News

Nix high-speed-rail project, council members say

City Council committee agrees state project should be terminated, squabbles over exact wording

Palo Alto on Thursday cemented its position as the vanguard of opposition to California's proposed high-speed-rail line when a City Council committee recommended that the full council officially adopt a position calling for the project's termination.

Citing uncertain ridership data, a flawed business plan and a dramatic difference between the project in its current form and the one presented to state voters in 2008, the committee voted unanimously to send to the full council two competing proposals, both of which state that the project should be killed.

The Palo Alto council, which initially supported the high-speed-rail (HSR) project in 2008, has gradually turned against it largely because of the rail authority's proposed designs and its ridership and revenue projections. The council last year unanimously adopted a position of "no confidence" in the rail authority. If it adopts the committee's newest recommendation, it would take its strongest stance yet.

The Thursday discussion centered on two proposals, one drafted by Larry Klein and Gail Price and another one written by Pat Burt and Nancy Shepherd that includes more information about the reasons for opposing it.

The version by Klein and Price states: "The City believes that the State should terminate the HSR Project since it's too expensive, has no credible funding plan, is based on deeply flawed and unreliable data and was put before the voters on the basis of serious, material misrepresentations."

The one presented by Burt and Shepherd emphasizes that the current project "fundamentally contradicts the measure presented to the voters under Prop 1A in 2008" (which provided $9.95 billion for the project) and states that the business plan for the project is "fatally flawed and not credible."

Klein and Price Thursday both argued for their shorter version, saying that there are many other potential venues for providing more information about the city's opposition.

"High-speed rail is such a complicated issue that you can probably find 10, 20 or 30 reasons to be opposed to it," said Klein, who chairs the committee.

Shepherd agreed but said the council's guiding principles on high-speed rail should at least highlight the two biggest reasons for opposing the project.

"It is too expensive; it doesn't have credible funding; and it's based on deeply flawed and unreliable data," Shepherd said.

She also said she is troubled by the second half of Klein and Price's statement regarding misrepresentations, and advocated for including more information about the city's opposition.

"This is a bold statement for any city to make," Shepherd said. "We might get attacked seriously for making this type of statement, and we want to make sure our community can speak to it."

Burt agreed.

Each proposal failed by a 2-2 vote before the committee voted unanimously to present both proposals to the full council. The council is expected to take it up on Dec. 19.

Palo Alto isn't the only place where opposition to the rail project is mounting. A Field Poll released earlier this week showed about two-thirds of the surveyed voters support a new vote on the project. Fifty-nine percent of those said they would vote against the project if given an opportunity.

"There is strong sentiment for holding another vote across all partisan subgroups and irrespective of how voters may have voted on the project in the 2008 election," the poll stated.

A recent report from the Legislative Analyst's Office, which reviewed the new business plan, found that the rail authority's proposal to construct the line in phases, starting with a Central Valley segment, would conflict with the language of Proposition 1A. The nonpartisan office also questioned the rail authority's funding plan, which relies heavily on federal grants and on $11 billion in private investment.

The Legislative Analyst's Office noted that the U.S. Congress has not approved any funds for high-speed rail for next year and concluded that "it is highly uncertain if funding to complete the high-speed rail system will ever materialize."

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 9, 2011 at 9:16 am

In addition to the points made by our Palo Alto Council Members, there is one more thing:

This ia bad policy! The benefits of upgrading local transit for the funds contemplated for CAHSR would provide direct and indirect much more to people, commuters, the environment, inter alia.

It is becoming increasingly clear that this HSR beast will be euthanized.

Let's not lose sight of the notion that such funding as HSR has sought could be put into local transit improvements in the Bay Area, in the SJ Valley, and in the Southland.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 9, 2011 at 9:31 am

svatoid is a registered user.

Our city council is in the vanguard of ridiculousness. A few years back they were pushing for HSR. Kishimoto and Klein wrote the colleagues memo supporting HSR.


""High-speed rail is such a complicated issue that you can probably find 10, 20 or 30 reasons to be opposed to it," said Klein, who chairs the committee."
And those reasons did not exist 3 years ago, Larry???

Has anyone asked Klein why the reversal in his stance? Was he misled (his favorite excuse)? Or was he clueless about what he was supporting because him and Yoriko were blinded by their green glasses.

