Jeff Denham’s Clever HSR Attack Continues

Jan 15th, 2014 | Posted by

One of the very first things Jeff Denham did when he got to Congress in January 2011 was to defund the California high speed rail project. In March 2011 he published an op-ed in the Modesto Bee justifying his attack on the project using a series of flawed and easily debunked criticisms about the project’s ridership projections. Denham failed to take away existing funding for the project but succeeded in blocking any new federal funding for the project.

That set in motion a series of problems for the California HSR project. By throwing future federal funding into question, Denham undermined the project’s financing plans and made it look like the system wasn’t fully funded. That in turn created an opening for opponents to sue to stop further bond sales by claiming the lack of secured federal funding was a violation of Prop 1A. When a judge ruled in favor of those opponents, it created uncertainty that construction could begin or that the state would be able to match existing federal funds.

And now we see that Denham is using that uncertainty to again attack the project:

California officials sought today to reassure congressional Republicans that the state will be able to match billions of dollars in federal funding for the state’s high-speed rail project, including a $180 million payment due in April….

Rep. Jeff Denham, a Republican from the Central Valley, called today’s hearing of the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials to investigate whether the federal government should continue funding the project while California’s money is tied up. Denham, who has sought to block further funding, noted that the omnibus budget bill Congress was to begin voting today contains no money for high-speed rail.

This is basically a protection racket, without the protection. Denham is successfully undermining the project and is getting help from the media to do so, as reporters almost never point out that Denham was a key player in the effort to defund HSR. He passes himself off as some neutral observer in this hearing, but the media is failing to do their job when they do not mention that he is the reason HSR lacks more federal funding.

Denham’s threats can be easily fixed by the state legislature adopting Governor Jerry Brown’s proposal to use $250 million in cap-and-trade funds for high speed rail each year. That would ensure the state has no problem meeting its federal obligations while also helping satisfy the judge and get beyond the lawsuit.

Which is why it is so mind-boggling that any California environmentalist would help the Tea Party kill CO2 reduction efforts by criticizing that cap-and-trade plan. More on that tomorrow.

  1. John Nachtigall
    Jan 15th, 2014 at 16:49
    #1

    you are just going to jump from 1 lawsuit to another. Get the 250M and redefine the ICS to the IOS and it gets past the finance problem, but now the law says the usable segment can not require subsidy

    (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.

    So you construct a 30 mile segment of fully electrified track that has no operating revenue and costs thousands to maintain. To what end?

    Even if you get past all this…the judge rules that HSR is fully compliant with prop 1a…all the lawsuits resolve.

    They have 500M a year and no hope of completing anything useful for 20+ years. What is the end goal here? It flies in the face of the whole intent of the law. The intent was to make sure they had the money to build something useful. I am tired of quoting the law so here is a quote from the supporter arguments in the official voter guide

    http://voterguide.sos.ca.gov/past/2008/general/argu-rebut/argu-rebutt1a.htm

    Proposition 1A will protect taxpayer interests.

    •Public oversight and detailed independent review of financing plans.
    •Matching private and federal funding to be identified BEFORE state bond funds are spent.
    •90% of the bond funds to be spent on system construction, not more studies, plans, and engineering activities.
    •Bond financing to be available to every part of the state.
    •The most cost-efficient construction segments to have the highest priority.

    I like how they capitalized BEFORE to emphasize it was protected.

    here is another quote from the supporter rebuttle

    It’s simple and fair—once completed, THE USERS OF THE SYSTEM PAY FOR THE SYSTEM. That’s why taxpayer watchdog groups support Proposition 1A.

    They love those ALL CAPS statements. So how is this 30 mile section going to pay for itself since it is now the defined “usable segment”?

    Stop, just stop, you are not even fighting for the original vision of the system. If anything supporters should be the most upset over the bastardization of the vision into whatever this is now. You have to see that what you are fighting for is not what was passed.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The passenger part of the service might be unable to receive subsidies, but freight could. Don’t rule out the obvious, John.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    It has to be ready for HSR service. Perhaps I am wrong but I assumed freight can’t run on electrified tracks. Is that wrong? I really don’t know for sure.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    It can and in the past did. Ted Judah is just going off on one of his weird conspiracy theories again is all.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I know you are quick to dismiss what I suggest, because you have your own biases which hardly have been vindicated.

