Saturday, January 29, 2011

The latest words of wisdom about HSR from Rod Diridon

First of all, what is proposed in this article hasn't happened yet.

Second of all, it's not good news. The issue is the coming of high-speed rail on the Bay Area Peninsula, specifically on the Caltrain corridor.  It's a very complicated situation and we won't get into the Byzantine details here now.  However, the anticipation of high-speed rail on the Caltrain corridor has already had a major deleterious effect on property values up and down the Peninsula near the railroad right of way.

Will this possible one year delay make any difference?  Certainly not. So long as this project hangs over the heads of the residents and businesses along the corridor and beyond, the anticipated impact on all the cities along the rail corridor won't go away.  Some politicians on the Peninsula have been pushing the rail authority for such a delay, but the ostensible benefits are illusory.

Indeed, it is to the CHSRA's advantage to slow down this work.  Why?  Because they are under enormous pressure to complete sufficient engineering design and CEQA EIS/EIR certification for the intended Central Valley sections.  They need to put more staff to work to meet the required deadlines of the Federal Railroad Administration in order to remain eligible for the funding that will make this Central Valley construction possible.  Therefore, pulling staff and resources off the Peninsula work, gives them an advantage to complete the required work for the Central Valley.

There's also reckless chatter about two tracks rather than four tracks.  Please, please promptly put that notion out of your minds.  If the rail authority proceeds with its plans to electrify the current two track Caltrain corridor, there is without doubt a hidden agenda.

This two-track myth is the Caltrain/HSR camel's nose in the tent.  Once HSR has made any imprint on the corridor, they will never leave. Caltrain has been dying in eager anticipation of such a move. We on the Peninsula will be its victims. 

There's confusion about this two-track promise.  Many of us on the Peninsula see that as a kind of victory.  No four track expansion; only the same two tracks we have now.  Isn't that much better than four?  

The answer is NO. It's wishful thinking. What such a perception of appeasement conceals is that they will be taking permanent residence on the corridor, and once there, will expand their intentions to four-track elevated structures.  Don't believe it?  That's because you've turned off your crap-detector, the most valuable analytical tool you can have. 

As you can see, although he no longer serves on the CHSRA Board, we have not heard the end of Mr. Diridon.  He's still out there, promoting his boondoggle.  He still spreads his words of wisdom up and down the Peninsula like peanut butter on bread.  When he waxes eloquent about the wonders of the Chinese HSR "miracle," my stomach tightens with fear and anxiety. Note also his shoving of elevated structures down our collective throats.

We must not be seduced by such pallid palliatives as design delays or a false two-track promise.  Think about this maxim:

"The most cynical interpretation of any political situation invariably turns out to be the most accurate."

 Let me leave you with this thought from Rod Diridon:  "He addressed concerns about the design of the tracks that will run through urban and suburban areas, and said the most attractive system is an elevated design like the one in China."

Any questions?

Peninsula's High-Speed Rail Project-Level EIR Could Be Delayed
Former rail authority board member Rod Diridon announced the news.

By Laura Dudnick

January 28, 2011

California High-Speed Rail Authority staff members could have up to another year to complete the Peninsula segment of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), due this spring.

Staff members are expected to recommend to the high-speed rail board next week that the report be delayed for as much as a year, former board member Rod Diridon told Belmont city officials Thursday afternoon.

The EIR was initially due last December but was pushed back until the spring, he said. 

Diridon, executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University, whose brother, Tom Diridon, lives in San Carlos, spoke to Belmont's high-speed rail ad hoc committee and city officials at Belmont City Hall to address concerns and questions the city has with the multi-billion-dollar project.

The staff will likely recommend the EIR be delayed to allow more time to look into a number of matters that still concern Peninsula city leaders, residents and business owners, including looking into a two-track system through San Mateo County instead of a four-track system.

The two-track system would allow Caltrain, which is expected to be electrified with funds from high-speed rail, and the high-speed rail trains to run on the same tracks, Diridon said.

"This could make all the difference between having the project and not having it," said Bill Dawson, a member of Belmont's high-speed rail ad hoc committee. The committee is comprised of local residents and business owners who investigate the potential impact of high-speed rail on Belmont.

"It's a game-changer," Dawson said. "People are worried about having four tracks. The right-of-way in Belmont is wide enough to accommodate four tracks, but many oppose four tracks, because it widens the right-of-way."

The Federal Railroad Administration two years ago ruled on particulate applicability, which allows for the use of a two-track system, Diridon said.

After playing a slideshow of background information on high-speed rail, Diridon fielded questions from members of the audience.

He addressed concerns about the design of the tracks that will run through urban and suburban areas, and said the most attractive system is an elevated design like the one in China.

"The most attractive and the most modern system is now the Chinese system," Diridon said. "Seventy percent of the Chinese system is aerial. The preference around the world is for an elevated structure. Once in awhile you have a tunnel, but the cost of a tunnel is four to six times more expensive."

He added that the Peninsula shouldn't hold out hope for a tunnel system.
"If we build a tunnel down the Peninsula, we’re going to have the build the tunnel for Sanger, and Cochrane, and the other Central Valley cities," Diridon said. "That’s the law. If we don’t, the project will be stopped by legal action."

Holding out for a tunnel would significantly delay the high-speed rail project, he said.

"If you hold out for a tunnel, I think what you’ll do is delay the project on the Peninsula maybe forever," Diridon said. "Because I don’t think you can build a tunnel."