CREW Files New Ethics Complaint Against Rep. David Valadao Over HSR

Feb 4th, 2014 | Posted by

Last year Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed an ethics complaint against Kings County Republican Congressman David Valadao. He attempted to block construction of high speed rail in the Valley – an action that would benefit his family’s farming operations.

Last week CREW filed a new complaint against Valadao on the same issue:

Last week, CREW filed a “renewed request” (pdf) for an investigation along the same lines, just days after the omnibus spending bill became law, apparently devoid of the Valadao amendment.

The complaint argued that Valadao most recently failed to tell his colleagues about his financial stake when arguing against the project before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. House rules allow members to vote on issues where they may have a financial interest, but frown upon lawmakers sponsoring, advocating or participating in committee hearings about them.

Valadao’s amendment would have forced the federal Surface Transportation Board to approve a completed rail network plan as opposed to individual segments on a case-by-case basis. California is in no position to offer such a completed plan. The project, heavily favored by the governor, is facing challenges at the state and local level that practically have it on life-support. A delay like this would almost certainly kill it.

Its death would benefit Valadao and his family, which own numerous pieces of property in and around Hanford. Although the state is now actively considering a second Hanford route that would have less impact on the dairy, it would still be problematic for the family.

The Fresno Bee identified three parcels owned by a partnership which includes the congressman that would be directly affected by one of the routes. The land is valued at around $1.8 million. The partnership owns six parcels within a mile of one or both lines, valued at $1.38 million, and family members own four parcels within a mile worth $6.2 million.

“It seems Rep. Valadao is no more familiar with House ethics rules now than he was six months ago when he first violated them,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW. “As he continues to flout his obligation to inform his colleagues of his financial conflict of interest, it is all the more urgent that the Office of Congressional Ethics conduct a full investigation.”

Because Republicans control the House of Representatives, it’s highly unlikely that Valadao will be investigated, since unfortunately Congress has not seen fit to allow a fully independent institution to investigate and punish members who violate ethics rules.

And there’s no doubt that Valadao, like other Valley Republicans, would oppose HSR even if his family dairies weren’t in the way of the project.

But none of those facts excuse Valadao’s behavior. An ethical person would recuse himself from any votes involving that segment of the HSR project and would certainly not be offering any amendments that would lead to a clear financial gain for him. In fact, given that fellow Valley Republicans are (wrongly) already actively working against the project, there’s no reason at all for Valadao to weigh in with these kinds of proposals. He’s trying to score political points, but is doing so in an unethical fashion.

Since we can’t expect Congress to police itself, I suppose the best way of dealing with this is to ensure Valadao’s unethical actions fail and that high speed rail gets built anyway. After all, his constituents will benefit significantly from the project. In the end, that’s what matters most.

  1. Paul Druce
    Feb 4th, 2014 at 22:25

    I’m not seeing how “his and his family members’ personal finances are likely to be impacted significantly by the project,” which is the grounds of the complaint. One parcel of land being affected by a road overpass isn’t necessarily a significant impact upon finances and the existence of a passenger rail line within a mile of other land parcels should have no significant financial impact upon a dairy farm. Much ado about nothing.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If it gets taken at todays prices it can’t be planted with McMansions by the grandchildren.

    joe Reply:

    Doesn’t matter. Conflict of interests laws and rules are triggered when his property is involved. He is conflicted.

    The monetary threshold BTW for having a financial interest is in the hundreds of dollars.

  2. Drunk Engineer
    Feb 4th, 2014 at 22:28

    So Robert finally concedes that the HSR line will decrease property values? Because that is the crux of the CREW complaint.

    Alan Reply:

    A few parcels directly impacted by the ROW *may* be negatively affected. Overall property values in the region, however, will increase as a result of HSR access. That hasn’t changed.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Parcels directly impacted may be eligible for eminent domain (at fair market value) or mitigation as part of the EIR process. And most of his parcels are not directly impacted.

    So either way, anyone agreeing with the CREW complaint must be some kind of NIMBY.

    joe Reply:

    IMBY. In My Back Yard.

    A conflict of interest is triggered when the project involves his property.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    A conflict of interest requires there be a profit motive. CREW is arguing that he profits because HSR lines are destructive to property values.

    Robert, of course, has always claimed the opposite (that HSR increases property values). Really quite hypocritical to suddenly go along with this nimby argument, just because it smears a GOP Congressman.

    Joe Reply:

    No sir.

    It is an personal interest, not profit interest.

    A person can prefer to have his land untouched for aesthetic or emotional or any number of non monetary profit reasons. The person interest is in conflict with his profession duties.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You are assuming people consider things other than money. To some people the only thing that matters is money. It doesn’t cross their minds that he may not like the trains because it means it will ruin his view.