    John, on the other hand, is sincere about what he believes but he’s obviously not well versed in how politics and government work.

    The operating subsidy clause in Prop 1A is trying to prevent an Amtrak or public transit style operating deficit for CAHSR. But if HSR runs a combined freight/passenger service that changes the dynamics of what Prop 1A really restricts. I could see the Postal Service, BNSF, and others start using HSR for non passenger travel needs and generating revenue.

    Secondly, another way to sidestep the operating subsidy requirement is to use real estate revenues associated from all the station space that is going to be acquired by eminent domain. Brown has already proposed doing this, and I think in time, it will be a profit center for them.

    VBobier Reply:

    Freight ran very well under Catenary on the Milwaukee Road and on the NYC and on the Penn Central railroads…

    Throughout its useful lifetime, the Milwaukee Road electrification served well, but its inception was primarily a product of the need to overcome problems which no longer exist. The more than 3,000 miles of transmission, feeder and trolley wire still strung over 902 miles of Milwaukee Road track in Montana, Idaho and Washington is evidence of how well those particular problems were met in the early 1900s when the project was undertaken.

    The entire electrification project, consisting of the trolley and feeder system, poles, transmission lines, electrical substations and locomotives repre­sented an investment of approximately $23 million, a huge amount of private capital in pre-World War I America.

    Its cost today would be several times the original figure, a prohibitively large sum given the present traffic density of the line. But the Milwaukee Road’s electrification has long since paid for itself, and has rewarded the railroad many times over for the original investment through years of economical, dependable and almost trouble-free service.

    Specifically, the Milwaukee Road’s electrifica­tion crosses five mountain ranges and covers 656 route miles of main line in two separate divisions: 440 miles between Harlowton, Mont., and Avery, Ida., and 216 miles between Othello, Wash., Seattle and Tacoma.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It does all over the world including the US.

    Joe Reply:

    They do not have to operate service.
    They cannot operate with subsidy but are not required to run service.

    If that fact blocks service and blocks subsidized Amtrak from using the track, well opponents will have to explain why their opposition is so awesome.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Opponents did not write the law. Supporters wrote the law, Supports used that part of the law to sell it during the election. Insisting they follow the law as written is nothing to be ashamed of

    joe Reply:

    CAHSRA will push to use the track as soon as possible and opponents will sue to stop any benefit.

    Jeff Denham will argue against running any subsidized rail service on the new track and have to explain Amtrak’s subsidy, ACE commuter subsidy and road subsidies.

    It’s an argument opponents will lose and lose badly. If they want to feel good about losing then good for them, they can do it more often. Wear it like a badge of honour. That’s part of being a tea bagger.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    So when the law say “will not require a subsidy” what do you think that means?

    You made the same prediction about the financial case and you were wrong, the opponents won the case and a ruling to prevent use of the bonds. You are wrong about this also. It was a base requirement of the law to build in useable segments…hence the reason the law calls them useable segments. It was also a base part of the law there be no subsidies.

    The judge has been very receptive to plain reading interpretations of the law. This is not at all complex. Build a useable segment and it can’t receive a subsidy. It was a selling point, why run from it now.

    StevieB Reply:

    Twenty five years to construct high speed rail from Merced to Palmdale seems perfectly reasonable.

    synonymouse Reply:

    That’s nutty. They can cut a line thru Tejon in around ten if they are motivated.

    StevieB Reply:

    Tejon would take 35 years.

    Clem Reply:

    Closer to 37.82 years, actually.

    Meanwhile, back in reality: Tejon to Sylmar has about 30% more tunneling than Tehachapi to Palmdale. The only problem is that this leaves you stranded in Palmdale, with a second mountain crossing through the San Gabriels still required to reach LA (in a reasonable time… Amtrak via Soledad Canyon need not apply). This second crossing requires at least as much tunneling as the first.

    Tehachapi Palmdale: baseline
    Tejon Sylmar: 30% more tunneling
    Tehachapi Palmdale San Gabriel Sylmar: 100% more tunneling $$$

    The cost delta for Tejon is hard to come up with up front for an IOS, but is more likely to attract private capital. For reasons I have written about extensively.

