 miles is its lack of funding, now that Prop 1A are not to be used.

    The federal funding consists almost entirely from 2 grants. The ARRA grant and the FY-2010 grant.

    The Authority says they will now go ahead and fund, using only Federal funds. Both of these grants require State matching funds, and now these matching funds are being denied.

    However, it goes even deeper. This 29 miles from Madera to Fresno is about a $2 billion task.
    The large grant, the ARRA funds of about $2.4 billion, is restricted to being used from Fresno south. This was clearly noted in the lawsuit briefs, but the Judge decided he could not rule on the use of Federal Funds.

    But the FRA, clearly when granting the ARRA funds wrote into the grant Agreement the funds were to be used to fund construction from Fresno south.

    That leaves only the FY-2010 funding, a bit under $800 million for funding. So where is the rest of the $2 billion to build Madera to Fresno going to come from?

    BMF of San Diego Reply:

    Well… the State can loan the project funding… to repaid back at a later date with Bond funds…

    No?

    The State has undertaken numerous methods to barrow funding from one source, and repay it back at a later date. I should think that the same thing can happen here.

  11. Paul Druce
    Nov 25th, 2013 at 20:30
    #11

    Is it too late to lay back and think of SNCF?

    synonymouse Reply:

    You would have to ditch PB.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Ha. No sane enterprise is going to touch this political clusterfuck as it stands now.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Chinese will, if you let them build it with their people and buy their equipment, and they would probably even accept the DogLeg.

    If you change the route to the direct and express somebody else would go for it – California is a pretty attractive investment if you are allowed to plan according to standard practice, as SNCF was. Zut alors, I believe even the French would come back if you asked and of course had already shown PB and Palmdale the door.

    agb5 Reply:

    They just need to change the law to allow the Chinese the power of eminent domain over Californian farms. Can’t see any problem there….

    swing hanger Reply:

    Yeah, I can see it- worker camps for Chinese navvies, with barbed wire perimeter fencing- you can see them in Venezuela, where they are working on the railways there. Whether the barbed wire is to keep out the locals, or to keep the workers in, I dunno (maybe both).

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    The guy that SNCF sent over (whose name escapes me right now, and which I can’t look up since the LA Times mysteriously deleted that bombshell article [though a blog post referencing it is here]) to work on the project has died, unfortunately.

    Clem Reply:

    Denis Douté

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    It doesn’t matter – you still have the basic money problem that is at the root of all this.

    I get that longtime critics want to see this ruling as validation of everything they’ve been saying, but it isn’t. What’s going on here is that Republicans defunded HSR in Congress and then are using that to undermine the project in the courts – which was of course always part of the plan.

    You guys are naive to think that some other plan would fare better. This isn’t about routes, or alignments, or ridership models, or any of it, because any HSR project would face sustained attack from the right. The only way forward is for California to develop a financial plan that does not rely on the federal government.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    The basic money problem was started by our very own…Pelosi and others by not moving the 2009 transportation bill with the 50 Billion!! for HSR….And NO plan would fare any better with or without money unless you can change the laws so 2 Nimbys and a rent seeking lawyer have no power to stop a state wide transportation system.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    It doesn’t matter – you still have the basic money problem that is at the root of all this.

    Yes, the severe lack of it in Prop 1A and the reliance on “Oooh, maybe we’ll get the Federal government to give us great big stinking gobs of money because we’re SO FABULOUS!” Hell, if Arnold hadn’t delayed Prop 1A, it would be dead as a doornail right now, having never gotten Federal funds during Bush’s administration.

    You guys are naive to think that some other plan would fare better. This isn’t about routes, or alignments, or ridership models, or any of it, because any HSR project would face sustained attack from the right. The only way forward is for California to develop a financial plan that does not rely on the federal government.

    And that way forward relies on private investment by SNCF or another such company. This is not some idiotic communist utopia like you so desperately seem to wish for; if you try and get additional bond funding, California voters, liberal and conservative, will smack it down and kill the project. Meanwhile the high speed rail program has already killed the potential for tens of billions of dollars in investment in our current intercity rail routes which would do a hell of a lot good far more quickly than HSR ever would. Opportunity costs are a thing Robert and not once did you guys ever seem to consider them.

    And yes, routes, alignments, and ridership models are still damned important because very few people are intrinsically ideologically opposed to high speed rail (notice the lack of calls to stop AAF). What they are opposed to is gold plating and ideologically driven projects that do not appear to provide an appropriate return on investment. That’s precisely why you try to maximize the benefit-cost ratio, using real numbers not fake crap like “It would cost this much to build equivalent highways and runways (that aren’t actually planned for and we aren’t stopping a single highway or runway plan).” People want to see good spending, they don’t like bad spending, especially when it is their tax dollars.

    TomA Reply:

    AAF is HSR?

    I think you are wrong by the way – no private company is going to pay to build a multi billion dollar tunnel between Bakersfield and LA (the missing link – regardless of route) to run Amtrak level service through to the end of the San Joaquins and beyond – they would never make their money back (not to mention, the guys who own that track aren’t going to pull an FEC and decide to do passenger rail over the route, nor does it seem that the Tejon Ranch is going to sell its right of way like the Deseret Ranch did in Florida.)

    Paul Druce Reply:

    AAF is HSR?

    By American standards.

    I think you are wrong by the way – no private company is going to pay to build a multi billion dollar tunnel between Bakersfield and LA (the missing link – regardless of route) to run Amtrak level service through to the end of the San Joaquins and beyond – they would never make their money back (not to mention, the guys who own that track aren’t going to pull an FEC and decide to do passenger rail over the route, nor does it seem that the Tejon Ranch is going to sell its right of way like the Deseret Ranch did in Florida.)

    No shit. That’s why you would do high speed rail service, not Amtrak level service. Also, railroads get to eminent domain their right of ways, it’s a power that they’ve had for quite some time.

    TomA Reply:

    If you are going to do HSR level then how much cheaper is it going to be than the plan they came up with. Certianly not 75% cheaper.

    HSR in California with two major metro areas and two mountain chains to dig through is always going to be expensive.

    AAF can do what its doing without public support because its basically offering modest service on mostly existing tracks. If CA could do that it wouldn’t have any issues – the problem is that doing more than that is going to be really expensive in a populous, mountainous, seismically active state regardless of the dog legs, etc.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    … two mountain chains to dig through is always going to be expensive.

    That’s why it is and always was bat shit insane to voluntarily choose to run up project costs by taking on the unnecessary second mountain crossing between Palmdale and the LA Basin in addition to the heading-in-completely-the-wrong-direction heroic dogleg climb and descent from Bakersfield to Palmdale.

    (If you’re implying Tracy—Livermore—Fremont, a comparative doddle, with straightforward low-tunnelling alignment well identified, is the second problem “mountain chain” you’re both not thinking and not looking at a topographical map.)

    California is pretty much ideally configured for HSR — the lowest-hanging-fruit system in the world aside from Melbourne—Sydney.

    It’s not HSR that is the problem, it is allowing America’s Finest Transportation Professionals to fraudulently abscond with a billion public dollars and not only deliver nothing, but to poison the wells for decades to come.

    Heckuva job, PB Boys!

    joe Reply:

    Right!

