Jeff Denham Wants to Hear From You. No, Really.

Jan 14th, 2014 | Posted by

Representative Jeff Denham is facing another strong challenge to his Congressional seat in the Central Valley this year. As well he should. After winning the seat in 2010 by passing himself off as a moderate, Denham proceeded to swing hard to the right in the House. One of the ways he did this was by opposing the high speed rail project to curry favor with national conservative donors, even though this came at the cost of thousands of jobs in his own district.

Even though the high speed rail line’s first phase won’t reach Stanislaus County, the center of Denham’s district, it will get very close when it reaches Merced. Construction could begin on that segment very soon, if more federal money were delivered to the project. And Stanislaus County construction workers would be very competitive for those jobs just a few miles down Highway 99. With an unemployment rate of 11.9%, Stanislaus County, like the Valley as a whole, needs as many jobs as it can get.

Yet Denham persists in attacking the HSR project and undermining the economic health and future of his constituents in the process. Denham is trying to rally support online for this attack by holding a Twitter town hall today on high speed rail. It’s open to all, so it’s a perfect opportunity to demand Denham explain why he opposes jobs for the Valley, clean air for the Valley, and carbon reduction for the state as a whole.

Participating is simple. Starting at noon, tweet at @RepJeffDenham with the hashtag #CAHSR. Include a question, a comment, or a well-crafted burn. It’s up to you. I’ll post some of the best questions here, and include Denham’s replies, which will likely be evasive or dismissive of his constituents’ economic and environmental needs.

  1. Keith Saggers
    Jan 14th, 2014 at 12:49

    •Allow up to an additional 27 million square feet of research and development and office space in North San José.
    •Bring up to 83,000 new jobs to San José, providing additional job opportunities for San José residents.
    •Concentrate up to 16 million square feet of the new research and development and office space in a 600 acre Urban Corporate Center core area along the North First Street light rail corridor, between Brokaw Road and Montague Expressway.
    •Develop an average 1.2 floor area ratio in the core area with typical buildings of six to 10 stories.
    •Focus on high-tech and corporate headquarters development.
    •Create a rich pedestrian environment within the core area to encourage use of the transit system.
    •Generate approximately $520 million in funding for the construction of local and regional transportation improvements.
    •Provide new high-density residential development (up to 32,000 units) in close proximity to employment centers

    Tony D. Reply:

    As a San Jose resident, this is all awesome stuff! But what does this have to do with Denham?…

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    Well, I like to think of myself as a booster, countering negative stuff

    joe Reply:

    ACE Commuter Service has a stop at N San Jose (see above) and ACE services Jeff Denham’s District. Jeff rides ACE to meet and greet voters. Jeff says ACE rocks and he wants more trains and to extend ACE commuter service to Merced.

    Jeff loves subsidized trains service – for his district.

  2. Keith Saggers
    Jan 14th, 2014 at 13:04
  3. Alon Levy
    Jan 14th, 2014 at 13:46

    Modesto is probably number two on the list of places that benefit from a switch to Altamont, after Stockton.

    Just sayin’.

  4. Keith Saggers
    Jan 14th, 2014 at 13:52
  5. Keith Saggers
    Jan 14th, 2014 at 15:30
  6. Derek
    Jan 14th, 2014 at 15:52
  7. Reality Check
    Jan 14th, 2014 at 17:18

    Menlo Park staff report urges council to approve 3rd track
    In order to get San Mateo County funding for Ravenswood Ave. grade-separation

    Quoting from today’s front page story in the not-available-online Daily Post:

    The Menlo Park City Council tonight will consider planning or a thrid set of tracks that can accommodate high-speed rail in order to get a country grant to build an overpass at the Ravenswood Avenue crossing, Senior Transportation Engineer Nicole Nagaya said.


    The SMCo. Transportation Authority, or TA, which managers Measure A sales tax funds, requires Menlo Park’s rail policy to be in line with the state’s $68 billion high-speed rail project in order to qualify for the $750,000 grant, said Nagaya in a report (also linked below) to council.