    Donk Reply:

    And not only more tunneling but more total miles. So your delta is more like 2$$$.

    jonathan Reply:

    Clem,

    Let’s do some arithmetic.
    Call Tehachapi-Palmdale 100 units of tunneling. You say Tejon is 130 units of tunneling. And estimate another 100 units of tunneling for Palmdale-LA.

    So that means LBakersfield-Palmdale-LA has 200 units of tunneling, and Bakersfield-Tejon-LA has 130 units of tunneling.

    That means Tehachapi-Palmdale-LA has 54% more tunneling than Tejon-LA.

    Clem Reply:

    Precisely.

    Nadia Reply:

    The usable segment must also include:

    (d) “High-speed train” means a passenger train capable of sustained revenue operating speeds of at least 200 miles per hour where conditions permit those speeds.
    (e) “High-speed train system” means a system with high-speed trains and includes, but is not limited to, the following components: right-of-way, track, power system, rolling stock, stations, and associated facilities.

    So, if the ICS is the new usable segment, what stations, maintenance facilities, power system, etc. do they expect to have on the ICS? And where is that in the budget?

    Also, where are the Environmental studies to show that Amtrak can run on what is built? Since now they have confirmed that is the plan…

    Even if they redo the funding plan by calling the ICS the usable segment, they have to have completed environmental work before requesting the money (even the Legislative counsel opinion they are touting makes that clear). When would that happen?

    And if freight will run on the HSR tracks – where are the enviro studies for that? My guess is that running diesel trains up on an elevated track kicks up particulate matter higher into the already polluted air. Where is that covered in the EIR work?

    jonathan Reply:

    Nadia,

    If you get an EIR to build a freeway, and you go ahead and build the freeway, do you need an additional EIR before you can let cars drive on the freeway? Yet another one before you can run diesel buses?

    Where does running diesel-hauled Amtrak California trains on the ICS fit into the same laws?

  2. Resident
    Jan 15th, 2014 at 17:15
    #2

    John, your oversimplifying even their funding solve. The Usable Segment has to be suitable and ready for high speed train operations, and that includes many things including electrification, stations, etc, which are not in their current funds available even for the ICS. They are no where near ‘solved’ in their funding plan even if they redefine the IOS to be the ICS. Secondly the funding plan requires that they provide a revenue and ridership model FOR their usable segment proving that it would be able to operate an HST operation without subsidy. They’ll be knee deep in court on this maneuver for a long time to come. Not to mention the court tie up from the cap & trade constituency they’ll see if the legislature tries to rip off use of cap & trade on this.

    Alot of the CHSRA at any cost cheerleaders are fond of saying that ARB approved use of cap & trade dollars on HSR going back all the way to the beginning. Well guess what – that’s when CHSRA was making a whole lot of promises about what the system would delivery and WHEN They would be delivering, all of which turn out to be pure garbage. It would be very easy to argue in court that the ARB support for spending cap & trade $ on HSR is outdated and illegal given current reality of the HSR project.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I agree with you and have written similar arguments in the past but you did a great job of summarizing it here.

    My point was even if you get past all that (and I don’t think you can) you are still left with a trickle of funds and decades to pay for a real IOS.

    I think they have been fighting and compromising for so long they fail to realize they are now no longer fighting for HSR, just the shell of the original vision with a good story but no substance.

    As soon as they agreed to the Hybrid and gave up on the 100billion system the compromises required put them outside the law. At least if they we’re still fighting for that system it would be worth fighting for. Now even if supporters win they get nothing of substance

    Joe Reply:

    Secondly the funding plan requires that they provide a revenue and ridership model FOR their usable segment proving that it would be able to operate an HST operation without subsidy planned service can operate without subsidy.
    Would

    There is no mandate to run service. If CA cannot satisfy critics then they can sue to stop service. Then there’s no service on the completed system.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    You have to have the plan BEFORE you build. That is going to be some creative writing if they plan on not running service

    joe Reply:

    There is no mandate to run service.

    The Plan isn’t required to achieve a threshold level of service. The Plan is not required demonstrate they finish within a time constraint.

    The Plan must have a funding source identified to build a usable segment system capable of supporting HSR service. It has to complete over any defined schedule.

    At the end of the construction, opponents can sue over a violation which would be if they can prove CAHSR is running subsidized rail service. if they can prove HSR plans to run subsidized rail service in violation of the law.