    John Bohner and Kevin McCarthey would personally shepard HSR through the House if we had chosen the right alignment.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Ten billion here, ten billion there, and pretty soon you’re shepardizificating real infeasibility.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Thank you, Richard. CAHSR is very doable. Even a civilian like Musk sees it, tho his tech is Buck Rogers.

    Don’t forget Bechtel promised vactrains to sell BART in 1962. The BART concept was sound; the tech had to be more mundane.

  12. Clem
    Nov 25th, 2013 at 21:16
    #12

    “Gentlemen, we have run out of money. It is time to start thinking.”

    synonymouse Reply:

    Clem, do tell more. What do you make of this “Beartrap alignment” thing? I thought PB was under strict orders to stay away from it.

    Don’t you think Palmdale really ought to sue to clarify whether they really are hard written into Prop 1A. That litigation should have been allowed to proceed.

    Clem Reply:

    I don’t know what to make of it, and I am surprised the question of the mountain crossing is being opened for study again. Judging by the tens of millions spent on studying Tehachapi, I would have thought this was a settled matter.

    Ditto the Bako western bypass.

    They’re slowly starting to think, apparently.

    synonymouse Reply:

    One of the posters on the Altamont site commented he thought the judge overall punted on the issues.

    Kerry, AFAIK, certainly did not address 2:40, but apparently that can still be challenged. I mean PB is going to verify at some point they can do it. Not with the DogLeg.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    2:40 is explicitly part of the second half of the Tos case. Today’s decision was validation (in which the Authority was the plaintiff !?!) and the first part of the Tos case, which got split into a writ part – blatant violations of the law – and a waste of taxpayer money suit under California code 526a (some history http://digitalcommons.lmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1254&context=llr)

    The issues of ‘law” were decided in the writ part (do you need all the EISs? do you REALLy need all the money?) the issues of “fact” (can you operate at 2:40) are yet to come. that trial will be next year.

    Jon Reply:

    They are looking to bypass Bakersfield to the west because the city is demanding it, and it has the side benefits of being cheaper and faster. Probably they were planning to redefine the Fresno – Bakersfield section as ending just south of Shafter, get that section cleared so they could build the ICS, and push the bypass to the Bakersfield – Palmdale EIR. Today’s ruling puts a wrench in that plan, of course, but that’s probably what they had in mind.

    If you are going to bypass Bakersfield to the west it makes little sense to curve all the way round the city to get to the SR58 alignment; much quicker and cheaper to use Bear Trap to get to Palmdale instead. There’s nothing to indicate that they were planning on cutting Palmdale out of the system, just that they were looking for a quicker way to get there.

    Clem Reply:

    Dog Leg 2, the sequel? The Palmdale to San Fernando Valley situation is so complicated that I seriously doubt it. The good bear trap alignments shoot out of the mountains heading generally southwest, straight towards a certain existing freeway. Good place for a wye to wherever.

    Jon Reply:

    A wye at the top of Bear Creek is a possibility; that would allow them to get the IOS built quicker and cheaper, and link in Palmdale at a later date once XpressWest and the HDC have been built. Palmdale wouldn’t like being off the mainline but it should comply with prop 1a.

    There is as yet no indication that this is what they are planning to do. But they are still working on the Santa Clarita bypass alignment, which is supposedly going to make Palmdale – Burbank affordable. I don’t believe they can make a tunnel of that length pencil, but we will see.

    synonymouse Reply:

    They need to get Zoeller and Antonovich really upset again and bring that Palmdale suit back on again. We need to draw out the real opposition at Tejon. If it is Disney let’s find out.

    Where are the worthless Koch Bros. when we need them? Brown is too stubborn to reset unless he fears the whole thing is done for. They have got to get Prop 1A back on the ballot and then try to place roughly the SNCF alternative on there as an option. SF to LA really is doable if you get the corrupt morons out of the way.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Ernest Rutherford remembered. What a concept, making do with what you have, figuring out how to do things at a lower cost. Virtues alien to PB and friends.

  13. TRANSDEF
    Nov 25th, 2013 at 23:11
    #13

    Robert either doesn’t recognize or doesn’t want to recognize the beginning of the End. While it is true that the Court did not order the construction contracts rescinded, or bond money blocked, today’s rulings mark a point-of-no-return. There simply is no way HSRA can put together enough funding to build a self-sustaining usable segment. Without the bond funds that would be released by a compliant funding plan, I believe the ARRA funds are toast.

    Having shown SNCF’s proposal to build SF-LA the door, it may now be too late for private sector interest. But there’s no way HSRA can write a compliant funding plan unless it is able to attract actual HSR operators to propose joint ventures with the state. That would require tossing out the developer-friendly route decisions and most or all of PB’s masterpiece of planning and design. As I see it, it’s either clean-sheet-of-paper or nothing…

    Clem Reply:

    Clean sheet would be nice. It’s not like the need for HSR is getting any less pressing.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I, for one, don’t think this is the end. To quote Churchill, this is the end of the beginning.

    TomA Reply:

    Haha. If its clean sheet of paper – then its nothing. You don’t get multiple shots at doing something like this. Once it gets shot down you have no political capital left – whatever plan you come up with is just laughed at as a rewarmed version of whatever just failed – it takes a generation or two to forget it and let someone else try.

    joe Reply:

    Having shown SNCF’s proposal to build SF-LA the door, it may now be too late for private sector interest.

    Correction, you mean SNCF’s Powerpoint briefing.

    No I don’t think it’s too late given it was a power point pitch without budget or commitments.

  14. William
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 00:59
    #14

    This decision showcases the worst of a democracy: endless debate and a system that gave opponents endless chances to kill a worthwhile project. Private companies are more efficient because they are less democratic, not more. A CEO or President of a company can set a direction and end the debate. There will never be a plan that satisfy all the people, but a plan that satisfy more than 70% of Californians deserve all the support it can get.

    So what San Jose and Palmdale are on the main line? Would CAHSR plan passed the 2008 vote pass without Santa Clara county and LA county’s support? I don’t think so. So why anger supporters to chase after people who already said they don’t want it, in this case the Altamont corridor residents. For people who equate decisions based on politics bad, they had the cause-effect backwards. Certain places had more political power preciously because more people live there.

    In our kind of democracy, any big undertakings requires a champion to carry it through. Just like WWII we had FDR, CAHSR has Jerry Brown and I am thankful for it.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    This is actually a showcase for how poorly written laws get hung up in execution. While I think the restrictions in the law allowed it to get passed, what the law lacked was flexibility given the enormously long time frame to implement. It’s just not feasible that you can pass something in 2009 and fundamental circumstances have not changed in 2013 or 2020+.

