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Report: Halt state funding for high-speed rail

Original post made on Jan 3, 2012

California's quest to build a high-speed rail system between San Francisco and Los Angeles suffered a heavy blow Tuesday when a peer-review committee recommended that state legislators not fund the project until major changes are made to the business plan for the increasingly controversial line.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, January 3, 2012, 6:14 PM

Comments (21)

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Posted by Stan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 3, 2012 at 8:49 pm

And so, another panel of experts has declared HSR a fiscal bomb. In response, Roelf van Ark declares that yet another group of experts is confused and isn't really competent to evaluate the California High Speed Rail Project. I would not expect Roelf to say anything other than to regurgitate the lies and spin the CA HSR is well known for.

The real question is whether the CA Legislature will heed the advise of its own panel of experts, and stop HSR in its tracks. Sadly, I'm not sure they will. The CA HSR project has long been exposed for what it really is, a hundred billion (likely more) gifts to the CA Labor unions, who have either secured, or are well on their way to securing, so called "Project Labor Agreements", guaranteeing them virtually unlimited authority to charge what ever they want to attempt to build this greased pig on rails. In exchange, the Democrats in Sacramento are expecting the CA Labor unions to get out the vote, and perpetuate this cycle of robbing the tax payers to line the pockets of politically well connected people. It's a disgrace, nothing more. I noticed that after summary of the report was released today, the only people speaking out in support of the HSR project was the CA HSR Authority, and representatives from the CA labor unions. Notice, that mass transit has long ceased being a reason to build the train to nowhere. Mass transit was the huge fig leaf covering something too hideous to behold, but the fig leaf fell off long ago.

The CA HSR project was a fraud from the start, and it's time for Sacramento to de-fund the CA HSR Authority, de-authorize the CA HSR Authority, and send it's leaders to the unemployment line.

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Posted by George
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 3, 2012 at 11:14 pm

HSR Authority credibility drops to new low when their leader, Roelof van Ark, attempts to spin away from the most recent damming findings by the California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group.

This group essentially echoed what so many other independent analysts have been warning for over a year now, "cut this HSR turkey loose now before it financially sinks all of California."

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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 4, 2012 at 12:01 am

State Senator Simitian and Assemblyman Gordon should be representing their constituents and leading the fight to shut down the HSR; instead they are come up with cute phrases like "I support HSR done right". It's just an indication that they favor special interests over their districts. Report after report highlight that HSR is a project that is a pipe dream.

Throw in Governor Brown - he says that taxes need to be raised, yet he wants to spend money on HSR. Another politican who is in the pocket of special interests.

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Posted by Thomas Paine IV
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 4, 2012 at 9:28 am

Rich Gordon is taking a "neutral" position on high speed rail because he wants more campaign contributions from construction labor unions. Look at his last campaign finance report. His biggest contributors are construction unions. That is who he works for, not the people of the Peninsula.

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Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 4, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Remember that every other HSR in the world is subsidized by taxpayers, not by operating profits. In 2009 only one line in Great Britain (which became privately owned and operated) broke even or made a small profit.

Not a single advocate for the California HSR mentions the need for heavy subsidies in similar systems world wide. They only say systems in other countries are "successful".

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Posted by George
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 5, 2012 at 12:35 am

Bernie Madoff cooked the books for nearly 40 years and only got his Ponzi scheme total up to $65 billion. 'The biggest financial fraud in history,' the press has called it.

HSR Authority CEO Roelof van Ark is on track to surpass Bernie by 50%. HSR is fast developing into a $100 billion Ponzi scheme aided and abetted by state and federal politicians in labors' pocket.

HSR is following Bernie's scheme right down the line:
Step 1. Claim big benefits.
Step 2. Collect money from unsuspecting suckers.
Step 3. Live the high life for years on someone else's hard earned nickel (our tax dollars).
Step 4. Years later, fess up when the jig is up.
Step 5. Go to jail, go directly to jail for 150 years.

CEO van Ark is only likely to avoid Step 5. But he must walk a tight rope since some of his blatantly false and misleading statements may precede a bond offering which involves SEC rules and oversight. Legal exposure here may be significant.

Wouldn't it be poetic justice if SEC rules applied to politicians in this case, and many egregious others?

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 5, 2012 at 6:08 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

HSR should change its goal from LA-SF to LA-Sacramento, with a branch to San Jose. SF is yesterday.

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Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 5, 2012 at 6:13 am

would someone name the folks that are challenging the HSR and LIST THEIR QUALIFICATIONS

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Posted by Alex Panelli
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2012 at 10:49 am

@senor blogger

here is the link to the Peer Committee website (includes biographies of the members)

Web Link

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Posted by Alex Panelli
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2012 at 10:59 am


I would like to see the Caltrain right-of-way converted to a BART line...let's use our most precious resource (land) for actual local commutes, rather than periodic travel to SoCal.