    Resident Reply:

    Correct, they are not required to run a service but they are required to build a usable segment that is completed and ready to run a HSR service when completed, with the identified funds in that funding plan.

    And to identify credible sources of funds for that system before they start.

    And to prove that that segment could support a high speed rail ridership and revenue service on its own when completed, without subsidy. So yes, the plan IS required to achieve a threshold level of service – that would be a level of service that can operate HSR without subsidy.

    The bond says the WHOLE california HSR system will be completed by 2020. Thats a time constraint. The Feds have time constraint on their matching funds. Thats a time constraint. The contracts they’ve signed have time elements in them. There are plenty of time constraints (if there weren’t any time constraints we wouldn’t be having these conversations, they’d be quietly going about figuring these things out instead of publicly humiliating themselves in front of congress.

    “at the end of construction opponents can sue…” Yes, well, its already in court, and this argument assumes the judge is a total moron. I think he’s demonstrated he’s quite a bit smarter than you give him credit for and understands the law quite well in that Prop 1A requires funding be in place prior to the embarkment on segments, for exactly this reason – idiots that claim they can do whatever they want without the need to build viable high speed rail according to the law.

    Joe Reply:

    ” So yes, the plan IS required to achieve a threshold level of service – that would be a level of service that can operate HSR without subsidy.”

    No. They are not required to run service. If they do elect to try service, it must not use a subsidy.

    Pedantically asserting they have to prove the segment can support HSR, they could run one inaugural train and sell tickets at cost recovery prices. I’d pay a good sum to ride on that train.

    This isn’t brain surgery.

    Resident Reply:

    they are required to fund a system that is capable of running that level of service. If they don’t have the HSR ridership/revenue potential proven for that segment, they are not building a segment capable of running that level of service. Correct, this is not brain surgery.

    joe Reply:

    I am capable of driving to LA tonight. I have reliable car, current license, I know the route and have cash in my pocket to afford gas and incidentals. I can get there and back without any subsidy. That’s what capable means. Capability is not mandated service.

    It’s not brain surgery or rocket science. The requirement is to have all funds identified and a plan to finish the segment so it is capable of supporting HSR service – thats all they show to need to continue.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Except for the subsidies that built and maintains the roads. And all the hidden subsidies like policing and disability/Medicaid for people maimed on the roads.

    joe Reply:

    All transportation is subsidized. Once the HSR track is built, opponents objecting to CA using the tracks for the public good will be seen as what they are – assholes.

    And if these opponents are Kings Co farmers that need Moooaaare WAAAAAter: Double Dumbassholes.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    All transit is subsidized. Which makes you wonder why HSR supporters specifically wrote that there would be no subsidies in the law. Oh wait, I know, because it would not have passed otherwise.

    You are mad at the wrong group, the people of Kings county did not sabotage your Choo Choo, it was the people who wrote the law

    It’s going to take 24 hour security just to keep theives from stealing the copper wire if they leave it unpowered and Un-used. I think it is going to be really hard to support the line un-subsidized without service

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Because HSR isn’t subsidized.

    joe Reply:

    “Blame the HSR Choo-Choo supporters” isn’t going to work. If it did, we’d have Gov Meg.

    Resident Reply:

    In order for you to be “capable” of driving to LA tonight, someone had to build the capability. That is someone had to provide the roadway infrastructure and the vehicle that enables you to make that drive tonight. Without the infrastructure you would not be “capable” of that drive. THAT’s what capable means.

    In order for a high speed rail train to get to LA, someone will need to build a high speed rail infrastructure to put that high speed rail system capability in place

    AB3034 has very specifically defined what the high speed rail infrastructure must include in order to be considered a complete usable segment. And one of those things (among many) is that it be built in a segment that would be capable of operating as a high speed rail system without subsidy.

    They law very clearly states that their funding plan (the one Kenny is requiring be redone), is required to show this via a revenue and ridership model that shows they have the funding for a segment of HST that would be capable of operating without subsidy.

    Funding plan requires CHSRA to provide:

    (E) The projected ridership and operating revenue estimate based
    on projected high-speed passenger train operations on the corridor or
    usable segment.”
    and
    (C) includes a projected
    ridership and operating revenue report

    (FYI, Notice it says OPERATING REVENUE, and not a one time charity joy ride revenue)

    So I believe you’re back to ‘all they need is a word processor’ which by the way appears to be their entire strategy so far (make it all up), but the judge didn’t let that fly.