    It is also a rebuke of the “dig the whole first then ask for more money” system of infrastructure development. Despite what supporters what to believe, thus is a proof of concept for HSR in America. It should be short, simple, and quick to see if more development I’d worth it. They hot too ambitious. Combined with the complex law and assumptions on funding that were never realistic (the Feds will pay 80% + of costs) it was bound to bog down

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I really messed up that comment and did it quickly so I did not check it…typed correctly again below

    This is actually a showcase for how poorly written laws get hung up in execution. While I think the restrictions in the law allowed it to get passed, what the law lacked was flexibility given the enormously long time frame to implement. It’s just not feasible that you can pass something in 2009 and fundamental circumstances have not changed in 2013 or 2020+.
    It is also a rebuke of the “dig the whole first then ask for more money” system of infrastructure development. Despite what supporters want to believe, this is a proof of concept for HSR in America. It should be short, simple, and quick to see if more development is worth it. They got too ambitious. Combined with the complex law and assumptions on funding that were never realistic (the Feds will pay 80% + of costs) it was bound to bog down

    TomA Reply:

    Good point. So basically outside of Texas and Florida (populous but undense, single state. flat) HSR simply can’t work in America (and likely won’t work in those places because of their anti-spending politics). The Northeast is flat but crowded. California is relatively undense and single state, but mountainous. The Midwest is flar and undense, but the main end points are in different states.

    Too ambitious? Maybe – but thats not why the project failed. If all the money they were ever going to get was the initial bond issue plus some paltry federal matching funds, then they were never going to be able to build anything outside of the CV.

    What it really speaks for is that like the interstate highway system ,we need a federal plan for HSR with real funding.

    Which basically means – we won’t ever really see HSR In America.

    Eric Reply:

    Once it works in Texas and/or Florida, the climate will change in other locations, enough to overcome the extra obstacles there.

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ William

    Quel crock!

    San Jose and Palmdale are simply not on line – actually pretty far off of it.

    Silicon Valley is liberal primarily – liberals like big spending infrastructury stuff – they vote for hsr on basic principle. The megalopolises easily bought into Prop 1A ; they did not need to pander to Antonovich nor Reid.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Mayor Reed of SJ

  15. agb5
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 02:17
    #15

    How difficult is it to amend the text of Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century? If it is going to be in effect for the whole of the 21st century, the text would need tweaking over time in the normal course of events.

    morris brown Reply:

    @agb5

    Any amending of Prop 1A can only be done with the approval of the voters of California in a new ballot measure. Senator Viadak is pushing for a re-vote. This could be placed on the ballot by the Legislature. There is certainly no possibility that a new ballot measure would be started by gathering signatures, a very costly process.

    synonymouse Reply:

    All due respect, Morris, I doubt a legislative move for a re-vote is likely.

    The signature collection route is the only way to secure a re-vote, necessary because Brown is too out of it to reset unless under dire pressure. Those rich rightists could bankroll signature gathering but I suspect they are closet greedhead developers in league with PB, Palmdale, Tejon Ranch et al.

  16. morris brown
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 03:50
    #16

    A constant theme from Robert and many here who comment, is the “teabaggers”, those with conservative views etc., that are killing the project. This is hardly the case, as was clearly evident by defection of several liberal Democrats of the State T&H committee, in the 2012 vote on SB-1029, the appropriation bill. (A. Lowenthal, J. Simitian, M. DeSaulnier and even F. Pavley).

    Yesterday Kevin Drum, “Mother Jones”, put out an article. Surely nobody is going to challenge his very liberal views. Yet he clearly opposes this HSR project.

    See:

    http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/11/california-bullet-train-might-be-breathing-its-last

    California Bullet Train Might Be Breathing Its Last

    By Kevin Drum

    | Mon Nov. 25, 2013 4:59 PM PST

    Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny, following up on a ruling earlier this year, might have finally put a stake through the LA-San Francisco bullet train:

    Kenny ruled that the state does not have a valid financing plan, which was required under the 2008 bond measure, Proposition 1A. The measure included provisions intended to ensure the state did not start the project if it did not have all of the necessary funds to complete a self-supporting, initial operating segment.

    The state rail agency created a funding plan, but it was an estimated $25 billion short of the amount needed to complete a first working section of the line. Kenny ruled that the state must rescind the plan and create a new one, a difficult task because the state High-Speed Rail Authority hasn’t identified sources of additional revenue to allocate to the project.

    As near as I can tell, the HSR authority’s plan all along has been to simply ignore the law and spend the bond money on a few initial miles of track. Once that was done, no one would ever have the guts to halt the project because it would already have $9 billion sunk into it. So one way or another, the legislature would keep it on a funding drip.

    It’s a time-tested strategy, and it might have worked if not for a meddling judge. But I don’t see how Kenny could have ruled any other way. The bond measure is clear about the financing requirement, and the authority’s flouting of the requirement is equally clear. Not only does it not have a plan to fully fund even a part of the HSR project, there’s no remotely plausible plan they can put forward. The federal government is plainly not going to provide any further money, and the prospect of private funding is laughable. No one in his right mind believes either the authority’s ridership projections or its cost projections anymore.

    I’ve been a skeptic of this project from the start. Its numbers never added up, its projections were woefully rose-colored, and it was fanciful to think it would ever provide the performance necessary to compete against air and highway travel. Since then, things have only gotten worse as cost projections have gone up, ridership projections have gone down, and travel time estimates have struggled to stay under three hours.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this is the kind of project that gives liberals a bad name. It’s time to kill it. For a whole bunch of reasons, LA to San Francisco just isn’t a good choice for high-speed rail.

    TRANSDEF Reply:

    Nicely said. This project wasn’t High-Speed Rail, it was High-Pork Rail. The sad part is that a public that would support a well-designed (i.e., cost-minimizing) HSR system will come away from this project thinking they’ve seen HSR, when all they’ve seen is HPR.

    Jerry Reply:

    Please remind me again of just what was the financing plan for the TRILLION dollar war in Iraq.

    Jerry Reply:

    Oh. And what did we get from it?

    Paul Druce Reply:

    How exactly does Iraq being badly planned make bad planning for HSR acceptable?

    joe Reply:

    MONEY

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Care to rephrase that in a mildly substantive manner, preferably with subject, verb, and object?

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Ugh, more ridiculous nonsense from Kevin Drum.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    The important point about Drum’s piece is his identification of the true policy regarding financing, a policy endorsed by you Robert C. In a nutshell, start building in a ridiculous location, sink so much money into it that you believe it cannot be stopped and then defy the feds and the state to withhold more funds. Add to that by lying that the IOS can be self-supporting when clearly you will never sell enough tickets between Merced and Burbank at a price that will wash its face and then forge ahead spending the money that is available hoping that more will come. They have the nerve to call that a Business Plan?

    TomA Reply:

    Works for highways.

    Nadia Reply:

    Agreed Paul. As much as Robert tries to make this about Republicans v. Democrats – it just had to do with the misleading that went on to get the ballot measure passed – and then the continued misleading to keep it alive.

    We referred to this policy of getting it started anyway possible as “stake in the ground funding”

    Here’s Willie Brown’s quote which points out that this is just how things are done: “News that the Transbay Terminal is something like $300 million over budget should not come as a shock to anyone.

    We always knew the initial estimate was way under the real cost. Just like we never had a real cost for the Central Subway or the Bay Bridge or any other massive construction project. So get off it.

    In the world of civic projects, the first budget is really just a down payment. If people knew the real cost from the start, nothing would ever be approved.

    The idea is to get going. Start digging a hole and make it so big, there’s no alternative to coming up with the money to fill it in.”

