Making HSR Work Doesn’t Require Remaking the Route

Dec 16th, 2013 | Posted by

It’s no surprise that longtime critics and opponents of the California high speed rail project have seized upon recent setbacks to try and reshape the project in their preferred image. Even though they’ve lost every other political battle, and even though the court case had nothing to do with the route chosen, there remain those who will never support anything other than the perfect project – where “perfect” is defined as “the exact thing I want.” And they will continue to seek every chance they can find to push that agenda.

One of these longtime critics is Stuart Flashman, who was given space in the Los Angeles Times today to explain why the HSR route should be changed. He wants to bypass millions of riders in the Central Valley and in San José in pursuit of his own personal white whale: the Altamont Pass alignment. As usual, his proposals are flawed and unnecessary. But since they appeared in the LA Times, they also need a response.

The authority says it will move forward using federal funds. But as one of the attorneys who successfully challenged the project, I can tell you that, on its present track, the future looks bleak. A series of shortsighted political decisions has left the state’s high-speed rail system with an unworkable plan that’s doomed to failure. There may still be time, however, to get it on the right track.

Flashman is simply wrong here. The future isn’t bleak for the project, especially if Sacramento is willing to pursue the sadly necessary work of funding it without the federal government. And what Flashman calls “shortsighted political decisions” are actually voter-approved common sense route choices designed to connect the state and maximize ridership rather than unnecessarily speed by whole metropolitan regions.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority was formed in 1996 after an extensive feasibility analysis by its predecessor, the California Intercity High-Speed Rail Commission. In 1999, the authority selected the Pacheco Pass and a Highway 99 alignment to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco.

That purely political decision overrode years of analysis by the earlier commission and its consultants, who had identified Interstate 5 and the Altamont Pass as the least expensive and highest-ridership route. How did the switch happen? Power brokers in the Legislature and Silicon Valley and mayors of Central Valley and Antelope Valley cities pushed their narrow self-interests, and the authority’s board of directors succumbed to that political pressure.

We went over this issue extensively in 2008, when the final decision was made (not in 1999). Altamont and Pacheco both had pros and cons. It’s far from certain that one is obviously better than the other. The Altamont cost estimates are outdated and would have risen as the costs for the rest of the project did after 2008. And the idea that 8 million Californians – the combined population of Silicon Valley, the San Joaquin Valley, and the Antelope Valley – are a “narrow self-interest” is a completely ridiculous claim that reveals Flashman’s own coastal biases rather than any intelligent analysis of California’s overall transportation needs. Building a bullet train system that bypasses 8 million people would be a huge mistake and it is entirely right that the current design of the HSR project serves those riders.

There are not 8 million people living on the Altamont corridor. There’s not even half that number. Flashman’s preference for Altamont has always been hard to understand given that it sacrifices so many potential riders. Keep in mind that those studies Flashman cites were done nearly 20 years ago, so their utility is of limited value.

The resulting route, however, is longer, slower and much more expensive than it should be, making it unprofitable. On top of that, the state bond measure funding it, Proposition 1A, prohibits the system from receiving operating subsidies. The combination has resulted in a project that private rail operators, such as those in Europe and Japan, have shunned.

It’s only a couple of minutes slower, not a whole lot more expensive (and over the long-term could well be cheaper given that it serves more people). Most importantly, Flashman’s claim that the adopted route would be “unprofitable” is a claim that flies in the face of the evidence. Since 2008 every independent review of the project’s ridership projections has found them to be credible. The evidence was so overwhelming that most HSR critics left Flashman behind and began using other arguments to attack the project.

As to private rail operators, they have not been formally asked to submit operations proposals, so it’s simply too early to say they have “shunned” the project. In reality, any hesitancy on those operators’ part stems from the political uncertainties that critics like Flashman and opponents in the Tea Party have injected into the process.

With no private capital available, the authority nevertheless embarked on plans to build a $31-billion segment from Merced to the San Fernando Valley. It insists that private investment will follow once that first segment is built and is shown to be profitable. However, the current funding shortfall — the authority has only $6 billion available — violates the voter-approved bond measure’s requirements.

Now the court has required the authority to rewrite its funding plan to show there’s enough money to complete the segment. With no other funding sources in sight, the authority is stuck in a box, even if its members won’t admit it.

There’s a lot of false claims here too. The Authority is right to believe that private investment will follow once the first segment is built, and notice Flashman hasn’t actually disagreed with that point. He instead moves to the court decision, which he thinks validates his idea to completely remake the route.

Ironically, he is calling for the Authority to commit a massive violation of Prop 1A. Prop 1A spells out the route that the project will take, and it requires that the San Joaquin Valley cities and the Antelope Valley be served. So Flashman is being hypocritical there.

And there are other funding sources in sight, particularly cap-and-trade funds. As I showed recently, California can use as much as $13 billion from cap-and-trade funds for HSR. That money would go a very long way toward getting the initial operating segment up and running. Flashman pretends this source of funds for HSR doesn’t exist, even though it’s been discussed in public by Governor Jerry Brown and others as a possibility for over a year.

The authority could escape its box and achieve success if it made decisions like private high-speed rail companies do: minimizing construction costs and choosing the most direct route possible. Indeed, the developer of the French national railway, SNCF, made an unsolicited offer to build the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles section, without a revenue guarantee. The authority turned it down flat.

As the French proposal shows, a profitable high-speed rail system in California is possible, with private investment, but it will require that the authority drop its past political deals and focus on building a workable system. Doing so would also restore public confidence in the future of high-speed rail.

Flashman is totally wrong in his description of the supposed SNCF offer. This offer was debunked by CHSRA board president Dan Richard in the summer of 2012. SNCF in fact wanted a revenue guarantee, which is illegal under Prop 1A, but might be explained by the fact that S&P had recently downgraded SNCF’s debt. Sources had indicated to me in the summer of 2012 that the SNCF offer was not an actual offer but a concept offered by some of their US-based staff that did not reflect corporate policy or the thinking of their Paris HQ. The Authority was right to reject SNCF’s flawed proposal.

Flashman winds up his op-ed with a series of even more ridiculous and false claims:

A high-speed rail route using the I-5 corridor and the Altamont Pass makes sense. Much of the land is already owned by the state. Track along I-5 could be laid at ground level, avoiding the extra expense of viaducts, and the construction would have minimal impact on valuable Central Valley farmland.

An I-5 and Altamont route avoids cities and could therefore be run at maximum speeds. The shorter length means the door-to-door San Francisco-to-Los Angeles trip would be competitive with air travel times and prices.

In fact, the state would have to buy new ROW from farmers along the I-5 corridor, since existing ROW is not nearly wide enough to accommodate the bullet train tracks and safety infrastructure. It certainly can’t go in the freeway median, which has to remain there for safety concerns.

The Altamont route actually plows right through the heart of several cities, including Fremont, Pleasanton, Livermore, and Tracy. Viaducts would be needed there. And what Flashman doesn’t tell you is that you’d still need new viaducts along I-5 as well – it’s just that the new viaducts would be needed to replace the existing road bridges over the freeway.