The Weekly should do an in depth story about this, focusing on Kishimoto's and Klein's fervent support for HSR. Oh, wait, Larry might get upset. Never mind.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Evan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 9, 2011 at 10:18 am

What horrible, horrible leadership from Palo Alto's City Council. Instead of building a project that could transform the way Californians get around, ensure that Palo Alto's downtown is a robust, busy destination for years to come and cure Palo Alto's long safety/transportation struggles with a grade-level railroad, they've done their best to tear this project apart. First, out of illogical and groundless fear of something new, they took this project from a 4-rail, Caltrain + HSR system to a silly 2-rail blended system. Now, not happy with likely getting exactly what they want, they want to kill the project completely.

Councilmen and women, you should be downright ashamed of yourselves. Your kids and grandkids, once we finally take power and have the balls to do the right thing and build this project, will be wondering why we didn't build it in 2010, for 1/5 the cost.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 9, 2011 at 10:31 am

I echo svatoid on this. Of course, the Council was so wrong and mis-informed when they heartily endorsed HSR, why would we think they are any smarter now?

When you have such weak leadership, the followers (voters) need to look in the mirror and ask themselves what they are doing wrong.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 9, 2011 at 10:51 am

I doubt the city council had any idea what they were recommending in 2008. They heard the buzzwords "green", "mass transit" and "jobs" and decided it was the thing to recommend.

Other cities need to follow Palo Alto's lead and do the same thing, even though they can't shut down the project. There needs to be an HSR referendum on the ballot in 2012.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 9, 2011 at 10:54 am

Thank you Council. Finally some sound,objective position.I know many people support this decision.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nick Stewart
a resident of Atherton
on Dec 9, 2011 at 11:12 am

The residents of Palo Alto are selfish, self centered, and not good neighbors as they are derailing a project that is for the benefit of all of California. Look at China how they are building bullet trains yearly with no issues. We need alternative transportation other than airlines and car's to travel. All over Europe trains exists and are part of their daily lives. This is a non-issue. Put this up for vote on the ballot one more time. When this passes again, you need to shut up and accept the rule of the people. And we are going to get our bullet train even it means going through your backyard.

How selfish of you Palo Alto residents?
How self centered are you?
Are you really worried about the cost?
Or are you worried about your precious backyard?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 9, 2011 at 11:23 am

Would love to hear why Klein has changed his stance. Would love to actually hear someone in politics admit they didn't do their homework and went with what sounded politically correct. Would also love to hear where Kishimoto now stands on the issue.

To Nick Stewart of Atherton: Yes, let's put it up for vote again. Yes, I'm selfish because I don't want the state run further in to the ground by taking on expense it can't handle. Don't compare us to China, please, or Europe for that matter. And, pretty sure Atherton is against it also. So, I guess that'd make you selfish as well.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 9, 2011 at 11:27 am

@ Evan - so $90B (and rising) is not a reason to kill the project?

No one objects to the noble goals --- but the costs are astronomical and financially impossible to support. There's no way HSR will make a profit, let alone break-even, so the cost falls back onto the tax payers = no way! First clue, not a single private investor has come close to even sniffing this project. The HSR construction budget depends heavily on private investors --- no investors = fail.

Downtown PA would have had to become a gigantic parking garage to meet HSR requirements for a stop. No thank you. Another clue, if Stanford doesn't want to accommodate HSR parking garages (and we all know Stanford is in the expansion mode), then you know it is a huge mess in the making! Further, no one has done any analysis of the traffic impact of HSR commuters driving through PA or MP to PA (from 280) to get to the station. Busy - you bet. Robust - only for the parking and automobile industry.

Cut the costs and put it out by the freeway where anybody can get to it without crushing the local infrastructure and communities. Move Caltrain commuter trains (express-like) to the new tracks and install a light rail system on the Caltrain right of way.

Keep local commuting on the light rail system and put the heavy and distance commuting out by the freeway --- connect with SFO and SJC while you're at it!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Issues in China
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 9, 2011 at 11:35 am

"Look at China how they are building bullet trains yearly with no issues."

Actually, there are quite big issues with bullet trains in China.

But even beyond that, there are four things that make building trains in China a different ball game from that of California.

First, the design and technology development for the trains is done in China for China; they get the long term technology and market benefit from the investment.

