Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fy 2012 Transportation budget completed. No High-Speed Rail. So far, so good.

Just so you know, there's no explicit line item funding for high-speed rail in the just agreed-upon FY2012 transportation budget. It's been zeroed out. That makes this merely an extension, like the twentieth so far, for the Transportation Budget that expired several years ago and needs to be re-authorized for six years.  What both Houses have been doing is kicking the can down the street.

Now we HSR opposers and naysayers will have until next September 31 covered.  What the Senate (that's Senator Boxer, to be precise) is waiting for to pass the six year re-authorization is the next election. 

If the House becomes Democratic, and the Senate stays Democratic, and Obama gets a second term, we will see a high-speed rail funding program that will make your eyes water!  And HSR will be in the next Transportation Budget re-authorization big-time. If no major changes take place in Congress, and the House remains Republican, we can expect no future HSR funding for a long time. 

The House Republicans want that Transportation re-authorization bill passed now, for six years, without HSR funding in it.  Theirs would also, of course, cost less than the Democratic Senate version. The Democrats (in the Senate) want only a two year version.  So this current "bi-partisan" agreement for FY2012 is the compromise both sides settled for; one year.

Note the reference to the TIGER funds in the article, which are now set for $500 million.  That's not much, it has to cover all sorts of transit and transportation requests, and if they do spend money for HSR, it will have to go to lots of other states as well as California. The most this state can hope for is a mere token.  My colleague, Morris Brown, believes that those funds will be targeted at Eastern states such as those along the NorthEast Corridor.  Perhaps. Let's hope so. 

Anyhow, one day at a time.  Meanwhile, since they are not actually in the train building business, the CHSRA plows ahead as if their money tree had just ripened and was about to bear fruit for them.  Their purpose is to get those federal dollars and commit them as quickly as possible and to occupy as much of their rail corridor as they can.

You know the parable of the monkey who reached his paw into the cookie jar, but tried to take too many cookies that he couldn't get his paw out?  The rail authority is seeking to occupy over 100 miles of new and used rail corridor for their train tracks.  These tracks won't be suitable for high-speed rail, but that doesn't really matter. . . .to them.  They could build a short, but complete version of the train they are supposed to be building, but that's not their game plan.

They don't have enough money to complete anything, really, but they will go through the motions as if they did.  They are putting on a show for us, for the Governor, for the Legislature and for all those folks in Washington who even give a damn.  What are they doing? Why, they are creating the future of America, of course.  And we shouldn't care how much it costs. Until the money runs out, that is.

If this wasn't all so tragic, and corrupt, and fraudulent, and angry-making, it would be very funny. 
Congressional High Speed Rail Funding To Cease
•United States AP via NPR Congressional Spending Government / Politics HSR Infrastructure Partnership for Sustainable Communities TIGER Transportation Transportation Funding
Posted by: Irvin Dawid

17 November 2011 - 12:00pm
In an unusual showing of agreement by both houses, it would appear that Congress will terminate funding for HSR in a bill that authorizes funding for the transportation department next year. The House hears the bill Nov. 17; Senate the next day. 
The bill marks "an end to the president's misguided high-speed rail program, but it is not the end of American high-speed rail," said Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's railroad subcommittee.

The House Republicans indicated preference for the dense Northeast Corridor as a line likely to receive future HSR funding should it be authorized as opposed to the much broader application that President Obama conceived. Funds currently allocated would not be rescinded assuming that they meet their deadlines. In California, that nation's only planned HSR project after Florida rejected their federal funding, over $3 billion is at stake from the current fiscal year. Construction must begin next year in the Central Valley.

It is still possible for HSR projects to receive future funding from existing transportation funds such as the the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER Discretionary Grant program program that will be funded. Not so lucky was the Sustainable Communities Initiative as reported by Streetsblog's Tanya Snyder:

"TIGER got $500 million. The House had zeroed it out altogether. The Senate, which had provided for $550 million, clearly won the day on this one. It includes language prioritizing rail, highway, and transit projects that improve or expand existing systems, rather than building new ones."

"Another big loss: the– HUD’s contribution to the interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities – has been eliminated. “The Partnership for Sustainable Communities is one of the federal government’s most effective tools,” said Geoffrey Anderson of Smart Growth America in response to the cut. "

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