    Joe Reply:

    The Law is the Law. What matters personally or not doesn’t change the interpretation if the law. Having an Interest isn’t soley measured in money. Real estate ownership and eminent domain is obviously an interest.

    In academics it’s major professors, students, collaborators and other associated interests including animosity.

    Joe Reply:

    HSR increase property values but not at the site.

    The corrupt Dennis Hastert R-IL for example earmarked a IL highway project to run near land he bought, not on it. It was over a mile but less than five away.

    So the argument HSR improves land values is not contradicted by the impact at the specific site where they build the system.

    Donk Reply:

    I don’t think anyone is dumb enough to argue that a rail line would increase your property values if you are in the stretch between two stations. The point is that living near a station can increase your property value, and that is what I assume that Robert has always been arguing as well. If you have ranch and they lay track thru your yard, of course it will decrease your property value.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Depends on where that stretch of track is, if it’s close to the roadunderpass it makes the land more valuable because the other three roads they closed in the area are now using that road. Good place for a convience store and gas station which then makes it a good place for a subdivsion with McMansions on it instead of almond trees.

  3. John Nachtigall
    Feb 4th, 2014 at 22:31

    Read the complaint, it is dead on arrival.

    The complaint states that House precedent allows him to vote on the issue even though her has a financial interest.

    And that interest is already known, at a minimum from the last complaint.

    Even you admit he would oppose the project regardless of his farm. So there is no legal or ethical violation. He opposes the project regardless of his financial interests

    there isnt even smoke here, much less fire

    Alan Reply:

    Just like there’s no smoke or fire behind John Boehner’s insistance on the Keystone pipeline, despite his well-reported investments in Canadian tar sands?

    Keep drinking the tea, John.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    no, there is no smoke because even if you belive everything they have said it is not against house rules. And his financial investement (Valadao) has already been disclosed.

    What is he guity of…either ethically or legally??

    Drawing a parallel to a different situation does not make him any more guilty. You might as well say “Just like there is no smoke at the Watergate break in”!!!

    You cant lump every GOp member int he same boat, and I dont think you want to because then it would be equally allowed to lump in all the Dems and plenty of them are sitting in jail also.

    joe Reply:

    Disclosing is for publicly assessing when there is a conflict – disclosure does not avoid a conflict. The disclosure threshold involves hundreds of dollars, not tens of thousands.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    And a conflict (per House rules instituted under the Democrats) does not prevent him from voting. So what is the issue?

  4. Resident
    Feb 4th, 2014 at 22:46

    Now, if you really want an interesting read about unethical behavior, this is a very interesting summary of the Bay Bridge project transparency, disclosure, factual dealings with the public, honest treatment of employees, best practices employing technical expertise….

    If I were hoping to see high speed rail built in california in my lifetime, perhaps hoping to take a test ride on a fast train perhaps some day from Fresno to Bakersfield, I think I’d be more than a little concerned about what’s being uncovered here. It does not bode well.

    nslander Reply:

    I think that report cured my insomnia. Much appreciated.

  5. morris brown
    Feb 5th, 2014 at 04:00

    The opposition brief filed in the 3rd District appeals court can be found at:

    This brief seeks to have the court dismiss the Authority’s petition, which would then let Judge Kenny’s issued mandate to have the Authority rescind the funding plan stay in effect.

    The Authority will respond with a brief within 10 days, then the court will make a decision on whether to accept the Authority’s petition for trial, or dismiss it outright.

    StevieB Reply:

    The 3rd District Court of Appeal docket for the case California High-Speed Rail Authority et al. v. The Superior Court of Sacramento County says, “Petitioners, by February 10, 2014, must serve and file in the Court of Appeal an expedited reply to the preliminary opposition.”

  6. synonymouse
    Feb 5th, 2014 at 10:53

    How about an ethics investigation into Jerry Brown’s cozy relationship with PB, Tutor, Palmdale real estate developers and the Tejon Ranch Co.?

    Zorro Reply:

    Mr Mouse you’d say that no matter who was the bidder, so I call that BS and a delaying tactic…

    synonymouse Reply:

    Ad hominem would make more sense – I can’t quite figure out your complaint.

    The Burton-Pelosi-Brown patronage machine is thoroughly corrupt – it exists to dispense favors to its friends and allies. The most politic way to do this is to create a dummy project, one that has little substantive or residual value, even costs lots to maintain and generates little revenue, and give the contract to the crony. Aka boondoggle.

    In the case of DogLegRail it does fulfill some valuable purpose – the LA portion does have considerable value to Palmdale real estate developers.

    Nothing new here. PG&E is one of the worst corrupters – for over a century it has had every mayor of SF in its pocket.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If it’s so obvious that there is a cozy relationship why don’t you ask the FBI why they aren’t investigating it. Or the local Federal prosecutors?

    synonymouse Reply:

    You mean the same outfit that said there was no organized crime in the US? Hoover had a dossier on everybody but la Cosa Nostra had a dossier on him.

