HSR Cost Might Be Lower than $68 Billion

Jan 27th, 2016 | Posted by

The Assembly Budget Subcommittee #3 on Resources and Transportation held a hearing today on the high speed rail project. You can view the 90-minute hearing below:

One of the big news items that came out of the hearing was California High Speed Rail Authority board chairman Dan Richard telling legislators that the upcoming 2016 Business Plan will show a new cost estimate below $68 billion to build the whole route from San Francisco to Los Angeles:

“There are a range of uncertainties here, so I can’t look you in the eye and tell you it will be $68 billion. I will tell you this: When you see our new business plan, the number’s going to be less than $68 billion,” Richard told a Republican lawmaker who has been critical of the project.

“I’m more confident about the dollars, sir, than about the time. It may take us a little longer to do this than we said,” Richard added.

So HSR could come in under the $68 billion estimate, but the 2028 date of completion could slip. That all sounds plausible. Given the legal and acquisition challenges the project has had to overcome, it’s not surprising that the timeline might be pushed out a year or two. And given that HSR contracts are routinely coming in below estimates, it’s also not surprising to hear that the project could be built for less than $68 billion.

CHSRA CEO Jeff Morales also pointed out another important note about the estimate:

Morales said the $68 billion price tag includes $10.9 billion in contingencies for unexpected cost increases and inflation, but he added, “the faster we get this built, the less it will cost.”

$11 billion in contingency planning makes sense. But if they can get this built for less than that, it would represent a big savings. Morales is right that building sooner means building cheaper and the legislature should take that point seriously.

He also had this to say about the federal stimulus funds:

On other funding questions, Morales pledged that he’s confident the rail authority will meet its September 2017 deadline to spend $2.2 billion in federal matching funds, ensuring the project will not lose out on the critical federal dollars.

That’s as I expected, but it’s certainly good to see it confirmed.

Morales also would not say whether the CHSRA has picked a northern or southern option for the Initial Operating Segment. That will probably fuel the current speculation that they’re looking at doing a northern IOS from San José to Merced, but we’ll have to wait for the business plan to find out for sure.

  1. J. Wong
    Jan 27th, 2016 at 21:27

    They still have to get the money from somewhere given that the Republicans control Congress and the Senate and aren’t going to allocate any money for practically anything. Maybe if cap & trade is enough to build IOS North California might find the will to allocate to close the gap across the southern mountains.

    Joe Reply:

    It’s a new Congress every 2 years.

    Joey Reply:

    Apparently not so much.

    Joe Reply:

    Well then where did the support we had a few years ago go if it’s too hard to change congress?

    J. Wong Reply:

    The underlying fundamentals appear to favor Republicans. It was only voters response to the Iraq fuck up that gave control to Democrats. Republicans regained control when that was no longer an issue.

    Trentbridge Reply:

    The underlying fundamentals are that demographic changes are very bad for the GOP – the newly-registered voters are increasingly minority and less inclined to vote Republican as the older white males that dominate GOP politics. That’s why Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico are turning blue. Only so much gerrymandering can preserve the GOP hold on the Congress. It’s downhill from here ..

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Agree. Democrats were caught by surprise by 2010, didn’t react well enough in 2012, and gave up on 2014. The underlying fundamentals favor Democrats, but not when those Democrats are led by defeatist idiots.

    J. Wong Reply:

    The underlying fundamentals don’t seem to favor Democrats when the demographics is Democrat clumping together in urban areas.

    Peter Reply:

    That is ok, though, as long as the districts aren’t gerrymandered.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Yes, but gerrymandering is not as significant as people imagine. The real problem is geographic.

    Nathanael Reply:

    No, gerrymandering is still the main problem. If the districts hadn’t been gerrymandered, Democrats would control the House right now.

    They’re *very very* gerrymandered.

    Eric Reply:

    There is an inherent problem when you have (for example) neighborhoods that are 97% black and blacks vote 95% Democrat, while the Republicans live in neighborhoods that are only 60% Republican. The Democrats in the 60% Republican districts lose their voice, while there are almost no Republicans in the heavily Democrat districts to lose their voice.

    Aarond Reply:

    Demographics won’t work out as well long term. All joking aside, hispanics assimilate over time and vote like white people do. The field laborers Amnesty’d in the 80s are garage owners now. In a generation, their children will be your typical suburban white collar flock if they aren’t already.

    Regardless of that fact, the *threat* of demographic change is enough to spur voters, now, to vote in people to stop it. Even if it’s “too late”, a lot of damage can still be done. The blu-ing can be slowed enough or altered where it’s not a problem for the GOP.

    Which is why relying on the “demographic destiny” is a bad idea because that “destiny” is very much subject to change if people are pushed enough.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I”m sure the Know Nothing wing of Whig party thought the same thing.

    Aarond Reply:

    Ultimately, they won though. The immigrants that came into the US in the 19th century ended up assimilating and becoming the know-nothings of today.

    That’s my entire point, long term pretty much everyone that comes into the US becomes “American” and votes like “regular” Americans do. It’s a melting pot for a reason, because everyone boils down into the same base material.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Demographics are gonna work out *great* long term.

    The *age* demographics are deadly to the current Republican Party, and excellent for progressives.

    It’s very well documented that most people’s political views mostly become fixed by their mid-20s and then stay the same for the rest of their lives.

    Republicans are a minority among those born after *1976*, and become a smaller and smaller minority in each subsequent generation. They have been utterly unable to change their views to appeal to this new population and have actually been losing supporters by getting more extreme-right-wing. They’re *toast*.

    (This is not to say that the Democrats will necessarily benefit; they’re quite capable of alienating younger voters and throwing support to third parties. But *progressives* are in great shape long-term, because support for progressive policies such as high-speed rail and environmental protection just goes up in each succeeding generation.)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I live in what was part of Dede I-should-be-Congresswoman-for-Life Scozzfava’s district. That worked out really well for the Republicans. A Democrat was elected with a plurality.
    This election cycle, for local offices, third party “conservative” candidates are erupting like mushrooms after a fall rain. Chamber of Commerce Republicans come on bended knee to Democratic committees and plead to be allowed to run on the Democratic line … in case the bat shit insane challenger wins the Republican primary. They do it with the Conservative Party committee. Ah to be a fly on the wall at both meetings. .. ah New York election rules where the Democrats can run a Republican. And I can vote for HIllary on the WFP line. And vote for the Chamber of Commerce Republican on the Democratic line. And remind him of that one third of his votes in the last election were on the Democratic line. And almost none on the Conservative.

    Aarond Reply:

    True, though since 1976 the GOP have still consistently won elections. First there was Reagan, then the Newt, then Dubya and the Tea Party.