Flashman is proposing to screw a different set of farmers (on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley) and a different set of residents (between Fremont and Tracy). He’s crazy if he thinks that won’t produce its own set of delays and lawsuits.

Central Valley cities need not, however, be abandoned. They could be served by an upgraded Amtrak, connected to the high-speed rail at both ends of the valley. The overall cost would be lower and performance far better than the current plan.

This is an unfounded assertion. Has he any actual evidence to show that connecting to Fresno and Bakersfield via Amtrak – slower, less reliable, and requiring a transfer – would somehow make “performance far better” than serving those cities with a station on the HSR mainline? It is hard to imagine how that would be the case.

California’s high-speed rail system is at a crossroads. There is still time to redesign the project so it attracts private capital. On its current course, however, not only will nothing useful be built, but the Federal Railroad Administration, which will have to justify its grants at an upcoming congressional hearing, may withdraw its funding rather than have its money wasted. California could lose jobs and its new rail system.

The project as designed can attract private capital just fine, but only once the political problem of Congress is solved by California simply going it alone, with cap-and-trade fees as a starting point.

What Flashman doesn’t tell you here is that completely redesigning the route would make it certain that the Authority will miss the September 2017 deadline to spend the $4 billion in federal stimulus funds it has received for the project. If we followed his course, California absolutely would lose jobs and its new rail system. Since Congress cannot actually take the federal stimulus funding back, and since neither the Senate nor the White House would allow it anyway, there’s even less reason to follow Flashman’s reckless and illogical path.

California high speed rail doesn’t need a route redesign. It needs a funding solution that cuts out a paralyzed federal government. That’d be true even if Flashman got his way on the route. For those who actually want to see HSR built, it’s time to focus on funding solutions that the California Legislature can adopt, rather than wasting more time rehashing old fights.

  1. swing hanger
    Dec 16th, 2013 at 21:28
    #1

    This has been done before, but Altamont and I-5 are not mutually inclusive.

  2. Donk
    Dec 16th, 2013 at 21:34
    #2

    It’s funny if you read the LA Times comments, everyone has a different solution that fits their personal needs.

    All I care is that we choose the solution that gets the maximum value as quickly as possible. Clearly this is not going to happen by starting in the Central Valley. Clearly the fewer miles that you need to cover while serving as many cities as possible will make the most sense. This means Palmdale is out. The 99 is probably in over the 5. I don’t give a rats ass if they do Altamont or Pacheco, but the arguments I have seen on this board seem pretty convincing that something meaningful could be done more rapidly with Altamont.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Altamont: PAMPA out of the way, SF-SACTO route replaces roundabout Capitol corridor, more freed-up capacity on southern end of Caltrain where it is needed and local ridership greatest- allowing high frequency “piston” services, and a reason to use the BART southern extension other than to get to the San Jose “Flea Market”. Go for it!

    Bill Reply:

    Seriously, how many people would cry foul or boondoggle if Amtrak just conveniently “upgraded” the Capitol Corridor? A busy, existing line with good ridership numbers upgraded to HSR to demonstrate the efficiency and convenience? How much would that run? $20 billion plus little to no ROW purchasing needed? Maybe the plan is just too ambitious to proceed as planned?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    BART isn’t ceding control of Altamont.

    Do not pass “GO!”, do not collect $200 (million).

    jonathan Reply:

    How Robert Cruickshank’s blog attracts so many innumerates?

    if HSR shares Altamont-pass track with ACE and FRA-compatible dinosaur-trains, it’s no longer HSR, it’s not competitive with Pacheco (over a new, true-HSR crossing0 and the Caltrain “blend”. Is that really so hard to understand?
    (yes, I got that Bill is being ironic; Swing Hanger isn’t.)

    And to Ted-the-BART-cheerleader: BART does not *control* ACE. BART *operates* ACE on behalf of the San Joaquin Joint Powers board.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I don’t see anything in Swing Hanger’s comment that proposes HSR-ACE track sharing. The comment seems to be arguing for vanilla Altamont HSR.

    Jonathan Reply:

    you’re quite right. I’m asssuing “Bill” is tongue-in-cheek, but that’s the post which (ironically or not) conflates Amtrak-level track (for ACE) with HSR.

    Donk Reply:

    Nobody is proposing that HSR will use the ACE tracks. It would connect with ACE in the CV in the 1st phase, then connect to BART in the 2nd phase, and then make it into Fremont in the 3rd phase. From there Dumbotron and/or San Jose in the 4th/5th phases. Seems pretty practical to me.

    VBobier Reply:

    Keep dreaming, cause it will happen in a pigs eye. :p

    Donk Reply:

    I will keep dreaming. In the meantime you keep dreaming that we are going to somehow raise $60B+ for CAHSR all at once.

    VBobier Reply:

    I was thinking more along the lines of $25B tops, not $60B, but not all at once, more like over a period of 5 to 10 years, like $5 Billion from Caltrans budget for 5 years for HSR and it would not require the voters to get involved, just the legislature and some arm twisting by our expert Governor, Jerry Brown. Mainly from projects that Caltrans has funds proposed for, but hasn’t spent yet, by putting some less important projects like the CA-58 Hwy conversion into an Interstate off for 5 years.

    VBobier Reply:

    That should be like so:

    “like $2.5 to $5.0 Billion from Caltrans budget for 5 to 10 years for HSR”

    Caltrans has a $12.8 Billion budget for 2013-2014, so the $2.5 to $5.0 Billion could come from quite a few areas in the budget, except education or other voter mandated funds, I found the budget Here.

  3. John Nachtigall
    Dec 16th, 2013 at 21:53
    #3

    Stop with the fantasy that there is 13 billion in cap and trade funds. There is no such thing. CAPA dn trade won’t create 13 billon in funds total, much less the HSR share. Your own previous post showed that which is why you extended the time out to 2030 from the original 2020 SPUR proposal. Even then you could not get the numbers to work out so you just wrote it was close.

    Bottom line, there is no 13 billion pool of cap and trade money

    Ted Judah Reply:

    No, but there is 13 billion in the state budget that could be freed up by shifting costs off the General Fund. For example, the State could charge employers who have workers on Medi Cal a penalty that would only go into that program but free up General Fund dollars.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    So you don’t want people on Medi Cal to have jobs? Because that would be the result of your proposal. Less jobs for them.

    And that is not cap and trade, that would be a new tax

    VBobier Reply:

    Not everyone that gets Medi-Cal has a job or can work anymore, but that’s lifes effect on bodies, Seniors and Disabled People who get Medi-Cal do not. So speak for yourself, not for others, I at least speak for Myself.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I was not the one suggesting you penalize people for hiring them. You want to critisize the other guy

    Mike Reply:

    Stop with the fantasy that there is 13 billion in cap and trade funds. There is no such thing. CAPA dn trade won’t create 13 billon in funds total, much less the HSR share.

