Surface Transportation Board Issues Delay for HSR Construction

Dec 4th, 2013 | Posted by

I guess if we’re going to have rulings like this, might as well get them all in at once:

The California High-Speed Rail Authority, the only bullet-train builder in the U.S., may have to renegotiate a $1 billion construction contract after a federal regulator refused to grant early approval for a 114-mile segment.

The Surface Transportation Board in Washington, which previously gave the go-ahead for a 24-mile section of the line north of Fresno, rejected the state’s request for a further 114 miles between Fresno and Bakersfield. The high-speed rail authority said it needed the additional approval because it had awarded a contract for 29 miles of the line, consisting of the full first section and 5 miles in the second section….

The state in August signed a $1 billion contract with a joint venture among Tutor Perini Corp. (TPC), Zachary Construction Corp. and Parsons Corp. Without conditional approval for all 29 miles, the state said it may need to slice 5 miles out of the contract and renegotiate the terms. That could increase costs and delay the project, the authority said.

“The fact that the authority contractually agreed to notify its contractor by a certain date that construction can proceed is not a sufficient basis for the board to carry out its independent statutory obligation in a piecemeal fashion,” the board said in decision dated Dec. 3 and made public today. “No construction may begin until after the environmental review is completed and the board issues its final decision.”

This delay isn’t fatal by any means, and can probably be resolved within a few months – the same timeline that a new financial plan will take anyway. So this isn’t anything to get concerned about.

That said, with the September 2017 stimulus deadline less than four years away, the room for delays shrinks. So hopefully this gets resolved quickly, as the Authority believes it can.

There has been a lot of talk about flaws in the HSR process. It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that the flaws that do exist are those introduced in well-meaning but ultimately misguided efforts to appease Republicans. Prop 1A’s flaws include the ban on operating subsidies and the requirement that all funding be identified before construction on a segment begins, as well as the smaller size of the overall bond authorization.

The February 2009 stimulus has numerous problems that have been identified over time, particularly the fact that it was shrunk under $1 trillion in an effort to appease the right (it didn’t). One of those problems was that it required all the money to be spent by September 30, 2017. Even at the time many observers knew that this recession would be long and deep and that recovery might not be complete by 2017. Requiring funds to be spent by that date didn’t really serve an economic purpose, and as the rise of the Tea Party shows, it didn’t serve an economic purpose either.

The lesson is that it is never, ever a good idea to shape a transit project around appeasing critics, in whole or in part. Haters gonna hate. The right move is to plan everything out the best way possible to ensure a smooth construction process and to of course ensure the project actually does its job of moving people quickly from place to place. In 2008 and 2009 Democrats believed they had to compromise on some of these things in order to blunt Republican criticisms that came anyway. Next time, just ignore the GOP and move ahead with what we know to be right.

  1. Clem
    Dec 4th, 2013 at 22:46
    #1

    Tutor must be salivating! Change order$ before con$truction $tart$, that’$ $heer bli$$!

    Travis D Reply:

    Interestingly their bid proposal had the southern most five miles of the contract starting last. I don’t think their schedule actually had anything going on with that section until nearly 2015 anyways. So it is possible that this won’t really disrupt much of anything.

  2. Elizabeth
    Dec 4th, 2013 at 23:01
    #2

    Here is our take:
    http://www.calhsr.com/uncategorized/july-12-2014-what-is-the-big-deal/

    It seems unlikely the July date will be met, partly because of the dithering on the route and partly because all the curves on route were apparently engineered incorrectly. If it is met, it will be done by short cutting some of the process, which has real risks down the line.
    http://www.calhsr.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/FB-URS-MPR-SEPT-2013.pdf

    joe Reply:

    I didn’t see your collective take on the STB oversight impacting EIR. STB involvement means this isn’t a state project – they have oversight over the entire project. EIR need to comply with federal law, not CEQA.

    I think this involving the STB is a very important, strategic blunder by opponents who probably tossed out the biggest weapon for the sake of a tactical 6 month delay on the initial segment.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    It doesn’t influence EIR. It influences when the Authority has necessary approvals to proceed to construction and give TUtor the NTP on the last 5 miles.

    CaliforniaDefender Reply:

    Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. The Court of Appeal has not yet ruled on whether CEQA is preempted by the STB’s jurisdication. The fact that the Attorney General has argued that our most important environmental law is preempted by federal law should be incredibly embarrasing to the Brown Administration.

  3. Donk
    Dec 4th, 2013 at 23:49
    #3

    I am all for spending as much federal money in CA as possible. But come on you have to admit that stretching the stimulus funds into 2017 is ridiculous.

    TomA Reply:

    I don’t know that its ridiculous – some projects take a long time to build – you wouldn’t want to have found a worthy project, then have to rush it because you NEEDED to spend that money by say 2014.

    But the idea that it should have been even longer because the recession was going to take at least 9 years to work itself out is ridiculous. In all likelihood we will have entered another recession just due to the cyclic nature of these things by then.

