Monday, April 26, 2010

High Speed Rail: A Warning and a Prediction

By Cynthia Ward

While we celebrate the survival, at least in an amended form, of Diane Harkey’s AB2121, as reported by Matt Cunningham we need to keep in mind that the folks in Sacramento are constantly introducing bills to siphon more and more money into the High Speed Rail program, even while it is still under study! Not a single segment of the project has completed its Environmental Review, and yet, AB289 (Galgiani) attempts to go ahead and immediately grab over $2 Billion dollars in the ARRA funds we were awarded, to begin use on a single segment!

“This bill would appropriate $2.25 billion to the authority from federal ARRA funds awarded to the state for high-speed rail purposes and would identify the corridors eligible for those funds.”

Their reasoning?

“This bill would declare that it is to take effect immediately as an urgency statute.”

What is so urgent about a project that has not yet completed its Environmental Review?

Believe it or not, the folks in the Obama Administration are not completely out of the loop. The Feds know California is behind the 8-ball on the studies. They get it. They do not get much else, but they get this. If those bean counters in Washington have figured out that the Golden State’s custom tailoring has left the Emperor strutting along the El Camino Real bare-butt-naked, then by golly we better just spend their money before Washington takes it all back! Our tax dollars at work, folks.

Here is my prediction-and I am no rail expert by any stretch-but I am smart enough to surround myself with others who are experts. Based on what I have heard, read, and can guess at, I predict that:

A) Someone (likely Galgiani, who loves to write these inane bills for HSR hoping to bring jobs to her District) will introduce a bill, or amend a bill already in place, that allows the CHSRA to skirt around the requirements of AB3034, and allow construction of any segment with “independent utility” to use ARRA funds, as well as allow the sale of those Prop1A bonds, to build one segment without the rest of the system being cleared as currently required by law. Keep an eye out for this.

B) I predict the Anaheim to Los Angeles segment will be the first to begin construction. Indeed I have repeatedly heard HSR experts refer to Anaheim to Los Angeles as having “independent utility”, and therefore they can build it even if no other segment ever gets done!

C) Now this part is not a prediction of my own, but a repeating of HSR’s own studies. The HSR systems of other continents run through greenfield development in straight lines, not the gerrymandered route of the California system as planned. We are shoving the square peg of HSR into the round hole of a rail line run 100 years ago to serve the needs of an entirely different transportation system. If the HSR system is built alongside the current Amtrak-Metrolink line, the engineering limitations of 100 year old curves in the track, starts and stops for promised stations, and noise and vibration limitations of use in an urban setting, limit the speeds at which the train can travel, pretty much negating the idea of running a “bullet train”. In fact, the CHSRA’s own documents show a time savings of HSR from Anaheim to Los Angeles of only TWENTY MINUTES over the current Amtrak schedule!

Yes, we could very well spend billions of dollars that came from our pockets before becoming “stimulus funds”, combined with billions more that must be paid back, with interest, as State Bond sales, and potentially lose private homes and businesses in 2 counties, in order to save twenty minutes off someone’s commute! All that with no promise of this system connecting northward to San Francisco, if we spend all of the money here at home! Don’t think so? This is brought to you by the same government that values the lives of delta smelt over food crops.

I may well be mistaken, in fact hope and pray I am wrong. But I figure I can put this out there as an estimate of what may happen, and hope that others will help me watch for these signs, much like we watch for signs and wonders indicative of the Second Coming (hopefully before Obamacare takes effect). We can all check back with each other in a year or so, and hopefully have a good laugh at my expense. Because if I am right, none of us will be laughing.

TAGS: Diane Harkey, Cathleen Galgiani, high speed rail

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