    Where do you get this? It is true that current C&T revenues are pretty small, but the program is still ramping up and hasn’t yet hit transportation fuels, which are estimated to produce something like $3b-$8b per year (if I recall correctly; it is strangely difficult to find authoritative revenue estimates). The “HSR share” (if any) is largely a political choice by the Leg and Governor; in theory it could range from 0% to 100%.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Yes, there is, just not all at once. There has been $1.4 billion or so raised since auctions began early this year. CA HSR won’t get all that, but if it got $500 million a year, it would get to $13 billion by 2030. And if it got a percentage of revenues, meaning the annual dollar figure grows over time along with the overall cap-and-trade revenues, then $13 billion could be raised by 2025, maybe even 2020.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    1. They are not going to give CAHSR 1/3 of cap and trade
    2. It’s not going to make that much
    3. It’s going to collapse like Europe.

    http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/voices/roger-pielke-jr/europes-climate-fail/

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Cap and trade in California is much like radar cameras in Arizona. Seemingly easy revenue to harvest that ultimately will be too unpopular politically to survive.

    Mike Reply:

    $500 million might be about 1/3 of current C&T revenue, but it’s less than 10% once the program is fully up and running (i.e., after free allowances have been phased out and transportation fuels are included). I don’t think it’s at all implausible that HSR might get 5% to 10% of C&T funds.

    Whether C&T will collapse based on political/public unwillingness to absorb its costs is a fair question however; we’ll just have to wait and see.

    TRANSDEF Reply:

    I don’t visit this blog often, so my reply at the tail end of the cap and trade post a while back got no replies. It is still relevant here, Robert:

    I’m amazed to read through all the posts here and find that no one cited the Legislative Analysts Office’s report on the HSR 2012 budget, which asserted that HSR would result in a net INCREASE in GHGs for its first 30 years of operations. The LAO concluded that tremendous legal obstacles to accessing cap and trade funding meant that this was not a realistic source for HSR. (i.e., NFW!)

    See: The 2012-13 Budget: Funding Requests for High-Speed Rail, 4/17/12, p. 8, Lao.ca.gov.

    In short, this is the grasping-at-straws optimism of a terminal patient.

  4. VBobier
    Dec 16th, 2013 at 22:02
    #4

    HSR in California needs a CA only funding solution, Robert is right, funding from California will be required no matter what and California would lose all the Federal money if there was a redesign at this stage, it’s simply too late in the game to do so, as we”re a little over 14 days from 2014(as of Dec 16th 2013), that means there are now almost 4 more years until the Federal Funds go away, so I am not in favor of any resign an those against HSR and Me, can bite Me.

    Oh and Happy Holidays y’all!

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    They are going to lose the fed funds anyway. It requires a match they don’t have

    VBobier Reply:

    Well the CHSRA doesn’t need a match immediately, just by 2017 and the Fresno to Bakersfield EIR is supposed to be finalized in the spring of 2014, as to the $25 Billion, that would be between the legislature and the Governor and no one has the authority to claw back the money, only time does. Don’t like that? Bite Me.

    morris brown Reply:

    @VBobier:

    who wrote:

    Well the CHSRA doesn’t need a match immediately, just by 2017

    Read the grant agreement with the Feds and learn!

    They need matching funds by April 2014!!!

    VBobier Reply:

    There us no claw back, so I call that BS. Bite Me.

    CaliforniaDefender Reply:

    By any means necessary, eh Vbobier? Even if it means risking billions of dollars of state and federal taxpayer money to build an incomplete berm (CP1 through CP4 of the ICS) before running out of funds. Sure the consultants and contractors will benefit, but will taxpayers and the public? It’s too bad selfish narrow interests seem to be pushing this Project forward with scant regard for the greater public good. Guarantee things will work out (i.e., turn out to be a sound investment), and perhaps some of us “naysayers” will change our tune. Until then, we’ll keep raising the legitimate issues and you can continue your angry responses.

    VBobier Reply:

    I think the Governor & the Legislature will do something in Jan or Feb 2014, maybe, about additional funds like has been mentioned already, which has yet to mature more(as has been stated). The ICS won’t be useless, as it will not be isolated, it will be tied to other track, just like the Interstates were tied to other highways during construction and I only see you saying ‘by any means’, not Myself. And naysayers want the Repugnant agenda to be followed, HSR will be built. Austerity sucks…

    Neville Snark Reply:

    The ‘greater public good’ is exactly what VBobier is talking about. Do you seriously require that one ‘guarantee things will work out’? It is, to a person with ample experience in Europe who is also a california native, that it is blindingly obvious that california needs this, and it doesn’t matter so *terribly much* how it is paid for.

  5. EJ
    Dec 16th, 2013 at 22:28
    #5

    Flashman is proposing to screw a different set of farmers (on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley) and a different set of residents (between Fremont and Tracy).

    So now you’re weeping for the poor farmers getting their land taken because it’s a route you don’t favor?

  6. Joey
    Dec 16th, 2013 at 22:37
    #6

    The Altamont route actually plows right through the heart of several cities, including Fremont, Pleasanton, Livermore, and Tracy. Viaducts would be needed there.

    Have you read Clem’s post on the SETEC alignment?

    Observer Reply:

    Not bad, but it bypasses San Jose; being served by a spur sucks. Something both San Jose and Palmdale know well.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The trains on the spur track having BART logos on the side of them is a bit of overkill.

    Joey Reply:

    What’s wrong with being served by a spur? The SF, SJ, (and Sac) terminals will all get service proportional to how much ridership demand they have.

    VBobier Reply:

    Extra cost, for one, for another spurs aren’t in Prop1a, since people want to be literal with it. I don’t care if every naysayer in here says otherwise, you aren’t elected, so the naysayers here can go KMA.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The extra cost is already baked in. The spur’s metastatizing southwards and gobbling up cash as we speak.

    Or by “extra cost, in hypothetical Parallel Earth spurless-world” do you really mean “reduced cost and superior service, today, on Planet Earth”?

    Joey Reply:

    1) Prop 1A doesn’t have anything to do with it. This type of configuration is completely legal.

    2) Talking about the cost of individual elements is worthless. You could talk about the cost of additional track from Fremont to SJ, you could talk about the cost of the bay crossing, you could talk about the cost of miles of viaduct in SJ, etc etc, but it is all irrelevant to this discussion because the only thing that matters is the total cost of one alternative compared to another.

    VBobier Reply:

    Well the route is already decided, cast in stone, short of another Prop on the ballot and lots of money, it isn’t happening and any redesign would take more money and more time and that is what CA does not have and the Federal money would by the time the redesign is ready be gone, which is just what the naysayers want as they don’t think CA’s population is growing as some only count Whites, not everyone. Our current infrastructure can’t cope with 50+ million people and expanding the highways is not practical for more than a stopgap solution, which some refuse to acknowledge. What CA has now can barely cope with the 38 million people that are here now. Out of a $20B Dept of Transportation budget, Caltrans uses $12.8B in 2013-2014.