    (from: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/williesworld/article/When-Warriors-travel-to-China-Ed-Lee-will-follow-4691101.php)

    This is just the problems of large projects

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Would you support full funding for high speed rail from SF to LA? I’ve been making the argument for a year now that California can fund HSR on its own, and for about 9 months or so I’ve been saying California should pursue that path. If you guys want to help make that reality I think that would be fantastic. Are you interested?

    And yes, this is absolutely an issue of Republicans v. Democrats. If Democrats had held the House in 2010, this lawsuit would not have turned out the way it did, since Congress would be delivering about $1b a year to the California HSR project in funding. The modern Republican Party, at least in its DC iteration, is determined to destroy public infrastructure and willing to risk modern civilization to get there. Whether it’s schools, health care, our environment, our climate, our economy, whatever it is, they’re willing to risk it in pursuit of their extremist goals. Everything we do as a people is touched by that radicalism.

    Nadia Reply:

    @ Robert

    Maybe I missed it, but I haven’t seen your plan. Do you mean yours personally or CA4HSR? Is it on the web to read?

    Yes, I’d be interested in figuring out a way for CA to build HSR on its own – but I’m NOT on board with the plan currently proposed. This needs a major re-think.

    The Authority is at a decision point – do they continue to forge ahead with their poor plan, or do they recoup – forgo the federal money and instead try to figure out how to plan and build this WITH the support of the communities and the people that will ultimately bankroll the project.

    I realize on this blog CARRD is cast in the role of villain. However, YOU Robert know that from the very beginning we have tried hard both publicly and privately with the Authority, with the politicos, with everyone we came in contact with, to try to straighten things out so it would be a viable, sustainable project for the long term – not just a knee jerk plan to capitalize on the federal money.

    The reason CARRD promoted Context Sensitive Solutions from the beginning was that we understood that if the Authority continued to isolate the cities it had to work with for support (both financial and political), the project would ultimately fail. Our philosophy has always been that being honest during the process (about costs, about hard decisions that need to be made, about missteps, etc.) would have served the Authority so much better than where it is now.

    From our webpage, CSS would mean:
    “Rather than approaching stakeholders at the tail end of the design process in an attempt to gain approval, CSS emphasizes the need to incorporate their early, continuous and meaningful involvement from the very outset of the planning and design development processes. This involvement also continues during all subsequent stages of construction, operations and maintenance.

    When CSS principles are applied to transportation projects, the process involves a much broader range of disciplines than traditional transportation design methods, which rely exclusively on the judgment of engineers.

    CSS principles have been recognized nationwide since about 1998. The Federal Highway Administration is committed to CSS . Since 2001, the Director’s policy of the California’s Department of Transportation (CalTrans) is to use CSS principles when dealing with road projects.

    CARRD believes that CSS guiding principles should be used for the High Speed Rail project. California is a large, diverse state and each community is unique. Stakeholder participation is vital in helping citizens be part of building their communities for a sustainable and a more livable future.”

    Yes, I (speaking for myself) would support CA doing HSR on its own – but only if we agree to abandon what has been done to date and start anew with CSS. Too idealistic? Maybe -but it is worth trying given the sad state of affairs we are in now.

    Would you be interested in true CSS Robert?

    Jon Reply:

    Caltrans do not do anything more than give lip service to CSS; you only have to look at the planning of the Bakersfield Centennial Corridor Freeway to see this. Caltran’s alternatives analysis process in Bakersfield has been exactly the same as the Authority’s, and while that doesn’t reflect particular well on the Authority, it’s hypocritical to declare that rail projects cannot proceed unless they are held to to a standard that is not required of freeway projects.

    J. Wong Reply:

    The problem with CSS is that it would give “communities” veto power over any plan. The Peninsula cities, for example, would insist that the only acceptable solution is full tunneling without identifying any way to pay for it.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Here’s the “plan” as it currently exists – some concepts on paper based on expanding the size of SPUR’s initial proposal. It needs more work but is a good starting point. http://www.cahsrblog.com/2012/07/how-california-could-pay-for-hsr-itself/

    As to CARRD, I don’t mean to cast you guys as the villain. You’re a complex group made up of some of the nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to disagree with. You’re not ideologically anti-rail as is the House GOP. But your interest is in blowing up this specific iteration of HSR and that sets us against each other at times. My primary interest is in getting HSR built as quickly as possible. The current plan is a good one – not perfect, but very good – and should be funded and built ASAP. I do not see any need for revisiting the route choice, since I don’t believe we have time to waste.

    joe Reply:

    Oil Severance tax –
    http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201320140SB241
    (a) (1) An oil and gas severance tax is hereby imposed upon any operator for the privilege of severing oil or gas from the earth or water in this state at the rate of 9.5 percent of the average price per barrel of California oil or 3.5 percent of the average price per unit of gas, as calculated pursuant to this section.

    Previous Board of Equalization estimates on similar proposals show this bill could generate approximately $2 billion a year in revenues. – See more at: http://sd02.senate.ca.gov/news/2013-02-12-evans-introduces-bill-raise-billions-higher-ed-and-state-parks#sthash.pJynjMwL.dpuf

    http://legal-planet.org/2013/05/24/california-legislature-suspends-oil-severance-tax-wimp-out-or-long-game/

    SB 241 would have dedicated these revenues to higher education (UC, Cal States, and community colleges), with a small portion (7%) going to State Parks.

    CaliforniaDefender Reply:

    Agreed. The project boosters attack critics with ad hominem arguments, mischaracterizing who the critics are and their motivations. There are many critics of this project (including myself) that are liberal and transit friendly: they just see how this project is being carried out and object to the gross waste, inefficiency, and mismanagement (not to mention the shiftiness).

    Eric Reply:

    When he says “LA to San Francisco just isn’t a good choice for high-speed rail.” he shows himself to be an idiot, despite the mostly sensible things he said before that.

  17. Tony D.
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 07:39
    #17

    So what does this mean for Caltrain electrification? That’s all I care about now. As someone who remains an ardent supporter of HSR in theory….This thing is over. Improving our regional commuter rails anyone?…

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    There’s the rub. The projects with which we should have started, northern electrification and LAUS run through, are now in jeopardy. The opportunity to provide a propaganda victory by radical improvements to regional service as a precursor to HSR and under the HSR aegis have been pissed away by LaHood and gang. Without the run through tracks PTC will be a catastrophe for LAUS since with this great techno advance it will take about 30 minutes to turn a train around. They probably did better in steam days…..

    joe Reply:

    “There’s the rub. The projects with which we should have started, northern electrification and LAUS run through, are now in jeopardy.”

    Started how? Certainly not with Prop1a HSR and Federal HSR funds.

    Every IOS proposed would face the same problem as this IOS.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    1A is dead, IOS and ICS thinking is dead, the blended hoax is dead. If we want to do anything we improve the regional networks at each end and build LA to Bakersfield, the missing link in the passenger rail network.

    Tony D. Reply:

    Yes!

    joe Reply:

    So were back to the plan that’s been going nowhere since the 1980s.
    No thanks.