A BART line from SJ-Diridon, to SJC, then up the peninsula to SFO, then on to King St SF, and then continuing through SOMA, under Mosconi center and connecting to Downtown Market street (and onward to the Trans-Bay Tunnel) would improve Bay Area commuting tremendously. We could consolidate local rail travel under a single overhead structure (BART). Use the existing HSR funds only to buy up the land rights-of-way necessary to build HSR between SJ and LA (and everything in between, including the Central Valley)...but invite private contractors to a bid to BUILD & OPERATE the HSR line for some predetermined period of time...and at the end of which the ownership of the line reverts back to the state (kind of like the way some toll roads are built). This would eliminate the risk of public operating subsidies (like Caltrain suffers today)...and it would also validate or invalidate the current HSR body's business plan assumptions.

Just my two cents.

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Posted by coooper
a resident of another community
on Jan 5, 2012 at 11:03 am

Walter_E_Wallis might be knocking S.F. too hard, but the point is taken that politics has driven the route end-to-end. In particular, would the south bay alignment have been selected if S.J. train-boy Rod Diridon weren't in the cab; how much did "saving Caltrain" have to do with CHSR proposing to share right-of-way on the peninsula; and, why are S.F. officials so eager that they've already begun work on the Transbay Terminal?

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Posted by Scholar
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 5, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Love that the HSR say the new report "suffers from a lack of appreciation of how high-speed rail systems have been constructed throughout the world."

In other words in the view of HSR, everyone except HSR is too stupid.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 5, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Where is the potential for expansion greater, Sacramento or San Francisco?

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 5, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

...and if anyone converts, BART should be converted to standard gauge, modern electric drive. 750 volt 3rd rail vs 25,000 v overhead - no contest. BART is a fossil.

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Posted by Alex Panelli
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2012 at 11:22 am


I was not suggesting that BART is technologically "better" -- the point I was trying to make is that a single unified Bay Area transportation system would be better than what we have today - a fragmented, poorly coordinated, and excessively overheady collection of political pet systems.

I know this firsthand. I have, despite my better judgement, taken public transit to and from both the San Jose and San Francisco airports. It should not take three or four system transfers and 2-3 hours to travel between SFO and Palo Alto.

FYI - we are about to get another disparate fragmented system with the upcoming construction of SMART - the Sonoma and Marin (Counties) Area Rapid Transit.

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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jan 6, 2012 at 12:07 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Alex has a good point both technically and in terms of the policy debate.

On the techncial side I know that regional transportation leaders can find much better use for the HSR money in expanding road and public transist access for commuters--more bang for the buck.

In terms of the public debate I think the folks who find HSR to be a poorly structured project can do more by offering constructive alternatives than by simply being negative.

We have kind of a circling the wagons mentality going on with the advocates as report after report points out flaws. Let's help give people a constructive alternative.

I do think state leaders should ask the President and Congress to allow reallocation of the federal money so it is not wasted.

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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 6, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Meanwhile, Governor Brown wants to raise California taxes by about $7 Billion per year.

Web Link

We are ALREADY one of the most taxed states (total and per capita) even BEFORE you consider the back door taxes (like the enormous public fees, tuition, tolls, etc...).

Do we currently have $100 Billion to spend on a fast train of which the pressing "need" for it is highly debatable?

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Posted by psa188
a resident of Los Altos
on Jan 6, 2012 at 3:35 pm

It’s time to cancel the California high speed rail project and disband CHSRA. This is due to the ballooning project costs and continuing dishonesty on the part of the California High Speed Rail Authority. The latest revelation is that claims that high speed rail would create a million jobs have been proven false. The San Jose Mercury explains “The 1-million figure came from the project's technical studies. It actually was the number of "job years," a statistical term that counts years of work rather than actual jobs. One person working for five years adds up to five job years in this parlance.”

The high speed rail project now being pushed by the Governor and the High Speed Rail Authority is not the same project that the voters approved in 2008. The Authority is guilty of pulling a “bait and switch” on taxpayers, who live in a state in deep denial of its financial problems.

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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 6, 2012 at 6:48 pm

As a follow on to Alex Pinelli's and Steve Levy's points, where is the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in this discussion? I have seen little mention of its participation in this entire matter. I may have missed it, but I follow this carefully enough to have an initial point of view that it could be doing more.

It may be that the Commission needs more "teeth." It has overview responsibility to coordinate with the various transit agencies in the 9 county area, but it is constrained on what it does/can do to drive policy and operational exigencies. I am unclear what sort of advocacy role, if any, it has.

HSR is not going to happen, of that I am certain. One bi-product of its failure could be to make MTC more robust, leading to a much more integrated and seamless transit program in this part of the world.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 8, 2012 at 6:54 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

HSR need to be changed to freight friendly. 150 mph freight and express would really take the trucks off 5. You could sneak a few 200 mph passengers in between but freight would pay the bills.

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Posted by TunnelTalk
a resident of another community
on Jan 10, 2012 at 10:53 pm

Peer review critical of California's HSR plan @ Web Link

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