  4. Robert S. Allen
    Dec 5th, 2013 at 00:04
    #4

    Prop 1A called for “Safe, Reliable” HSR. Blended Rail – HSR on Caltrain – would be NEITHER SAFE NOR RELIABLE due to multiple station platforms and 43 grade crossings. HSR needs a secure right of way.
    —–
    A better start: initial HSR just LA to San Jose with cross-platform transfers there to Caltrain and Capitol Corridor.
    —–
    Later grade separate and multi-track UP (Amtrak’s East Bay route for #11/14) to a San Francisco Bay Rail Hub in Oakland and an intermodal transfer station where BART crosses overhead. Ten minutes or less – 16 trains per hour – to the four downtown San Francisco BART stations. The Hub would be much more “San Francisco” than SFO airport, both as to number of BART trains serving it and the travel time.
    —–
    Far better, safer, more reliable, and less costly.
    —–
    Robert S. Allen
    BART Director, District 5, 1974-1988
    Retired, SP (Now UP) Western Division, Engineering/Operations

  5. Emmanuel
    Dec 5th, 2013 at 01:23
    #5

    Wasn’t there a deadline for the matching funds by the end of the year?

  6. morris brown
    Dec 5th, 2013 at 04:13
    #6

    Robert, please let us set out some history correctly. You write:

    There has been a lot of talk about flaws in the HSR process. It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that the flaws that do exist are those introduced in well-meaning but ultimately misguided efforts to appease Republicans. Prop 1A’s flaws include the ban on operating subsidies and the requirement that all funding be identified before construction on a segment begins, as well as the smaller size of the overall bond authorization.

    The history on drafting Prop 1A certainly did not include what you classify as “flaws” because of the need to appease Republicans. In point of fact, what you classify as “flaws” were mandates purposefully inserted by Democrats, lead by Senator Lowenthal and Assembly woman Galgiani. These mandates were not inserted to “appease Republicans”, but were inserted to insure that a true HSR project would be built, that almost $10 billion of taxpayer dollars would not be squandered on worthless construction etc. Boy do you have your history wrong!

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    “flaws include the ban on operating subsidies”, “HSR is profitable”.

    CaliforniaDefender Reply:

    But isn’t that typical Morris? For Robert and for many of the boosters, the facts don’t matter and the end justifies the means. They just scapegoat the critics and point to the unrealized fantasy of a HSR system that will solve all of our problems. “Everything would have worked perfectly if it weren’t for those meddling critics.” Yeah right!

    Joe Reply:

    We would’ve gotten away for if it we’re not for that meddling CaliforniaPetender and Mortus Brown.
    and those kids with that meddling dog.

    JB in pa Reply:

    Scooby!

  7. morris brown
    Dec 5th, 2013 at 04:20
    #7

    Robert writes:

    This delay isn’t fatal by any means, and can probably be resolved within a few months – the same timeline that a new financial plan will take anyway. So this isn’t anything to get concerned about.

    This is delay does not appear at all of the nature that it can be resolved “within a few months”

    Read the LA Times article:

    LA Times: California bullet train project handed another setback

    http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-bullet-feds-20131205,0,3331748.story#axzz2mZc8gqLn

    and note the last paragraph:

    “Nothing suggests that today’s ruling will not allow us to make that deadline,” she said. The federal board said its review is set for nine months, resulting in a decision by September 2014.

    Is the delay until Sept 2014 classified as a few months from now?

    joe Reply:

    HSR is not going away

    SACRAMENTO — If Jerry Brown runs for an unprecedented fourth term as governor of the Golden State, he would trounce all three likely Republican challengers in June’s open primary, according to a new Field Poll.

    http://www.mercurynews.com/politics-government/ci_24656466/gov-jerry-brown-leads-landslide-field-poll-finds

    If lucky, opponents lawsuit/opposition will, as you write, “insure that a true HSR project would be built” through Menlo Park. No blended compromise – a true HSR system.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    So status quo. The status quo is not building the system. As much as Govenor Brown is a supporter, he has not been able to translate that support into actually building the system. They can’t even break ground on the 29 miles that the judge said he would not stop because the project management it too incompetent to move forward even when they have approvals

    There are 2 things that move this project forward,

    1. Appeal and win the court cae on EIR and funding. Unlikely since it was specifically inserted into the law to avoid what they were doing

    2. Find a real honest to God funding source that is not a hope and a dream. Jerry has real control over this path, but unfortunately, there is stuff that the Dems would rather spend money on

    datacruncher Reply:

    Dan Walters’ new column says Brown’s re-election campaign won’t be impacted by HSR.

    There are other issues that generate some localized opposition, such as Brown’s plans to build water-carrying tunnels beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the north-south bullet train project. And some Democrats on his left are unhappy about his tightfisted approach to the state budget.

    But those are not explosions waiting to happen. And if realignment doesn’t blow up, there are simply no impediments, other than himself, to Brown’s occupying the governorship into his 81st year in 2019.

    http://www.sacbee.com/2013/12/05/5974755/dan-walters-jerry-brown-is-the.html

  8. Alon Levy
    Dec 5th, 2013 at 09:08
    #8

    The STB’s being Kafkaesque. It could’ve said that it wants to complete a review and is unlikely to finish until 2014 a year ago. The state would’ve known to cut the last 5 miles from the contract.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    You have this one backwards. Including 5 miles in any contract that are years away from being finished with planning and environmental review is risky. Including them in a DESIGN-BUILD contract is stupid. Thi one is on PB.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Did the STB inform them “you won’t be able to break ground on the 5 miles until September ’14” and they ignored it?

    Elizabeth Reply:

    The reason the Authority asked for pre-approval is they did the math.