    The [blended] plan calls for an occasional third passing line that will allow the bullet train to bypass Caltrain, which some say is necessary to avoid a rail bottleneck.

    “Room for the third track is essential if Caltrain is to expand to meet ridership and service expectations,” said former Menlo Park Councilman (and mayor and Caltrain and SamTrans board member) Steve Schmidt. “The TA is justified in withholding support for the grant requested until the policy is fixed.”

    Council Meeting Date: January 14, 2014
    REGULAR BUSINESS: Agenda Item #: F-4
    Staff Report# 14-002: Consider Modifications to the City’s Rail Policy Statement


    Staff recommends that the City Council modify the City’s Rail Position Statement to allow for potential future consideration of a third, at-grade passing track through the City, consistent with the current Caltrain/High Speed Rail (HSR) 3-track Alternative (Middle 3 Track Blended System Overtake Option).

    joe Reply:

    This recommendation is probably due to the contentious 500 El Camino Development that was approved by the City and fully compliant with the City’s specific plan.

    Summary with map is here:
    Resident Cherie Zaslawsky, however, said the growth spurt would create traffic nightmares along El Camino Real and hurt Menlo Park’s “desirability.”

    The Stanford/Arrilaga development would replace a stretch of mostly vacant car dealership properties from 300 to 500 El Camino Real with a pair of five-story apartment buildings containing 170 units and three shorter buildings with 199,500 square feet of office space and 10,000 square feet of retail space.

    And about half a mile away at 1300 El Camino Real, developer Greenheart Land Company wants to turn seven acres into 216 apartments, 194,000 square feet of offices and 16,000 square feet of retail space, according to plans recently submitted to the city.

    With the addition of a Marriott Residence Inn at 555 Glenwood Avenue and renovation of the Mermaid Inn at 727 El Camino Real factored in, 77 percent of the maximum commercial space [in the city’s specific plan] would be accounted for.

    joe Reply:


    Cutting between 280 and 101 from sandhill road to willow road exit requires a detour on heavily congested El Camino using the Ravenswood crossing.
    Here is the map

    Just clink on the walking Icon to see the solution to this bottleneck. It’s the route for a fly over RECONNECTING SandHill Road to Willow Road (formerly Sand Hill road). That’s what the city wants to avoid since it disturbs well to do residences.

  8. Adina
    Jan 14th, 2014 at 21:54

    As of today, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority staff removed the requirement for Menlo Park to change its policy regarding a third track in order to qualify for grant funding for grade separation design. MP would need to study the option for a 3rd track in the study if they get the grant. So the grant application goes forward. Council deferred a decision to reconsider the policy until after Mayor Mueller’s recusal period ends in February.

    In addition to opposing the passing track option, Menlo Park’s current policy precludes any elevation of the rail. Unfortunately, the last time MP studied the Ravenswood grade separation a decade ago (in a 4 track configuration), keeping the rail at grade and fully depressing the roadway would require cutting off pedestrian and bike access to the station. Hard to see how that outcome would be compatible with Menlo Park’s Complete Streets policy and Caltrain’s access policy which favors biking and walking over driving to the station.

    The Ravenswood grade separation has been in the city’s queue long before the latest developments proposed for El Camino for traffic and safety reasons. The “Willow Expressway” died 20 years ago in a local freeway revolt and there are no plans to bring it back.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Caltrain’s access policy which favors biking and walking over driving to the station.

    Seriously? And here I thought those parking garages were for automobiles.

    joe Reply:

    Bakersfield wants CAHSR to bring them some rocks.

    Kern COG had discussed different alternatives to avoid the disruption a downtown path would cause. Although it never gave the rail authority a proposed route map, one of the agency’s ideas involved running tracks along the city’s west side over open land already earmarked for future transportation projects.

    “If they have looked at (that proposal), they haven’t consulted with us in detail, certainly, what they’re doing,” he said. “We would’ve welcomed a chance to be part of that analysis.”

    CAHSR will explore any proposal, but isn’t going to generate them for Bakersfield.

    “If we have credible, third-party proposals from elected officials or governmental agencies, somebody takes the time to put together a proposal, I think we have a responsibility to take a look,” said Morales, the rail authority’s CEO.