    As it stands, the GOP keep winning elections despite younger people being against them. They’re not necessarily doing anything right, but they clearly aren’t doing things that Americans dislike enough to remove them from power.

    The same could be said of any democracy, I think. Most (such as Japan, Gemany, the UK, Mexico, etc) are dominated by moderate conservative parties.

    Tokkyu40 Reply:

    The age demographic is less of a problem for the GOP when you consider that the youth is always rebelling against the older generation, so the Millennials are voting more conservatively than their parents from the late Boomer period.
    The Democrats can only count on the younger voters, before they graduate from college and start doing their own taxes.
    The Democrats greatest long term hope is that the Millennials will continue to demand better rail service while the Republicans continue to expand on their 100 year war against rail. The perception that the Republicans are the enemies of the voters might shift enough younger voters to stave off the normal swing cycle.

    Aarond Reply:

    I’d reckon that the GOP are the biggest supporters of rail in general, assuming you also count how they allowed deregulation of the industry to occur in the first place. And Amtrak only stays alive because it services conservative districts.

    Conveniently, Libertarians dislike public freeways as much as they dislike public transit. Christian Conservatives can also be cajoled to support transit (see Utah’s UTA, or the Heartland Flyer). The business side of the part is of course pro pork since it helps the banks. Despite HSR floundering at the federal level, it’s still made net gains from individual states.

    It’s just a matter of selling it, and for reasons outside his control Obama was not a good salesman.

    Reedman Reply:

    Every 10 years House seats are reapportioned. It looks to favor conservative states. One 2020 projection:
    California (+1), Colorado (+1), Florida (+1), North Carolina (+1), and Texas (+3)

    Alabama (-1), Illinois (-1), Michigan (-1), Minnesota (-1), Ohio (-1), Pennsylvania (-1), Rhode Island (-1), and West Virginia (-1)

    New York has lost at least one seat every reapportionment since 1950 (45 seats in 1940, 27 presently)

    Nathanael Reply:

    Texas population growth is in the hardcore always-all-Democratic zones of south Texas and the Democratic-voting major cities. Of course Texas is gerrymandered to weaken the votes of Democrats.

    Tom A Reply:

    The bigger thing is winning enough state legislative seats or governors ships to force less gerrymandered seats in places like PA, OH, and MI – which vote Dem for President on a regular basis, but are heavily tilted towards Republicans in the House.

    In presidential years that kind of gerrymandering is basically the difference between Dems controling the house and not.

    Or to get states to move to non-partisan panels like CA did.

    Aarond Reply:

    The Republicans controlling Congress will only be an issue if the polarization gets worse. As it stands, there’s enough moderate Republicans in the Senate willing to vouch for pork spending (of any stripe).

    As I’ve said before, I think Hilary is the worst possible thing that could happen because it would 100% ensure that Congress goes from nutty to full stupid. I’m no Republican, but a moderate GOPer in the White House is hugely preferable to a Democrat that is unable to work with the Congress.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Congress that is unable to work with a Democrat. Very likely unable to work with a moderate Republican if such a thing still exists.

  2. Jerry
    Jan 27th, 2016 at 21:59

    September 2017 deadline —
    Only 2 years 8 months to go.

    Jerry Reply:

    1 year 8 months to go.

  3. morris brown
    Jan 27th, 2016 at 22:20

    The hearing was supposed to be about over sight of the Authority as promised by the Democratic leadership in response to Republican pressure produced by the Oct 25 LA Times article, authored by Ralph Vartabedian.

    It was certainly a piss poor excuse for a hearing that was supposed to produce oversight. It could hardly be anything else, with the committee choosing to only have the Authority presenting its side with input from Morales and Richard (Lou Thompson really didn’t point to the issue at hand at all).

    The Times’ side of the issues, were not allowed time at the table or in the Staff report. What a disgrace from the Democrat controlled committee.

    Chair Bloom also managed to infuriate members of the public who came for public comment. He allowed them nothing more than 1 minute each. He refused to allow for a recess and a re-convene, saying public input could be accommodated at later hearing(s).

    Some of those wishing to speak came 400 miles away and spent hours of personal time to get there.

    The short public comment section of the hearing can be viewed at:


    synonymouse Reply:

    What did you expect from boosters?

    It will be interesting when they try to raise taxes during a recession to pay for this mediocrity.

    Why don’t they ask Silicon Valley liberal moguls like Zuckerberg and Tim Cook to make some token grants to Jerry’s Legacy, say a million apiece, to get the ball rolling on the commute line to Fresno for impoverished, homeless techies?

    Or do you expect the lumpen to pay increased regressive taxes, like sales taxes and gas taxes and various and sundry extraneous fees, to pay for a political project to benefit developers and enable sprawl?

    Does Richard Blum still own a piece of PB?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yes because as everybody knows Saint Ronnie said taxing rich people was evil.

    J. Wong Reply:

    I don’t believe that @morris brown assumed the committee running the hearing were “boosters”. His expectation that they would be fair and impartial and find that the Authority was lying, which is what he believes.

    Tokkyu40 Reply:

    How can we benefit sprawl by building something that encourages denser development near transit nodes?
    If you want sprawl, build something that encourages people to live farther from transportation, like even more freeways.
    The SR99 expansion should help increase sprawl.

    Jerry Reply:

    “Some of those wishing to speak came 400 miles away and spent hours of personal time to get there.”
    See. If we had HSR, it wouldn’t take them hours to get there.
    But I hope they got there point across in the minute they were given. But we already know they were against it.

    Joe Reply:

    It was oversight hearing for the project, so The Chair had the project representatives speak.

    The LATimes can print whatever supporting material they wish any time.

    Citizens who travel 400 miles to speak should verify they are on the agenda for the time they assumed.

    les Reply:

    Did Morris not get the outcome he hoped for. :(

    Travis D Reply:

    Yep. He was hoping for a whole day of “this project will steal your babies” hand wringing and instead got news the project is going to be cheaper.

  4. Reality Check
    Jan 28th, 2016 at 02:49

    Open Subway Cars May Come to New York City as Early as 2020

    […] the Metropolitan Transportation Authority wants to examine […] a new generation of subway trains with open pathways between cars.

    This week, the authority released an image of the model, known as an open gangway plan, delighting train aficionados who had wondered when the idea would arrive in New York City. The model has already appeared in systems in Paris, Toronto and other cities.

    The cars are still years away here: The authority could award a contract as early as next year to build 10 of them, and they would not be delivered until at least 2020, or later, officials said. But their inclusion in a presentation to the authority’s board members brought to life an idea that has been debated for years.

    Open gangway subway cars — similar in concept to accordion-style buses — could have several benefits, officials said, including a greater capacity for riders. In Toronto, officials have said the model allowed them to increase capacity by up to 10 percent, and some riders there have praised the new layout.