    At best, they won’t have FRA environmental approval until late spring/ early summer. STB approval is pretty quick once that is done, but it still takes a couple of months with notice period.

    The June STB approval was explicit that it did not include the 5 miles in the approval.

    The Authority had two months before they signed the contract with Tutor in August with this poison clause in it, they should have been able to do this very basic math. The regional consultants as of July were clearly stating that the EIR was not going to be done before April 2014 and there have been subsequent delays (unrelated to the lawsuits).

    I have no idea what the discussion with Tutor was at that point – but to hold a price until July 2014 from a Jan 2013 bid is pushing it. Better just to drop it then and include it in the next contract.

    This mess is a completely predictable outcome from a series of decisions made on contracting strategy. The Authority made their bed – now they have to lie in it.

    The Authority is trying to do some “risk management” now, but somehow the risk level of this project keeps going up and up.

    Joe Reply:

    “The Authority is trying to do some “risk management” now, but somehow the risk level of this project keeps going up and up.”

    Imagine how bad this situation would be if it was opposed by the same interests that shut down the entire Federal government.

    Maybe all problems are self imposed as you suggest is true.

    I have my doubts that these are all avoidable problems.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, the STB is all the GOP’s fault.

    You’re reminding me a bit too much of certain unpleasant world leaders who blame every conceivable failure on the opposition. Bibi blames the left (which charitably has 34 seats in the 120-seat Knesset) every time there’s bad economic news or every time the military fails or every time the world says nasty things about the occupation, and Lee Myung-bak blamed protesters on his inability to deliver the 7% real growth he’d promised in his campaign.

    joe Reply:

    That is not a reasonable interpretation of what I wrote.

    This can be explainex:
    “The Authority is trying to do some “risk management” now, but somehow the risk level of this project keeps going up and up.”

    There is a major national all party opposing CAHSR, somehow the risk of the project keeps going up and up an opponent writes.

    How does that become Bibi?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The risk currently under discussion is a professional regulatory agency deciding to be annoying, rather than GOP politicians.

    The Bibi dig on second thought it something that’s relatively obscure outside Israel: Bibi promotes a worldview in which the left is everywhere trying to sabotage the nation – in the media, in the courts, in academia, in NGOs, worldwide. This is traditionally only about opposition to Israeli racism, but nowadays it also bleeds to talking about the economy; to hear Likudniks talk about trade barriers and economic regulations and populism, you’d think that they hadn’t been continuously in charge for 12 years. (Even when Likud was out and Kadima was in power, the economic policy was the same – Bibi was Sharon’s finance minister until the Kadima/Likud split, which wasn’t about economic policy.) High costs of living are the fault of unions and not of poor government policy; any economic bad news comes from leftists; the government’s foreign policy blunders come from leftists, and not, say, a military that can’t fight against enemies that shoot back.

    The Democrats haven’t been continuously in power 12 years, but they had a filibuster-proof majority for a few months, and a nearly filibuster-proof one for two years, with several moderate Republicans eminently bribable with local pork (Snowe and Collins at least, probably also Scott Brown). At the state level, the Democrats have veto-proof majorities and a governor. The regulatory agencies aren’t politicized, at least not in any partisan manner. Yes, the GOP choked federal funding, but the Democrats never made all that much available in the stimulus, and the original plan predated the need for stimulus.

    Joe Reply:

    Risks Plural.
    More portsnt, my comment refers to the ongoing, multifaceted opposition.

    Bibi is nothing to me and Israeli internal politics even less.

    And the most strident opponent on the STB was a McCain staffer. She wants to investigate funding. Pure coincidence.

    What a mistake it was to offer that olive branch appointment.

  9. CaliforniaDefender
    Dec 5th, 2013 at 12:00
    #9

    Chairman Richard has a nasty habit of mistating the facts. He just said that the STB’s decision yesterday was only relevant to the F-B section and is irrelevant to the 29-mile CP1. He made this claim in response to the L.A. Times story yesterday about the decision. He knows, or should know that the last 5 miles of CP1 is within the F-B section, and so the STB decision is relevant to CP1. Was he lying or is not aware of basic facts concerning the way in which the Project is being carried out and the approvals that are required?

  10. JB in PA
    Dec 5th, 2013 at 12:26
    #10

    The US cannot get HSR going over decades (counting the painful years spent before it even got on the ballot) and Boeing can made a dozen states and cities jump through hoops to get a part of the 777X production in a matter of weeks. Both are viable transportation systems. You would think there would be more motivation and excitement and less foot-dragging to develop modern rail systems.

    http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/states-grovel-boeing-bid-777x-jobs-21112855

    JB in PA Reply:

    “The Boeing buzz has been loudest in Missouri, where Gov. Jay Nixon immediately convened a special legislative session to approve an incentive package valued at up to $1.7 billion over more than two decades. The plan passed the Senate with bipartisan support Wednesday and could win final approval in the House on Friday. Boeing never even had to send a lobbyist to talk to a lawmaker”

    They can get it done when they want to. They can also get HSR done, now, if only…

  11. Elizabeth
    Dec 5th, 2013 at 14:53
    #11

    Another report from the ridership review panel is up

    http://www.hsr.ca.gov/docs/about/ridership/ridership_PR_Report9_Final.pdf

  12. morris brown
    Dec 5th, 2013 at 22:14
    #12

    From:

    http://www.mercurynews.com/california-high-speed-rail/ci_24662778/high-speed-rail-authority-try-again-get-bond

    (commenting on Authority’s response to Judge Kenney’s rulings at the Authority’s meeting today)

    But Richards insisted to reporters Thursday that “nothing in those rulings changes our ability to move forward. We’re ready to build this project.”