    Bakersfield City Manager, Tandy, thinks CAHSR has to generate several, mature alternatives for the city to choose from or not.

    “It’s not the kind of thing where you can have one line drawn on a map and say that was going to be it,” Tandy said. “Restarting the environmental analysis, going through different alternates, was what we were requesting.”

    Morales is willing to alter the alignment if it can help California….

    He added that his agency is open to local suggestions on where the train should run. But at this point, he said, they should pertain to how to “straighten” the route from Bakersfield to Palmdale.

    Clem Reply:

    “Straighten” the route to Palmdale… This from the same people who plan a 115 mph curve in downtown Bakersfield that will cause a two-minute delay to each express train.

    Of course, a western bypass is the perfect setup for Tejon pass, and this must not be allowed because “Palmdale is the center of the universe.”

    This project has long ceased to be about high-speed rail.

    Resident Reply:

    Clem, while we all appreciate your earnest attempt at educating us all on HSR engineering, with all due respect, you’ve wasted 5 year of your life on analyzing this project as an HSR project.

    It wasn’t even about high speed rail on day one. Its about real estate development. Its not even just about lining the pockets of builders and unions with HSR funds – because they could do that on any route.

    There is one goal, and one goal only: seize as much ‘downtown’ from here to there as possible, no routing around downtowns (real or perceived) will occur. Anywhere. Because the ownership of the ‘downtown’ will lead to an infinity of development, redevelopment, and more development in to perpetuity. OH how ridiculously naive to think this is a battle for the environmental clearance and funding to build a train track and 24 stations… HSR is nothing but the packaging for a much greater gift to themselves. I pity all these HSR foamers who actually think there’s any high speed rail objectives here.

    EJ Reply:

    What gave it away? CHSRA’s animations showing massive skyscrapers and office parks sprouting from downtown Fresno after the HSR station opens?

    Eric Reply:

    With tens of billion dollars at stake, “wasting” a few years of your life is well worth it, if there’s even a small change of success.

    StevieB Reply:

    Why exactly is redevelopment of old dying downtowns a bad thing? Is it because it increases the tax base of the city? Is it because it does not overextend city services to wider areas through sprawl?

    Travis D Reply:

    Growing downtowns is part of the over all goal here. Why do you think this is a bad thing?

    Mac Reply:

    Morales and Brown just want this thing built. They never had any intention of working with Bakersfield on this. The goal is to get the current EIR approved ASAP to get the Federal funds. IF they had to re-work the current EIR, it would further jeopardize funding.
    ..And Travis..seriously? Have you seen the current proposal of miles of elevated railway through the center of town ? YES, this is a bad thing. Morales suggesting that a plan to “straighten the current route” would be welcomed is a JOKE! How fast does he want this elevated HSR train to travel through town (but wait, it will be an AMTRAK train for years to come if they don’t get further funding over the pass…)
    Bakersfield has already planned to expand clear to Highway 5, and much of that land is currently open land. A route bypassing the current downtown core makes absolute sense and would have the FEWEST impacts. Bottom line…HSRA just doesn’t care.

    joe Reply:

    My little town can produce am alignment and station recommendation for HSR to study

    Bakersfield could also make some recommendations as did Fresno – they didn’t. Not even drawing a crayon line on map and send it off the CAHSR.

    The combative City Manager, Mr. Tandy, avoided making any suggestion or decision. He wants HSR to generate multiple alignments, study them all and give him a set of well studied alignments from which the city is NOT committed to pick any.

    That’s a waste of taxpayer money. Bakersfield cannot sandbag the State. if the City Manager refuses to make a choice, one will be made for you.

    Mac Reply:

    I understand where you are coming from. However, the HSRA does not want to deviate from going through the downtown core at all. I am not sure where you are getting your information, but efforts have been made to discuss alternative routes outside the city…to no avail because the HSRA simply wants to push the current EIR through ASAP.
    Why should the City of Bakersfield come up with a specific plan, knowing it will be denied?
    That is a waste of taxpayer dollars as well.
    If the HSRA had come up with even ONE proposed alignment alternative that veered outside of the city core (which would have also eliminated the need for miles of elevated track)…I could see your point. It is clear that unless the courts make them consider one…it is not going to happen.