Second, China has at least an order of magnitude greater population density in the flagship stations on the successful lines.

Third, China has the local mass transportation culture and infrastructure to not only get people to the stations without cars but to allow them to thrive in their cities/suburbs without cars. (Their suburbs have a higher population density than our cities).

Fourth, China is not going bankrupt and has money to spend on their bullet trains.

California is on the opposite side from China on each of these points.

It really is a faulty argument to say, "China built HSR so California should, too."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 9, 2011 at 11:36 am

svatoid is a registered user.

Did the reporter, Gennady Sheyner , ask Klein why he changed his mind? If not, then why not. People want to know what has changed for Larry in the last 3 years, especially given his statement as reported above (""High-speed rail is such a complicated issue that you can probably find 10, 20 or 30 reasons to be opposed to it," said Klein, who chairs the committee."). Was he "misled"??


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 9, 2011 at 11:48 am

Marie is a registered user.

I am a strong supporter of high speed rail done right and CAARD. The current proposal from the high speed rail authority is high speed rail done wrong. I read the original proposition carefully and voted against it. Setting up a separate authority not under the State Dept. of Transportation was political patronage at its worst and the actions of the HSRA since then have validated my fears. I fully support the city council and State Senator Simitian in their opposition to the current boondoggle.

I live in and own property on Alma Street. I will be severely affected by any construction projects. I am sick and tired of being accused of being a NIMBY for opposing this ill-considered plan.

I fully support, even though it will negatively affect my daily life, electrifying Caltrain and putting it in a trench in order to eliminate all grade crossings in Palo Alto. I think this can be financed by covering 800 foot swaths of the trench and selling development rights (check out the Palo Alto rail corridor study for more information on this option). I have no objection to buildings, residential, retail or office, that conform to Palo Alto's zoning laws, across Alma from me. Whether they want to put in four tracks or two matters not, as long as Alma itself is not permanently narrowed. Better would be to cover the edge of the trench and widen Alma so as to add bike lanes. It might make sense to sacrifice some part of the parking median strips to put a bike lane adjacent to the sidewalk and away from the car lanes.

There is so much we could do to improve transportation in Palo Alto if we can be creative and cooperative and stop viewing cars and/or trains and/or bikes as the enemy.

Stop the high speed rail authority plan now and free up that money for real improvements.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bravo
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 9, 2011 at 11:53 am

I wholeheartedy support the council on this. I don't think they are inconsistent. CHRSA's vision for high speed rail looks completely different from what we voted for in Prop 1A. Triple the cost (so far), flawed estimates, general incompetence, and complete lack of concern for the community. It's absolutely right to cut our losses and run.
@Evan and Nick Stewart: You might want to cool it on the name calling. I doubt it will change anyone's mind!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm

"CHRSA's vision for high speed rail looks completely different from what we voted for in Prop 1A. Triple the cost (so far), flawed estimates, general incompetence, and complete lack of concern for the community. It's absolutely right to cut our losses and run."

+1. I agree in full with the above comments by 'Bravo'.

I don't live close to the tracks; but, this project is fiscally imprudent & unwise; no public or private entity or entities will finance this.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by George
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 9, 2011 at 1:13 pm

High-speed rail in California is a noble concept which resonated with voters in 2008.

Not anymore.

Polls now say voters are 2-1 opposed to HSR as more ugly facts from the Legislative Analyst's Office and other independent experts becomes known.

The HSR Authority has proven to be its own worst enemy. Never has a group so systematically discredited itself more often in such a wide variety of ways on such a big stage as has the 'Authority.'

An old adage applies here, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

Politicians who trust HSR claims, as Palo Alto Council members once did, now do so at their own risk and peril.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Frank
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 9, 2011 at 1:48 pm

I have to agree with Marie - HSR could be a huge benefit to all of us but not if it's implementation is bad enough to kill the project or have it collapse upon itself. That will only ensure we will never have any kind of HSR solution.

Evan has a point: "What horrible, horrible leadership from Palo Alto's City Council..." If this is a bad project you need to say what is wrong and how to do it right.

It might be that this HSR board should be disbanded - personally I hate these quasi governmental separate authorities. But we should be clear HSR is good for all of us (even those along the tracks).