    Jack Pitney, a politics professor at Claremont McKenna College, compared Richard’s response to a scene from the 1978 film “Animal House” when a young ROTC officer, played by Kevin Bacon, tried to calm rioting students by softly telling them: “All is well. All is well.” Seconds later, he was knocked over and trampled by the students.

    Acting as if the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles rail line’s future is not threatened this time around is irrational and foolish, Pitney said.

    “A lot of people are politically and economically invested in this project. A lot of careers and reputations are at stake,” he said. “The people supporting the project don’t want to make any concessions to their opponents for fear that it will stall for good.”

    Joe Reply:

    Richards is right. They have the capacity to move forward.

    “nothing in those rulings changes our ability to move forward. We’re ready to build this project.”

    He is right. This obstacle is about identifying money for work along the entire IOS as they described it. The ability to execute is there.

    VBobier Reply:

    And now also getting the Draft EIR for the Fresno to Bakersfield segment Finalized asap to satisfy the STB and I think Judge Kenny.

    joe Reply:

    I’m wondering if the STB involvement requires the authority to follow federal environmental quality law and not state law. That was the legal argument the authority used when Palo Alto & Menlo Park appealed their losing CEQA lawsuit.

    Federalization would be a strategic blunder by opponents, such as Jeff Denhem, looking to use STB to stall HRS and subsequently losing California’s environmental quality act as a means to stall the project and drive up costs.

    In particular this Fexeralization is going to have major implications for the peninsula nimbys

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Subject matter jurisdiction. If federal courts rule in favor of SMJ then the Peninsula and others are really not going to have a good day.

  13. Ted Judah
    Dec 6th, 2013 at 00:51
    #13

    The Bee ran this story which I thought made it quite obvious why the STB got involved:

    http://www.sacbee.com/2013/12/05/5974321/obama-high-speed-passenger-rail.html

  14. Bill
    Dec 6th, 2013 at 09:03
    #14

    1 step forward, 5 steps back.

  15. Ken
    Dec 6th, 2013 at 09:24
    #15

    I think it’s time we looked at privatizing CAHSR. Sell stocks instead of bonds. I wouldn’t mind buying a piece of CAHSR stock.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Ken: When the Channel Tunnel project was revived back in the 80s it was a private venture, pushed as such by Margaret Thatcher to prove that private enterprise would solve our infrastructure problems. Most of the initial investors lost their money because costs were higher and traffic lower than anticipated, and the company has been restructured many times at the expense of the original shareholders. I believe that this is why private finance will not go down that road again, i.e. genuine at risk entrepreneurial capital. Such private money as may be forthcoming will likely be loans or bonds with guarantees of repayment. If CAHSR stock comes on the market I suggest you limit your investment to one share and hope that the stock certificates become valuable as decorator items.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The Chunnel had an operating subsidy. That’s why they won’t go down this road with CAHSR.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Ted: Do you mean the train operators or the infrastructure?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    That’s just it: the Chunnel had an MUC –minimum utilization charge– that ensured steady cash flow to pay off capital debt. Ridership wasn’t able to cover the difference however. As a result, the MUC fun ruining as an operating subsidy for both operators and the infrastructure.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The MUC functioned as an operating subsidy….

  16. Michael
    Dec 6th, 2013 at 10:06
    #16

    The Germans have been working off and on for twenty years on their Berlin-Munich HSR…

    Bridges and tunnels, built over a decade ago, were nicknamed “investment ruins”.

    http://www.railwaygazette.com/news/single-view/view/berlin-to-muenchen-in-under-4-h.html

    Looks like it will be completed in 2017.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Project web site http://www.vde8.de
    Wikipedia: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schnellfahrstrecke_Nürnberg–Erfurt (English version not very useful)

    Civil works to be completed by the end of 2014.
    Systems buildout 2014-2017. Test runs starting in 2017.
    Service start December 2017.

    Part of the upgraded corridor already in service since 2003 and 2006, and Erfurt—Leipzig/Halle planned for mid 2015.

    Note loop off high speed line for trains stopping at Coburg.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    A classic example of a true “blended” system built incrementally. HSR compatible existing electrified lines at each end (and in the middle!) make this possible of course. We do not have that capability. Unless we modernize Metrolink and LAUS first then “blending” is a hoax.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Except in Germany they are starting from something.

    California is starting from less than nothing (Amtrak, FRA, Not Invented Here, CBOSS, UPRR, America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals, etc.)

    The “incremental” results are going to be even worse than the “big bang” ones, sadly. The problem is with the (sub)humans and the institutions (failure is its own reward!) involved, not with incrementality per se. Just look at Caltrain to see your model at work: nothing achieved in three decades (aside from benefiting from regional highway congestion), and billions gone. Look at the amount of money that has disappeared into the Capitol Corridor for the miserable public benefit delivered. Look at SMART. It’s all the same people, America’s Finest, so you’d be crazy to expect different results.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Germany is also not a desert with urbanization patterns by federally subsidized water.

    synonymouse Reply:

    OPB on Tutor:

    http://www.altamontpress.com/discussion/read.php?1,94828,94885#msg-94885

    We asked for it.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    €50 million/km for a 39% tunneled line? Could be better, but also could be a lot worse. Isn’t that the same as the Bakersfield-Palmdale tunnel percentage, or something?