    Mac Reply:

    Not long ago, Morales had promised to consider leaving the urban Bakersfield portion out of the current EIR… revisit it when building reached closer to that location. This would have enabled them to come up with an alternative plan that made more sense. However, he pulled that once they realized that the court cases were not going in favor of the HSR project…and that the FULL EIR of the IOS had to be approved before they could use the bonds… Suddenly alternative route with far fewer impacts didn’t matter anymore.
    If we have learned anything….it is “don’t trust the HSRA”. They lie and they pretend that they are “transparent”. They must think we are all fools.

    joe Reply:

    The Judge requires the EIR be completed for the entire usable segment. No more delays.

    City Manager Mr. Tandy screwed up big time.

    He procrastinating tough decisions by asking for the delay and the Judge will not allow it.

    He avoided any alignment decision and tried to get the authority to make alternative proposals without any input or guidance.

    He demanding all alternative alignments be studied in detail so Tandy could make a decision.

    Bakersfield’s City Manager is politicking to the media and his bosses that CA is not cooperating by providing Bakersfield with the information and answers he needs.

    My silly little town’s Mayor was smart enough to know if Gilroy did not make early in design recommendations, the project would be forced to make decisions without City input. He know they have the power to do this and Gilroy would not be able to stop or alter th eProejct.

    Our mayor is a part time job. Mr Tandy is a full time city manager and he’s full of himself. He gambled they could delay and force the authority to do all the hard decisions while he complained, delayed and extracted concessions. Fail.

    joe Reply:

    I am not sure where you are getting your information, but efforts have been made to discuss alternative routes outside the city…to no avail because the HSRA simply wants to push the current EIR through ASAP.

    According to the Bakersfield newspaper, there was never a map or specific alignment recommendation provided to the Authority. Kern Co admits this is true. Bakersfield never voted on one – obviously or we’d have their proposal to contrast with the authority.

    According to the Bakersfield news paper, Mr Tandy SAT on a CAHSRA proposal for an alternative alignment for months until the newspaper uncovered the fact and busted him. The authority had made at least one and he did not respond to any outreach effort. Tandy wrote an APOLOGY note to the City Council for his failure to inform them about the Authority’s offer and for not responding.

    His excuse was the alternative route was not mature enough to discuss or make a decision.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “straighten”? Where do they get these guys? base tunnel to Mojave?

    Religioso dedication to the dysfunctional and superannuated seems to be a peculiar California and maybe even more so Bay Area trait.

    As in volunteering to be victimized again by TWU 250A and Amalgamated. Or BART’s new trainsets which apparently will not upgrade to solid steel wheels and contoured tyre profile. But plug doors, which fit buses and streetcars with limited doors, but on a BART train? A chance you could end up with noisier BART trains with jammed doors. I guess you get what you deserve.

    EJ Reply:

    A chance you could end up with noisier BART trains with jammed doors.

    Well that would give you something else to whine about, so you should be happy. FYI plug doors are used on heavy rail Metro systems all over the world.

  9. Adina
    Jan 14th, 2014 at 22:10

    Aha, the Willow Expressway died in 1971, but some people were afraid it would come back to the dead in ’94. It didn’t.

    joe Reply:

    Since 1994 Menlo Park decided to grow. Facebook and 2,000 court mandated housing units. The specific plan for downtown also adds density traffic to el camino.

    A fly over connecting Willow to Sand Hill would remove cars from el camino and allows ready access to Stanford hospital. It would look like this.

    Adina Reply:

    And the way to handle density in a downtown area isn’t to add expressways. Good to know there are still some Robert Moses fans around, though.

    joe Reply:

    Oh no, – there’s no expressway necessary. Heaven forbid. The eventual project will reconnect the Sandhill to the segment renamed Willow Road. This will resolve gridlock on State Route 82 El Camino.