    Joey Reply:

    Could you please organize your posts better? I’m having trouble deciphering your main points. What I can read is this

    1) Time and money cost for redesign: true, but the additional engineering cost will probably be far less than the difference in construction costs at the end. And since it takes time to put money together, that doesn’t really matter either. None of the segments which I would like to se redesigned (mountain crossings) are due to be built immediately, and the environmental work isn’t even done yet.

    2) Need for HSR as a result of population growth: No disagreement here. Why are we discussing this?

    3) CalTrans budget: Of that $12.8b, how much is expansion and how much is maintenance? How exactly does this solve the problem of putting together $70+ billion?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They’ve been over which mountain crossings to use more than once. How many more times to they have to examine it until you are throughly convinced that their choice final?

    Joey Reply:

    Perhaps when they bother to provide an explanation for the bizarre set of assumptions they use which clearly favor one outcome.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Which assumptions. And if they are so bizarre why hasn’t the one of the mobs running around with torches and pitchforks sued over it and won?

    VBobier Reply:

    I’ll focus on #3, good enough?

    3) CalTrans budget: Of that $12.8b, how much is expansion and how much is maintenance? How exactly does this solve the problem of putting together $70+ billion?

    Lets see the amount you mentioned is not what is needed for the IOS, that is $25B, not $70B.

    It was an idea of mine, the Governor has other ideas, like cap and trade which has a lot of tons to sell between 2013 and 2020, Recently an auction was held for a minimum of $10 per ton, considering this will be done 4 times a year and that the Governor wants to use this for HSR, it’s a source of funding, no matter what the nay-sayers want or say.

    For vintage years 2013 through 2020, CARB has allocated a total of 2.5 billion allowances, representing 2.5 billion metric tons of CO2e emissions. Only some of these, however, will be auctioned.

    CARB has attempted to constrain the range of potential auction settlement prices via a firm floor
    and a soft ceiling. The Auction Reserve Price, initially set at $10, creates a firm lower floor of
    potential auction settlement prices.

    22 Bidders cannot submit a bid for less than the reserve price. Unsold allowances will be offered again for sale at a future auction.
    23 The Allowance Reserve Tier prices, initially set at $40, $45 and $50, create a soft ceiling on potential auction settlement prices.

    Spending California’s Cap-and-Trade Auction Revenue: Understanding the Sinclair Paint Risk Spectrum

    Joey Reply:

    $25b gets you to Palmdale correct? Where is the rest of the money for Phase 1 supposed to come from after that?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    $25 billion gets you to LA via either Palmdale or Tejon.

  7. Alon Levy
    Dec 16th, 2013 at 23:51
    #7

    Remaking the route isn’t required, but it would help. Think in terms of probability of getting enough funding from the next couple Congresses.

    Also, in this passage you’re bundling Altamont with a lot of other alignment questions:

    And the idea that 8 million Californians – the combined population of Silicon Valley, the San Joaquin Valley, and the Antelope Valley – are a “narrow self-interest” is a completely ridiculous claim that reveals Flashman’s own coastal biases rather than any intelligent analysis of California’s overall transportation needs. Building a bullet train system that bypasses 8 million people would be a huge mistake and it is entirely right that the current design of the HSR project serves those riders.

    There are not 8 million people living on the Altamont corridor. There’s not even half that number.

    The Altamont corridor consists of Stanislaus and San Joaquin Counties, and southern Alameda County. Modesto and Stockton are going to be served in Phase 2 either way, but that’s decades in the future, and Altamont serves them in Phase 1, for (according to the alternatives analysis) about the same cost it takes to build Pacheco’s Phase 1, which doesn’t serve them. The Pacheco corridor consists of Santa Clara County. The parts of Silicon Valley in San Mateo County would be served either way, at RWC. If a Palo Alto station is not possible under Pacheco because of NIMBYs, then Stanford’s station would be served at RWC under either option.

    Adding in the population of Antelope Valley is neither here nor there. It’s acknowledged that Tejon skips half a million people. It’s a trade-off between serving them at all and serving all other people somewhat faster, and the latter is also several billion dollars cheaper. You may not care about costs, but in all Congresses that are relevant to California, i.e. the ones with a Democratic majority, the median member is only willing to support rail with a few billion dollars.

    Donk Reply:

    Pacheco makes sense if your assumption is that congress and/or CA can get us all or most of the funding at once. Altamont makes sense in today’s and tomorrow’s reality.

    I used to be slightly in favor of Pacheco because of the speed and operational benefits. But that was back around 2008 when I thought money would just keep on falling out of the sky and when the costs were lower. Altamont can be done piecemeal. Advantage-Altamont.

    Slightly different argument with Palmdale. Palmdale is much longer and therefore billions more expensive. Advantage Tejon.

    Anyone who is supporting Pacheco or Palmdale needs to review their assumptions.

    VBobier Reply:

    Well Altamont is not going to be done, nor is Tejon, the route is cast in stone, in concrete.

    Joey Reply:

    Nothing is cast in concrete just yet.

    joe Reply:

    I think the East bay counties and cities are fully expecting the alignment to remain. If it starts to change, expect some vocal pushback.

    Joey Reply:

    There’s opposition everywhere. Changing the route is about reducing costs and improving the quality of the resulting service, not about placating NIMBYs.

    Joe Reply:

    Uh no. There’s a successful EIR in the peninsula. An agreement to run service from San Jose and money to electrify service to SF with blended service along the peninsula. All govt parties including Gilroy and the open stretch to Fresno are accepting the project.

    All we have to do is start over, cross the bay and run track from Livermore to San Jose and SF. You have no assurance the cities will agree to the project.

    Easy peasy, when you have truth and justice on your side.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    and it’s going to bring whirled peas

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    It’s too bad that blended route won’t meet the prop 1a requirements…so sad

    J. Wong Reply:

    Why do you assume that the blended route is the final plan for HSR and not just an intermediate solution? And what if the blend includes 4-tracking from San Mateo (starting before Hayward Park heading south) to north of Redwood City? And heavens, what if they fix the San Bruno curve as part of the blend?

    J. Wong Reply:

    The blend isn’t just electrification of the existing Caltrain, fyi.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I assume it’s the final plan because that is what the authority said. There is no “plan” beyond blended

    J. Wong Reply:

    And why won’t a blended route meet Prop 1A requirements? That is, what is it about a blended route that absolutely prevents HSR from meeting Prop 1A requirements?

    CALTRAIN/HSR BLENDED SYSTEM

    In 2004, Caltrain entered into an agreement with the California High Speed Rail Authority to work cooperatively to plan a shared corridor between San Francisco and San Jose. In 2009, following voter approval of $9 billion to plan and construct the state’s high-speed rail system, the agencies entered into another agreement (2009 Agreement, 2009 Amendment) to work in partnership to advance specific improvements and identify design alternatives that support both high-speed rail and modernized Caltrain service.

    Much has changed since that time.