Finally the problem with a second election is suppose it passes again (unlikely as it might seem) would the opponents drop their opposition? No they would not so what is the point?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 9, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Some background:

10/6/2008: Colleagues Memo from Kishimoto and Klein says: "NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the City Council of the City of Palo Alto does hereby declare support of Proposition 1A and urges all citizens to vote for such measure on November 4, 2008.

"INTRODUCED AND PASSED:
"AYES: Barton, Dreckmeier, Espinosa, Kishimoto, Klein, Morton, Schmid, Yeh
"NOES: "
(I have a PDF of this memo, but could not find it on the city website.)

2/2009: At a meeting of the VTA Congestion Management Program and Planning Committee, Chairwoman Kishimoto "noted it may be a good idea to release a Memorandum of Understanding among HSR affected cities ... containing baseline common interests regarding HSR." One of the common interests noted was "more time to review the plan."

5/1/2009: Guest Opinion: Controlling our communities' high-speed-rail future by Yoriko Kishimoto Web Link

12/24/2009: "Coalition builder of the year: Yoriko Kishimoto unites cities on high-speed rail" Web Link

Too bad she didn't unite other cities before recommending HSR. In September 2008 — before Kishimoto wrote her colleagues memo — nearly 200 people showed up at the Menlo Park City Council Chambers, voicing concerns about HSR. Web Link

1/8/2010: From Yoriko Kishimoto's LTE in the PA Daily News
"I voted for the high-speed rail state measure because I believe in a vision of a California with walkable communities linked by an integrated rail system.

"In retrospect, of course I wish we had had the resources and knowledge then that we do now. voters were asked to support the concept of high-speed rail without a mechanism to ensure good governance and accountability "


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Herb Borock
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 9, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Council Member Yeh did not vote for Resolution No. 8865 supporting Proposition 1A on the November 2008 ballot. He was absent. The eighth vote in favor of the resolution was cast by Burt Web Link

The current Council has four new members (Holman, Price, Scharff, and Shepherd replaced Barton, Drekmeier, Kishimoto, and Morton).

Burt and Klein changed their votes based on new information and debate. When the Council votes to against the High Speed Rail project, their vote will also be based on new information and debate, plus the change in Council membership.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 9, 2011 at 4:21 pm

"based on new information and debate"

Herb,

I found it very easy to understand the flaws in this deal, from the beginning. I voted "NO". It didn't, and doesn't pencil on many levels. Why are you trying to make excuses for a lack of intelligent insight?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Anyone objecting to this project has their feet stuck firmly in the 20th century and the worship of the almighty automobile.

Rail travel is the way of the future (although possibly a single track system is now more up to date). Single occupancy car travel is going out of viability and will continue to do so. (Look at the way freeway travel on high occupancy lanes is already occurring in the Bay Area and LA area). Single car ownership is no longer a priority. (Look at the popularity of Zip Car).

It will not be long before there are tolls on I5, and they will increase as quickly as the tolls on the Bay area bridges. In fact, putting a few tolls on I5 and the high occupancy toll lanes to fund public transit seems like a good idea anyway.

The council need to look to the future to see where we are going. Not to look at the past and assume it will never change.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm

I mean look at the way there are charges on the high occupancy lanes in the Bay Area (the kind of no toll booths tolls by means of fastrack on East Bay freeways).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 9, 2011 at 4:54 pm

"Rail travel is the way of the future"

As it was in the past, before it was devastated by auto/bus and plane travel. This is a tired and old argument. Yawn.

We don't need to waste $100B on this turkey...or will it be $200B (or is it infinite?). California is broke. How much higher should we jack up the tuition for students in the UC system, in order to pay for this pipedream?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 9, 2011 at 10:55 pm

In the 2008 HSR Proposition 1A project, the voters approved and authorized the sale of bonds in the amount of approximately $34 billion. I supported and voted in favor of the project. But now the HSR project will cost $95 billion which is nearly three times the initial cost and that doesn't even include any change orders or the interest paid for the bonds. The state is currently broke and can't even find money to fund our schools and institutions of higher learning. In my opinion the state has no authority to spend more than $34 billion. Without authorization to spend more money HSR has no legal standing to continue. I no longer support HSR because of the tripling of the cost.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by No Hope
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 10, 2011 at 3:23 am

The New America: We can't
(Just look anywhere, any project)





 +   Like this comment
Posted by Allen Edwards
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 10, 2011 at 6:47 am