  17. Robert
    Dec 6th, 2013 at 11:35
    #17

    Looks like they will be breaking ground in January…

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-12-05/california-to-break-ground-on-high-speed-rail-by-february-1-.html

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Best summary or construction promises

    http://www.mercurynews.com/california-high-speed-rail/ci_24117524/california-high-speed-rail-groundbreaking-pushed-back-another

    direct quote from article

    The Obama administration initially tied the funds to starting construction by September 2012, but later relaxed its guidelines. After the first target was missed, construction was scheduled to begin by the end of 2012, then early 2013, then July, then late summer.

    And now early 2014.

    Way to manage the project….keep it up, i know you can exceed the “Big Dig” if you keep going.

  18. Ted Judah
    Dec 6th, 2013 at 16:57
    #18

    Germany is also not a desert with urbanization patterns determined by federally subsidized water.

  19. joe
    Dec 6th, 2013 at 19:11
    #19

    First on Dec 5: California Gov. Jerry Brown leads in a landslide, Field Poll finds

    Now this

    Californians’ approval rate of Legislature rises dramatically

    Nearly as many California voters now approve of job the Legislature is doing as those who don’t, the best public view of the elected representatives working under the state Capitol’s golden dome, according to a statewide Field Poll released Friday.

    The legislature received a 40 percent approval rating, its highest grade in the last 19 polls. That 44 percent of the voters still disapprove of the lawmakers’ performance is a far lower number than just three years ago, when 80 percent gave legislators a thumbs down.

    Voters are rewarding the political establishment that funded and supports HSR, that pushed to raise taxes to close the deficit and that generated a budget surplus.

    That’s why Opposition to HRS is in the courts, not ballot box. They are not challenging the law but pushing for a strict adherence to the law to delay the project.

    Morris and friends call this winning.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    How dare they push for strict adherence to the law…the horror

    joe Reply:

    Well for them it can be a horror. It’s not a bright thing to do, IMHO, to attack by pushing strict adherence.

    I’m perfectly happy with a full build along the Peninsula. I would accept compromises like blended but the opposition’s tactic to push against compromise means they oppose Caltrain electrification.

    http://www.almanacnews.com/news/2013/12/05/watchdogs-happy-with-high-speed-rail-ruling

    Morris Brown said the rulings, if upheld, would leave Caltrain’s electrification plan in search of new funding. “In any case barring a complete change on the federal level regarding additional funding, high-speed rail won’t be in our area for at least 25 years, and most likely never,” Mr. Brown said.

    He [Morris] said that while it may be possible to secure new funding for electrification, the plan likely won’t include any further grade crossings or expansion from two tracks to three or four on the Peninsula.

    This attack on electrification by angry septuagenarians like Morris is going to have to sink in with peninsula and SF residents. The larger population is sick of traffic, crowded trains and well-off NIMBYs.

    Morris et al think requiring a 3-4 track alignment to meet Prop1a, will kill HSR.

    CAHSRA argues that STB jurisdiction, another opposition tactic, means Federal Environmental Law supersedes CEQA and the Peninsula Lawsuit appeal of the EIR under CEQA should be tossed.

    If true, that 3-4 track expansion is much easier under the Federal standard than state. And it will allow express service and fast commuter service. I give it 5 years.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I would be happy to see a 4 track design. While I don’t think HSR is a good way to spend the money, if they follow the law as written I have no objection to it being built

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Of course that is a 100 billion plan and they can’t find more than 6 at the moment so that could be an issue

    joe Reply:

    Good point. Money is an issue. Opponents attack HSR for being gold plated.

    When the Peninsula Caltrain Tracks are expanded to accommodate true HSR, expansion will be done cost effectively, without enhancements.

    It will happen. This isn’t Palmdale.

    The Peninsula is CA’s largest growth area and if it’s to continue to expand, the Caltrain ROW needs to add capacity. Adding track to allow more trains with improved grade crossings to minimize traffic disruptions and accidents will happen. HSR (at HSR speeds) will happen.

    The Mayor of Palo Alto and local opposition can stop blended HSR/Caltrain but not the expansion. They will have expanded HW 101 from 8 to 12 lanes in 2014. It’s capped out.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The Peninsula is CA’s largest growth area

    Maybe it was in 1970 but it isn’t anymore.

    JB in pa Reply:

    Some new development is replacing single level structures with three to five story buildings closer spaced. The peninsula land may be covered but it is seeing growth. Traffic is getting worse.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    That doesn’t make it grow faster than other areas of the state. There is life beyond the Altamont Pass.

    http://www.dof.ca.gov/research/demographic/reports/projections/P-1/

    The Department of Finance is predicting that
    Fresno county will grow from 932,377 in 2010 to 1,509,715 in 2050. Almost 62 %
    Kings County will grow from 152,656 to 260,500 almost 71%
    Kern County from 841,146 to 1,858,455 120 %
    Santa Clara County from 1,786,429 to 2,152,199 just under 20%.
    San Mateo from 719,729 to 895,603 around 24%
    San Francisco 806,254 to 907,443 or under 13%.

    joe Reply:

    I’m sorry for the confusion, economic growth: office space and jobs, not track homes.