    Where do you think a political machine stops? It is called pervasive corruption. It would be like asking Nixon to investigate Watergate. Hold the California pollyanna airhead for a while and think maybe a little 3rd world. Think of a soft dictatorship where influence and bribery supplant brute tactics. Think party line; think rank opportunism; think apparatchick.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Then complain to the stalwart Republicans in Congress who have subpoena powers and let them ferret out the corruption in the executive and judicial branches.

    Clem Reply:

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Ah so it’s all a plot by the FBI to turn us into communists? And they are gonna ignore corruption. Okay.

    Joe Reply:

    And his relationship with Linda Ronstadt.
    What do we really know about The Pop Politics of Jerry Brown.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    He’s a Democrat, he should, like Geraldine Ferrarro observed she might have been asked to, tell us where he keeps food in his refrigerator. He might offer someone who might have business with the state, a Pepsi which would be obvious influence on state government and Pepsi.

  7. Lewellan
    Feb 5th, 2014 at 15:28

    Just to weigh in early, after a number of rough days every week last month,
    blaming BERTHA for those rough days, I’d like to say:

    I visited the Valadao website and found a respectable, if not favorable
    on every issue, impression of his service. If his intent was ONLY
    profit, I didn’t see that aside from a respect for farmland.
    OTOH, he mentions little about the greater impact of 200mph routes.

    If there’s any dishonesty, it’s more to do matters regarding
    the withholding of pertinent information from the public discouse.
    But, they’re all withholding information, progressive-types, enviromentalists,
    many who believe their position correct, but in a practical or functional sense, wrongly misled.

    And: New York is right to downsize HSR.
    My pre- and post-2008 position on CAHSR is unchanged:

    Talgo XXI
    5-hrs LA-Frisco
    4.5-hrs to Sacramento.

    Talgo XXI
    LA to LasVegas (possibly through Bakersfield)
    then Salt Lake City, Denver, Portland, SeeAtuhl (barf).
    Tejon still makes sense. The junction point affects route decisionmaking. I’ve nicknamed the new Talgo cabs (model 8000? Made in Wisconsin) “Tootsie” for its ‘single-bogie’ platform. Am unsure what class the cab is; just looks like a train with a face, like Little Toot.

    Seattle Bore tunnel machine Bertha is broken again. The minority viewpoint has always been vehemently! Against any BORE TUNNEL as it will become a sump that pulls salt seawater further inland, and store more fresh water runoff from hills to east and north. The alternate tunnel is a ‘Stacked Cut-Cover/Sewall (in the FEIS). Bore leads to Cut-Cover/Seawall and finishes near one mile shorter distance to north portal near Pike. 99 either hits 2 stoplights in Lower Belltown -or- is routed underneath Lower Belltown with much improved on/off ramps (more expensive).
    Either manage traffic a hell of lot better than the bore tunnel route insanity.

    You guys just don’t realize the peril Seattle faces with the bore tunnel.
    Keep up the politics and HSR will fail in California too. Go Taglo!, dood’s.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Salt Lake City is too far away from anyplace and too small to justify HSR service anywhere. Denver is too far away from anywhere too. Using slower trains means even less people would want to use it.
    5 hours from Buffalo to New York means the only people who use the train are the ones who want to go to Manhattan south of 96th Street. The door to door trip times would be too long compared to driving. The people who wanted to do it really fast would fly.

    Lewellan Reply:

    There’s no passenger-rail between Las Vegas and SLC now, but the Challenger and other trains did that run for decades. The electrifed 150mph Talgo proposal cost too much LA-to-LV, but basic 110mph drew more public and private support. Any passenger-rail is FASTER than ‘NO’ HSR. Once a Talgo XXI ‘hybrid’ reaches LasVegas, SLC is the next logical extension, junction with the Amtrak California Zephyr. A Talgo Challenger would serve the Denver/Chicago demand. From SLC, the Amtrak Pioneer ran to Portland and could again using Talgo XXI trainsets. Obdurate 200mph purists. Meh.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    When there were no airplanes it was a good idea to have trains. The alternate mode, whatever it is has to be better than the modes it competes against. Taking the train whether it’s a historic coal fired steam train or a 200 mph electric train or something in between can’t compete with flying to Salt Lake City. They can’t compete with flying to Denver either.

    Lewellan Reply:

    Look, you’re just looking for argument, decker, by rejecting logic, practicality, even habitat preservation/restoration someday? I most agree with FIXING THE RAILS in place, existing, upgrading, grade-separating AND low-cost projects Peninsula-style and the LA RIVER builders excellent work.
    Central Valley doesn’t need a new power source as much as Altamont railroads.
    Intentionally I leave some room for compromise:
    Yes to rail.
    No to fast rail
    Fastest rail with concrete barriers and somebody’s premium ticket price.
    Who’s NOT going to pay the ticket?