  5. morris brown
    Jan 28th, 2016 at 04:32

    La Times coverage of the Jan 27 2016 Assembly budget committee hearing.

    Bullet train may take longer to build but cost less than originally estimated, official says

  6. John Nachtigall
    Jan 28th, 2016 at 05:07

    They added back in Anaheim, the initial IOS is still up in the air, and are running 2-3 years late and the cost is going down? That is not plausible at all. Big projects simply don’t work like that.

    les Reply:

    “University Link light rail extension will open to passenger service on Saturday, Mar. 19, six months ahead of schedule and more than $150 million under budget.”

    les Reply:

    they are 3 for 3 segments late but under. no reason to think others won’t follow.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    The segments are not under budget…they are not done. If they are completed under budget (and late) then that would be an example. All they have now is 3 segments BID under budget, not completed.

    Joe Reply:

    They are under budget.

    You track budget by time, your forecast of spending by date or by work completed to date. In fact being late means the project hasn’t started works and would be way behind spending by date and thus way under budget. So pedantically they are under budget.

    If by budget work completed, they have completed the bid process and are way under budget consistently showing they over estimated costs for this construction preparation work.

    The Authority has contingency, 10B they say.

    You’re word game man.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Fair enough, they are under budget at the current time. The assertion, however, was that the total cost was going to be less than 68 billion. So please provide an example of a large project that is late, but has a total cost less than budget

    agb5 Reply:

    The Authority can take advantage of the fire sale prices which will continue for several years

    Nathanael Reply:

    There are a lot of large projects which are late but cost less than budget.

    Since I tend to follow railroads, I can list off several dozen train station projects, several orders of train locomotives, cars, and EMUs, and lots of trackwork projects. Most of the ARRA projects are *years* late… and under budget.

    It depends on how you measure “late”, actually. If there are delays in the early paperwork phases — such as the repeated delays in finalizing the mountain crossing designs — it’s often a good sign — a sign that the people involved have been doing due diligence, crossing ts and dotting is, etc.

    This is the situation with most of the ARRA railroad projects. The new Tacoma Amtrak station isn’t even being bid yet, and it’s already two years behind!

    Delays during actual construction, by contrast are usually causes of budget increases.

    Joey Reply:

    Once the structures are built (the largest part of costs in nearly any transportation project), it’s unlikely that the final cost will change that much.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Good for them, but CAHSR is not early…it is late.

    You need an example of something that comes in under budget and is LATE.

    les Reply:

    if it was late based on technical problems then I would be concerned. But given it is late due to ROW and court issues I don’t see a red flag to date.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    See below. It is grab bag of reasons why the ROW is delayed – some is technical, some speaks to the agency’s capacity, some is beyond their control. In general, not enough legwork was done initially to anticipate/ avoid problems, which has been complicated by an agency which is really a conglomeration of consulting firms.

    Joe Reply:

    Yes they can be less costly now because they changed the approach and lowered costs.


    They changed how they do the work.

    Delay in starting allowed more time for planning and we know that finding errors and efficiencies early in a project life cycle saves costs by sometimes an order of magnitude.

    But you know this.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    i see no evidence that the delay allowed for more planning. The groundbreaking was 2 years late and they are still behind schedule on land acquisition. what “planning and efficiencies” are you referring to?

    Travis D Reply:

    For one they have discovered through the design and build bids that they can lower the track profile which will save hundreds of millions for each of the longer segments. They have also learned that their standard grade separation design was way too conservative using too much fill and concrete. They also will probably look to put more at grade and less on viaduct from here on out based on the early design builds too.

    I’ve been reading through all the bids and those are the things that all the firms have discovered and I’m sure CAHSR has learned from.

    Travis D Reply:

    Oh and apparently they also have learned their tunnel design could be value engineered too.

    synonymouse Reply:

    What do you think unfettered value engineering of the southern mountain crossing would produce?

    So politics trumps cost control.

    agb5 Reply:

    But we live in unusual times, the end the commodity supercycle:

    Many construction materials have dropped in price.
    Softwood lumber is -6.8% year over year (y/y).
    Hardwood lumber is -9.4% y/y.
    Plywood is -7.0% y/y.
    Copper wire and cable is -19.1% y/y
    The collapse in the global price of oil explains why asphalt is -44.0% y/y.
    Steel bars, plates and structural shapes are -20.0% y/y.

    It is now possible to buy a $2.7m bulldozer for only $46,000.

    All of the above must have an effect on the HSR 2016 supply chain compared to 2014.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Bids are gonna come in cheap this year and next.

  7. Nadia
    Jan 28th, 2016 at 06:32

    @Robert – in your article you write that Morales is confident they will make the Federal deadlines but

    1) Under questioning from Member Patterson, Dan Richard conceded that if they do end up missing the deadlines – they will forfeit the money that was unspent.


    2)Our analysis shows that isn’t possible http://calhsr.com/?p=3098

    Their own reports show they are VERY delayed on acquiring land…

    Joe Reply:

    Your analysis of the Ridership Model was waaaay off. Once the GAO issue the report CARRD stopped.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    until someone rides the thing, no ridership model has been proven right or wrong

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Not really. Think of this more of case where you can lead a horse to water but if they really, really don’t want to drink they won’t.

    Updates to model are more or less everything we said needed to be fixed. Serious problems remain.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    We still provide regular feedback to the Authority and its consultants. Here is the latest model docs:

    Turns out the 2014 business plan “news” that more of revenues would come from shorter trips was just artifact of model error that they are trying to fix now.

    Elizabeth Reply:


    Also – ridership panel reviews have also now been “reformatted” to provide little to no information, similar to sanitizing going on with regional consultant reports

    Compare http://hsr.ca.gov/docs/about/ridership/RTAP_techmemo1_Final.pdf in the new, Authority mandated format to http://hsr.ca.gov/docs/about/ridership/RTAP_Findings_and_Recommendations_Oct_Jan_2015_Review_Period.pdf

    john burrows Reply:

    From the last of the 3 links supplied by Elizabeth—


    “Kimon Proussaloglou described the CS research into the size and composition of the visitor market in California. Data from a multitude of sources were identified to help portray this travel market. Using data especially from Visit California, a non profit group associated with the travel industry, CS estimated the size of the market in 2013 at 69 million annual visitors, 53.4 million of which were from other U. S. states and 15.6 million international visitors. The visitor market from other states grew by 31% from 2008 to 2013: the international visitor market grew by 25% during the same time period.”

    And two paragraphs down—

    “It is not clear yet how many of the 69 million out-of-state visitors in 2013 traveled between points potentially served by the proposed HSR system. CS identified the need to refine their estimate of the number of visitors who visit at least two destinations potentially served by HSR within California. It is likely that fusion of several date sources will be required in order to arrive at this estimate. While the findings presented are preliminary, and only the beginning of work on a visitor model, the Panel was encouraged by the approach and findings presented by CS.”