    JB’s right, there are additional infill and multi-story dwellings going up – MTView is very different and more sense 1991. Santa Clara is starting to expand (49ers stadium is just a start).

    There is a real housing problem in the SV, despite infill, SF multistory apts/condos, and lawsuits to force cities like Menlo Park (delinquent 2000 units) to comply with housing laws.

    SV is spreading south. Santa Clara is going to build up now.
    http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_24663776/huge-new-office-research-and-retail-complex-planned
    Huge new office, research and retail complex planned for Santa Clara

    This project is very important to Santa Clara,” Riley said. “This is one of the biggest pieces of development we have ever seen on the south side of (Highway) 101.”

    Santa Clara Technology Campus is located near the intersection of U.S. 101 and Bowers Avenue. Irvine intends to construct the project in phases, and expects to complete the buildings in 2015. The first phase totals 560,000 square feet and consists of three buildings of six stories each.

    The push by Irvine to build a new office complex in Santa Clara is the latest indication that realty experts believe the technology boom will continue to spur tech companies to hire more workers and gobble up more office space throughout the South Bay.

    “Silicon Valley will continue to be a center for innovation and workplace demand,” said Doug Holte, president of the office properties unit of Irvine Co. “We think Silicon Valley employers will create 8,000 to 10,000 office-using jobs every year for the next two to three years.”

    Currently HW 101 backs up like clockwork at 2:30 south bound in Santa Clara until well past 7PM. That’s now. So what chance do NIMBYs have pushing HSR and Caltrain expansion out of this area? There’s major money involved with the SV expansion and it’s disinterested in angry 70 year olds.

    Clem Reply:

    The other thing to keep in mind about 101 is that this freeway has now been maxed out thanks to recent construction projects to add merge lanes and hov lanes, done without any environmental review and nary a peep from NIMBYs, and that essentially boil down to turning the few remaining 6-lane stretches into an 8 to 10-lane freeway. There is no more room to widen it, and yet the congestion keeps getting worse. This recession is OVER, judging by traffic.

    joe Reply:

    Yes. Stunning isn’t it. Not one peep yet the expansion will allow more cars to jam city streets in the area.

    Here’s more growth to add along the corridor:

    08/29/2013

    Google has signed leases in Sunnyvale that mark the company’s first major outpost outside of Mountain View. It has bought buildings, large and small, in Mountain View and Palo Alto. It also has undertaken its first major development project in the Bay Area: the NASA campus, which could have 3,500 to 5,000 employees.

    The deal involving Google is part of a remarkable expansion of tech companies in Santa Clara County and southern San Mateo County. Facebook is expanding in Menlo Park with a new headquarters campus. Apple (AAPL) has gobbled up space in Sunnyvale and Santa Clara and has launched plans for a huge headquarters in Cupertino. LinkedIn is expanding in Sunnyvale and Mountain View. Amazon.com unit Lab 126 is leasing space in Sunnyvale. Samsung is planning a major new office center in San Jose, the same city where Polycom has moved its headquarters in recent years. Dell, Arista, Palo Alto Networks and Infoblox are expanding in Santa Clara.

    And a football stadium, with retail in Santa Clara.

    This massive growth – allowed because their EIRs claim workers will use Caltrain – is why I am confident NIMBYs cannot stop ROW expansion and that HSR is going to piggy back on that expansion.

    flowmotion Reply:

    They’re expanding 101 so they can put in toll lanes (HOT). Ideally the money would go directly to improving CalTrain, but in reality it probably go to BART.

    Joe Reply:

    Those will be carpool with toll access. The 2nd carpool lane is needed to avoid slow downs with cars exiting the lane and blocking traffic. Same justification is given for the added entry exit lane. I ride that section every day and it’s slow in carpool. Fastest lane at 85 merge is not the carpool but 2nd lane from the right.

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ flowmotion

    All monies accrue to the BART Empire. But their hubris has really touched a nadir with the bozo Amalgamated contract scam. It demonstrates how really stupid the Bay Area is, despite the undeserved brainiac rep. BART and the Pelosi-Brown machine can get away with anything.

    Jerry Reply:

    @joe
    Four tracks ALL the way.
    Yes I live 700 feet from the ROW.
    Yes I’m willing to pay more taxes to make it happen.

    joe Reply:

    Thanks. I’m 400 meters from the UP ROW, 1,000 from the station.

    jonathan Reply:

    Jerry,

    I live about 2.5 miles from the ROW. At the end of a canyon facing more-or-less parallel to the track. If I’m asleep when the gravel trains go through, I get woken up by the whistles.

    TSI (UIC) EMUs or HSR trainsets operating under sane rules (no “F” painted on the front, no USAian 19th-centry grab irons, no “whistle at every station, *NO BELL AT ALL*” trains will be *quieter* At least for me. And for Clem, too.

    Mind you — for the Foamers like Synon — LNER “Dominion of Canada”‘s CPR bell looks okay to me. Bit of a bugger for aerodynamics and noise at 350 km/hr, but you can’t have everything.