    But you know the unspeakable – the state can match funds without Prop1a and continue the project without any legal problems.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Then pack your bags for Sacramento joe and persuade the good people there to find money in the budget to cover for 1A, all of it, plus another $50 billion to complete the project. Trouble is there are other parts of 1A that cannot be reconciled, such as operating without a subsidy.
    The incremental approach is still alive, and the only approach that can work. We have rail select committees forming in Sacramento. There is I think relief at the Capitol that the HSR story will be behind us and that we can get on with providing services that people need and that are also essential precursors to HSR, i.e. modern, robust, regional networks.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Operating without a subsidy has no teeth. Once they disburse all of the money what’s gonna be done? Not disburse money that they don’t have because it’s all been disbursed? And what happens if the state uses other sources, the remedy is what exactly? Not disbursing bond money the state isn’t asking for?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    You don’t care about following the law at all do you? Haven’t you learned that ignoring the law is not helping this project

    Brian Reply:

    I see no way forward on bookend investments like Caltrain electrification with Prop 1A funds unless the bond issues are resolved. This case means SF – San Jose would need to be fully funded before bonds could pay for electrification.

    blankslate Reply:

    +1

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    So what does this mean for Caltrain electrification?

    EXACTLY where anybody with a single functioning neuron SAID it would be: being used to fund PB’s BART extension to the SJ Flea Market.

    Same house, same call as last iteration, when all Caltrain modernization funding went to fund PB/Bechtel/Tutor’s BART extension to Millbrae.

    Feel free to vote for Caltrain Electrification funding again next time! There are more PB-conceived BART extensions that can use all the money.

    joe Reply:

    It’s BART’s fault.

    Joey Reply:

    When it comes to taking money from shovel-ready CalTrain projects, it most certainly is.

    joe Reply:

    Caltrain Electrification is also opposed by NIMBYs. They want to shut Caltrain down, not electrify it. Gate closures will worsen with electrification and means changing crossings which means taking property.

    Joey Reply:

    Gate closures will worsen with increased service. That’s technically independent of electrification?

    jimsf Reply:

    hopefully bart will take over caltrain.

    joe Reply:

    I agree 100%.

    It’s possible given the service Caltrain wants is 100% duplicating what BART needs.

    Caltrian’s neglect for the South County Santa Clara and Monterey – they lost that expansion to Amtrak CC – gives them no allies or unique service.

    The Caltrain core is exactly what BART wants and its powerful enough to get the government to take that ROW over UPs objections.

    CC will take over south county service or BART will wisely hold on to that service and eventually build to Gilroy. They do take the long term view.

    Of course BART’s takeover would give a few here an aneurysm.

    Joey Reply:

    BART to Gilroy? Why not Vacaville first?

    Joey Reply:

    What benefit would BART have that less expensive grade-separated, electrified CalTrain wouldn’t?

    Eric Reply:

    Through-running

    Joey Reply:

    Detouring around San Bruno Mountain has a pretty big time cost anyway (~15 min). People are better off walking from Embarcadero to Transbay and catching an express.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yeah, that separation of train stations is moronic, and some time in the distant past of the 1990s they should’ve figured that the place to put the train terminal was the Ferry Building, as planned by SP, and not a station disconnected from BART.

    Joey Reply:

    There are nebulous plans to install a pedestrian tunnel at some point in the future. It’s still a bit of distance though, and no word on when that’s actually going to happen.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Cost of DTX + underground train station >>> cost of pedestrian tunnel.

    Marc Reply:

    The Ferry Building is actually a bit farther walk from Embarcadero station than Transbay terminal. Stations on various train/subway lines are often separated by several blocks in Japan, this has been turned into an opportunity to create underground shopping malls. I would hope someone has given consideration to Namba Walk in Osaka, or Tenjin Underground Mall in Fukuoka.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    @Tony D:

    Everyone else is going to tell you the bookend funding is a casualty of the ruling, that Peninsula residents should start wearing “WE WELCOME OUR NEW BART OVERLORDS” and to ship reams of sackcloth to the Central Valley which is now headed to obscurity.

    But look closely at the decisions, and the judge effectively said that Prop 1A was violated because the High Speed Train Finance Commission didn’t demonstrate the need for the bonds. But language within Prop 1A clearly says if the Legislature appropriates the bond funds, they are valid to sell.

    Then you look at the 2011 Funding Plan, and the judge agrees that it’s insufficient to disburse the funding even though there’s already a 2012 plan. So let’s the Legislature appropriates the bonds again…what do they have to change?

    The answer I think is very clear, but this board has been whipped into such a frenzy no one has mentioned it: If the Prop 1A had stuck to only the segments receiving federal funds, it would have passed muster. It failed BECAUSE it added funding to the bookends which didn’t have federal dollars attached.

    I think the the ICS is going to survive, but only the ICS until we see some additional federal funds directed to match Prop 1A.

    Meanwhile, we will have nothing to entertain ourselves but the South Bay contingent’s conniption fits over BART expanding its grasp to San Jose, Stockton, San Anselmo, and Salinas and the So Cal crowd moaning about OCTA’s bastardization of the Surfliner into the New Mexico Rail Runner.

    Tony D. Reply:

    Wait a minute! Are you trying to imply the judge made this ruling because of money included for Caltrain and Metrolink? Really?!! Look, we can argue all day about the Tea Party, the GOP congress, lawsuits, etc re why this project became dead in the water. But the current plan (or idea) to throw all of the billions $ towards a CV line that could never see LA or the Bay is STUPID! Time to hit reset and start out fresh!

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    so you want trains to start running 2040 then?

    Tony D. Reply:

    Under the current “plan,” when were they supposed to start running? Serious question (taking into account financial realities on the ground..)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s going to be somewhat earlier than if they start all over again.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Hardly a “serious answer” involving “realities” — as it is the work of outright fraudsters and dimwitted clowns — but the 2012 Business Plan (business!) claimed, with a straight face:

    “IOS” : Merced via Palmdale San Fernando Valley : 300 miles : 2022 : $31 billion (dollar amounts are cumulative, YOE)
    “Bay to Basin” : San José, Capital of Silicon Valley, to Los Banos, Merced, Palmdale, San Fernando Valley: 2026 : $51 billion
    “Phase 1 Blended” : San Francisco still dot downtown via SJ, Los Banos, Merced, Palmdale, non-elecctified creep hitched behind diesels on appalling intestinal Metrolink Antelope Valley line to LAUS, then Anaheim: 2029 : $68 billion

    And a bonus, “If required, a Full Build option for Phase 1 could be completed by 2033 at an incremental cost of $23 billion in year-of-expenditure dollars, for a cumulative cost of $91.4 billion.”

    Comedy gold!

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I think the line that was crossed is that there is 950 million of Prop 1A that can be awarded to local governments for connectivity to the HSR system. But if I recall correctly, the Legislature added additional Prop 1A monies on top of that for Cal Train and some projects SCAG wanted. I think that is where the judge accurately intervened.

    I actually think it was very smart to start in the Central Valley and extend down to Palmdale. Local governments have lots of other resources at their disposal to expand transit. The sparsely populated reaches (okay, sparsely populated for California) of the state can’t raise the revenue on their own to do this project.