    Sounds like some potentially higher ridership numbers which may make it into the 2016 business plan. Doubt if I would have found this without a little help from Elizabeth.

    Joe Reply:

    I missed the part where CARRD acknowledged the ridership model was as advanced as any in the US.

    This, as most all criticism, lack proportion and context. The standard is unobtainable.

    Go back to the HW 101 widening with 4 new lanes and all the traffic and pollution it will add.
    That wasn’t communicated clearly, done quickly, and …..crickets. What was the EIR and why no lawsuit over the car trips? It’s been taken so out of proportion.

    HSR compares so favorably to that Caltrans project. Guess which one impacts the air more? More cars and lower quality of life.

    Same for ridership – lots of work to do and CARRD is on it except for putting criticism in a context – the truth the model is as advanced as any model used in the US of A.

    Am I saying the project can’t do better? No!! But I’m not going to be party to a misrepresentation.

    Cheers for lobbying the Project for leaving Palo Alto alone. That’s your right and what this boils down to.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    The ridership model is not as advanced as any in the US. Many of the regional MPOs have travel models which are more sophisticated and more accurate.

    There are some truly dreadful “models” for other projects. These cannot be the standard.

    Joe Reply:

    There are no other HSR systems in the US. How can other regional models not designed for HSR be better ?

    Building a ridership and revenue model was a key challenge called out by the GAO in 2009.

    There is no FRA standard for modeling ridership or revenue.

    The CA HSR model is under refinement however the GAO concluded The Autbworiy used acceptable practices which is inconsistent with the criticisms lobbed by CARRD.

    This is a unvarnished review.

    Put into a context, this project is far from being a failure. It is one of the better large projects the GAO reviewed.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The Seattle MPO has a very very complicated travel model which is *complete ass*. It’s totally worthless junk and gives very very bad results routinely.

    I have found that simplistic “gravity models” work a lot better than “advanced” and “sophisticated” models.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Well the selective advocacy – even masked as sophisticated policy analysis – is really just clear lobbying for a future of more highways, more motorcars, and fewer transportation choices. That’s what CARRD clearly stands for.

    There has never been one word of advocacy from them FOR increased rail or for transportation choices other than cars. Not for Caltrain, not for BRT, not for connecting ACE over the Dumbarton, not for county and city investments in grade separations. I challenge our CARRD friends to point to one published position with any daylight between something the Koch brothers might say.

    It’s not good for Palo Alto and it’s not good for the future in general. I personally would be embarrassed to be fighting for this future for my kids, even if I believed my current home might somehow be worth $50k more (although almost certainly the opposite is true).

    Elizabeth Reply:

    This is simply untrue.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    What’s simply untrue? Neil said a bunch of things, and some of them sound pretty spot-on…

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Miles, I’m curious. Not just myself — the Public as a whole Wants To Know. Needs to Know.

    So, please do tell, on which precise date did you stop beating your wife?

    Miles Bader Reply:

    C’mon Richard, put at least some effort into your snark attempts…

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Elizabeth — I would welcome cites for any of your or CARRD’s writings *supporting* alternatives to the motorcar. Throwing stones at government agencies and big projects is fun and easy. But if there is positive advocacy from you for a future with transportation alternatives and less carbon, I and some other folks here have missed it. It sure seems like naked NIMBYism, but maybe I missed something…

    Nathanael Reply:

    Elizabeth — the moment you start writing about, making public comments on, and generally being a gadfly about the deranged, cost-ineffective roads projects which Caltrans is doing — and there are lots of them — then I’ll believe you.

    As long as you single out rail… you’re basically an advocate for everyone-in-cars. Face it.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If everything was fixed what are the serious problems. Or is it that you will never be satisfied and 20 years after full system is built and they are running just the right amount of trains on Thanksgiving Day you’ll still be whining?

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I’m just reporting what Morales said. I too have been concerned about the pace of ROW acquisition. There’s a year and a half to go and it does look to me like the pace of ROW acquisition has sped up.

    morris brown Reply:

    @Robert and others:

    I have talked with one of the appraisers who works for one of the many groups contracted to appraise and do parcel acquisitions.

    Overall, the situation has been the have been gathering up those who do not pose problems. Parcels easy to close on, including publicly owned parcels.

    That leaves the much harder to acquire parcels to be gathered. Thus far, apparently, they have not had to use eminent domain proceedings, but that is surely on the horizon.

    Nathanael Reply:

    That’s pretty much how it always goes. Buy everything easy, negotiate and buy everything moderately hard, then use eminent domain to get the last parcels from the unreasonable cranks.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    It is physically impossible to catch up, since acquisitions were supposed to be complete by now for CP 1

    Last December, the Authority “re-baselined” the ROW schedule with Tutor. They have fallen badly behind on this.

    They have re-basedlined it again – maybe this is the schedule they are up to date with?

    Re-baselining without tying back to original forecasts is a common problem with all mega-projects. The CHSRA has a particular issue with this.

    Dan Richard hinted that a large change order is to be expected – this re-baselining is not free it turns out.

    People are asking what is the cause of the delay. Part of it seems to be they just did not get started – they did not have cash, which they didn’t want to tell anyone. Part of it is that the plans keep changing because of things missed initially – curves not drawn correctly, utilities, roads etc etc. They have also had about a zillion different consultants, which has complicated coordination and communication.

    Some of the delay is not really a delay – the initial schedule was probably unrealistic given likely resistance of many to selling their properties.

    Other delays are because many of the businesses and farms along the ROW and existing freight lines have complicated enterprises where the relocation is going to take time. New wells have to be dug- and this can be 6 month to 2 yr delay. The Authority just recently put out an RFQ for firms that could do this – this should have been done years ago.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Another factor is that the initial estimates for different parcels were sometimes off by more than a factor of magnitude because the authority / PB did very high level estimates and there are a lot of businesses that may look like nothing from the outside but are actually very sophisticated operations with expensive machinery. In several cases, the route has been adjusted to avoid having to buy out these operations- this has often been happening after the D-B contracts have been issued.

    synonymouse Reply:

    That sure seems discriminatory to me – pick on the poor folks.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Of course then you might not run into these stealth expensive parcels on the west side of I-5 thru the Valley.

    Tokkyu40 Reply:

    You wouldn’t run into at least 20% of the passengers, either.
    Which is the point of the I-5 alternative. Cut out the passengers and force an otherwise potentially lucrative system to become an expensive failure.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    The money is SF-LA biz travelers. The bodies are everybody else.