    (When, oh when, are we going to have a discussion about aerodynamic noise from FRA-compatible bells, vs. pantos? If only Alon didn’t make up facts on the spot to suit his current position, that might be interesting.)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The foamers over on Railroad.net whine endlessly that the the actual bells have been replaced by a speaker and a computer.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I don’t think I’ve ever said anything about aerodynamic noise from FRA-compatible bells. Thanks for the snipe, though.

    peter baldo Reply:

    Most big projects I’m familiar with involve negotiated design changes after the decision is made to take on the project. You don’t do all the detailed planning and engineering if you’re not going to do the project. And detailed planning, engineering, and construction are going to present challenges which require changes and even additional costs. I think Californians understood this when they gave the go-ahead on the high speed rail project.

    It’s perfectly reasonable for the public to debate the advisability and affordability of changes. Certainly the agency making changes needs to be held accountable. But the very existence of a process to deal with things that come up – in planning, engineering, construction – does not mean that the authorization to go ahead no longer applies.

    I don’t think California has stepped over any line so far. Affected groups are having their say, and changes – expensive changes – are being made, where possible, to accommodate their preferences. The project is probably more realistic as a result. True, it’s not line-for-line what the people voted for. True, it’s no longer the clean high speed rail system originally envisioned. But it seems to be becoming what the people and their representatives are asking for.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “You don’t do all the detailed planning and engineering if you’re not going to do the project. And detailed planning, engineering, and construction are going to present challenges which require changes and even additional costs.”

    Indeed there was a priori detailed planning – it comprises the fix. No changes of any consequence have occurred; the blend on the Peninsula was a given from the outset. The planning of CAHSR was done in toto and inflexibly by developers.

  20. Observer
    Dec 6th, 2013 at 21:14
    #20

    Strict adherence to the law is fine. But the republican party’s registration numbers in California continue to be below 30%, and the tea party’s poll numbers have always been in the cellar. I wonder why.

  21. Lewellan
    Dec 6th, 2013 at 21:19
    #21

    Says Robert, “Flaws that exist are those introduced in well-meaning but misguided efforts to appease Republicans.” Nonsense. Flaws are inherent, not introduced or revealled to appease republicans. Exhorbitant cost escalation is a moral flaw that affects everyone. Egregious environmental impact (view obstruction, high decibel squeal, clearing mature trees, construction disruption, etc) are genuine concerns that effect entire communities along the route. Spoken like a true money-lender, Robert sees the only flaw as how best to arrange financing.

    Says Robert, “It is never a good idea to shape a transit project around appeasing critics.”
    Again wrong. Criticism is necessary to correct flaws and build support.

    Says Robert, “The right move is to plan everything the best way possible, ensure a smooth construction process, ensure the project does its job of moving people from place to place. Democrats believed they had to compromise to blunt Republican criticism. Next time, just ignore the critics and move ahead with what we know to be right.” The CAHSR agency has made respectable compromises, mostly by reducing speed and impacts, but more are necessary to engineer the best project possible, affordably serving the most people, which the Gilroy route will clearly not do.

    Robert seems to be taking cues from Mussalini, who got the trains running on time, fascist-style.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Il Duce didn’t get the trains to run on time.
    A lot depends on your point of view. If you are in Fresno having HSR pass through Fresno seems like a good idea. If you are in Los Angeles or San Francisco and don’t know anyone or have business in Fresno you care less. People in San Jose think going through Gilroy is just peachy because they will get an HSR station instead of BART ride to Fremont or a Caltrain ride to Redwood City. People in Sacramento just wish it would get over so Phase II can be completed.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Phase II will be completed concurrently with SAS Phase 3.

    Lewellan Reply:

    The USA needs extensive investment in passenger-rail, but Silicon Valley moguls and flippant courtiers who already have Caltrans, Amtrak, local LRT and soon will have BART, also want expensive HSR. “Yes, massah Gates. Us por folk sho ‘preciate when youz looks kindly on all us low-class nobody.”

    Sacramento has terrible rail connections to the San Jauquins. Upgrades and electrification to Stockton, then Altamont and the Peninsula would obviously be more productive. The argument has been made here that Madera to Fresno would accommodate 125mph. The truth is, that piddling little segment in the middle of nowhere is constructed to attain 200mph. Democrats handling the CAHSR project are equally dishonest as republicans.

    joe Reply:

    “Yes, massah Gates. Us por folk who ‘preciate when youz looks kindly on all us low-class nobody.””

    Classy.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Better connections between Sacramento and the Central Valley would shift development patterns to be incompatible with current land use. It’s part of the reason Altamont was scuttled.

    The last thing that SF wants is for Sacramento to become more powerful economically and politically than it. And with land being cheaper and more plentiful in Valley, that is always a possibility. Stockton’s port is also underutilized. So expect HSR and other transportation plans to try and foster development in a semi-circle pattern radiating out from the Bay.

    Expect to see growth follow the Capitol Corridor I-80 route to Sacramento and the 101 Route to Salinas and then Fresno. Any development through the 580 corridor is likely to be incidental and not blessed by the party fathers.