    The original plans for high-speed rail on the Peninsula called for a fully grade separated multi-track system between San Francisco and San Jose. After hearing concerns from policymakers and communities on the Peninsula, high-speed rail is being planned as part of a blended system allowing Caltrain and high-speed rail trains to primarily share Caltrain’s existing tracks on a system that remains substantially within the existing Caltrain corridor.

    With this approach, the blended system minimizes impacts on surrounding communities, reduces project cost and expedites implementation.

    In 2012, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the California High Speed Rail Authority, Caltrain and six other San Francisco Bay Area funding partners established an agreement to support the blended system and to invest early in the Caltrain Modernization Program.

    This early investment will fund the delivery of modernized, electrified Caltrain service by 2019. Additional system upgrades will be required to support a blended system that is shared by Caltrain and high-speed rail by 2029.

    Additional system upgrades include high-speed rail stations and the rail extension from the Caltrain 4th and King station to the new Transbay Transit Center (transbaycenter.org) in downtown San Francisco. It may also include passing tracks that allow high-speed rail trains to bypass the Caltrain trains; grade crossing upgrades, including potential grade separations; a storage and maintenance facility and other system upgrades.

    Caltrain is currently facilitating a planning process to define the blended system.

    synonymouse Reply:

    It is not the blend that much affects Prop 1A but the Tehachapi DogLeg. Add 160mph neo-Acelas and you will need the I-5 runway.

    Dig it, PAMPA has the money to buy out the Tejon Ranch and Disney. A 4-track Embarcadero Freeway on stilts was never, ever going to happen there.

    VBobier Reply:

    Syno by 2015 FRA regs on against importing or using TGV/AGV type trainsets here will be gone according to the FRA(mentioned Here) and Bombardier hasn’t made any new Acelas in a while as they are out of production according to the IRJ article Here.

    synonymouse Reply:

    If Amtrak-NEC did not want something approaching a Son of Acela why are they prescribing 160mph? Obviously it won’t be identical but highly compromised by legacy requirements.

    Brown and Richards got taken to the cleaners by them East Coast city slickers, but are probably too dumb to butt out.

    VBobier Reply:

    Actually I got the wrong link, though the IRJ article does mention Amtrak is canceling the Acelas and going with real HSR trainsets and not with FRA hide bound trainsets since after 2015 Acela will be obsolete, the right link for when Acelas were last made(in 2001) is Here.

    Manufacturer Bombardier, Alstom
    Constructed 1998-2001
    Entered service 2000
    Number built 20 trainsets
    Number in service 20 trainsets

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    160 mph trains because they are projecting 160 MPH track in the near future, mixed with 125 MPH trains? Until they can grow ridership enough to do the upgrades for 220 MPH service and replace the 125 MPH trains with the aging 160 MPH trains until ridership grows enough that they can replace those with 220 MPH trains?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    The easiest answer is that the blended route can’t meet the 30 min SF to SJ requirement.

    More complex answer include missing the total 2:30 requirement, no subsidy requirement, and requirement that any usable segment be capable of HSR operations.

    In short, it fails to meet a lot of the law

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Neither BART nor San Jose will surrender Altamont. It is possible that part of the alignment will be used for a San Jose to Sacramento segment that cuts theough Niles Canyon to the 680 and over the Carquinez Strait.

    MTC and BART more or less have their plans set in stone. In the South it is different and we could see route changes. But in the north it’s a done deal until we get to Phase 2.

    Jon Reply:

    What are these plans? Are you claiming that BART are planning on extending their line over Altamont, and if so why?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    BART controls the Altamont Corridor Express and ACE is dependent on heavily used Union Pacific track to serve its customers in the San Joaquin Valley.

    Even in BART stops dead in its tracks (pun intended) in Livermore, it is all part of the plan to have transfers connect to it there via ACE and pull additional riders from the San Joaquin Valley.

    Jon Reply:

    BART does not control ACE. It has one member on the ACE board; that’s it.

    You didn’t answer the question. What are BART’s plans for Altamont?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Jon, don’t waste your breath.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    BART’s plan is to not let another entity seize commute traffic through Altamont. It wants the same monopoly it enjoys between Oakland and Diablo Valley. In a perfect world the Directors would build to Merced or yosemite but as the core system ages they realize other modes like ACE has to supplement broad gauge. That’s why DeSaulnier is getting shafted by eBART while money is flying out the door to the Berryessa extension.

    In BART we trust….

    jonathan Reply:

    Ted, please pay attention.
    BART *does* *not* own or control ACE. BART — the *operations* portion, not the empire-building bureaucrats on the BART Board of Directors — runs ACE under contract for the San Joaquin JPA.

    TRANSDEF Reply:

    Someone is confusing ACE with the Capitol Corridor JPA, which actually is operated by BART. The San Joaquin JPA just gave a contract to operate the Amtrak San Joaquin service to the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission, which currently operates ACE. See this.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    So BART ‘s chairman is on this commission along with Scott Haggerty and some small fry pols in San Joaquin County, and you really think that someone is calling the shots? Let me guess, others are completely misinformed accusing MTC of kowtowing to BART? A rumor has to be repeated enough times to become true?

    synonymouse Reply:

    That’s putting it mildly.

    MTC is the creature of the BART Empire.

    Jon Reply:

    Yep, the BART board are all lined up behind the plan to boldly seize the commute traffic coming over the Altamont.

    Which option and alignment will ultimately prevail is an open question. At this stage, BART directors are all over the map about which path makes the most sense.

    McPartland and Director Tom Blalock, of Fremont, prefer what they call “one seat, one ride,” or the full BART option. Director Zakhary Mallett, of El Sobrante, also expressed skepticism about alternative technologies such as diesel units that would force commuters to transfer.

    Director Robert Raburn, of Oakland, advocated for express buses, while Director Rebecca Saltzman, also of Oakland, favored studying a combination of express buses and adding parking spaces at the Dublin-Pleasanton station.

    The final choice will come down to money, said Director Gail Murray, of Walnut Creek. The Alameda County Transportation Authority lists $217 million in available funding, a figure far short of what most of the options would cost, except buses.

    Even the BART board isn’t stupid enough to think that the outward expansion can go on forever. At least, not all of them.

    PRE Reply:

    The Pacheco route may be cast in stone – in some document sitting in the CHSRA offices, but they’re going to have their hands full for the next 15 years just finishing the Bakersfield-LA gap. There simply isn’t going to be the cash to build another from-scratch mountain crossing to get to the Bay Area. And since any realistic scenario will have either the San Joaquin or ACE route (or both) being used for years, by 2020 I see the whole Pacheco thing just quietly being (thankfully) forgotten.

    J. Wong Reply:

    So we’re supposed to get from HSR to SF via ACE or the San Joaquin? Hmm, yeah, like that’s going to happen. (Plus Pacheco or Altamont is cheaper than the southern mountain crossing.)

