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Editorial: Medicine doesn't offset poison of HSR bill

Original post made on Jul 13, 2012

In a political drama that has potentially massive financial ramifications for California, last week's razor-close vote to move forward with high-speed rail will keep the uncertain project alive but give the Peninsula the benefit of Caltrain electrification.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, July 13, 2012, 8:10 AM

Comments (4)

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Posted by Robert
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 13, 2012 at 12:54 pm


Your editorial was mildly almost diffidently written. It's most interesting that the headline and sub-head ("Medicine doesn't offset poison of HSR bill...While Caltrain and the Peninsula come out as winners from high-speed-rail vote, state still can't afford this 'plan'") expressed more of a clear, forthright position than anything in the body of the editorial itself. What's up with that?

I am upset that you let the following claim go unchallenged: "Gordon and Hill enthusiastically supported the bill, saying the Peninsula got virtually everything it wanted and had been fighting for, including no high-speed rail between San Francisco and San Jose." Who said or where is it written that there will be no high-speed rail between SF and SJ? That's not my understanding of what CHSRA has in mind. They are apparently reluctantly willing to run their HSR trains on the CalTrain tracks on the Peninsula. While those trains would be limited to 125 on the Peninsula -- thus, in my mind, making it rational to terminate HSR in SJ, but no, that would be an affront to SF! -- there would still be more trains (CalTrain's + HSR's) under the so-called "blended system," if we must use that pathetic phrase that many politicians have treated as if it were the Holy Grail. So, there would be HSR trains on the Peninsula, they just wouldn't be going at more than 125 mph.

Re Hill and Gordon's three "reasons" for supporting Moonbeam's last minute pork-laden proposal (which the editorial completely ignored), let's look at them:

1. Where exactly is that "guarantee" that CHSRA will stick with a two track system and won't take any property along the CalTrain ROW? Is it on paper, in the legislation, or based on a "gentlemen's agreement"?

2. Re the $600 million for CalTrain, if I read this correctly, it seems unlikely to shorten the trip to SF from PA or MP. Rather the electrified train will be able to travel faster THUS ENABLING IT TO MAKE MORE STOPS TO PICK UP AND LET OFF MORE PASSENGERS, STILL LEAVING THE SF/SJ TRIP AT ABOUT ONE HOUR. While I like and support CalTrain, the only thing good here is that CalTrain will be electrified and probably be put on berms and eliminating crossings. I don't expect that the ride experience will be enhanced.

3. "Rail improvements on the Peninsula that could stand on their own even if the full project is never completed." We're going to pay a hell of a price tag for that "improvement" to CalTrain. I believe that people along the way would have been willing to support a bond issue for electrifying CalTrain; without such a bond issue, electrifying CalTrain was tied to supporting CHSRA's fiasco plan. So CalTrain will get $600 million while the state goes another $6-7 billion in debt -- at a minimum and $200-250 billion for the whole line.

Thanks for the editorial, but next time please don't pussyfoot around in expressing your position.

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Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 13, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

I have been at multiple events where the HSR issue was raised either with Rich Gordon or with members of his staff sent to represent him. In each case, the justification for support was that Central Valley construction workers "deserved jobs". The consistent use of "deserved" indicates that this was not mis-speaking, but an intentional representation of Gordon's position.

It is a shame that the editorial ignores this long history in judging his motivation.

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Posted by m2
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 13, 2012 at 2:19 pm

If the rail authority is "guaranteeing" it won't go to a four-track alternative, then why is the four-track alternative still in the statewide EIR? Answer: Their guarantee means nothing. It was only thrown into the bill so that people like Gordon could say they got something in return for their pro-union vote.

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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 14, 2012 at 2:33 pm

<< Assemblymen Rich Gordon and Jerry Hill supporting Governor Brown's proposal based on the good they saw in it for their constituents >>

With the state already deeply mired in debt, how is $68 billion in additional debt, plus bond interest, plus "cost overruns", good for anyone in California?

This project is way out of control. Through what perversion of the political process does California wind up paying for improvements to federally-owned Amtrak? That's like California taxpayers paying for improvements to federally-owned Yosemite. In 2008 Californians voted for high-speed rail bonds. They did not vote for electrification of CalTrain, they did not vote for improvements to Metrolink, and they most certainly did not vote for improvements to Amtrak. Even Quentin Kopp of all people questions the legality of the shenanigans going on with CA HSR:

Web Link

I personally do not believe CalTrain electrification is as desperately needed as people think. I have seen no data to indicate how an electrified CalTrain would be powered, either in dollar terms or the natural resources used to generate the electricity.

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