    Maximizing profitability and maximizing passengers are not the same exercise. The complication of this project is that it is set up as a stand-alone profit maximizing exercise (Dan Richard has actually been talking a lot about this lately), when what California’s first need is a public utility oriented network. Typically, countries have the network and then they layer on top of it additional track to be able to offer hsr service. That too has its issues – regional rail has definitely suffered in some cases as resources – but is a much easier task.

    This is hard.

    Joe Reply:


    More precisely, Business Travelers which includes super commuters to from all points, not just SF since SJC is a major business spice and destination with LA. These other stations along the way are worth the cost.

    Our system public is built with public money but must operate like a for profit system. No need to recover building costs.

    Texas system is a profit system and was to be point to point with now a proposed station midway near college station TX. They have to recover construction costs and operate with profit so accommodating other stations with longer construction is very risky for them it not CA.

    AFAIK Texas builders have not shown much regard for connecting to existing public transit systems. It’s highway car to from the stations.

    They have a much harder job.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    CARRD: If we can just continue with our nitpicking of ridership forecasts and delays long enough, we can achieve our true goal for the future — beating the 26-lane Katy Freeway in TX for World’s Largest, both in US 101 in Palo Alto and I-5 through the CV.

    Picture captures CARRD’s desired future state:

    No need to do usage forecasts for highways or airports, because hey, FREEways are free, parking is free, carbon emissions are free, air conditioning is free, sea walls are free and congestion is free. Ceteris Paribus.

    (Wait, they’re not all free? Highway projects have RoW acquisition and delays? Don’t be nitpicking CalTrans’ forecast models! As Old Man says, “In my day we all drove our own cars, even if we were all going to the same place. We built freeways as far as they eye could see. We spent hours each day stuck in traffic, breathing exhaust. AND WE LIKED IT!”)

    My head hurts, this is hard. I’m glad no one is advocating for Responsible Road and Airport Design.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Hey Neal –
    I’d be happy to walk you through what we have been involved in locally and give you the unlikely story of how we got involved with this project. DM us @calhsr and I’ll send contact info.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Elizabeth — We can communicate directly. Obviously from your published material and comments I have the strong impression that you and CARRD are only a watchdog for this and other projects that will give us transportation choices beyond just the single-occupant motorcar, and ‘pave the way’ for a future with less carbon emissions.

    As Yogi Berra said, predictions are hard, especially about the future. Some train projects achieve their ridership projections several years early (e.g. the Phoenix light rail — who would have thunk it?).

    But the overwhelming theme and impact of your and CARRD’s work is to advocate for the status quo of more motorcars and more carbon. Where is the proportion if ridership projections are achieved a few years late — or revenue service beings a few years late — versus unsustainable transportation patterns that strangle California business and ruin the planet?

    I and others have raised these questions of you, and I dont hear you addressing them. Now you want to DM but I think everyone on this forum would welcome to know how CARRD balances the “chilling effect” that it’s work clearly and intentionally has on HSR, while giving highways and airports a free pass.

    If I’m missing something feel free to point it out here. Until then I stand by my charge that your work quacks of being a highly intellectual, highly rationalized NIMBY. I assume that is not what you intend in your heart of hearts, and I don’t want to insult anyone casually.

    But either you very much intend for your and other California children to have a future of more carbon and fewer choices, or you are missing the big picture. I would strongly welcome your advocacy for balanced solutions, less freeways, and more cost-effectiveness in ALL modes. I assume you have visited other countries and can imagine alternatives to our car-addicted culture…

    Elizabeth Reply:

    That is precisely one of the inherent economic justice issues with public infrastructure. This is why an EIS is supposed to look at the makeup of the census tracts the project impacts vs other nearby areas.

    THe EJ (and in this case, I mean EJ) analysis done for east Bakersfield was nonsense – and we complained vigorously about it. It is still highly problematic.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Machinery can be moved. It’s how it got there initially.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Sometimes. Often things are not up to current code and fixing them can be ungodly expensive. A lot of these businesses simply close – there are some issues with current federal/ state provisions limiting relocation. The well to do usually get a good lawyer to figure out how to get paid. The less plugged in don’t do so well.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The ungodly expensive part gets covered by the state.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Here is interesting study that looked at aftermath of BART – Millbrae extension.


    There have been some small reforms since then, but not nearly enough.

    Joe Reply:

    Are to take this concern for Bakersfield when this displacement happens at home.


    “I shouldn’t be the one to stop progress,” said Eddie Adams from behind the counter of his store, West Sounds, at 1957 University Ave. He has owned this record and gift store for 26 years. But he’s probably going to be selling records somewhere else soon. He says it’s in the city’s best interests for him to leave.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I have NO sympathy AT ALL for industrial operations which are “not up to current code” (assuming this means OSHA/fire/etc. codes, not zoning codes). Shut ’em down.

    My immediate thought when I think “not up to current code” is Exide in LA (lead poisoning all over the community).

    Nathanael Reply:

    There are some operations which use *extremely* heavy, *very* large equipment which is basically part of the building and costs millions of dollars to move, and you really don’t want to try to move them. This is pretty uncommon though; auto factories, steel mills, stuff like that.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If you want to build a railroad through them they have to be moved. Give ’em book value for them and some consideration so can buy new.

  8. les
    Jan 28th, 2016 at 07:05

    Production of up to 70 trainsets * 45 million a piece = 3+ billion

    Reality Check Reply:

    HSRA issues request for expressions of interest (RFEOI) to HS trainset builders

    The California High-Speed Rail Authority on Thursday issued a call for manufacturers interested in building dozens of ultra-fast passenger trains and developing four maintenance facilities for its proposed statewide rail system.

    The California High-Speed Rail Authority wants to see which global firms want to bid for the job of building dozens of ultra-fast train sets and developing four maintenance plants for its proposed statewide rail line — including a coveted heavy-maintenance facility that would bring hundreds of permanent jobs to the San Joaquin Valley.

    The agency on Thursday issued a request for expressions of interest from manufacturers, in advance of seeking formal bids for a contract to build the all-electric trains. The request comes several months after the agency abandoned efforts to team with Amtrak on buying trains for high-speed passenger lines in California and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor Acela route between Boston and Washington, D.C.

    In its specifications, the California rail agency says it is looking for trains that are based on high-speed technology that has been proven in at least five years of commercial service at speeds up to 186 mph. The authority wants its trains to be able to carry passengers at up to 220 mph and move them between San Francisco and Los Angeles, by way of the San Joaquin Valley, in under three hours for a nonstop ride. Each complete train set — a single unit with passenger compartments and control/power cars at each end — would have at least 450 seats and be up to 672 feet long, or longer than two football fields.