    So go on and get your homework done now, its getting past your bedtime. By the way, congratulations on your new drivers license. I’m sure your mom and dad will let you drive on the next family trip to Disneyland.

    joe Reply:

    Dude – are you posting from Colorado?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Alon, even if you belive HSR covers operating costs, it does not cover construction costs. That is subsidy

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Sure, but 1A permits that. It only forbids operating subsidies.

    And it’s not “even if.” It does. Unless for some reason you believe that the low-speed grandes lignes subsidize the TGVs, that the ICs subsidize the ICEs, etc.

    Jon Reply:

    Freeways don’t cover their construction costs either. If that’s how you want to define subsidy, then no transportation is unsubsidized.

    joe Reply:

    The bond says the WHOLE california HSR system will be completed by 2020. Thats a time constraint.

    Nope.

    Resident Reply:

    clever comeback.

    Here’s the law:
    (f) It is the intent of the Legislature that the entire high-speed
    train system shall be constructed as quickly as possible in order to
    maximize ridership and the mobility of Californians, and that it be
    completed no later than 2020, and that all phases shall be built in a
    manner that yields maximum benefit consistent with available
    revenues.

    Resident Reply:

    tick tock

    joe Reply:

    There’s a Crocodile coming to get you.

    There’s no time constraint – intent isn’t a constraint. For a sanity check, the HSR plan would have been found invalid for extending well beyond 2020.

    Resident Reply:

    That portion of the lawsuit hasn’t been heard yet.

    Joe Reply:

    Really?

    So the easy stuff goes last

  3. Observer
    Jan 15th, 2014 at 17:44
    #3

    Do I got this right – to get even the federal funds now, it depends on whether the cap & trade money comes through? Opponents will tie it in knots in the courts. Proposition 1A was so poorly (politically) written, it made it all too easy for opponents to sue.

    Joe Reply:

    No.
    Cap and trade just simplifies things.
    They will redefine the useable segment, comply with the court and use prop1a to match federal funds.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Yes, they need it to start paying the match because the judge prevented use of bond funds

  4. D. P. Lubic
    Jan 15th, 2014 at 17:47
    #4

    Off topic, but of interest, even if a bit loopy–how we may get trains in the future–from the Republicans!

    http://www.lern.org/johna/NS%20Auto_v3.pdf

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It trips all my crank alerts. For example, “Draves and Coates have discovered the solution to the STEM crisis, gender inequality in higher education and skilled worker shortage in America.”

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Ths is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever read. For example: “In fact, while people 40 and older (in 2010) are only 46 percent of the population, they drove a whopping 59 percent of the miles.”

    …weird! It’s almost as if a large proportion of those under the age of 40 are not legally allowed to drive!

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I haven’t checked the ratios myself, but a large proportion of the population under 40, and especially under 30, and even more under 20, isn’t driving, for various reasons.

    Need to run a check on those numbers. . .

    joe Reply:

    Motortrend,
    http://www.motortrend.com/features/auto_news/2012/1208_why_young_people_are_driving_less

    The Great Recession’s effect on the ability of 16- to 34-year-olds to find a good-paying job has exacerbated this, according to the Frontier Group’s study, “Transportation and the New Generation,” by Benjamin Davis and Tony Dutzik, released last spring. If the U.S. automotive market has truly recovered from its 10.4-million-unit nadir in 2009 to an expected 13.5- to 14-million this year, it’s without much help from the under-35 age group.

    The share of 14- to 34-year-olds without a driver’s license was 26 percent in 2010, up from 21 percent in 2000, the study says, quoting the Federal Highway Administration. In 2009, the 16- to 34-year-old age group took 24-percent-more bike trips than in 2001, even as its population shrank by 2 percent. The same age group walked to more destinations in ’09 than in ’01, and the distance it traveled by public transit increased 40 percent.

  5. Donk
    Jan 15th, 2014 at 21:57
    #5

    OT: Some good news on the Purple Line and Regional Connector down in LA:

    http://thesource.metro.net/2014/01/14/funding-included-for-purple-line-extension-and-regional-connector-in-federal-spending-bill-for-2014/

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yay! Good to see federal money go to two of the most beneficial transit projects in the US. Only Second Avenue Subway, which is already fully funded, and possibly the Houston light rail lines, are as strong.

