Thursday, February 24, 2011

The HSR problem in California and what may be done about it

It's far too soon to get exited or to pop champagne.  One small step at a time.  

 The article below (which I shortened) comes from Engineering You can imagine the concerns of those Unions and corporations affiliated with infrastructure construction. This online trade paper supports federal spending on building. So, this current Republican budget cutting does not look so good for them.

Also, in referring to the current House bill, this is merely the short-term Continuing Resolution, a stop-gap measure, not the final Transportation Budget Bill which has its own firestorm of debates, including high-speed rail.

This blog is the place to reiterate that what is going on in Washington is the determinant of what happens about high-speed rail throughout the country, including California.  Even if the CHSRA grinds along in the Central Valley's design/engineering work, finishes their CEQA documentation -- which is pure self-justification -- by September 2012, and then brings in the bulldozers, it's a long time from now and a lot can happen.  But what happens in Washington is really what matters.  If Congress agrees to no more funds and the President signs it, despite what they do starting to build in the Central Valley, that will be the end of it.

A word about CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act.  It's intention is to protect the environment from undue harm from construction/development projects of every kind. This environmental review ought to be conducted by an independent expert group who are paid from a totally different source than the project funds.   Unfortunately, HSR is a government project, and the environmental review is sponsored by same group of politicians who are promoting and will benefit from the  construction of this project.  If that isn't conflict-of-interest and a highly corrupted process, I don't know what is. 

Any and every way you look at it, this project is doomed to be bad.  If what the rail authority is doing had been the conduct of a private corporation, the FBI would have been called in to investigate it long ago.

In this case, since it's a government project, the state's justice department defends this project against all lawsuits seeking to have the courts acknowledge the endless illegalities this CHSRA has been pursuing.  The project is riddled with flagrant "waste, fraud and abuse."  That has already been amply documented.  Nonetheless, there has been no government oversight for the authority determined to correct any of this. 

At every Senate Hearing, the CHSRA is chastized, they promise to do it better next time, and then they return to their offices, laughing all the way. 

The project is, or should be, a major embarrassment to California.  Remember, we are the state with the greatest deficit and debt among all the states.  High-speed rail adds insult to injury.

House Bill Would Slash Construction Programs
By Pam Hunter
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With the House’s passage of a $1.2-trillion continuing resolution funding the federal government through Sept. 30, industry groups are nervous that environmental and infrastructure programs could be scaled back sharply. The House bill, approved on Feb. 19, cuts appropriations by $61 billion compared with 2010 enacted levels.

But the cuts aren’t set in stone. The continuing resolution (CR) now moves to the Senate, where Democratic leaders have slammed the House plan. Industry officials note, however, that Senate Democrats may be forced to make some concessions to avert a government shutdown. The current CR expires on March 4. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Feb. 22 suggested a further 30-day stopgap. Steve Hall, the American Council of Engineering Companies’ vice president for government affairs, says, “I wouldn’t be surprised if we see multiple little extensions to give them time to work this out.”

The House bill hammers some construction programs, deleting all $894 million for General Services Administration buildings construction and nearly wiping out the $2.5 billion for high-speed rail.