    Anywayz, my side has already won LA County & THE PENINSULA improvements.
    The 200mph Supertrainer sector, yourselves ladies & gentlemen, though your efforts
    to promote manageable HSR is appreciated. You may be paying a bit too much heed to
    the Seattle cult. Never a box of dumber college dropouts less sharp about their viewpoints
    nor their perspectives. Their 1st, 2nd and probably 3rd streetcar expansion are all troublesome.

    Streetcar Hillclimb/descend on slippery street with fast traffic?
    (Connection via 1st Ave?)


    Streetcar back on Waterfront 2-track to
    Sculpture Park – Interbay – Ballard.
    Of course, decide now, not later.
    Seattle sucks, more rich drunkards
    than you can shake a stick at and not get shot’d oKay?

    Thanks again, decker, for your good efforts.
    My clan is still celebrating the Port of Portland
    CANCELLATION of West Hayden Isl terminal.
    Natural Restoration is NOW inevitable.
    I’m doing OK thank you very much,
    you’re welcome, good sirs, young and older young families…
    I named my CRC design after my dad Jim,
    The “Gemstone” Bridge.
    (6-point Plan)
    -Southbound Only
    -Marine Dr Intrchnge
    -Concept #1
    -MAX to Jantz Bch
    -BRT to Vanc Mall

    So anyway, drifting off to sleep, leaving a last note (psst, psst, quiet, worth billions?)
    worth lives actually, so get off my ass. You purists got no new argument. Your new
    stuff is too often INACCURATE and those inaccuracies have consequences. Find a new
    argument to holds your past best efforts together.
    It’s really almost over. Drop 200, problem repaired,
    (Fruedian slip: word before ‘repaired’ was ‘fixed’)
    Just tell em, the train IS a-comin’ baby, a-comin’ to TOWN!!!

    Donk Reply:


    Lewellan Reply:

    Nevermind Donk. I work on Pacific Northwest projects from Portland and nearby Seattle.
    Columbia River Crossing I-5 bridge replacement, Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct Hwy99 replacement,
    these are in the forefront now. As for light rail and streetcar projects, Portland is in good shape, but all Seattle transportation and transit projects are terribly engineered. Purists there (as in Silicon Valley) haven’t a clue that woefully substandard engineering from Highway Department interests will lead to abject failure. Let’s all celebrate a stupid football game while the highway department rigs the system.
    yadda yadda.

    JB in PA Reply:

    Portland light rail was a great way to get to/from airport when I took a week long class down-town.
    But the Skoda trolley gets the job done but is clunky going around the tight corners on the fixed axle truck. It would be great if the Talgo type of articulated axle between sections with independent wheels could be used on the trolley. It would be much smoother and quieter around the tight corners. Maybe even a little faster, but not much. The rigid axles bounce around like a ride at the county fair.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Your position is unchanged, perhaps because you ignore the ample criticism of it. You can’t do 5 hours LA-SF on legacy track. DOA. The tracks across the mountain are not capable of supporting the required speeds.

    Now, New York and California are different. Between New York and Schenectady, the line is passenger-primary and can be easily electrified and run tilting trains. West of Schenectady, there’s freight traffic imposing speed limits; CSX states the speed limit in terms of maximum speed, but as we saw with BNSF on the Cascades, it will be equally opposed to any attempt to raise average speed by raising cant deficiency. CSX demands that any faster passenger train get its own track, and once new construction is required, the cost saving drops substantially. This isn’t a matter of hanging a few hundred km of catenary, perhaps doing minor track repairs, and running a Pendolino. It’s a matter of fully dedicated trackage, with some physical separation from the freight trains (CSX wanted 30′, but the state negotiated it down), and this is much more expensive.

    NY-Buffalo in 5 hours is an average speed of 140 km/h. Unlike LA-SF, it’s perfectly feasible on the existing track, which at many places is quite straight and at no place is very curvy. However, this requires very high cant deficiency. A Talgo isn’t enough; a Pendolino is needed, and it will have to run at cant deficiencies that raise train maintenance costs to very high levels. To put things in perspective, 140 km/h is about the average speed of the Pendolino runs from London to Manchester, on straighter track with absolute passenger priority. It can be done, but everything needs to be done perfectly correctly for this, and as we saw with the WCML modernization there’s more room for cost blowouts than you’d think.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    5 hours will be better used than the current 8 hours but it’s not gonna blow any one’s socks off. The train has to go through Albany but cars don’t, driving from Buffalo to New York goes through Binghamton and Scranton, saves 75 miles and take 6 hours. People not going to Manhattan will drive. e.g. Brooklynites who want to visit Grandma in suburban Rochester will drive etc.
    The scope of the study may be too narrow. 3 hours Buffalo to NY makes Buffalo to Philadelphia look good. 3 hours to Buffalo gets 3 and few minutes to Boston and 4 to Portland when the North-South connector is completed. It gets Rochester-Baltimore and Syracuse-DC and Albany-Richmond… Buffalo to Hicksville…. It gets Buffalo tp White Plains because driving all the way is too long and slow train to Croton doesn’t work either. A faster train will.
    …full fat HSR will cost three times as much but will get three times as many people going to three times as many places….