  6. jimsf
    Jan 15th, 2014 at 22:10
    #6

    MEanwhile…

    CHSRA rejects BFD bypass sticks with downtown plan

    joe Reply:

    Rejects vaporware

    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.

    No map, no serious proposal.

    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.

    Neither Kern Co or Bakersfield put a proposal together – they avoid making any decision since doing so would have be a commitment and might have been studied and approved.

    The strategy was to offer and do nothing, then complain.

  7. StevieB
    Jan 15th, 2014 at 22:54
    #7

    “For those who oppose the project, give us your plan,” Costa testified.

    Denham said the tens of billions of dollars could pay for other critical infrastructure in the state, including water projects, highways and airports, with funds left over for education.

    “It’s about priorities,” Denham said.

    Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2014/01/15/3715551/despite-legal-setbacks-officials.html#storylink=cpy

    joe Reply:

    Denham’s right, CA will need to build more highways and airports if we don’t build HSR. This is about priorities. Nothing is not an option, either pay billions for HSR or billions for highways and airport expansions.

    When given the choice between airports & highways, people pick HSR.

  8. John Nachtigall
    Jan 16th, 2014 at 06:22
    #8

    LA times is wavering

    http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-high-speed-rail-cap-trade-20140114,0,7825158.story#axzz2qZTKrOzZ

    joe Reply:

    But in fact the train, which would reduce dependence on car and airplane travel across the state, is a perfectly appropriate use of the state’s cap-and-trade proceeds. The program also aims for emissions reductions beyond 2020, and its investment plan released last year specifically cites high-speed rail as a project worthy of funding.

    Hey Thanks.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Yet the delays, the rising cost, the judge’s ruling and the waning public support should give pause to even the strongest advocates. Can the rail authority line up a financing plan? Is the project still viable? We hope the answer is yes. But the state shouldn’t spend a dime of cap-and-trade money on it until we know for sure.

    yeah, total support

    Tony D. Reply:

    Agree with the LA Times editorial completely. Sounds like the use of Cap and Trade revenues is legit to. Yeah! Caltrain will be electrified sooner rather than later! ;)

  9. Observer
    Jan 16th, 2014 at 13:21
    #9

    Darrell Steinberg recently mentioned that a form of redevelopment could back to California, and that some of those funds could be used for HSR stations and related projects – good.

    I figure that cap and trade funds can only be considered a small supplemental. It is obvious that HSR rail needs some type of dedicated state funds to be viable other than cap and trade; as we all know – we can not depend on the feds.

    Observer Reply:

    The LA Times got it right; they are just stating the obvious. Cap and trade for HSR is fine and all; but it is really just like a supplemental starter fund. More dedicated state funds are needed.

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    Is that really true about ‘the feds’? There seems to be continuing capital investment on the East Coast. I thought California’s problem is that important people on the state’s congressional delegation are trying to stop the project. You’ll never get money from Congress with that going on.

    Observer Reply:

    There are differences. The NEC is already established, popular, and has existing good ridership. Incremental improvements are natural. If California already had a similar corridor, even California republicans would support incremental improvements.

    California HSR is a totally new route built from scratch. Congressional republicans (even some democrats) have not been known to support and fund such infrastructure projects. The only infrastructure they understand and support are oil pipelines. Anything that interferes and does not go along with this type of mindset, they just block out.

    Observer Reply:

    That is why I say, California should fund it. Come up with good routing, a good timeline/timeframe as when sections would be built and how, good management, good funding, voter approval, and it could get done. I know dreamworld – but hey.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    No. It is true that the Northeast Corridor is already owned by the Feds, but many segments need essentially brand new track to support HSR speed end to end.

    The political math is easy: only three Senators benefit from CAHSR, whereas an 1/8 of the Senate touches the NEC. Also, CA is the core of the House Minority, lots of seats in the Northeast flipped in 2010. One of the biggest beneficiaries of federal investment in the NEC is also the GOP front runner for President: Chris Christie. Jeff Denham knows he has eight years to look for a new job, and he is doing everything to sell himself to the GOP establishment.

    But since HSR is going to happen soon on the East Coast, the goal is to find a way to sink it in the rest of the nation. So they are quick to say it is a California problem, you notice, and not an HSR one….

    jonathan Reply:

    Ted,
    What the NEC needs to support true HSR isn’t new tracks, so much as new rights-of-way.

