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By Paul Losch

Simitian?s High Speed Rail Hearing

Uploaded: Mar 14, 2012

I like Joe, and I must him give him credit for vetting the High Speed Rail concept almost to a fault. Hearing after hearing, town meeting after town meeting.

Enough is enough.

I went to the hearing Tuesday, March 13, at the MV performing arts center. The place was SRO, absolutely packed. Clearly there is a great deal of passion about this matter, no matter what point of view one has.

I heard nothing last night that changed my mind that this is a bad idea. Lots of "polishing" you know what.

For starters, it appears that the very civil new management for CHSRA, including Dan Richard, have a very different point of view about how this thing should/could be built out than does the very civil Mr. Kempton, from the High Speed Rail Peer Review.

One wants to start in the Central Valley with track to nowhere, lacking HSR capability. The other advocates first making improvements at the "bookends" of LA and the Bay Area. Talk about a huge disconnect.

There remain huge questions about funding, which were for the most part artfully dodged, with allusions to days gone by about how the UC system was developed, the interstate highway system came about, inter alia. The fact is at best 15% of the cost of the $98 billion proposal has been identified.

To make matters worse, it appears that some of the available federal funds only will be available only if they are applied to an HSR spur in the Central Valley. Those funds, if I correctly understood last night's testimony, cannot be used for improvements at the "bookends" of NORCAL and SOCAL. Is CHSRA advocating a central valley place to start just so they can get the federal funds? It sure looked that way to me in last night's hearings.

My closing observation about this entire matter is that too many people in responsible positions continue struggling to somehow squeeze life out of this ill-conceived project. (e.g., the mantra "blended system" has been bandied about for months now, and it was not made clear at this hearing how it will "really" work.)

This is a project that has gotten more second chances that most of us get in a lifetime. Try and try, it continues to not pass muster. Voters were mis-led in the 2008 ballot initiative, clearly a "bait and switch." Get it back on the ballot, and it will go down in flames. (I suppose that is a bad analogy, since it alludes to aircraft. How about get it back on the ballot, and it will be off the rails!)

CHSRA releases a revised business plan in the coming weeks, ostensibly an improvement over prior plans by prior "regimes." A revised business plan does not mean that is a business plan that justifies funding.

Rather than taking it to the State Capitol for review, I suggest they try out their pitch on Sand Hill Road, with the venture capital community. They may as a courtesy get a first pitch meeting. There never will be a second meeting, let alone private funding participation in this beast.