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    As long as Republicans control one or another branch of Congress the changes of Congress funding ANY HSR route in California is exactly zero.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The GOP won’t control Congress forever. Think in terms of the funding ranges that a Democratic Congress might give – or that the California legislature might give, against competing needs like single-payer, university tuition cuts, etc.

    Donk Reply:

    I don’t even know if a Democratic congress would provide any money for CAHSR. We have lost our credibility. If I was them I wouldn’t want to bet on dedicated HSR in CA or FL anymore. I would go conservative and bet on relatively small projects.

    joe Reply:

    Who is the “we” ? Does “we” include the House Minority Leader and Former Speaker or Senate Majority Leader of President? Pelosi Reid and Obama are all ardent HSR supporters. If the Dems control congress the leadership all support HSR.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    So ardent the stimulus only included $8 billion for HSR…

    joe Reply:

    If it were 14 B we would NOT have gotten much mort money – as you know a line of criticism is CA has too much to spend by 2017. Also the HSR funds were rejected by other GOP controlled states. What other states were ready to begin HSR in 2009 and meet ARRA’s terms?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I know that line of criticism, I think it’s bunk, and Systemic Failure even debunked it in real time.

    If it were $20 billion in the stimulus, California might well have gotten a full or almost full match for the 1A dollars. The feds knew in advance that they’d be over-subscribed, that there were a lot of states with medium-speed Amtrak upgrades that legally qualified as HSR (like Illinois). They just decided that HSR was worth about 1% of the stimulus. It was a bad decision, and I’m saying this as someone who doesn’t even think HSR is all that important – it’s just that capital construction is cheap in a recession, especially one caused by the burst of a construction bubble, and there are projects that are cost-effective only if financed at recession interest rates (like XpressWest). I’m also open to the argument that priorities shifted as HSR became a partisan issue, so today a Democratic Congress would spend more than 1% of a stimulus jobs bill on HSR. But that was how much a fully Democratic government, an easy to buy moderate Republican away from a filibuster-proof majority, was committed to HSR.

    Donk Reply:

    “We” is CA. We are incapable of building a project of this magnitude. I wouldn’t bet on us anymore.

    joe Reply:

    Step aside son.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    We in CA and generally the US is more than capable of building this project. The technology, money, and expertise is well within our grasp. We choose not to build it because it is not a good use of those resources. That is a completely different thing

    Joey Reply:

    The expertise seems somewhat out of the grasp of the people in charge. Not to mention terrible contracting processes.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    They certainly didn’t hire the right experts for CAHSR for sure, but they exist in the country

    Eric Reply:

    Or any magnitude, really. Compare light rail in Dallas or Salt Lake City to rail in the Bay Area or LA. Rail-hating red states are successfully building more rail than California is.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    They don’t have to control congress forever, just for the next 4 years. Really 2 but 4 would be the death knell for sure. CA has no match for the existing funds and after they stiff the Feds for the match they are not getting more.

    But even if they scrap together a match, they have to build the IOS of their own over the next 4 years without fed money and the CA Dems have shown they are not willing to give it money. Once the state shows they don’t support it the Feds are a lost cause,

    joe Reply:

    “CA has no match for the existing funds and after they stiff the Feds for the match they are not getting more.”

    You think like the man who swam half way across a lake and turned around because he’s was tired to finish the second half.

    We either pay the Feds back or we make the commitment and spend that money matching the Fed dollars. There is no “stiff” and the later choice continues to build the project. It’s an IQ test.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Yeah, and politicians never choose the inefficient but better looking option. The CA legislature does not look to have any appetite to raise a tax for this project which is what is necessary

    joe Reply:

    We cannot “stiff” the feds. It’s an IQ test – spend CA dollars matching the spent federal HSR money or send those same CA dollars off to the Feds because we didn’t match the federal HSR funds.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    When the CA Dems fails your “IQ” test I will remind you of this conversation

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The GOP will trade quite a bit for Keystone.

  8. Alan Kandel
    Dec 17th, 2013 at 08:44
    #8

    Does Mr. Flashman not know California has a pernicious air pollution problem?

    http://alankandel.scienceblog.com/2013/11/16/tiffs-do-voter-approved-rail-project-funds-road-blocks-serve-well-the-public

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Does Mr Kandel not know that HSR does nothing, to two orders of magnitude, to mitigate Central Valley air pollution (by which most mean particulates and ground level ozone, but feel free have it mean CO2 emission also if it makes you happier.)

    I do so love a “science blog” without any numbers!

    It is my belief that if patronized sufficiently enough, the train will be a tremendous asset when it comes to helping mitigate the state’s damaging, deleterious and deplorable air pollution problem.

    Joe Reply:

    And how many orders of magnitude les is HSR in the overall national budget O Guardian of the public purse string?

    joe Reply:

    Oh my.
    Air Pollution in the San Joaquin Valley http://www.valleyair.org/newsed/apvalley.htm
    Motor vehicles 57%

    Now particulate size matters.
    EPA sez:

    The size of particles is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems. Small particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter pose the greatest problems, because they can get deep into your lungs, and some may even get into your bloodstream.

    Exposure to such particles can affect both your lungs and your heart. Small particles of concern include “inhalable coarse particles” (such as those found near roadways and dusty industries), which are larger than 2.5 micrometers and smaller than 10 micrometers in diameter; and “fine particles” (such as those found in smoke and haze), which are 2.5 micrometers in diameter and smaller.

    joe Reply:

    Hey did you email Mr. Kandel an apology or decide to tune out for a few days?

  9. CaliforniaDefender
    Dec 17th, 2013 at 10:42
    #9

    Robert wrote: “Keep in mind that those studies Flashman cites were done nearly 20 years ago, so their utility is of limited value.” Agreed.

    So why did the Statewide PEIR in 1995 eliminate the I-5 corridor alternative alignment in its entirety relying SOLELY on those outdated pre-EIR studies? The project level EIRs in turn rejected the I-5 alignment relying SOLELY on the 2005 PEIR.

    I-5 would be more efficient (faster and cheaper), less destructive (avoiding a lot of infrastructure in the CV), and more productive (carrying more riders because it would offer faster service between the major metro population areas). The closed roads, new overpasses, relocated utilities, etc., will add major costs to the HSR Project that could have been largely avoided with the I-5 alignment. The quality of ag land and habitat is poorer along the Coast Range, and there is less water available on the west side of the CV.

    Even if these points are debateable, they should have been flushed out in a robust analysis of project alternatives, but they never were. Political gerrymandering carried the day, leading to the current circuitous route through and around CV cities.

    The CV cities could be served by HSR spur lines or by improved Amtrak service down the 99-corridor (with a link to HSR near Bakersfield perhaps). Apparently, the TGV does this quite effectively.

    Mr. Flashman is right, this is the right time to rethink the HSR Project’s alignment.

    joe Reply:

    I-5 would be more efficient (faster and cheaper), less destructive (avoiding a lot of infrastructure in the CV), and more productive (carrying more riders because it would offer faster service between the major metro population areas).

    Precious. Destructive = HSR service to Central Valley Cities.