  22. Andrew
    Dec 7th, 2013 at 06:42
    #22

    Off topic
    Chinese dogleg:
    http://www.economist.com/news/china/21589447-chinas-new-rail-network-already-worlds-longest-will-soon-stretch-considerably-farther-faster

    If only high-speed rail were being built where it is needed!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No real difference from how the US federal government gave land grants and subsidies for multiple railroads through the Rockies, and ethnically cleansed the Native Americans in the area to make room for more settlement. Binding the nation with infrastructure like that has a long history.

    joe Reply:

    And to which native Canadian tribe do you belong?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Did you see “immigrants in solidarity with indigenous people” signs at your local Idle No More protest? (Not sure about Silicon Valley specifically, but I know there were solidarity protests in the US.) In Vancouver, there was one.

    Andrew Reply:

    It sounds like you’re suggesting that the fact that something was done 150 years ago makes it okay to do now. slavery has a long history too. Maybe you read an anti-Chinese sentiment into my comment. There was none. Perhaps that was an anti-American sentiment of your own, projecting an anti-Chinese sentiment onto my comment. Perhaps not. Maybe you just wanted to show your historical knowledge -“Hey, don’t be surprised gentlemen, I’ve seen this many times before.” You’ll be able to tell I suppose.

    Anyway, my sentiment was that, as the article suggested, they are building high-speed rail where it is not needed, but also that the US for its part is not building lines where they are needed, finding both sides in the wrong, and for the same reason – lacking capacity for subjecting infrastructure development to mechanisms of decentralized choice, chiefly through harnessing free markets. And so what struck me in reading the story, thinking in connection with our inability to build high-speed rail along high-demand corridors in the United States, is the as yet not fully realized blessing of globalization and the spread of global free markets. By ignoring nationalities and political boundaries and nationalistic goals, investors would build high-speed rail where it is needed, and not built it where it is not needed. At this abstract level, the problem behind China’s overbuilding and America’s under building is the same, as is the solution.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I didn’t read any anti-Chinese sentiment; I’m drawing comparisons between how China is Binding the Nation with infrastructure and how the US did (twice – in the transcontinental railroad era, and in the Interstate era, when roads seemed to disproportionately cause demolitions in black urban neighborhoods).

    It’s not an argument against California HSR. It’s an argument for why you should never trust people who propose an infrastructure program designed around national rather than economic goals, e.g. a nationally connected HSR map given the great distances from Denver to both Chicago and LA.

    Lewellan Reply:

    A more palatable example of US infrastructure (developed under duress) occurred during the 1930’s. Transportation construction work then (and ever since then) was highways, not railways. Automobile manufacturing during 1920’s saturated the domestic market. By 1929, too few were buying new cars. GM & Chrysler began operations in the world market (ie Germany) by supporting a politician there who also dispised trade unions. Automobile mass production techniques had not yet begun in Germany by 1928 and labor unions feared the loss of higher-paying skilled jobs. Commie Jews needed to learn their place. With mass production, Germany dealt with Great Depression hardships differently than USA. However, industry in both nations focussed on automobiles and other weapons of mass destruction. After WWII, Germany rebuilt national railways and eventually complented basic passenger-rail service with HSR. In the US, HSR as planned will not reduce energy consumption, will not address traffic congestion, will not restructure the economy to ever become sustainable. HSR in the USA is designed to be luxury travel for the wealthy and weak-wristed leisure class of over-educated nincompoops.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You forgot the part how it going to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

    Lewellan Reply:

    No, that theory is YOUR pasttime of intense study, adirondacker.
    Question: Does sitting on an adirondacker make one fat? Just wondering.

  23. synonymouse
    Dec 8th, 2013 at 15:43
    #23

    @ Lewellan

    Expect the mind ray mantra next.

  24. Lewellan
    Dec 8th, 2013 at 18:17
    #24

    Why thank you for the warning. MindRay protection system activated! meep.

    Just let me say, this comment is meant to show respect for ardent sincere HSR advocates including Cruickshank. I respect his efforts. Just not this time. I shouldn’t’ve made the Mussilini reference. I was only kidding. Still, for Cruickshank to boldly declare, “Just ignore the GOP and move ahead with what we know to be right” is a little over the top. The GOP is near half the people of this here country. And, we’uns is smartur than ya think, boys and girls. Robert, get yourself an edit machine and use it.

    Anyway, as sufficent numbers of rail advocates have concluded: Altamont is preferred.
    Blended system, preferred. Tejon not quite preferred, but certainly worth further consideration.
    (Bakersfield-to-LasVegas serves Bay Area maybe better)
    Existing Valley railroads indeed need the upgrades.
    Existing Valley railroads do NOT need new viaducts nor tunnels
    through many – never to be pristine again – lands and streambeds.
    ACE Altamont air quality benefit is better than the Gilroy/LosBanos route.
    Et cetera…

    To dismiss impact as inconsequential, to dismiss Peninsula & LA County backup plans as ready options, but no backup plans through the Valley, etc etc,
    just leads to conclusions regarding what the debate is about:

    Do we build passenger-rail modestly through more national corridors? Or,
    Do we build only a few HSR systems that take forever to plan, stir controversy,
    incur objectionable high impact, and when they crash, more lives are lost? etc.

    It’s an unconvincing discussion this fine group of know-it-alls seems to be having,
    not entirely, but on these points, forget it, no one here has proven the current plan is
    engineered to highest possible standards. Sorry.

    What belies the question,
    What Better Plan is Possible and Necessary?
    Peninsula & LACounty have Plan Bs.
    Central Valley has no Plan B whatsoever?
    Whatever.

Comments are closed.