While the general idea of HSR is good, the way they are going about this particular project is just too flawed to believe. Successful HSR systems are built slowly by upgrading sections of existing transportation systems one by one until eventually you have a great HSR system. From the start, this one was going to overlay and duplicate the existing systems. That is just too stupid for words.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by stan
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 10, 2011 at 8:38 am

Thank you City Council, it's about time. I voted NO for prop 1a because I read the proposition and it read like a giant waste of money then, and is an even bigger giant waste of money now. The claims made in the ballot initiative were absurd even them. The ridership levels, the cost, and the absurd assertion/promise that the train would actually generate $1B in revenue made it clear to me that CA HSR was a disaster waiting to happen. At the time, I had no idea that the plan was for the tracks to come through Palo Alto, and the plan from the CA HSR Authority was to fleece the tax payers all along Web Link The notion that private investors would carry the day, as promised on the ballot initiative, was an out right lie, just like everything else the CA HSR Authority says about this disaster waiting to be unleashed on the tax payers of this state.

It's time to strip the funding the CA HSR Authority and invest in real transit projects that actually benefit the citizens of this state, not a few well connected politicians and their conies.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paly Resident
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 10, 2011 at 8:51 am

PA City Council is to be applauded. This resolution, seeking to alert our tone death Democratic "leaders" in Sacramento that the rest of California does not want to waste vital General Fund education funds from K-12 and UC/CSU tuition hikes of 21% in 20111, is not a bold or new step. The Kings County Board of Supervisors has already done this, as have most of the cities in the Central Valley that are being ignored, purposefully, by the CAHSRA.

No, there is no free lunch, and this HSR Boondoggle was dead the minute the CAHSRA released their new business plan that shows that the voters were lied to in 11/08: What was sold to voters in 11/08 is NOT what the current CAHSRA plan has muted into: in 11/08 (sold as $33 Billion completed including San Diego and Sacramento & CA liable only for $9 Bill) - now $117 Billion "current" estimate and doesn't included SD or Sacramento) & CA liable for $114 Billion (since feds only gave $3 billion and $0 from private investors).

Simple analogy: Ferrari dealership puts a 430 model up for sale (real cost $275,000) but misprints and advertises sale price as $2750. You sign a contract, pay your $2750, then go to pick it up and they say you "owe them" $273,250!!, and since you signed a contract for $2750, you are legally bound and can't break the deal - you must pay!) BS!! CAHSRA can't intentionally lowballcosts by $70-80 Billion, sell it to voters for $33 Billion "completed" and then come back and say you were suckered.

Put it to a re-vote before CA voters/taxpayers and let HSR survive (or die) on the merits! Or, it's illegal bait and switch.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by PA Resident
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 10, 2011 at 8:55 am

The MAJORITY OF CALIFORNIANS want the CA HSR Boondoggle killed. See the Field Poll here, and the prior poll. When will our Democratic "leaders" start listening the California independent voters, democrats, and Republicans who elect them to office.

New December 2011 CA statewide Field Poll: Web Link

An older 9/29/2011statewide poll confirms CA voters would overwhelmingly vote to spend limited state money on education/tuition, mentally ill, water, environment (75%) over a "high-speed-train" between SF LA (11%). 63% vote to end the HSR boondoggle now & 61% say they would never take a HSR train. Due to CA's bad budget, in 2011 we saw: protests at UC/CSU from 26% tuition increases, lawsuits from cities/non-profits from CA taking their money but releasing convicted felons into our communities, senior centers/state parks closing, CA taking redevelopment funds, cutbacks in social services, etc. In contrast, HSR costs rose to $117 billion but feds only provide $3 billion & CA liable for $97 billion and additional cost overruns. Call Governor at (916) 445-2841 and Treasurer Lockyer at(916) 653-2995to kill the boondoggle now.