    Political gerrymandering carried the day, leading to the current circuitous route through and around CV cities.

    Someone’s pretending LA County was blocked from cutting a deal with SF County and fund this efficient HSR system – Alameda Co thrown in for the Altamont Row.

    The Entitled mind expects the State to fund what’s obviously best and most cost effective – which always means other people pay for your stuff.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Usually it means it gets put in someone else’s backyard but one not so far away as to be useless.

    joe Reply:

    East Palo Alto – The new upscale San Carlos Airport flights are disturbing Atherton / PAMPA. Some residents suggest they fly over East Palo Alto City and East Menlo Park (region) which have lower economic class residents.

  10. Rob Dawg
    Dec 17th, 2013 at 12:12
    #10

    Robert,
    Everyone understands the meta-goal; CAHSR NorCal to SoCal. Everyone also understands you have lots of ideas. Could you please, for purposes of classification, put your suggestions in one of “Prop 1A compliant” and “other?” That would be good enough for now. Later we can discuss “CAHSR ain’t gonna get squat from carbon trading taxes” and the like.

  11. J. Wong
    Dec 17th, 2013 at 17:26
    #11

    Everyone here seems to argue from basis of what they think is likely to happen. On one side, those who think HSR should never happen to those on the other side who think HSR should happen, but only in the way they think it should.

    Here’s what I think will happen in decreasing order of what I think likely with the caveat that I have no real idea about any of this:

    1) The governor and the Legislature will come up with funding for the ICS. In all likelihood, they are already working on this. It will be announced in the new year.

    2) The Authority will revisit Tejon because of costs, and just maybe actually reroute because it will be significant. This has a longer timeframe because they’re still working on the Bakersfield-San Fernando plans so I don’t know when this would be announced.

    3) As part of Caltrain electrification, there will be 4-track, mostly where they can easily do it. It’s kind of funny, but those who oppose 4-track for HSR on the Peninsula, but claim to support Caltrain forget that Caltrain would be totally happy with 4-tracks.

    What I don’t think will happen:

    4) The Authority will revisit Altamont. I think the train has left the station, pun intended. Altamont-Pacheco is more of a wash compared to Tejon-Tehachapi so they won’t revisit this.

    My practically worthless 2-cents.

    Clem Reply:

    Why would they revisit Tejon but not Altamont? Because the latter hasn’t been as thoroughly debunked as the former? If so, stay tuned.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I still want the “Monterey Line” from the TV show Human Transit, where they apparently turned left at Soledad. When do we get to examine the Coalinga option?!

    (Sorry, I know you put in serious and excellent work into the Tejon proposal you wrote earlier this year, and I was pleased to have a chance to host it. But I really don’t see a route revision as being necessary, or even very helpful in solving the financial issues.)

    Clem Reply:

    Happy to cause trouble again, if you’ll let me! I am still grateful that you let me borrow your soap box to offer an opinion that you didn’t agree with.

    Michael Reply:

    If one is serious about the I-5 option (straight line to LA), it would run south from San Jose, through Gilroy and Hollister, before crossing the hills at the Panoche Pass. There’s a reason SR 25 is called the Airline Highway.

    Michael Reply:

    By the way, neither is my choice.

    Donk Reply:

    I would bet that 90%+ of the people who follow this blog would be interested in seeing a guest post from Clem that analyzes the Altamont route, even if they are pro-Pacheco.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Given Clem’s inherent biases, I would be more interested in an analysis of Altamont v. Pacheco serving the SF to Sacramento route. Since the Capitol Corridor already exists, I’d be curious to see how all three options (no build, Pacheco, and Altamont) stack up as far as Bay Area to Sacramento routing.

    joe Reply:

    If it’s SF to Sacramento – Altamont beats Pacheco Pass.

    I’d be interested in the number of people who can afford to live in SF and commute to work in Sacramento. I’m sure it’s possible for lawyers and lobbyists but state workers and the rest of us…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Other way around: there are growing numbers of people who live in Stockton and work in SF.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    six a’ one half a dozen of the other whether you go via Altamont or swing around the bay. Going that way makes commuting to Sacramento as viable, they’d both be 90-ish miles. Port Jervis like. Or Philadelphia to NY. Richmond to DC-ish. Springfield to Boston. Milwaukee to Chicago.

    EJ Reply:

    No, adi, it’s not like that at all. The geography is completely different. You’ve nothing to contribute here.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If someone is commuting from Stockton to San Francisco why does the intervening geography matter? The ancient AT&SF schedule I have says it 79 miles. The Southern Pacific schedules say it 91 via Niles and 102 via Martinez. And 92 to Sacramento. Radical difference between 91 miles and 92 miles.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It matters whether the Stockton commuter can take a train that goes at very high speed all the way to Fremont and is medium-speed from Fremont to SF, or has to take a medium-ish-speed train all the way on a UP-owned line (or on a commuter overlay, which is better but not great).

    joe Reply:

    What’s wrong with ACE rail?
    http://www.acerail.com/

    Even Jeff Denham R-CA wants to expand ACE service. There’s a proposal to add dedicated track….Oh it’s a San Jose train. I forgot – the jobs are in SF. That’s why google buses people to South Valley.

    joe Reply:

    And this smells like a proposal for building a HSR BART like commuter train to carry workers from Sacramento to SF in the AM and home in the PM.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    ACE is on freight-primary track and takes forever.

    Google buses people to South Valley because that’s where the jobs that are inaccessible by rail are. The jobs in SF don’t need corporate shuttles, because people can take BART.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It matters whether the Stockton commuter can take a train that goes at very high speed all the way to Fremont and is medium-speed from Fremont to SF, or has to take a medium-ish-speed train all the way on a UP-owned line (or on a commuter overlay, which is better but not great).

    Yes they will spend a gazillion dollars on Altamont but not even scope anything else when they think about speeding up San Francisco to Sacramento. I suspect there’s going to be some discussion of how to get to Sacramento in the future and some discussion about Altamont even though building Altamont will end world hunger and bring universal peace.

    Since Bill Gates isn’t donating a few billion to Altamont only, in a few years when they come to the realization that Transbay sucks even more than it appears, do they spend a gazillion dollars for the 90 miles to Sacramento or a gazillion dollars for the 90 miles to Stockton? 140 miles at an average speed of 140 means it will take an hour to get to Sacramento. 90 miles at an average speed of 90 means it will take an hour to get to Sacramento.

    If current ridership is indicative of future ridership where should they spend money? Or alternately where are there more people? Or a combination of both?

    http://www.amtrak.com/pdf/factsheets/CALIFORNIA12.pdf

    Google buses people to South Valley because that’s where the jobs that are inaccessible by rail are.

    Why aren’t there buses to Tracy Livermore and Stockton?