    That’s not likely to happen. And therefore HSR on the NEC is not “going to happen soon”.

    Joe Reply:

    Divide and conquer.

    Sucker east coast dems into grabbing CA’s funds. Recall Jeff Denham wanted to send CAs money including prop1a back east. Yes he stupidly proposed the full amount, not just the Federal portion.

    When CA’s project is dead they can go after the Eastern funding. Cut subsidies and give away any profitable lines to corporations.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    “Soon” = “when Amtrak gets $100 billion dollars from a Congress that’s loathe to spend $1 billion on it.” Don’t hold your breath.

    jonathan Reply:

    Alon,

    don’t bother Ted with numbers. He thinks it’d be a good idea to run US freight trains over HSR tracks.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    One of the biggest beneficiaries of federal investment in the NEC is also the GOP front runner for President: Chris Christie.

    The inside the Beltway crowd was enamored. The people who vote in Republican primaries not so much. He used to be the front runner. People in his administration and or his appointees to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey are exercising their rights under the fifth amendment while negotiating for immunity for their testimony. That doesn’t bode well.

    He’s also the one who canceled the project that would have relieved the biggest bottleneck on the NEC by 2017 so I’m not so sure he’s concerned about the NEC.

    jonathan Reply:

    Ted Judah writes:

    No. It is true that the Northeast Corridor is already owned by the Feds, but many segments need essentially brand new track to support HSR speed end to end.

    Factually incorretct Small, but vital (and often slow) segments are owned by States, or state agencies of one kind or another.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Bud Shuster is looking for a solution on Amtrak. He Already has States coughing up more money for State supported service and he wants to highlight the one part of Amtrak that covers it’s costs. They want to shift the subsidies for long distance trains to the NEC.

    It’s called divide and conquer…and with Obama a lame duck, it will be the main strategy the GOP employs in DC after the 14 election. Denial is not just a river in Egypt on this blog….

    StevieB Reply:

    Chris Christie in not in favor of high speed rail on the NEC which he sees as passing through New Jersey on the way from D.C. and Baltimore to NYC.

  10. Reality Check
    Jan 16th, 2014 at 16:10
    #10

    Next-Generation Border Crossing: First-ever High Speed Train to connect US and Mexico by 2018

    U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat, and Texas Department of Transportation Commissioner Jeff Austin, as well as Mexican officials, presented the plan to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx on Thursday in Washington D.C..

    “Secretary Foxx and his team are interested,” Cuellar said. “A high-speed rail between San Antonio and Monterrey through Laredo would revolutionize trade and travel between the United States and Mexico.”

    The project is planned as a joint effort by both nations. But the timeline remains somewhat murky.

    Proposed high-speed rail would link Texas and Mexico

    Cuellar said Monterrey already has the right of way to begin construction.

    But opponents wonder: Who will foot the bill?

    “I think one of our challenges is where will we come up with the money,” said Cuellar.

    While there’s no price tag on the project yet or a dollar amount on how much travelers would pay to ride, Cuellar said they are eyeing Europe for examples and relying on the private sector to be involved.
    Cuellar said some companies are already highly interested.

    Tony D. Reply:

    The cartells have money…

    Observer Reply:

    It would be nice if California and Baja California could do the same thing with Tijuana – Los Angeles.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Observer: great idea. One hour on the train, 3 hours in line for the “Migra”.

    Observer Reply:

    3 hours – migra; hmm, like for an overseas flight.

    We will see how Texas does it.

    Michael Reply:

    Have agents on the trains, like it once was in pre-EU Europe.

    jonathan Reply:

    that’ was a whole lot easier when the trains only went half as fast ;)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If TJ is the only Mexican station, do border control there, with preclearance, like at Canadian airport. Beyond that it’s just a matter of how assholish CBP wants to be to people.

    Judge Moonbox Reply:

    They don’t do that anymore in Western Europe. To take the Eurostar from London to Paris, you have to present your passport before you get on the train. Continental Europe is in the Schengen Zone–you can drive from Tallin, Estonia, to Lisbon, Portugal without dealing with bureaucracy; but Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland aren’t in the Schengen Zone.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    LA to Cabo and the rest of Baja del Sur. A Tijuana train won’t work.