    BrianR Reply:

    This means that it’s time for Caltrain to invest in a fleet of new diesel engines or DMU’s. No need to hold out for an electrification project that will never happen before purchasing new equipment. The platform height compatibility debate is over as well. Caltrain can set it’s platform heights at any height it damn well pleases as long as it provides for level boarding. However they might as well set their floor and platform heights at 18″ for compatibility with Amtrak and Capitol Corridor. Also, less need to worry about the proposed Coast Daylight mucking up service on the peninsula. I guess those same people that otherwise wouldn’t of considered a 3 hr SF-LA travel time the end of the world will have no problems with 11 hrs on the Coast Daylight. 3 hrs vs. 11 hrs; what’s the difference? They are both an incredibly long time but 2 hr 40 min sounds perfectly reasonable! I guess after that 2 hr 40 min mark something just clicks in people and they go insane and can’t possibly stand being on a train for any minute longer.

  18. John Nachtigall
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 09:17
    #18
  19. Ken
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 09:26
    #19

    It’s the Baby Boomer generation man. They screw up everything.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Gimme a break!

    Jesse Haugh was a Baby Boomer?

    Ken Reply:

    Boomers had the strength in numbers to change the world. Yet they kept it this way while the rest of the world zoomed us by.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Perhaps the Boomers you are referring to are Michael Antonovich and Barry Zoeller.

  20. jimsf
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 10:01
    #20

    California should have included a way to pay for this without future federal funding. We canafford it ourselves, with no strings attached.

    agb5 Reply:

    Federal funding may be limited for another reason.
    Blockbuster news that went largely unreported by the American media is that a deputy governor at the central bank of China reportedly said: “It’s no longer in China’s favor to accumulate foreign-exchange reserves”. In other words, China may no longer lend money to USA, worse, they may want their $1,000 billion in US bonds repaid with interest over the next 10 years.
    US flying B-52s into “Chinese” airspace probably won’t help.

    J. Wong Reply:

    The story is that, somehow, China owns a majority of US debt. Sorry, but it is simply not true. The majority of US debt is owned by US citizens.

    The reason that China has been buying US debt is to keep the yuan/dollar exchange rate where it is. If they stop buying US debt, then the yuan must rise, if it rises, then Chinese exports will get more expensive, which means less demand for Chinese exports. Do you think the Chinese gov’t wants that? The Chinese are not propping us up, they’re propping themselves up.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    But selling debt to grandma so she has someplace safe to put her retirement money isn’t quite the same as ranting about how the Chinese are buying our debt. Along the almost everybody else in the world who wants to stash cash someplace safe.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Let them buy euros instead. Go for it

  21. Robert
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 10:35
    #21

    We should just take whatever 1A bond money that is actually available and once the Transbay Terminal train box is complete, just pour the entire 1/4 mile long 80 foot deep hole full of concrete as a memorial to our complete and utter stupidity as a country. If yet another lawsuit prevents the use of the bond money for this purpose, I’m sure the Reason Foundation will be able to have a bake sale to pay for the concrete. What a nice photo-op it would make for Scott Walker and Rick Scott to ceremoniously cut the ribbon and start up the big concrete pour to kick off the great American future that awaits us…

    RT

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I would donate money if we call it the memorial to the death of the Wille Brown approach to Infrastructure. It is never ok to lie to get something done

  22. Chris Reed
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 11:09
    #22

    Robert:

    1) Why are House Republicans obligated by a 2008 vote of Californians to fund a project benefiting California?

    2) On what basis do you contend that Kenny’s ruling is in error? The text of 1A is clear about the hurdles the state must pass before beginning construction.

    3) Do you not acknowledge the common sense of 1A’s requirement that funds be in hand for the full 300-mile IOS before construction begins?

    4) Why don’t you ever note that Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., is also opposed to bullet-train funding for California?

    5) Why don’t you ever note that bullet train critics in 2008 were right when they said $43 billion was a dishonestly low estimate for the project cost?

    6) Why don’t you ever note that bullet train critics in 2008 were right when they said private investors would never come forward without a guarantee of a bailout if revenue estimates came up short?

    Good questions all. Fair questions all.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    1. Never said they were obligated to do anything and certainly not on that basis. I do believe they should be supporting new HSR funding across the country in order to create jobs, reduce carbon emissions and fossil fuel consumption, and improve transportation connections.

    2. I don’t agree with him that the Authority failed to comply with the text of Prop 1A.

    3. It’s always easy to declare one’s own position is “common sense.” Most transportation projects in this country proceed before all funding is in hand. One may agree or disagree with that approach but it is common. Only in the Tea Party era has that become a problem.

    4. Because that’s the first I’d heard of it.

    5. Because we don’t know that it was offered dishonestly. The estimate was based on knowledge at the time. If you go back and look at my posts from 2008 I regularly said the cost estimate might well rise.

    6. Because that’s not an accurate reflection of how private investment would work.

    I don’t think “why don’t you acknowledge we were right?” is a “fair” question but I don’t mind answering it anyway.

    joe Reply:

    Murray is not against CA HSR project. You’d have to go back to 2011 to find this…
    http://www.columbian.com/news/2011/sep/21/senate-panel-oks-limited-funds-for-high-speed-rail/

    Recall CA has 2009 funds to spend by 2017 and critics claimed that was to much to spend.

  23. Richard Mlynarik
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 12:13
    #23

    We should just take whatever 1A bond money that is actually available and once the Transbay Terminal train box is complete, just pour the entire 1/4 mile long 80 foot deep hole full of concrete as a memorial to our complete and utter stupidity as a country.

    Sadly, what you are proposing is the best and only feasible way to ever have rail service along the Caltrain line to downtown SF.

    The TJPA’s catastrophically incompetent “design” — Anerica’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals delivering as only they can — cannot ever work for either rail service or for rail passengers. If it goes ahead and isn’t shut down, torn up, and filled it, it’s curtains for ever getting useful rail service. It’s really that bad.

    I’d use dirt to fill the box back in, though. Concrete is a waste of resources and energy, as edifying as the constant stream of Ready-Mix trucks or a dedicated on-site batching plant might be.

    So awful. So completely avoidable.

    Robert Reply:

    Ah yes, the old “we had to destroy the city in order to save it”. Good Thinking !

    They could have used more of that during the Vietnam War…

    http://www.thisdayinquotes.com/2010/02/it-became-necessary-to-destroy-town-to.html

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Oh come on now, surely with a mind as creative as yours, if you worked hard at it, could come up with something even worse.

    Emmanuel Reply:

    It is one of the worst ideas for sure. My HSR involves avoiding stupid. I will put it on the ballot.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They did vote on it.

    http://www.smartvoter.org/1999nov/ca/sf/meas/H/

    The execution has been awful but they did vote on it.

    Clem Reply:

    Why fill it when you could grow mushrooms in it on an industrial scale?

    Jon Reply:

    Skate Park!

  24. Derek
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 12:44
    #24

    Task force: billions needed to fix transit in S.F.
    By Michael Cabanatuan and John Coté, San Francisco Chronicle, 2013-11-25

    San Francisco’s transportation system – famous for its slow Muni buses, pothole-pocked streets and inadequate bike and pedestrian amenities – needs a lot of help: $10.1 billion worth, a task force appointed by the mayor has concluded.

    I think they should identify 100% of the funds before they begin work on fixing the infrastructure.