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    where is DP?

    A glance will show
    Why Phoebe Snow
    Prefers this route to Buffalo
    And Phoebe’s right
    No route is quite so short as
    The Route of Anthracite

    Each cut and fill
    ‘Cross dale and hill
    Has made the Shortest
    Shorter Still
    Like arrow’s flight
    I now delight
    To speed o’er
    Road of Anthracite

    Lewellan Reply:

    Nicely worded sarcasm, decker.
    (No shorter route is quite?)
    (The route of antracite.)

    I appreciate criticism, levy, but disagree that legacy track cannot be upgraded as is occuring with LA County and Peninsula track. The SanJuaquin corridor is wide enough for double-track, side-track and completely separate track in many places. Slower speeds overall can still offer a 5hour SF-to-LA trip.
    The Tejon route over Tehachapi cuts cost and reduces trip time. The lengthy study of high cost, high impact 200mph HSR, delays consideration/implementation of more practical rail upgrades, exactly as powerful business interests intend with Tea Party pawns to do the dirty work. The Talgo XXI locomotive and ’tilting’ coaches reach 135mph. Higher speed electrified Pendolino and completely separate passenger-rail track aren’t necessary and only foment more controversy and opposition.
    Drop 200mph and CAHSR project construction will begin with electrifying Altamont.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    LA County and Peninsula track has nothing to do with Upstate track, and neither has anything to do with Tehachapi track. The tracks in LA and the Bay Area are passenger-primary and quite straight, so upgradable. The same is true for New York-Albany. The tracks between Albany and Buffalo are also reasonably straight, but are freight-owned and have fairly heavy freight traffic; CSX is making unreasonable demands for separate tracks, which it’s legally entitled to do. And the tracks across the mountain crossings are a lost cause – there are long curvy segments with very heavy freight traffic, such that new tracks are required for additional traffic, and superelevation would be zero or very low because of steep grades. The Talgos reach whatever speed the model is intended to reach, but only when the track is straight enough.

    Lewellan Reply:

    I don’t keep up on NY HSR other than to note that “astronomical cost” eliminates 200mph HSR as an option. Otherwise, Central Valley (upstate?) track can reduce cost, impact and opposition by dropping the 200mph mandate. Tehachapi is 34 miles longer, has more miles of tunnel and viaduct, and crests the pass at a higher elevation than Tejon, therefore Tejon is faster and less expensive. The tradeoff of losing Antelope Valley passengers I suppose can be mitagated with a Bakersfield-to-LasVegas HSR, also using Talgo XXI ‘hybrid’ trainsets. This route serves Bay Area and LA passengers bound for Las Vegas. Antelope Valley doesn’t have near the traffic problems of Altamont. Neither is Gilroy traffic bad enough to warrant inclusion on the CAHSR route, but the traffic of both suburbs will worsen with HSR as suburban sprawl developers lurking in the shadows intend.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There’s a reason why the trains running today, from Oakland to Bakersfield, don’t use Altamont.

    Michael Reply:

    Probably two.

    1. Historically, the existing railways running over Altamont at the time of Amtrak’s birth, Western Pacific and Southern Pacific, were in the process of consolidating their lines through the city of Livermore into one mainline. Southern Pacific moved, as today, most traffic out of the Bay Area via Richmond/Martinez, not Altamont. Western Pacific was on a decline. Both existing railways had their lines through Altamont in less-than-prime condition. Both lines were also single-track with low speeds in many places. Following the double-track, sea level mainline north via Richmond and Martinez was a no-brainer.

    2. Today, the historic SP line is the charming Niles Canyon Railway in the west, and abandoned over Altamont. The historic WP line is now UP and used by ACE. Problem with running the San Joaquins is that there is no easy connection for the trains to easily “turn south” once they reach the Valley. The first chance is with the UP in Manteca. To meet the BNSF, the trains would need to go all the way north to Stockton.

    With new construction, both problems are eliminated.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Tejon cannot be done on legacy track because there is no legacy track through Tejon; this is why I brought up Tehachapi as the only legacy alternative, even though I’m a Tejon supporter. It would become even more expensive if California insisted on grades that are compatible with diesel loco-hauled trains. Not sure why you’re blocked on electrification in the first place when the non-HSR legacy solutions used in Germany, Sweden, etc. are electrified. But when it comes to steep mountain crossings, electrification saves money.