    Observer Reply:

    Cabo and the rest of Baja del Sur work for Californians seeking leisure; but Tijuana works for business people and people visiting family and the like. From Tijuana you can fly to anywhere in Mexico. It is the busiest border crossing for a reason.

    Observer Reply:

    Done right, how many people can it get out their cars and into trains to cross the border (think CO2 reduction). It also is a section that could very well attract private investment. Texas seems to have figured this out.

    Donk Reply:

    Haha. For anyone who has driven all the way down Baja, it is clear that this would be one of the worst performing rail lines in the world. Unless your passengers are dirt, yonke, cacti, and palm trees.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Except for those people who either cruised or taken a plane to Baja del Sur it’s pretty obvious it wouldn’t be.

    Observer Reply:

    Tijuana has a million+ population, and GDP in the $billions, same thing for Monterrey. If and when studies are ever done, prospects for investing in rail transport in those border regions will be determined. But prospects look good.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Observer: I was only half joking when I commented above about waiting times for passengers crossing the border. I made the crossing at Nogales a number of times in 2012. You’ll need to come up with a solution for both passengers and freight. While at GATX we experienced compartments welded inside hopper cars for carriage of contraband. New regulations require cleaning of residual bulk materials from the floors of gondolas and hopper cars to make it difficult to hide material. The smuggling of guns etc southbound as as much of a problem as drugs northbound. It’s very hard to imagine TSA allowing easy passage across our southern border given the experience of rail passengers at our northern border.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    So to “build” a HSR system in the US do you need anything more than a press release and an imagination

    They have no estimate of costs, no money, no source of funding, but they want to build it in 4 years. And across an international border.

    It does not even rise to the level of fantasy. My only hope that in this alternate universe of milk and honey I am rich and dating a supermodel. I mean if you are going to dream, you might as well dream big

  11. Reality Check
    Jan 16th, 2014 at 16:19
    #11

    OP-ED: High-speed rail: partnering with Caltrain
    By Ben Tripousis
    Northern California regional director for the California High-Speed Rail Authority

    [...]

    In his proposed budget, Gov. Jerry Brown plans to allocate a portion of state cap-and-trade revenue for the high-speed rail program as part of the state’s long-term air pollution-reduction plan. Some have criticized putting cap-and-trade money into high-speed rail because they believe — wrongly — that the project won’t reduce air pollution soon enough. In fact, high-speed rail’s plan to electrify the Caltrain line will reduce emissions in advance of the deadline imposed by Assembly Bill 32. Further, high-speed rail will play an important role in helping to meet the bill’s requirements to continue to lower greenhouse gases well beyond 2020.

    [...]

    At the same time, Proposition 1A, the High-Speed Rail Act of 2008, is providing Caltrain with $105 million for a “Positive Train Control” (PTC) electronic safety system that will monitor and, if necessary, control train movement in the event of human error. PTC will equip Caltrain with federally mandated safety technology essential for high-speed rail. The system integrates command, control, communications and information systems to significantly reduce the likelihood of collisions. It also allows trains to travel safely at higher speeds. This phase of the project involves installing a fiber optic backbone along the Caltrain right-of-way so that signals, trains, dispatchers and other components of the railroad operations can communicate seamlessly. The installation work has started in San Jose and will progress north to San Francisco.

    Finally, the high-speed rail project plays a critical role in another key Bay Area transportation project: San Francisco’s Transbay Transit Center. The center is a multi-modal transportation hub that will centralize the region’s transportation network and extend the Caltrain line into the San Francisco Financial District. The center will be used by both Caltrain and high-speed rail, connecting San Francisco to the rest of California with effective and efficient rail service.

    [...]

    Clem Reply:

    Is he saying that cap and trade funds should be spent on Caltrain electrification instead of the $600 million of “book-end” prop 1A HSR bonds promised a little while ago?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Yes. Bookend funding from Prop 1A is about to be toast. Long live the IOS.

    joe Reply:

    I think he wrote, by paragraph:
    “HSR blended electrification before 2020! Bitches!”
    “CBOSS rocks”
    “Train pile up in the Financial District”

  12. Jesse D.
    Jan 22nd, 2014 at 23:10
    #12

    “Jeff Denham” and “clever” should never be used in the same sentence ever again.

    Just saying.

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