Poll here: Web Link ans Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by PA Resident
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 10, 2011 at 8:58 am

Very powerful and highly influential (think $$$ political donations) Unions are the "connected parties" continuing to push Democratic politicians in Sacramento for this $117 - $350 Billion HSR Train to Nowhere Boondoggle. The California Labor Federation is pushing for a "Project Labor Agreement" for this HSR project that will mandate/guarantee that only CA Unions can work on this project, and only if they get "prevailing wages and benefits", which are far more lucrative than anything offered in the real world (i.e. non-government business world). Don't believe me? Well, watch this video and public comment from the CA Sentate Transportation Committee hearing on May 3, 2011 (where State Senator LaMalfa's state SB22 to defund the CAHSRA and project was being discussed). In the OPPOSITION public comment to this bill you can see who speaks against LaMalfa:

1. California Labor Federation (union);
2. State Operating Engineers (union);
3. State Buildings and Construction Trades Council (union);
4. California State Federation of Laborers (union);
5. State Laborer's Council (union);
6. Contractors/Vendors standing to make money off the project (i.e. Siemens/Parson's Brinkerhoff, etc.)

The Unions support Democratic politicos, from Governor Brown, to Galgliani, etc. There is also a revolving door between former public sector Democratic politicos then going "in house" with fat very lucrative "non-public" employment contracts with these contractors/firms/vendors where they make way, way more than their $135,000 state legislator salaries, and which contracts aren't subject to public disclosure per a California Public Records Act Request (under Cal. Govt. Code) - so connected Democrats need to make sure the boondoggle and BILLION DOLLAR CONTRACTS are still being awarded when they leave office - it's about the money, money, money – that's it: Web Link

See Union influence here: Web Link

California's Top Construction Union Officials Love the State's $100 Billion High-Speed Rail Project

November 29, 2011 – 7:05 pm

The November 27 Bakersfield Californian newspaper includes an opinion piece written by Bob Balgenorth, head of the California State Building and Construction Trades Council, promoting construction of the state's proposed $98.5 billion High-Speed Rail as a better alternative to construction of freeways and airports: Bob Balgenorth: Airport, highway expansion impractical; HSR better option. He also had an opinion piece in the November 12 Merced Sun-Star: Bob Balgenorth: California can't afford not to build high-speed rail system.

What would lead Mr. Balgenorth to make such a bold public assertion? Is it possible he has greater wisdom and foresight than the average Californian about getting a speedier ride from Madera to Corcoran after 2017?

Associated Builders and Contractors of California has long tracked reports and rumors that the California State Building and Construction Trades Council and its affiliated construction trade unions want contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with unions in order to work on the California High-Speed Rail Project. Either the California High-Speed Rail Authority's Board of Directors would approve a resolution requiring its contractors to sign a PLA, or political pressure could be exerted behind the scenes to convince the prime contractor to negotiate and sign a PLA (without any explicit direction from the High-Speed Rail Authority). The threat was only heightened in March 2011, when the State Senate Rules Committee appointed Bob Balgenorth to a vacant seat on the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors. (Operating Engineers Local No. 3 business manager Russ Burns also serves on the nine-member board.)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 10, 2011 at 10:47 am

This thing will never happen, and for the right reasons.

It just is a question at this point how much more time and money will be wasted before it is cancelled.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stan
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 10, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Mr's Simitian and Gordon,

Are either of you reading any of these posts? It's time to take a stand for the tax paying citizens of this state, rather than for the BIG labor lobbyists in Sacramento and to stop blindly following marching orders from the Democratic party. The CA HSR Authority has repeatedly lied to the voters and elected representatives of this state in regards to every aspect of this proposed train. Their ignorance, incompetence, and supreme arrogance regarding anything having to to with high speed rail is simply astounding. The time for more discussion, and giving them yet another chance to clarify exactly how they will raid the dwindling CA Treasury is over. It's time to strip them of their funding, DE-authorize and disband the Authority, and fire the lot. They have squandered a billion dollars already, handing nearly all of those wasted dollars to politically well connected friends. There are a billion other better ways to have spent those dollars. Don't let them spend one penny more.

I'll vote the the candidates that clearly opposes HSR in the next election. Sadly, the Democratic Party is more interested in coddling BIG labor, hoping BIG labor turns out the vote, and letting the citizens of this state pick up the more than $100B tab. This boondoggle plan isn't working, hint.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Morris Brown
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 10, 2011 at 6:16 pm

@PA Resident:

Your extensive comments above are most certainly correct and drive to the root of the support that Gov. Brown continues to give the project as well as so many legislators.

The PA council is on the correct path now and hopefully they will vote and pass a very strong resolution seeking to stop the project and stop it now. Right now it is costing the State about $700,000 per day in expenses.

