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On Deadline blog: Will cities get a voice in high-speed-rail debate? Or just have to keep shouting?

Original post made by Jay Thorwaldson, editor emeritus, on Mar 20, 2012

The long-awaited final report giving a "new vision" for the proposed high-speed-rail system for California will become public within the next week or two, unless there is some new derailment or other delay.

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Comments (7)

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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 20, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Jay -

You state: "But strong federal- and state-level support for high-speed rail still exists, despite it being a presidential-election year and vocal opposition from conservative Republicans."

The only "strong" support are by officials who got elected with special interest support. The polls that I've seen is around 60% of Californian's want the project killed, and since Republicans are only around 30% of the electorate, the other 30% are Democrats & Independents.

You did not mention that HSR Board President Dan Richard, who while on the BART Board of Directors presided over the huge cost overrun of the BART extension to SFO; and that the ridership projections for this segment were grossly overestimated.

You also failed to mentioned that the HSR Bond measure 1A passed in 2008 with the following: No State subsidies for operation, total system cost of $43 billion, and completion by 2021, that the extensions to Sacramento & San Diego would be funded by operational profits, and NONE of the bond money would be paid out, until the rest of the money to build the system was lined up. Each of those restrictions have not been met.

Another part of the debate is that to pay off the $10 billion in bonds will cost the general fund of the State around $750 million/year. So we are funding High Speed Rail at the cost of education and the social safety net.


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Posted by Steve Ly
a resident of Los Altos
on Mar 20, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Whatever business plan finally comes out of CHSRA, it needs to go back to the voters because the project that voters approved in 2008 is not the plan on the table now. This is a total bait & switch, so the voters need to be consulted again.


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 20, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Let’s be honest here—before most “cities” were opposed to the HSR, they were for it. It might take a little work, but if we were to look through the public record for most California cities, how many would City councils voted resolutions supporting Prop.1A, and the HSR in general? And what was the city-by-city breakdown of Yes/No/Didn’t Vote counts of all of the jurisdictions in the state?

Let’s suppose that there really is a lot of “buyer’s remorse” going on here. The City governments really ought to use the mechanisms available to them to determine the mindset of the people in their jurisdictions, and once that information is known, and validated, then use that information to press the Legislature, and any groups that represent the “will of the people” to advance the agenda of the majority.

For those towns which seem to be leaning towards “opposing” HSR, there are a number of activities in which local governments can engage--

What Cities Can Do To Help Stop HSR:

• Councils Can Pass Yearly Resolutions Expressing Opposition To HSR.
• Councils Can Pass Yearly Resolutions Calling For Another Vote on the HSR
• Council Members Can Sign the Petition To End the HSR
Web Link

• Councils Can Make Copy of Petition Available On Each City’s web-site For Public To Gather Signatures.
• Councils Can dedicate money (legally) to groups opposing HSR via analysis of HSR Business Plans, Route

• Councils can ask the voters in their jurisdictions to vote Yes/No on the HSR in upcoming elections.
• Councils can join together to show greater support for opposition to HSR.
• Councils can investigate legal options to stop HSR for failing to comply with the Prop.1A restraints.

• Councils can invite the County/State officials to workshops, and Council meetings, where they can face the electorate, and be forced to go on record for their support/opposition of HSR.

• Councils can make certain that all HSR communications are clearly posted on City web-sites.
• Councils can make certain that all HSR funding documentation is on a central web-site with links to this web-site on each City’s web-site.

• Councils can ensure that video/audio recordings of HSR Board Meetings Are on-line, and provide links to that on-line location for public review/comment.
• Councils can research voting records for County/State Representatives, where HSR is concerned. These voting records could be make available on each City’s web-site.

And the list goes on ..

Cities need to establish a clear, unified voice that they do not want this project to continue—if that is their wish. If they do want it to go forward, then they need to adjust this list to focus their energies in a way that they are invited to the HSR table


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Posted by Morris Brown
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 21, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Jay wrote in his posting

"But strong federal- and state-level support for high-speed rail still exists, despite it being a presidential-election year and vocal opposition from conservative Republicans. "

Wrong!

Sorry Jay just not true at the Federal level, not true at all. Yes, Obama can express support and so does LaHood, but the support pretty much ends there.


Note even the Senate just passed Transportation bill, led by Senator Boxer, has no provision for High Speed Rail funding. It doesn't look like it will ever become law, and very much stronger anti-HSR sentiment lies in the House, which thus far has even refused to take up the bill.

All funding at the Federal level for CA HSR was removed from both FY 2011 and FY 2012 funding. And just today we read:

---------
ARTBA Washington Newsline Plus for March 20, 2012
FY 2013 House Budget Resolution and HSR

The narrative accompanying the proposed FY 2013 House Budget Resolution contains the following commentary concerning high-speed rail:

"The mechanisms of federal highway and transit spending have become distorted, leading to imprudent, irresponsible, and often downright wasteful spending. Further, however worthy some highway projects might be, their capacity as job creators has been vastly oversold, as demonstrated by the extravagant but unfulfilled promises that accompanied the 2009 stimulus bill, particularly with regard to high-speed rail.

"In the wake of these failures, and with the federal government's fiscal challenges making long-term subsidization infeasible, high-speed rail and other new intercity rail projects should be pursued only if they can be established as self-supporting commercial services. The threat of large, endless subsidies is precisely the reason governors across the country are rejecting federally-funded high-speed rail projects. This budget eliminates these projects, which have failed numerous and clear cost-benefit analyses."

---------

So forget about any funds for FY 2013 as well.

State support is led by Governor Brown, who is using all his vast powers to try and get the legislature to approve funding for the start of construction in the Central Valley. What a waste of precious funds!

Here the Governor is out pushing for higher taxes, while at the same time pushing to spend $3 billion of state bond funds ( which will cost that State over the 30 year life time of the bond plus interest more than twice that amount)

The time to stop this project is now.


Like this comment
Posted by Paul
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 21, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Joe Simitian lost my support by his dithering on HSR.

Three and a half years is three years too many to wait for a plan from a completely discredited agency, the High-Speed Rail Authority. Why would anyone believe a word HSR said? Charles Manson has more credibility.

This is an expensive squandering of time and money, politicians and taxpayers alike.

Joe, beating a dead horse is not the answer.


Like this comment
Posted by Jay Thorwaldson
editor emeritus
on Mar 22, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Jay Thorwaldson is a registered user.

Morris has a good point, but I haven't heard any softening of support on the part of Governor Brown, Barbara Boxer or President Obama, despite the series of critical reports and analyses, the criticisms of Republicans and opposition of cities and organizations. Time, of course, will tell whether this is the "slow train wreck" predicted some time ago or a successful project. It is becoming more difficult to understand why today's iteration of the project can still ride the coat-tails of the 2008 voter approval, however. The questions of the state Senate members at the hearing showed a definite skepticism about the "new vision" of the rail authority board members, it seemed to me.


Like this comment
Posted by Evan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 27, 2012 at 11:36 pm

I'll preface this statement by saying that I remain aghast at the way BART-to-SFO was built and sold to the public. It was horribly design, and really screwed the Peninsula and future transit projects. It takes 15 mins to go from 4th/King to Millbrae on Caltrain. It takes 30+ to from Powell (the closest BART station to 4th and King) to SFO.

Anyway, I'd like to point out that while it's 2 years later than projected, BART is actually coming pretty close to hitting the projected ridership numbers (17.7k/day) -- it's at 16,800 as of Feb 2012.

My point is that the demand for transit is there. It should be well designed though, and BART to SFO certainly was not. Caltrain and HSR seem to be much more well thought out, though.


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