    Reality Check Reply:


    The state hopes to hear from interested firms by Oct. 22. If the rail authority’s board gives the go-ahead in November or December, the agency could move forward with soliciting bids by the end of this year or early in 2015. “We anticipate awarding the contract by the end of 2015,” said Lisa Marie Alley, a spokeswoman for the authority.


    The California High-Speed Rail Authority’s 2014 Business Plan estimates a cost of $45 million per train set, based on a presumed purchase of 70 units. The plan anticipates the first order of 15 train sets would enter service by 2022; an additional 35 trains would be added to the fleet by 2027 at a rate of seven each year, by which time the agency hopes to have established service between the Bay Area and the San Fernando Valley. By 2033, when service is projected to take riders between downtown San Francisco and downtown Los Angeles, the agency forecasts having a fleet of 72 train sets at a total cost of about $3.3 billion.

    The plan predicts each train would be replaced after 30 years of service, with replacement of the fleet of trains spread out over five-year periods.

    While no U.S. firms now build bullet trains, any international firm will have to comply with strict “Buy America” laws that require the trains and nearly all of their components to be manufactured in this country.


    les Reply:

    they need get order out by 2017 and issue of spending 3+ billion will take care of grant requirements.

    Bdawe Reply:

    Why can’t TPP at least do us all the favor of getting rid of Buy America?

    les Reply:

    I wonder what the status is. End of 2015 has come and went. Maybe business plan will have an update.

    JimInPollockPines Reply:

    and a diner?

    Jerry Reply:

    The Fresno Bee article is dated:
    October 2, 2014

    Reality Check Reply:

    Doh! Facepalm.

  9. Roland
    Jan 28th, 2016 at 09:56

    Primarily common sense (except BART to Livermore):

    Travis D Reply:

    The only way the current BART to Livermore extension will have real value is if it does have a direct connection to either an upgraded ACE line or a new CAHSR Altamont route. I sometimes wonder if a private firm will offer to build a HSR stub from Merced up to a station in the Livermore area.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    BART to the middle of 580 outside of Livermore doesn’t make sense.

    BART to downtown Livermore does.

    Jon Reply:

    Extending BART down I-580 doesn’t make much sense, but the original BART plan to extend to Downtown Livermore was a ridiculously expensive due to the subway under Portola Ave/Junction Ave.

    A much better plan would be to extend BART 6 miles to a joint ACE/BART station at Stanley Blvd & Isabel Ave, by heading east in the median of I-580, south along El Charro Rd, then east along the UP ROW/Stanley Blvd. This would be the cheapest and easiest way to connect BART to ACE, and doesn’t upset the locals by requiring a downtown station. If the locals had a change of heart in the future, a downtown BART station would easily achievable by extending the line another 3 miles east along the UP ROW.

    Bdawe Reply:

    6 miles of metro line so that connections can be made to a four round trip commuter train?

    Jon Reply:

    6 miles of metro line so the metro train can serve Livermore, in a location with far more potential than the I-580 median, and also connect to a commuter line that may soon see major growth if if it is used as a feeder for HSR.

    Serving Livermore at all is a questionable use of funds. But if we must, this is the best way to do it.

    EJ Reply:

    If connecting BART to ACE is important, why not build a transfer station in Fremont where ACE and the BART Fremont line cross?

    Jon Reply:

    Transferring at that location is not going to be remotely time competitive for journeys between Stockton and SF/Oakland.

    EJ Reply:

    Mainly because ACE is so slow. The only reason it’s remotely time competitive to anywhere is because 580 and 680 are such a shitshow during rush hour. At some point we are to get an upgraded version of ACE via the “Altamont Overlay” or whatever they’re calling it now, right? A reasonably speedy ACE would hit the BART line just 4 stations south of where the Dublin Pleasanton line joins the Fremont line – I just checked BART’s schedule and Union City to Bay Fair is timetabled at 13 minutes. Not to mention an interchange near Union City allows you a direct transfer not only to the Fremont Daly-Daly City line, but also the line to downtown Oakland and Richmond. And also points south not served by ACE.

    Jon Reply:

    It’s a detour that adds 15 miles of travel for all destinations north of Bayfair. And that detour includes the slow and winding Sunol Canyon section, which is going to be costly to speed up.

    Make the connection to BART in the Tri-Valley instead, and fixing the Sunol Canyon section becomes less important. You can spend the saved money on fixing the Altamont crossing instead.

    EJ Reply:

    ACE through Sunol Cyn needs to be sped up regardless – there needs to be a viable alternative to 680 to get to the South Bay. And it can’t cost more than the $FOUR BILLION they’re planning to spend on BART to nowhere. There’s no reason that properly upgraded ACE should take any longer than BART to get through the valley and over the hill (it should really be faster), so you’re talking about adding 13 minutes between Union City and Bay Fair to Northbound commutes.

    But, you add in the advantage of a one seat BART ride to Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond, and a good connection to BART to the south bay.

    Jon Reply:

    Even if you get ACE up to BART speeds, which would be pretty impressive, you’re still adding 15 miles to all trips between Stockton and SF/Oakland if you make Fremont the transfer point for those journeys. That’s never going to be time competitive with driving. You’re forcing people to travel two sides of a triangle (Livermore to Fremont and then up to Bayfair) when they could be riding one side of a triangle (Livermore to Bayfair).

    EJ Reply:

    Well, sure, we can all read a map. Though I’m not sure where you get 15 miles – it’s more like 11. The real issue is time, and the extra time in the east bay to get up to Bay Fair is 13 minutes on BART. But it’s only 13 minutes extra for trips to SF – If you’re going north of Lake Merritt from Pleasanton, you have to transfer to a different BART line anyway.

    Edward Reply:

    The residents of Livermore have been paying taxes for BART for decades. Giving them *some* service is only a matter of equity. Then begins the debate about *what* service. Quite a few residents don’t want service to downtown because of the usual fear of “those people” coming in. Out by the freeway is ok because they can drive there. People coming to the station from elsewhere don’t have a car in the lot so it provides isolation from “those people”.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Wait, it’s town populated entirely by synos…?! oO;

    Jon Reply:

    Yeah, which is a bullshit reason not to want a downtown station. But, it’s a constraint we have to work with.

    My point is that if you’re going to take BART to the outskirts of Livermore rather than downtown, take it to Isabel & Stanley rather than Isabel & I-580, because it’s about the same cost, and you get a transfer to ACE and a station in a TOD supportive location out of the project, as well as an outskirts-of-town park and ride for the taxpayers of Livermore.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    But at some point you have to decide how to spend a limited pot of money, and what your goals are.

    If your goal is a saner transportation network and a more transit-oriented society, and a town will only accept something that encourages car-oriented sprawl, then maybe that town needs to be bypassed in favor of towns with more progressive attitudes…

    Jon Reply:

    I don’t disagree with that. But for political reasons, it looks like an extension is moving forward anyway.

