Thursday, February 3, 2011

Delaying HSR planning for California's two population regions

THIS JUST IN. The Rail Authority is meeting today in Sacramento and they have come up with the following:  They intend to delay the planning for the section from San Francisco to San Jose, "for at least a year."  They will also delay engineering design work for the LA to Anaheim section.

It's no surprise.  They need all the help they can get to finish the Central Valley planning work on time, by September 2012, or they stand to lose the ARRA stimulus award funds. So, pulling staff off the work for the two population regions and putting them on the design work for ruining San Joaquin Valley farmland is now their highest agenda.

Also, while they don't have to be honest with us about costs, they do have to calculate what they can actually accomplish with the funding they have, and they don't want to waste it on segments that they can't build without the likelihood of lots more funding.

So, should we breathe a sigh of relief?  NO.  First of all, when they start construction in the CV, it will do a huge amount of harm.  People there are getting the message and are mad as hell.  Second, it's the train to nowhere.  Whether there will ever be further funding for connecting the CV section to either of the population regions is highly questionable. 

Third, what they intend to build will not -- pay attention -- will not be a high-speed rail capable length of tracks.  It won't be used by Amtrak since it's intended for the much lighter HSR.  It won't be electrified so that it can't be used by HSR. So, you are asking, what's the point?  The answer is that they will get their foot in the door.

The agenda for us now must be to stop the construction in the Central Valley.  A lot of us believe it's illegal by California law, if not by federal law.

Note that the CEO, Roelof Van Ark, says that when they get around to it, they will build the SF to SJ in stages.  That's what they intend to do in the CV.  Is that OK? Not according to AB3034, which requires "usable segments."  A 'stage' is merely a part of a segment and is not usable by HSR and that's what the law requires.

High-speed rail leaders delay Bay Area project for at least a year
By Mike Rosenberg
Posted: 02/03/2011 04:20:07 PM PST

State leaders on Thursday hit the pause button on the Bay Area section of the California high-speed rail project, and won't resume planning that portion of the massive undertaking until at least 2012.

California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Roelof van Ark announced to board members during a meeting in Sacramento that the San Francisco-to-San Jose section of the project would take a back seat to the Central Valley.

The rail authority in December decided to spend virtually all of its available money, some $5.5 billion, to start the rail line near Fresno and Bakersfield. The full line will reach San Francisco and Los Angeles and cost $43 billion, but state officials do not have enough money to extend the tracks to either the Bay Area or Southern California and are not sure when they will get additional funding.

Officials said they still have no timetable for starting construction on the section of track between San Francisco and San Jose, which will run along the Caltrain corridor. As a result, the planning document required to start construction, a draft of which was slated for release in December, will now not be available until at least 2012.

The same delay will apply to the Los Angeles-to-Anaheim section of the project.

 will allow all stakeholders to participate in the further investigation and development of the alignments, and some of the technical complexities of the operations and alignments can be further analyzed," van Ark said.

Also as part of the plans, van Ark said they would consider building various sections of the project, such as the San Francisco-to-San Jose leg, in stages instead of all at once.

The rail authority still hopes to have trains running on the statewide line by 2020.

Contact Mike Rosenberg at 650-348-4324.