    The current traffic pattern between 280 and 101 routes cars on El Camino as a detour.

    The State of CA and Regional Counties will intervien to correct this intentional traffic bottleneck to discourages trips through menlo park.

    Given Facebook, the 2000 new units, downtown projects already planned, Stand ford hospital and Stanford shopping center. … this is necessary to keep El Camino from gridlocking.

    I think the State and regional counties will mandate the fix.

    joe Reply:

    Here’s how it can help with access to Stanford Hospital & Shopping Center – currently requires a trip on University.

    This is the current route requiring a detour on El Camino

  10. 202_cyclist
    Jan 15th, 2014 at 07:12

    Rep. Denhem is holding a hearing now on CA high speed rail. You can watch the hearing here: .

  11. Nadia
    Jan 15th, 2014 at 08:42

    For those interested, from the hearing in D.C., here is a good summary of what the legal challenges mean:

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    that is a really good summary with no spin.


    VBobier Reply:

    Well the $250 Million from Cap and Trade funds will do for the mentioned $63 Million that’s due in about April 2014, which for an actual date of payment can be negotiated if needed by the FRA. No clawback like House baggers and some here would want of course, too bad, so sad, NOT…

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    you dont have the 250 M yet you know, the legislature has to approve and there are several democrat friendly groups that want the money instead.

    StevieB Reply:

    The Governor is at this moment making a deal with Darrell Steinberg.

    Tony D. Reply:

    Cap and Trade revenue almost certainly is a done deal. This is Jerry Brown we’re talking about here! As noted above, a deal is gonna be reached. Will be interesting to see where this will all take us. HSR being resurrected from the dead?…

    Jon Reply:

    That is a useful summary.

    In short, even with a revised funding plan the Prop 1A funds will remain locked up until the authority completes the remaining EIRs for the IOS (Fresno through to Burbank). Those are anticipated to be completed in Summer 2015.

    In order to continue with construction until then, the authority needs to match the federal money with around $2.85bn of non-Prop 1A money. Hence, cap and trade. The first payment of $63m is supposed to be ready by April 1st. They need to match federal money 50:50, but front-loading federal money is possible.

    So we should expect to see a new funding plan in the next month or two detailing use of cap and trade + federal money for the ICS. Sometime after the EIRs are complete in Summer 2015 we will see another funding plan for extension of the line to Burbank and electrification, which will use Prop 1A money + cap and trade + federal money. That funding plan will require $23-25bn, which might just about be doable with equal parts from all three sources.

    Fun times ahead…

  12. Thea
    Jan 15th, 2014 at 12:23

    I came to the Denham twitter “conversation” a day late, and can honestly say that Twitter is not a good forum for anyone but the tweeter. While he thanks people for joining the conversation, it’s really just a platform for him to get out his anti-HSR views. Pretty disappointing.

  13. Reality Check
    Jan 15th, 2014 at 12:49

    From yesterday’s SF Chronicle:
    Caltrain offering free ride for 150th anniversary

    Also, from Caltrain’s website:
    150 Years of the Peninsula Commute Service

    Caltrain is very pleased to be celebrating 150 years of the Peninsula Commute Service in 2014. This is a major milestone for Caltrain, especially as we look forward to Caltrain Modernization in the coming years. We are excited to celebrate the history of this incredible piece of American history that is still serving Bay Area residents today. The next event celebrating the 150th Anniversary, being held at the Santa Clara Caltrain Station, will honor the completion of the line from San Francisco to San Jose. The line was completed to San Jose in January of 1864.

    Please join us Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 to celebrate 150 years of the Peninsula Commute Service.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Caltrain modernization: coming by 1870. For sure, this time! Trust us. Just sign this check for $2 billion. No, on second thoughts, just leave the amount blank.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    The Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project (PCEP) is a key component of the Caltrain Modernization program. The PCEP would electrify the Caltrain Corridor from San Francisco’s 4th and King Caltrain Station to approximately the Tamien Caltrain Station, convert diesel-hauled to Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) trains, and increase service up to six Caltrain trains per peak hour per direction by 2019.