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Those numbers are not actuallyvery meaningful as a large percentage of ridership starts
    Or ends with a thruway bus.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Here is an analysis of one trainhttp://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/rail/documents/SJVRC%20Documents%20for%20Web/2012/Presentations%2004_26_12/SJVRC_Document_Amtrak_Train_715_Survey_April_2012.pdf

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Thruway buses can go to stations with HSR or HSR-ish service just as they do to the stations they go to now.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Lost in this discussion is the reality that HSR to Sacramento would increase the labor pool for State government jobs. Government is a very efficient consumer of travel costs and an underrated one.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Lol @ 90 mph average on UP-owned trackage.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If they are going to be doing it on their own tracks for one alternative the thing to compare with is doing on their own tracks for the other alternative.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I don’t think your 2 cents is worthless, but I will say that I think what happens next will be different. In order of likelihood, here is my prediction:

    1) Nothing.

    The Legislature and Governor will do nothing about HSR until after the 2014 election. They will try to keep in a regional issue in the Central Valley, so that the conversation can be about jobs and nailing GOP members of Congress there on it. The Governor et al do not want HSR to be a factor in any other races.

    2) Judge Kenny will toss out the validity of SB 1029 for those sections in the bookends. He will allow the bond sales to still be used for projects, but only on the Merced to Bakersfield segments. The project will actual recover more time and accelerate completion.

    3) The Orange County Transportation Authority overtakes LOSSAN and renames the Pacific Surfliner the Carolwood Pacific, offering 20 minute service between Burbank and Anaheim.

    4) Xpress West comes back from the dead, with McCarran Airport, the LV Monorail and DX proposing an “intermodal hub”.

    And here’s what I think does not happen: The Authority revisits Altamont. Or Tejon. Or Transbay. Or….

    VBobier Reply:

    So you think the federal money will not disappear sometime in 2014?

    I’d think the Governor and the Legislature are doing something, just like J. Wong does, like an additional funding source, CARB held its first cap and trade quarterly auction(mentioned Here) and at $10 a ton and with a possible 2.5 billion tons to auction off, this will go from 2013 to 2020. The CA Chamber of ‘Republican’ Commerce recently is suing CARB questioning the legality of the auctions, there was supposed to be something as of May 31st 2013 on this(mentioned Here, Sacramento Superior Court will hear arguments on May 31, 2013)…

    VBobier Reply:

    2) No, Judge Kenny won’t throw out SB 1029.

  12. TRANSDEF
    Dec 18th, 2013 at 21:35
    #12

    The lack of any commercial interest in investing in the project (with the exception of SNCF–see below) demonstrates that it is fatally flawed. Without private capital willing to undertake ridership risk, there can be no project. The HSRA’s failure to formulate a viable project is proven by the fact that Robert felt forced to offer this lame excuse:

    As to private rail operators, they have not been formally asked to submit operations proposals, so it’s simply too early to say they have “shunned” the project.

    Had the slightest interest been expressed, formal proposals would obviously have been sought. See p. 15, Ridership Risk, June 11, 2008 presentation to HSRA Board “Overview of the Responses to the Request for Expressions of Interest.” So no, it is not too early. The project has already failed.

    Having been present for the dress rehearsal of SNCF’s presentation to HSRA, I can state with certainty that SNCF offered to undertake ridership risk, with investment bankers in the room willing to finance the project. Had HSRA really wanted HSR in California, the project could have been in construction now, with no risk of losing ARRA funds because of the 2017 deadline.

    What happened instead is that HSRA turned them down, and KEPT THE PROPOSAL SECRET. So secret that HSRA adopted a business plan based on the lie that no private capital would invest until public funds demonstrated the profitable operation of the Merced to LA Basin IOS. That would cost a mere $31 billion. That’s when the project officially became a fantasy.

    Because these facts are devastating to the credibility of HSRA and its sycophants, Robert is forced to recite–and appear to believe!–Dan Richard’s fabrication that HSRA demanded a revenue guarantee. Had that been true, there would have been no need for secrecy. The fact that the public never heard a word about this offer until I broke the story in the LA Times is proof that HSRA felt threatened by it.

    TRANSDEF Reply:

    The other proof that HSRA felt threatened was Dan Richard’s furious denials and smears of SNCF. Methinks the gentleman protests too much.

    joe Reply:

    You Write that CAHSRA is covering up SNCF’s bid; that SNCF does not release their offer out of fear of being blackballed.

    Tutor Perini won the bid – this is the company that sues the state, accuses the state for their cost overruns and has a very controversial public image.

    In this interview and follow-up Morales is quoted as saying the rail authority just adopted a policy for accepting and adopting outside bids.
    http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Reality-Check-Train-to-Somewhereor-Nowhere-235828571.html

    TRANSDEF Reply:

    Do you assume you can just throw links out as if they support your point, and not have people actually read them? This link says nothing whatsoever about outside bids.

  13. TRANSDEF
    Dec 18th, 2013 at 21:41
    #13

    The last paragraph should have read “Dan Richard’s fabrication that SNCF demanded a revenue guarantee.”

    joe Reply:

    Sez a guy with website.
    Why wouldn’t a private interest try to guarantee revenue?

    Nothing prevents SNCF from publicizing their offer in detail. That they did not indicates the CAHSRA was shown material with proprietary data In that case the Authority cannot divulge the business offer without permission.

    TRANSDEF Reply:

    Why wouldn’t a private interest try to guarantee revenue?

    Simple. They recognize that a revenue guarantee is prohibited under Prop 1A…

    Nothing prevents SNCF from publicizing their offer in detail.

    Other than the threat that disclosure would result in a blackball…

    joe Reply:

    1) But you tell us SNCF offered to build HSR with private funds. They do not need Prop1a Money – and if they forgo Prop1a they can ask the state to guarantee revenue. That’s perfectly reasonable to expect a company to want guarantee for an investment.

    You know that Prop1a issues a bond. It is not the mandated way to build HSR in CA.

    2) Look, your second answer is nonsensical. ANyuone who reviews proposals or bids knows that the proposal is treated as confidential and there are non-disclosure and other guarantees in place. The fact the CA Authority does not release SNCFs information is plain routine and commonsense.

    You write that SNCF doesn’t because it friars they’ll be blackball …. What do you mean? What other project where and when? Have you seen Tutor per ini every worry about being blackballed for suing the state or accusing the state for their coast overruns? http://www.tutorperini.com

    Who won the bid?

    TRANSDEF Reply:

    You are apparently unaware that HSRA’s plans have always included both private and public money. SNCF’s proposal was framed within that context.

    Blackballing is an exercise of political favoritism. TP has political favor, so it doesn’t worry about that.

    joe Reply:

    Plans are not process. The CAHSRA CEO says the Authority now has a process to accept and evaluate bids.

    SNCF is also blackballed from talking about being blackballed.

    I’d go to Committee Chairman Darrell Issa with that threat or fear – he would investigate a hang nail if it hurt the HSR project.

    The GAO accepts anonymous information and they investigated CAHSRA business practices. Too blacked balled for that venue too?

    That must be some threat – I don’t see them participating in bids right now – are they not participating to avoid being be blackballed from participating?

    When does a conspiracy become paranoia?

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