    The CV line is about $25-30 million per km, including future electrification and systems. This is not astronomical. What’s astronomical is the tunnels. Just getting from Bakersfield to Sylmar via Tejon is around $10 billion, so almost the same as Bakersfield-Sacramento. Altamont is also a couple billion to get from Manteca to Redwood City, and can’t be done on legacy track for similar reasons to Tejon/Tehachapis. Done right, the majority of the cost of California HSR is either mountain tunnels, without which LA-SF is more like 9 hours than 5, or approaches in urban areas, without which you don’t have LA-SF at all but LA-Oakland or LA-SJ.

    Many years ago, Rafael here proposed an Altamont possibility that goes around the Bay, through Santa Clara, instead of through the Bay; this adds about 50 km and perhaps 20 minutes to the trip, to save on a Dumbarton tunnel that costs around a billion dollars. Sometimes it’s worth spending more money on better results.

    Excluding urban areas, where the official plan is already blended, the part of the system where it’s even theoretically possible to save money by using legacy track is the cheapest part to build. It’s also dead straight, so you gain nothing by using tilting trains, and lose a lot, namely, the flexibility to choose among many vendors. LA-SF in 5 hours isn’t much cheaper than LA-SF in 3, and has far less benefit to the traveling and/or air-breathing public. This is the reverse of 80/20: what you’re proposing is 20% the benefit for 80% the cost instead of the reverse.

    I am less sure what the specific Upstate situation is. The report is 1200 pages long and I haven’t had time to even start reading it. When I drew lines on Google Earth based on the basic HSR alignment requirements, the only tunnels that seemed necessary were two short ones through the Hudson Highlands; Albany-Buffalo requires some viaducts and takings in Utica if downtown service is desired, but can as far as I could tell be done zero-tunnel. Conceivably the situation is friendlier to tilting trains, although it would surprise me if CSX welcomed them.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I had an hour to kill this afternoon. I read the executive summary. The 110 MPH option has a third track from Albany to Buffalo with select 4 track sections. The 15 billion dollar, 125 MPH alternative is mostly greenfield, electrified and puts the Albany Station out on the Thruway instead of in vaguely downtown Albany, across the river in Rensselaer. My eyes started to roll back in my head.

    Problems with it: Concerned that there are capacity constraints in Penn Station – which won’t be there once East Side Access opens in ten years. Or when Gateway opens in 2035. Studiously ignored that Albany-NY could be used by NY-Montreal traffic. Just like the study for Albany-Montreal studiously ignored that Albany-NY would be improved to be faster than 1:45. Deeply deeply concerned that 3,000 acres of prime farmland would be affected. Not getting full fat HSR means 3,000 acres of prime farmland will be sprouting McMansions because infill in downtown won’t be as attractive. Deeply deeply concerned that today’s low use stations might lose service and that using the conventional train to get to HSR station would take up too much time – that the people who drive from Schenectady today to get to Rensselaer would take the train from Schenectady to the new Albany station and that takes too much time. Or the people in Rome would loiter around for the twice a day train instead of driving to Utica. Or that if there is two hour service to New York from Syracuse there’s enough people in Ithaca that want to use it that ridership is higher than predicted. Or that people in Rochester, if they have full fledged HSR can use it to get to Boston or Cleveland. Or that if it’s three hours from Buffalo to NY and it’s 35-40 minutes from NY to Philadelphia it gets all of Upstate to Philadelphia and Syracuse and Albany to DC. And some people in Buffalo too. The scope is too narrow.

    A wide scope shows that Buffalo is halfway between New York and Chicago and route that way gets Bostonians to Cleveland. And that Pittsburgh is halfway between NY and Chicago and that gets Ohio to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and when a shortcut to Baltimore is built, Baltimore and DC.

    The low speed options connect upstate to the 19 million people in metro New York. The high speed options connect Upstate to 45-50 million. And those people to Upstate. It would cost three times as much as the 125MPH option but generate more than three times as many trips.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s not sarcasm it advertising slogans the Delaware Lackawanna and Western Railroad used because their route to Buffalo was the shortest one. It wasn’t the fastest one but it was the shortest one.

  8. synonymouse
    Feb 5th, 2014 at 20:08

    Maryland does not like the SNCF, but I guess this complaint could also apply to Italian and Dutch railways, maybe Poland.

    France unconditionally lost the war and the north was occupied. Petain and Darlan were clearly fascist partisans and Vichy approved German demands. For the French the level of collaboration is not a pleasant subject. Apparently even Mitterand had some connection to Vichy. But Vichy and the SNCF are not the same. These were French citizens and it seems like a French internal matter. Maybe Petain should have gone to the guillotine but he was reprieved and sent to permanent exile due to his World War I record(Marechal de France, annulled). Darlan was assassinated in Algiers in 1942.

