News

Federal working group formed on high-speed rail

High-level Sept. 30 meeting in Washington leads to creation of new group to oversee federal response to California project

A high-level federal "working group" that meets weekly to discuss California's high-speed rail project has been created in response to growing concerns about the viability of the California project, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo announced Monday in an interview with the Weekly.

Eshoo said the working group was created by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood following a Sept. 30 meeting of six Congress members from California and several high-level federal officials. The 90-minute meeting covered growing concerns about the rail project, currently estimated to cost $43 billion, which will link San Francisco to Los Angeles in its initial phase.

Eshoo said the congressmembers expressed concerns about the viability of the California project and leadership of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, based on several authoritative studies that questioned basic cost, design, process and ridership studies of the authority.

Eshoo said her own position is that some federal funds need to be freed up and applied directly to upgrading and electrifying the Caltrain commute service, struggling to fill a $2.3 million budget gap. Federal funding is from the Federal Railroad Administration under the Department of Transportation.

She said the federal officials at the meeting include Roy Kienitz, undersecretary for policy at the Department of Transportation, who was raised in the Palo Alto/Mountain View/Sunnyvale area.

Members of Congress at the meeting included Mike Honda, Jackie Speier, George Miller, John Garamendi, Mike Thompson and Eshoo.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 12, 2010 at 11:13 am

This is a nice gesture on the part of Congresswoman Eshoo, but what the goals, or powers, of this group might be is not clear from this article. How will correct, and timely, information from the HSRA be made available to this group? Will it actually be 90 minutes every week? And who will this group convey this information to the public?

It's hard to believe that this group will be able to achieve much, unless they "go on the war path", and are able to force some issues that seem to be "flapping in the wind" at the moment.


Like this comment
Posted by Geoff
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 12, 2010 at 12:21 pm

At 220 mph on a pitch black Fall night, the planned California Super Streak train shot off its tracks and headed straight into high-speed rail oblivion.

Investigators are looking into many possible points of failure for the California HSR disaster. While HSR enjoyed early support and a favorable vote in 2008, widespread disillusionment has subsequently engulfed the concept as more and more facts have become known. Credible observers are raising significant questions and expressing skepticism as revelation after revelation come to light.

Economist Alain Enthoven, former World Bank analyst William Grindley and financial consultant William Warren just issued a 100-page report titled "The Financial Risks of California's Proposed High-Speed Rail."

The Palo Alto Weekly is saying, 'The heavily referenced report cites a slew of other recent studies criticizing various aspects of the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles line, including reports from the Legislative Analyst's Office, State Auditor Elaine Howle, and the Institute for Transportation Study at University of California Berkeley. It also surveys other existing high-speed rail systems around the world and concludes that under the current plans, California's system would not be economically self-sustainable.'

A faulty business plan and shoddy management techniques are high on the list for disaster investigators.

Undermining the integrity of the high speed rail system is the High-Speed Rail Authority and its plummeting credibility. Many now believe the Authority is simply following a flawed script devised as much as a decade ago by aging politicians Quentin Kopp and Rod Diridon.

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo announced Monday in an interview with the Palo Alto Weekly 'that a high-level federal "working group" is meeting weekly to discuss California's high-speed rail project. It was created in response to growing concerns about the viability of the California project. Eshoo said the working group was created by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood following a September 30, 2010 meeting of six Congress members from California and several high-level federal officials. The 90-minute meeting covered growing concerns about the rail project, currently estimated to cost $43 billion, which would link San Francisco to Los Angeles in its initial phase. Eshoo said the congressmembers expressed concerns about the viability of the California project and leadership of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, based on several authoritative studies that questioned basic cost, design, process and ridership studies of the authority.

'Eshoo said her own position is that some federal funds need to be freed up and applied directly to upgrading and electrifying the Caltrain commute service, struggling to fill a $2.3 million budget gap. Federal funding is from the Federal Railroad Administration under the Department of Transportation.'

These developments will likely prove to be the beginning of the end of California HSR.


Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 12, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

CA HSR provides a damning illustration of the fecklessness of our state, federal and city governments. They all supported HSR without making even a pretense at due diligence, and even now with all that has come out, the feds are only now becoming aware that there might be problems.
Aside: The first HSR meeting I attended was more than 8 years ago (5/3/2002) sponsored by the Transportation Division of the City's Planning Dept and the questions asked then revealed that Diridon's numbers were ill-founded.

HSR is not an isolated case. For example, at presentation on the state's housing policy, the officials base their arguments on the "facts" that a junior lawyer hired to work in Palo Alto has to go all the way to Tracy to find housing that s/he can afford (one presenter) and that new hires in technology have to commute in from Los Banos (a different presenter).

On climate change, the technical ignorance is staggering: Don't be surprised to encounter officials who can't differentiate hydrogen the element (atom) and hydrogen the gas (molecule). And the rejection of quantitative thinking is routine. Note: I am not denying global warning, but rather as an engineer/scientist with extensive experience with complex systems, I know that many aspects are counter-intuitive.

The old saying "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" should be augmented to include "and taxpayers' gold".


Like this comment
Posted by Caltrain, not HSR, for the Peninsula
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 13, 2010 at 10:09 am

Finally! Someone is Washington sees the problem! Now I hope they will get this train moving in the right direction. I like using fed funds for Caltrain electrification (though $2.3 mill sounds really low), but THAT project also will need careful oversight.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

He said – she said – who is lying? Justice Brett Kavanaugh or PA resident Christine Ford
By Diana Diamond | 69 comments | 5,214 views

Let's Talk Internships
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 720 views

 

Race is tonight!

​On Friday, September 21, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run, or—for the first time—half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More