    Given that it is, it should be be cheap, and should help satisfy regional goals by connecting with ACE and providing opportunities to add TOD around the station. None of those three objectives are met by the current plan.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They’ve been paying taxes so other people take the train and they can actually take their car somewhere where those people are on a train.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The residents of Livermore have been paying taxes for BART for decades.
    That’s a bullshit argument.

    First, there are — and decades ago, especially, were — almost none of them.

    Second, they’ve had and have far better BART service than hundreds of thousands of other BARTD taxpayers.

    Third, when does all of San Francisco aside from parts of the Mission and the CBD get BART service? (You know, the sorts of parts of the planet where an urban metro line might make even the most remote sort of sense?) When does Emeryville? Alameda? The dense, transit-dependent, BART-bypassed parts of East Oakland? Albany? Pinole? Greenbriar? Or all of San Mateo County south of Millbrae, for that matter, which has been totally fucked by BART taxation without representation or service for over a decade now.

    Livermore’s paid a pittance and “deserves” nothing.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Correct. But I kinda miss the old Richard advocating for Livermore Intergalactic on an exurban greenfield East of town…

    Jerry Reply:

    Doesn’t the Coast Starlight and Capital Corridor also stop at the Fremont Amtrak Station?

    Bdawe Reply:

    Coast Starlight runs through from Jack London to San Jose, but the Capitols make local stops

    EJ Reply:

    Cap Cor does, but there’s less utility for a Cap Cor/BART transfer here because there already are two, at Richmond and at Oakland Coliseum.

    JimInPollockPines Reply:

    actually if the Livermore station is out by the freeway its still a acceptable location for serving the greater area considering most of the people in the Livermore area do not live in downtown Livermore but further out on both side of the freeway.

    Bdawe Reply:

    the people of Livermore can drive to a slightly farther park-and-ride instead of spending billions of dollars to give them a slightly closer park-and-ride. Livermore is a crap destination for a subway, but building it in a permanently motorist-only configuration, explicitly for people who clearly have plenty of mobility to drive to the next park-and-ride, is truly ludicrous. At least going downtown would have development potential

    Donk Reply:

    Totally. What is the difference if Livermore residents drive to a Livermore station on 580 or the Dublin/Pleasanton station on 580. A few min of driving? Is this worth $1B? If they are going to spend any money on this extension, it better connect with ACE and be some sort of destination.

    JimInPollockPines Reply:

    the idea is to get closer to Tracy and closer to discovery bay where the concord line will eventually go

    joe Reply:

    It;s hard for me to evaluate he value of the line to HW580.
    Now ACE meets BART at Dublin Pleasanton via a bus. That bus waits for ACE and total time is 20 minutes for 4.5 miles – that’s when the ACE train arrives to the bus arriving at the BART station.

    A connection at Livermore needs to shave time off that current transfer so the new station had best be co-located otherwise it’s still a shuttle bus – just a few more minutes.

    joe Reply:

    I meant less time tan now – just few less with the same need to use a shuttle bus

    JimInPollockPines Reply:

    I think the idea is to build bart along 580 to the west base of Altamont so that commuters coming over the hill from the central valley can park and ride the rest of the way into the bay avoiding the 580 traffic nightmare through Livermore valley 580/680, macaruthur maze and bb toll plaza.

    EJ Reply:

    Seems a poor use of funds if that’s the case, since they already can avoid most of that by parking at the Dublin/Pleasanton station.

    Robert S. Allen Reply:

    EJ: Parking at Dublin/Pleasanton fills early. No place to park? BART to Livermore, they say, is 10 years off, anyway. Hence the need for remote parking (with a viable bus link) at Isabel/580, Vasco/580, Greenville/580, ACE, and Grant Line/580, until BART is extended.

    Jon Reply:

    That is the official plan, but it sucks. That extension would need to be 13 miles long to get to the base of the Altamont, the Livermore station would be stuck in the freeway median, and the freeway would have to be widened to accommodate the tracks. There’s no point building transit just to subtract 13 miles off some people’s freeway commute; HOV/HOT lanes would do a better job.

    JimInPollockPines Reply:

    well that 13 miles can take a half hour or more to drive and… Livermore could have had a downtown station if they wanted one. I thought the plan was to put a station near the bottom of the hill on the west side where the 580 crosses the ace tracks.

    Jon Reply:

    Yeah, that is the plan, but why extend 13 miles to connect with ACE when you could do it in 6 instead?

    Even if Livermore had gone for a downtown station, the price tag for that extension was $4bn. It would never have got funded.

    JimInPollockPines Reply:

    where are you getting 13 miles from the Dublin Pleasnton bart to the would be vasco rd location of the end of the line? looks like 7 miles to me

    JimInPollockPines Reply:

    or its not going to vasco now? only to isabell?

    Jon Reply:

    Original plan ($4bn) had a Downtown Livermore Station and a Vasco Road station, at the exiting ACE stations, using I-580 to Portola Ave, subway under Portola Ave/Junction Ave to downtown, then following the ACE line to Vasco Rd.

    New plan is a 5-mile extension along I-580 to Isabel Ave & I-580. A future phase 2 might extend that line down I-580 to Greenville Road, where there would be an interchange station with ACE. That’s 13 miles. (Actually now I check it’s closer to 12, but that’s what I was referring to.)

    Here’s the phase 1 map: http://www.bart.gov/sites/default/files/docs/BART-East-Ave-Livermore-Extension.pdf

    david Reply:

    Its all because of that commenter Robert S. Allen. He and a xouple of his buddies went door to door in Livermore with a petition to keep Bart on the freeway. Even thoughthe majority of the citizens wanted a modern downtown with a Subway. He quickly went out and misinformed or exaggerated the consequenses to all the older people living near the route. One point he leaned heavily towards was the “those people”, mainly referring to African Americans. I have seen his comments on rail/bart articles elsewhere. I remember him laughing at the Bart map showing a proposed downtown site when they held HSR public meeting back in 2012. I bet he never expeted the residents would support it.

    david Reply:

    I was at that public meeting, the guy’s what you expect. Old and out of touch with the Citizens of Livermore. He sabotaged the whole thing in my opinion. You can also find him at local Model Railroad exhibits farting around and yelling “Safe Reliable Rail Bond Act” and “Grade Seperations”

    david Reply:

    Note: the HSR public opinion metting in 2012 was when they introduced Altamont HSR Overlay that showed ACE in its own HSR paint and the slides showed how it can conmecr ro Bart. So my first comment makes sense.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Or we just spend the money and put it in a tunnel to downtown, where the TOD opportunities are huge.