    You would think the assets of Vichy and its leaders would have been seized for treason and some compensation made to its victims. I don’t know what transpired after the war in this regard.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s political kabuki. How do these people feel about the Siemens locomotives that will be running in their backyards soon? Or the Kawasaki cars they use now?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Maybe they feel the French government has cheaped out on them.

    So many casualties of the war and the 70th anniversary of D-Day is this year. Every time you see a program on it you find out another sad detail. Like Churchill had to sink the French fleet at Oran to keep it from being used against the Allies. A number of French sailors were killed – I guess just because they were on board. I assume Darlan had refused to surrender.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    This banning of SNCF is quite shameful. Trace back almost any major European or Japanese corporation to the 1940s and you will discover some kind of involvement with the German or Japanese regimes. Hardly surprising, and given the circumstances at the time they would have had little choice. Now they may have been willing collaborators, but what does that have to do with today’s state owned company?
    When I came to the US in the 80’s I worked for a couple of Jewish owned companies. Both owners drove Benz cars.
    I can only assume that the SNCF folks refused to bribe the Maryland officials and that this is their revenge.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Buy American! Because no American corporation has ever engaged in war crimes.

    Whoever paid (or, even more economically, just put a bug in the ear of some Zionist/Baptist whackjob) for this nice piece of trade restraint really got their money’s worth! An excellent use of lobbying resources. Competition: always bad for Buy American “capitalists”.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The Jerusalem Light Rail rolling stock is manufactured by Alstom. The Tel Aviv subway disaster is a concession by a consortium that includes Siemens. Israel Railways uses locomotives built by Alstom pulling coaches built by Siemens and Bombardier; the Bombardier Double-Deck Coaches used were manufactured in Germany. The Israeli taxi fleet uses Mercedes. The Volkswagen Beetle used to be a common car for the working class, and declined only because with economic growth people got newer cars than the Beetle.

    American Zionists are of course a completely different species from their Israeli vassals.

  9. Keith Saggers
    Feb 6th, 2014 at 05:35
  10. Derek
    Feb 6th, 2014 at 12:43

    EMD protests locomotive contract award
    By William C. Vantuono, Railway Age, 2014-02-05

    “Electro-Motive Diesel has filed a formal protest with the Illinois Department of Transportation over the Multi-State Locomotive Procurement contract for up to 35 125-mph diesel-electric locomotives… IDOT, in conjunction with the California Department of Transportation and the Washington Department of Transportation, issued the procurement and formed the joint purchasing entities (JPEs).

    “IDOT’s technical evaluation team would have concluded the Siemens locomotive to be underpowered if this calculation were made. To be fair, the Siemens locomotive can achieve 125 mph, but only while operating downhill. To contemplate such operational limits in real-life service would be unrealistic, not likely acceptable to the public, and could not have possibly been IDOT’s intent.

    Siemens changed the Procurement’s strictly specified rolling resistance formula and used variations of the Sauthoff formula instead of the required Davis formula. It is industry-wide knowledge that the application of the Sauthoff formula yields more favorable results as opposed to using the Davis formula. This action, which might be Siemens’s most egregious departure from the PRIIA and IDOT requirements, may be a disingenuous act to show compliance with required performance and suggests a blatant disregard for the Procurement’s specifications.”

    (emphasis added)

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    The design is based on the EuroSprinter and the Vectron platforms,[16] the body is a monocoque structure with integral frames and sidewalls.[6] Significant structural changes to the design were made to comply with American AAR S-580 Locomotive Crashworthiness Requirements including crumple zones, structural strengthening of the cab, and anti-climbing features; resulting in a heavier locomotive than European Eurosprinter/Vectron models.[7][6]

    They are able to operate from 25 kV 60 Hz, 12.5 kV 60 Hz, and 12 kV 25 Hz power supplies, and have a total power of 6.4 megawatts (8,600 hp).[16] The locomotives are designed to be capable of accelerating 18 Amfleet cars to maximum speeds as high as 125 mph (201 km/h) on the Northeast Corridor in a little over eight minutes,[17] with trains of eight Amfleets taking two and a half minutes to reach the same speed.[18] They have advanced safety systems, including specialized couplers designed to keep trains from rolling over, jackknifing, or derailing during a collision.[19] Additionally, the new locomotives are more energy-efficient than those that they replace, and lack dynamic braking grids in favor of 100% regenerative braking, depending on grid receptiveness. Energy generated from the brake may also be utilized to meet HEP needs, further reducing current draw from the grid.[19]

    Each locomotive has two electrical converter units with three IGBT based, water cooled output inverters per converter. Two of the inverters power the traction motors; the third unit supplies head-end and auxiliary power.[6] The HEP/auxiliary inverters are dual-redundant and identical (rated 1,000 kW or 1,300 hp), allowing the locomotive to remain in service should one inverter fail en route.[17] The locomotive bogies are fabricated steel designs, with low-lying traction links and center pivot pin. The traction motors are frame-mounted, with torque transmitted via a hollow shaft drive. Locomotive braking is facilitated by cheek mounted disc brakes on each wheel.

