Streetsblog Demolishes Vartabedian Article on HSR Project
Damien Newton has an excellent article debunking Ralph Vartabedian’s appallingly misleading attack on the high speed rail project:
The Times’ critique isn’t a fair one, using partial truths to create doubt. While it is factually true to state that the report is “confidential,” Vartabedian uses the term without providing any context, leaving readers to imagine why the report’s findings would be withheld from the public….
Vartabedian clearly has an ax to grind with the Authority. Roger Rudick, now editor of Streetsblog SF, wrote a scathing takedown of his coverage in 2014. Perhaps that explains the many pieces of good news left out of his article, news that is outlined in the Authority’s response. Or maybe it explains why much of the background for Vartabedian’s article is from anonymous sources, without any context for who is providing the information and why anonymity was granted.
Newton’s article includes point by point refutations of Vartabedian’s claims, emphasizing that the FRA routinely offers “frank” analysis via confidential reports designed to ensure that problems get solved and projects get built quickly and effectively, rather than slog it out in the media.
Of course, that slog continues, as the California High Speed Rail Authority’s Dan Richard and Jeff Morales fire back in the LA Times:
The story ignores the fact that the original federal grant was only for basic construction, not all the stations, electrification and other features obviously necessary for operation. Calling those additions — which are funded by state dollars — a “cost overrun” seriously misleads readers, particularly when full project costs were announced by our board last month and submitted to the state Department of Finance and California Legislature. That plan was clear that capital costs for the $7.8 billion program have actually decreased.
The CHSRA is full of great people doing excellent work in a difficult environment, one that just got even more challenging with the inauguration of Donald Trump. It’s not right for Vartabedian to continue making misleading attacks on them and the project like this.