    EJ Reply:

    If Livermore wants dense TOD in its downtown, that’s a hell of a change from the Livermore I remember.

    Bdawe Reply:

    Why on earth does Livermore need a tunnel? Plenty of 110 ft wide stroads that could perfectly fit an El in Livermore

    Robert S. Allen Reply:

    Our petition won the day. Initial BART along I-580 to Isabel (SR 84). Later along 580 to Greenville. Did not preclude BART to ACE and/or over the Altamont generally along the former SP.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Not worth $Billions to shorten a freeway commute by 5 miles, if it doesn’t connect to ACE. Drivers can catch a Stockton/Tracy->Dublin BART Express coach in the new carpool lanes. That reduces congestion cost-effectively for many miles.

  10. synonymouse
    Jan 28th, 2016 at 13:22


    Now if Zuck just donated the $6bil to Jerry’s Legacy they could name the quasi-base tunnels after him instead of Antonovich.

    How come rich people don’t particularly like trains? I mean Buffett owns one but AFAIK has never donated a farthing to any rr cause.

    Jerry Reply:

    Facebook donated $1 million to the Dunbarton corridor study.

    EJ Reply:

    What infrastructure do rich people normally donate money to?

    Jerry Reply:

    Normally to college buildings with their names on it.

    Jerry Reply:

    And they buy a lot of the tax free bonds that build the infrastructure.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    And if we had a self funding infrastructure bank the vigorish on the tax free bonds would be cut out. They’d have to walk the talk and invest their money in something risky.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The college buildings are usually money pits, too. Every time a college gets one of these buildings, they increase their yearly budget deficit. (There are rare, rare exceptions.)

    Jerry Reply:

    So why not sell naming rights for the trains with a double tax deduction if they pay for the entire trainset.

    EJ Reply:

    I just thought that since rich people don’t donate money to trains because they don’t like them, that must mean they donate lots of money to other transportation infrastructure, like roads and airports. Guess not though.

  11. morris brown
    Jan 28th, 2016 at 14:38

    New director appointed to Authority Board.


    Interesting she is from So. California and appointed by deLeon. More pressure to keep the “build south” first?

    keith saggers Reply:

    http://www.hsr.ca.gov/docs/newsroom/2016_Bonnie_Lowenthal_Appointed_to_CHSRA_Board_of_Directors.pdf (conspiracy obviously)

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Probably less of a conspiracy and more about Lowenthal having been a strong supporter of the project during her time in the Assembly. She’s familiar with it and would be a good bridge to the legislature.

  12. Trentbridge
    Jan 28th, 2016 at 16:33

    When are we ever going to get rid of this “conspiracy, boondoggle, soaring deficit, waste of taxpayers money” stupidity? Has the Tea Party got that much into the psyche of American voters? This is a worthwhile intrastructure project run by competent engineers and accountants and not some giant Ponzi scheme.

    As for California – we are spared the lunatic Governor of Kansas –

    Atlantic Magazine:

    Last Tuesday in Topeka, Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas signed a $15 billion state budget that squeaked through the Republican-dominated Legislature after an unprecedented, 113-day session—more than three weeks longer than the 90 days called for under state law. The governor simultaneously signed a pair of bills that raised $384 million in revenue by hiking the state’s sales tax and a host of other levies, including on cigarettes.

    “I don’t know that anybody’s happy about it,” Brownback said.

    Talk about an understatement. According to various reports from the state capital, several lawmakers cast their votes in tears, one Republican accused the governor’s administration of blackmail, and exactly no one thought the plan actually solved the state’s longterm budget woes. “Next year will be my 40th year in the Legislature, and I have never seen a session like this one,” Anthony Hensley, who leads the Senate’s small contingent of Democrats, told me by phone on Friday. “It was completely chaotic and dysfunctional.

    Kansas’s Failed Experiment

    All that new revenue, along with about $50 million in spending cuts, was needed to close a deep deficit that had embarrassed its conservative governor and thrown its legislature into a months-long gridlock that resembled, well, Congress. As we wrote in April, the deficit resulted in large part from Brownback’s own “real live experiment” in supply-side economics—sharp cuts in income tax rates and a huge exemption for owners of small businesses.

    This is what these nutty Tea Party idiots do – wreck the state budget…

    Contrast California:

    State Controller’s Office

    SACRAMENTO—Personal income tax revenues continued to surpass expectations in December, pushing the month’s total state collections $381.7 million, or 2.8 percent, higher than expected, State Controller Betty T. Yee reported today.

    “It’s encouraging to see the state’s continued fiscal strength,” Yee said. “But as Governor Brown stressed in his budget proposal last week, we need to be aware that the good times will not last forever. As the state’s chief fiscal officer, I will be closely monitoring revenues to detect signals of a downturn.”

    Total revenues for December were $14.1 billion. Personal income tax for the month came in at $9.5 billion, $388.3 million more than expected when the budget was enacted last summer. Corporation tax revenues of $1.7 billion beat projections by $25.8 million, or 1.5 percent. These gains were offset slightly by retail sales and use tax revenues of $2.4 billion, short of estimates by $35.8 million, or 1.5 percent.

    For the first half of the fiscal year that began in July, total revenues of $51.1 billion exceeded projections by $884.6 million, or 1.8 percent, with higher-than-expected personal income tax revenues more than offsetting shortfalls in the corporation tax and the sales and use tax. Personal income tax since the beginning of the fiscal year beat estimates by $1.3 billion, or 3.9 percent. The corporation tax fell short by $120.6 million, or 3.6 percent, while the sales and use tax slipped $262.5 million, or 2.1 percent, compared to projections.

    See the difference? The right-wing economics is pure voodoo garbage and always has been.

    It’s a passenger railway system long overdue and not some scheme to put men on Mars with unbuilt rockets – get over your conspiracies and smell the construction..

    Nathanael Reply:

    Ah, but Brownback lowered income taxes on rich people. So in Republican-land… it’s all good! Who cares if the entire state goes to hell, the aristocrats have more of the money, so Reagan/Bush style Republicans are happy!

    Jerry Reply:

    The documentary – What’s the Matter with Kansas? pointed out the many ways people vote against their own interests.

    Aarond Reply:

    The “boondoggle” thing happens because most people commute by car and live in car-exclusive suburbs. Transit in general isn’t a thing most people use after they get a driver’s license. Things are changing as urbanization occurs. But if you were to talk to joe blow on the street they’d rather have more metros and more buses rather than intercity rail. Airports are still king in this regard.

    Also, Kansas and California are different. Kansas is far more rural and has a far less diverse economy while California has a hugely diverse economy that’s also the world’s 8th largest. California has benefited from two tech booms and mass domestic immigration since at least the 1950s.

    A more apt comparison is California and Texas or Florida.

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