  25. Emmanuel
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 13:17
    #25

    Sorry, buy this ruling is nonsense. No program on earth has ever been required to provide the 10 years of funding before construction. In fact many of the biggestcconstruction projects fund themselves through devt with the anticipation that the project will pay for itself down the road. Only in ridiculous California do we have such unrealistic requirements.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    So the Proposition was nonsense for requiring these stipulations. Can’t blame the ruling.

    Emmanuel Reply:

    Well, that’s true. The judge simply interprets the law. I think it may be time to put HSR lite on the ballot, omitting some stations and doing things in a smart manner such as abandoning SD-LA through IE, skip Palmdale for Tejon. I bet we could shave off a good $20 billion if building a train at our current budget were the first priority.

    I think the biggest mistake was to create a separate entity. If HSR were fully integrated into the Department of Transportation there would be no money problems and construction would probably have begun back in 2012.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Since San Diego to Los Angeles wasn’t in the scope of Phase One abandoning it would be kinda hard.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Only in ridiculous California do we have such unrealistic requirements.

    Ya think finding funding for a 10 year project is unrealistic the Post Office, courtesy of the people who have a privatization fetish, is currently funding retirement benefits for people who aren’t born yet.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    The Authority was not required to gain funding but merely identify it. “Oh pretty please won’t someone fund me” is not identification.

    joe Reply:

    He’s right. The requirement is built into Prop1a and not required for any highway project.

  26. Paul Druce
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 14:01
    #26

    Incidentally, can we stop with blaming the GOP for everything and ignoring the real problems with the Authoity? Dolchstassbahn is really annoying and not helpful for advocacy.

  27. CaliforniaDefender
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 14:23
    #27

    Remember a couple of months ago when several posters here, as well as the governor, Dan Richard, and Jeff Morales claimed that the Prop 1A lawsuit’s decision on the merits didn’t matter? I said then that we’ll see how this plays out. Well, here we are, with a decision by Judge Kenny that forbids the use of Prop 1A bond money until a legally adequate funding plan is certified. Thank goodness the judge had the integrity to derail this out of control train before it does any more damage than it alredy has. Vindication is very gratifying, indeed.

    The Authority and project boosters have tied themselves in knots trying to get around legal requirements. But this decision upholds the rule of law as applied to massive project that has political support by a few powerful interests. It turns out that CHSRA is not above the law — contrary to our Attorney General’s arguments. There may yet be a valuable role for HSR in California, but the Authority must develop a legitimate plan, pull together the $30+ billion needed for IOS-south, and clear the “environmental clearances” hurdle before it starts construction.

    Ken Reply:

    If you don’t like the way CA is going, why don’t you and the rest of the Boomers to Arizona?

    You Boomers are the cause of all the mess in the US and CA today. We millennials can do a lot better without you guys around.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    People have been writing “You old fogeys are the cause of all the mess today. We young bucks can do a lot better without you guys around.” since there has been writing.

    Ken Reply:

    Well it’s true. Change and advancement occurs when there’s a generational shift in ideas and innovation.

    The Boomer generation is up, they had their time and they are now close to retirement. They’re not going to live forever. It will be our generation’s time from now on and we don’t need the Boomers clinging on to everything like they are going to live forever.

    Derek Reply:

    When the boomers start losing their ability to drive safely, they will suddenly become pro-transit.

    CaliforniaDefender Reply:

    Ken and Derek, your comments are so stereotypical for the booster crowd: you ignore the merits of the arguments made against the project (as it’s being carried out), you engage in wishful thinking, and you personally attack the critics. Is that all you have? If so, it’s not much and is worse for wear. Try putting as much effort into thinking objectively about how this project got off track — perhaps with your tremendous powers of innovation you can find solutions to all the problems the Authority now confronts. Good luck with that.

    joe Reply:

    What’s objectionable about the elderly relying on mass transit and rail for transportation?

    Nothing about the rail project itself was found objectionable. The judge ruled prop1a requires the State identify more funds. That’s the ruling. No invalidating the appropriation or EIR violations. Just requiring they identify more funds.

    BTW I liked the original SNL skit far better than your copy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k80nW6AOhTs

    Derek Reply:

    CaliforniaDefender, if you think necessity is not the mother of invention, then please state your case.

    Ken Reply:

    We will. Have how many years do you Boomers have left in this world? You’re not going to live forever. Within the next 10-20 years, your numbers will diminish and when they do, your political powers will weaken.

    You just won the battle for now, but we will win the war because you Boomers are going to be dead from old age in a few years anyway.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Don’t be so sure your generation could not turn anti-rail and pro bus:

    http://www.sacbee.com/2013/11/26/5946931/sacramento-train-mystery-what.html

    Megabus is cutting into rail. This could become a leech for hsr and another reason you need genuine uberhighspeed rail, not regional AmBART to be competitive. You won’t enjoy an artificial monopoly like BART.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Megabus isn’t cutting into rail. The only place where Megabus has rail competition is in the Northeast. Anyplace else they are competing with Greyhound.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I friggin wish I was close to retirement. Most Boomers aren’t eligible for Medicare, they are too young. Most of them will be too young for a long time. The last of them are eligible for Medicare in 2029. You are pissed off at Boomers’ parents.

    Ken Reply:

    2029 is only 16 years away. Within the span of 16 years, how many Boomers are actually going to be living their lives as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes take their toll on them? American Boomers aren’t really that healthy compared to their Asian counterparts.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    American Boomers are pictures of lean athleticism compared to their children and grandchildren. Smoking’s all that’s changed for the better.

    I do like your new marketing angle: “Pay PBQD $100 billion or you’ll all get diabetes!” Catchy.

  28. Clem
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 17:16
    #28

    This is actually an opportunity for HSR in California. It’s about time that the authority and its lead consultant were forced to realize that they will need more money. A lot more money. They will need a gigantic chunk of money from private investors (more than the $13 billion in their latest business plan), and the only way to attract that money will be to let the private investors have a say in picking the specs and the route that they think will be the most successful. There is much to be thankful for:

    Good-bye Palmdale dog leg and double mountain crossing.
    Good-bye useless miles upon miles of extra tunnels.
    Good-bye Pacheco.
    Good-bye gold plated downtown 220 mph viaducts.
    Good-bye monumental stations.
    Good-bye “iconic” visual design guideline codswallop.

    Hello get me from point A to point B cheaply, energy-efficiently and in a right quick hurry, because the need for that isn’t about to disappear.

    Tony D. Reply:

    Probably wishful thinking Clem, but here’s what I’d do:

    HELLO completely upgraded/electrified/modernized Caltrain (SF-SJ), ACE (SJ-Stock), and Metrolink (Anaheim-Sylmar via LAUS)
    HELLO Interstate 5 high-speed rail line from Tracy to Sylmar (if private investors are still interested of course)
    HELLO upgraded Amtrak San Joaquins (acting as a feeder line for CV towns/cities to I-5 mainline)

    Later, as funding became available, we could then discuss Dumbarton rail in Bay Area, ACE/HSR extensions to Sacramento in NorCal and Metrolink/HSR to San Bernardino/San Diego in SoCal.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    If money is the primary goal, then that leaves all those things still on the table since getting the money is still a political question first and foremost.

    joe Reply:

    Some pretend if we did what they proposed then House Whip McCarthey would have walked HSR through the House and Senate.