    Tony D. Reply:

    Can’t wait! Driving from SJ to SFO up 101 just plain sucks…

    Michael Reply:

    Caltrain is operating today, no need to wait or drive 101.

    Tony D. Reply:

    Does it run an express train between Diridon/SFO all day, all week?

    Joey Reply:

    The problem is that CalTrain is not modernizing their operations at all. They are still relying on a haphazard skip-stop schedule, overstaffing with outdated fare collection practices, high spare ratios, and parking trains at the terminals long periods of time. They have only recently began to talk about level boarding.

    Joe Reply:

    “haphazard skip-stop schedule,”

    We use an app that lists trains and times.

    The issue is train frequency, too infrequent service.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I just had to explain to a bunch of Israeli hi tech people who complain that there’s no nonstop Tel Aviv-San Francisco flight that not everything boils down to hi tech ingenuity. And I specifically mentioned transit as one of the examples. Apps are overrated; easy transfers, integrated fares, schedule reliability, speed, etc. are way more important.

  14. Ben
    Jan 15th, 2014 at 14:50

    In the hearing this morning, Chairman Richard said that in order to satisfy Judge Kenny, they would revise the business plan so that the current ICS (north of Fresno to Bakersfield) would become the IOS as well, meaning that it wouldn’t need to identify funding for Merced to LA area, as it already has the funding to build the ICS. It would be an operational segment because Amtrak would use that segment. However doesn’t Prop 1A stipulate that whatever segment is built, it needs to be 200 mph HSR tracks? How do you think Judge Kenny will see this? Here is the text of Prop 1A-

    joe Reply:

    Great news.

    A word processor can fixed the problem. The Authority re-defines the useable segment.

    My suggestion, even for worse case Prop1a interpretations, CA only need to identify the funding source and show a work plan to finish the track such that it is *capable* of supporting electric trains.

    With cap and trade and matching they have 500M annual which they can easily write a plan that would show how CA could fund the electrification. They might have to push the completion date out to satisfy the judge that they have the finds but it’s a plan that plan can be and will be changed whenever they get more funds.

    Mac Reply:

    You are right, Ben.
    Judge Kenny has already stated that funding has to be found for the IOS ….NOT just the ICS.
    Richard and Co. simply are in denial and hope that their political affiliations will somehow out-trump Kenny’s decision.
    As legal proceedings continue….I suspect they will still be trying to argue this point, which is ridiculous.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    the section you are looking for is

    (H) The corridor or usable segment thereof would be suitable and ready for
    high-speed train operation.
    (I) One or more passenger service providers can begin using the tracks or
    stations for passenger train service.
    (J) The planned passenger service by the authority in the corridor or usable
    segment thereof will not require a local, state, or federal operating subsidy.
    (K) The authority has completed all necessary project level environmental
    clearances necessary to proceed to construction.

    Enough money and a short enough segment get you (H)

    A generous reading of the law gets you (I) (Can not will)

    But the shorter you make the segment, the worse compliance to (J) gets. If you make 30 miles the IOS now it has to not require a subsidy, which will be a real problem because they wont run service on it but have to maintain it so it will be subsidized by definition.

    I assume they will now complete (K) since hte judge made them

    joe Reply:

    “Enough money and a short enough segment get you (H)”

    Or just add time in the plan – it’s a few characters in a word processor can fix quickly. Time is money and (H) simple requires they have the funds identified to electrify the track. And they can modify this every time they update the plan and extend it or shorten it as they need to keep the plan updated and compliant.

    You have a day job that tells me you understand precisely that no generosity is needed when reading this requirement. Words “suitable” “can” “planned” are not mandates. The Prop does not use “shall” or “must” in this language.

    There is no time requirement nor is there a requirement one useable segment finish before they start another.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I said that joe, cap and trade may be enough to get you past the financial objections if you make the IOS small enough. But, (J) says “will not require subsidy”. No weasel language there. So solving one problem makes another

    But you know that. That’s where your “1 time expensive ticket with Jerry plan” came from because you realize no subsidy is a hard requirement. You can’t meet it, but you realize it is a requirement

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