Next Thursday, on Dec 15th, there is to be a hearing in Washington DC which subject is the California High Speed Rail project. The hearing is before the Transportation and Infrastructure committee of the House, Mica (chair).

A 15 page briefing paper is online at:

Web Link

For those willing to download,it has a very good history of the project and much quantitative data for the committee.

The hearing itself will start at 7:00 AM our time and will be webcast.

It promises to be exciting. Elizabeth Alexis of the local group CARRD will get a chance to testify.

One should be able to find a link to the live video, next Thurday, by going to:

Web Link


Morris Brown
Menlo Park


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 12, 2011 at 10:51 am

@ Evan:

1. "...Transform the way Californians get around"? Spare us, please. You make it seem like HSR would be a Metro or Tube system in Paris or London that would be used for everyday transit by the masses. At best it would attract some people traveling intermittently between distant points. You probably want to take it between Palo Alto, where you say you live, and San Francisco, where I suspect you actually live.

2. Don't worry; Palo Alto's downtown will be a "robust, busy destination for years to come" without an HSR. Stanford and the local software firms will ensure that.

3. I see, HSR as a "cure" for the current grade-level RR. Guess what: we don't need to spend $100+ billion for an HSR to cure that problem.

4. Your characterization of the PA City Council's actions is tendentious in the extreme. The Council has bent over backwards for several years to try and work with CHSRA re tunneling and partially covered ditch but to no avail. Why? Because CHSRA doesn't have the money for a tunnel and wants to build this boondoggle on the cheap, thus an "overhead aerial system" design.

5. Money doesn't seem to enter into your thoughts. Maybe you haven't had to worry about money yet in your life, but the State of CA must; it's broke. This system, were it ever built would cost between $150-200 billion dollars. That's a financial albatross for which we would be paying for decades.

6. Your "Now, not happy with likely getting exactly what they want, they want to kill the project completely," is sheer unmitigated rubbish with no bais in reality. Every PACC request to CHSRA has been categorically denied. You seem to like your rhetorical flourishes so much that you don't care if they have no basis in reality. Your "Now, not happy with..." is another very biased characterization with magical-mind-reading attribution of motive to the PACC.

7. Your last two sentences are question-begging -- "to do the right thing" -- political-power-mongering ageism. If this is the best case you can make, then it's obvious why this boondoggle is doomed. Btw, it was seniors like Kopp and Diridon that pushed this project for years. Now its only supporters of note are the vested-interest unions and their indentured godfather Jerry Brown.

I look forward to your next choleric outburst.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 12, 2011 at 1:43 pm

@Resident from MP: Proposition 1A, passed by 52.7% of those who voted, authorized the attempt to sell about $9.8 billion in bonds, not $34 billion.

@ Marie, a resident of the midtown area, wrote "I fully support the city council and State Senator Simitian in their opposition to the current boondoggle." Marie, be careful, Sen. Simitian is beholden to Gov. Jerry Brown (who is beholden to the labor unions) and actually supports a so-called blended HSR system. He has NOT come out against HSR, just against a 4-track system with CalTrain and HSR running on different pairs of tracks. He wants them running on the same tracks on the Peninsula. I haven't seen anything from Joe demanding that HSR be put in a tunnel or in a below-grade ditch. He's tricky, read what he says with care. He's not as progressive or sensitive to community harms as he would like us to think.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by MenloParkJim
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 17, 2012 at 3:08 pm

The alternative to the HSR is to build out more freeways and airports, which will cost much more than high speed rail. High speed rail will make California more energy efficient for generations.

It is inevitable that oil costs will rise and the world runs out of oil, we are going to need a different way to get around.

One way or another, this will get built, I can guarantee it. The only question is do we build it now, so that it is ready in 10-15 years when we really need it, or are we going to have to go through a period when Californians suffer massively due to $20/gallon oil before giving in to the inevitable?


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

I Told My Mom She's Dying
By Chandrama Anderson | 12 comments | 2,522 views

Grab a Bowl of Heaven soon in Mountain View
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 1,849 views

Quick Check List for UC Applications
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 1,239 views

Fancy Fast and Fun!
By Laura Stec | 3 comments | 963 views

Campaign Endorsements: Behind the Curtain
By Douglas Moran | 3 comments | 788 views