    None of the attributes Clem listed mattered. They shut down the government over health care.

    No Private investor would get involved in a political fight which is what this is…a political fight over destroying signature policy issues the president identified for his administration.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Spot on, Clem, point by point.

    Clem Reply:

    Private investors are not subject to the same political influences.

  29. trentbridge
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 17:49
    #29

    Yesterday, New Jersey became the third state to allow online poker within its borders. (After Delaware and Nevada.) At this moment – within 24 hours of the launch – over five hundred people are online in New Jersey playing poker – generating revenues for the state of New Jersey. California has a population four times bigger than NJ.

    NYTimes Jan 12 2012

    “Supporters of legalizing online poker in California estimate that it would net the state $100 million to $250 million a year — a tidy sum”

    All the Dems have to do is authorize Jerry to negotiate a compact with New Jersey or Nevada to permit Californian residents to play poker on the existing platforms in either state. No need to regulate here or reach agreements with Indian tribes or horse-racing interests.

    This would be enough to finance several billions of HSR bonds.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Are you talking about real people player poker with each other online for real money or online video poker for money?

    I should think losing genuine face to face contact would detract from the game between human players. As to video poker it certainly seemed to me that when I played free online video poker several times the jackpots were way incorrect, paid off short, as in technical error I would not take the risk.

    What is really needed is to legalize with a gaming commission, like Nevada. Use the revenue to buttress the general fund and stabilize taxes at a realistic and competitive level.

    One of the ways to deal with compulsive gambling, far from perfect but something, is to foster competition that loosens the machines and allows better return for the players. The Indian casinos have very tight video poker vis-a-vis Nevada. From what I have seen, Graton Casino’s best pay table on 5 cent max bet double bonus video poker is 8-5-4(payout for full house-flush-straight). That’s very tight by Nevada standards.

    trentbridge Reply:

    Real people – real money. Real poker. The reason online poker is so attractive is that the size of tournaments is virtually unlimited. So for a small stake, you can win a huge prize. No physical casino can handle 7000 players at one time – they don’t have enough dealers or tables. Every Sunday Pokerstars runs a Sunday millions tournament – usually gets 7000 plus entries – entry costs $235 and the winner gets about $250000. (No US players, of course) Yes, real poker in real casinos is more interaction but the pace is so much slower. Computers deal faster – online there are time limits for each player to act so there are more hands per hour.

    Clem Reply:

    $100 to $250 million is about the combined annual burn rate of the consultant teams working on environmental clearance and preliminary design of the HSR project. Chump change.

    trentbridge Reply:

    At a five percent rate, $250,000,000 per annum would pay the interest on $5 billion of bonds. And a online poker tax is purely voluntary. If you don’t play, you don’t pay. Would you prefer a $0.10/gal on gasoline?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The fantasy that the state of California has no other priorities, and will dedicate all revenues from all new taxes and fees to underwrite the private profits of the mafiosi corporations controlling CHSR, is a truly odd one. Especially coming from soi-disant lefties and pretend enviros.

    Schools. Hospitals. Universities. Unemployment and healthcare ad social welfare. Local transit. The gaping maw of Caltrans. Parks. etc. etc. They’ll all roll over and defer to the overriding need to pour concrete from Palmdale to Los Banos.

    Oh, and I’d prefer a $10/gal tax on gasoline, as a minimum start. Please make it so. That’s about the single most important thing in the world, aside perhaps from an infinite tax on coal.

  30. Andy Chow
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 20:46
    #30

    I largely blame the Schwarzenegger administration and the HSRA headed by Kopp and Diridon for the current state of mess. Prop 1A was written hastily in the last minute. Kopp and Diridon (but mostly Kopp) believe in big buildout (like how China is building HSR recently) so the Prop 1A was written to reflect that intention, but it is politically unrealistic. When Brown and this generation of HSRA board has decided to get real on the project, the Prop 1A has become an obstacle that people were able to take advantage of.

    synonymouse Reply:

    What you mean is that they had to deal with some bonafide standards and objectives they could not not fudge or sleaze.

    Donk Reply:

    Agreed. Nobody was capable of getting the project out of the mess created by Arnold, Kopp, and Diridon. Did Arnold end up doing anything useful?

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Sperminator did not fire Van Ark. How come you don’t mention Antonovich?

  31. TRANSDEF
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 21:18
    #31

    The Mercury News Editorial clears up the confusion about funding:

    “In a statement issued after the ruling, Richard tried to deceptively spin what the judge had said. True, as Richard notes, the judge did not stop the project. Rather he left it with no funding plan and the inability to borrow money.”

    It’s amazing to see the Merc, which used to be a devout supporter of HSR, call it a fraud!

  32. TRANSDEF
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 21:22
    #32

    The other great quote: “Without a valid funding plan, and without the ability to issue bonds protected from legal challenge, California’s high-speed rail project is effectively dead.”

    QED

    Clem Reply:

    More like check-mate. You don’t need to actually take the king in chess–you need only constrain all his possible moves.

  33. Jos Callinet
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 21:46
    #33

    At this late date, with Judge Kenny having handed down his ruling on the HSR funding procedures, this project has become such a convoluted and tangled mess that it is likely it will die on the vine before anything substantive can be done to fulfill the Judge’s requirements.

    My gut feeling is that the state of California is now going to seriously consider pulling the plug on the CAHSRA and focus its attention on other matters. It’s probably just as well to kill it now before any money is spent on the ground. A shutdown now would primarily involve laying off planners and engineers and shuttering CAHSRA offices.

    Closing down the CAHSRA now before any more money is spent on it would be far better than to replay the sorry spectacle now taking place in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the voters just succeeded in canceling an already-approved-AND-funded-AND-under-construction streetcar project, which is now going to cost Cincinnati and its taxpayers nearly as much to cancel as to complete, when all shutdown costs and terminations of signed contracts are factored in, and TIGER grant monies returned to the feds. (The newly-elected mayor of Cincinnati ran – and won – on his promise to kill the streetcar project if elected.)

    Mind you, this – after crews have been digging up streets and laying rail for over a year now, a contract for five new streetcars let and most of the engineering and design work on them completed and materials ordered. All this – after the voters won two previous hard-fought referenda defeating earlier proposals to kill the project! Unfortunately, Mayor Mallory, the man who spearheaded the streetcar, is at the end of his second term – he couldn’t run for a third.

    We can no longer count on anything being finished in this new Tea-Party age, ESPECIALLY high-cost, long-term major infrastructure projects. All it takes is a new administration with a different mindset to undo in one fell swoop years of hard work put in by previous administrations.

    What’s to prevent this same kind of thing from happening to the CAHSRA after it’s well under construction, should a new administration in Sacramento come along and vote to cancel it?

    Better to end it now.

  34. synonymouse
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 22:56
    #34

    Cincinnati has always been the craziest city in Ohio. It is a more attractive place inherently than the others but is deeply divided and always will be.

    Columbus is about as stupid but has more money as the state capital and is and has always been ruled by a handful of very wealthy families who are really into keeping it their way.

  35. Jos Callinet
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 23:05
    #35

    Very interesting insights, synonymouse – thank you for sharing them.

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