    Maybe the “technicals” could weigh in, I am out of my depth. They are entering service tomorrow.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    You are barking up the wrong tree. You just described the electric locos for the NEC. The EMD protest is about the Siemens/Cummins diesel electric for the state corridors.

    joe Reply:

    The winning bid offers a less costly and less polluting locomotive. If it’s not compliant then it’s too bad.

    “Providing an underpowered locomotive presents a number of opportunities for Siemens to significantly reduce the overall cost of ownership of the vehicle and its purchase price. When a locomotive is underpowered, the diesel engine can be smaller, thus reducing the number of cylinders required. In Siemens’s proposal, it is able to supply a locomotive with 20% fewer cylinders than the locomotive offered by EMD. Fewer cylinders means lower life-cycle costs. It also means the engine support systems (such as the emissions after-treatment and cooling systems) and the alternator and propulsion system components can be smaller. Smaller components are less costly to manufacture and lighter in weight, and consequently, the total cost of ownership are [dramatically] reduced for the locomotive. As a result, Siemens is able to offer a locomotive which weighs at least 11,000 pounds less than EMD’s locomotive. But it can only do so because the engine and support components are not sized to meet the material requirements of the Procurement—to achieve and sustain 125 mph.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    If it’s not compliant, then it was an illegally awarded contract and must be revoked.

    joe Reply:


    If EMD’s interpretation is exclusively correct. I don’t know but these kinds of contracts are contested.

    Clem Reply:

    The Germans used Newtons, not pounds! Disqualified!!!

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Eh, if they did use a formula other than the one specified (and it is unworkable as a result under the specified formula), it is a valid complaint I think since it isn’t complying with the actual bid (whether that bid criteria is a good thing is a different matter entirely).

    That being said, this strikes me as the normal “Not fair, we lost!” complaint that has become increasingly common.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If Amtrak spec’d 125 MPH trains and they are offering 115 MPH trains the rest of us have something to complain about too. GE was disqualified/didn’t bid because they can only come up with 110 MPH trains and they whined that the bidding was unfair and anyway what do you need 125 MPH trains for anyway. Even though Michigan and Illinois are working on getting some 125 MPH track and New York has some that nobody talks about.

  11. morris brown
    Feb 6th, 2014 at 14:44

    State Republican caucus unveils a new transportation proposal.


    California Republicans seek to redirect high-speed rail dollars

    at Rep. Connie Conway’s website:

    is a 2 minute video of this proposal.

    Since being proposed by Republicans, very unlikely to get much traction. I suspect some reading this blog would find this an excellent proposal.

    Joe Reply:

    They want to spend prop1a borrowing elsewhere. Also spend 2.5 billion of the state surplus on roads and repaying gasoline tax borrowing done by their guy. Thank god we can spend freely again.

    Maybe they can drive to Sacramento in a HumVee and nail their proposal to a Tree.

    Zorro Reply:

    California Republicans can propose that all they want, that will get nowhere, other states tried that and the DOT said NO…

  12. joe
    Feb 6th, 2014 at 17:52

    People’s Liberation Army will take HSR to battle the yellow dogs of imperialism.

    China’s high-speed rail lines are becoming a major transport force for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), allowing the rapid movement of military forces throughout the country, a recent state-run news report said.

    “While bringing convenience to the lives of the masses, high-speed rail also plays a military role that is growing more prominent by the day,” the article states. “A lightly equipped division could be moved on the Wuhan-to-Guangzhou line about 600 miles (965 kms) in five hours, a fairly rapid mobilisation in military terms,” the China Youth Daily said outlining military benefits of the country’s six high-speed rail lines.

    The January 14 report in the Daily said China will eventually set up a high-speed network of eight lines extending in all directions. A typical military train includes 16 high-speed rail cars that can carry 1,100 lightly armed soldiers.

    Are Republican’s surrender-monekys appeasing their overloads or will we build HSR?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Maybe good for sending troops to quell domestic mass uprisings or invade Vietnam but in a real aerial world war incendiary bombs, smart missiles, even drones, etc. would wreak havoc. Hell, all you would have to do is derail trains at high speed.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    the electromagnetic pulse from the neutron bomb would fry the signal system.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Take out some stilts. The Barbarians starved out Rome by taking out a section of aqueduct.

    joe Reply:

    No, but it’s a nice story.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The bit was in one of those tv travelogues on Europe. I don’t think it was Rick Steve; but the other guy, older and bearded, who was a visiting a park in Lazio presumably that features a section of surviving aqueduct. Does make for a good story to regale the turisti.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Re high-speed derailments:

    synonymouse Reply:

    Not off a stilt that isn’t there anymore.

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