Monday, December 19, 2011

"We are not going to flinch on that support." Joseph Szabo, on high-speed rail

This is high-school boys' talk.  The Director of the Federal Railroad Aministration, Joseph Szabo, in the face of overwhelming evidence that this HSR project in California is a disaster in the making, is not backing down on making a huge mistake.  I suppose it would make him look wimpy, and railroad guys aren't wimpy. Wrong, yes, but wimpy, never.

The fact is that the emphatic persistence of the Obama Administration -- after all Szabo gets his marching orders from LaHood, who gets them from the President --  to push this political pork into California to salvage what's left of the federal high-speed rail dream has nothing actually to do with building the train.  Earmarked funds are targeted at stimulus activities in the name of job creation and that's what this President is running on for re-election.

Whatever illegalities, mis-management or corruption surfaces, these are irrelevant to the political struggle as the election cycle heats up. 

At the same time, the Governor and Legislature don't have any substantive solutions for the state's deplorable economic situation and obtaining a free $3.3 billion to pour through the economy is regarded as sacrosanct. Again, with total indifference to how or for what the dollars are actually spent. 

If the rail authority gets to dig holes in the Central Valley next fall, it will have already done great harm to people's homes, businesses, farms and lives.  The Democratic politicians, like Jim Costa, get to see the money, but everyone else gets grief. Forget all those ridiculous jobs claims.  Forget all those promises of a new flood of new businesses.  Just watch the dollars flow down the consultant black hole.

Oh, and by the way, article after article has a photo of a California HSR on it.  Why?  These  are artist's renderings, like the graphic animation we find in the movies these days.  That is to say, they are fantasies and nothing like the realities we can actually see overseas where real trains ravage the countryside.  

I can't help wondering what goes on in the minds of these editors who willingly post very critical articles about the HSR project, yet at the same time are happy to illustrate them with the smoke and mirrors imagery from the CHSRA press-releases and web- site.

CA High-Speed Rail Settles On First Section
by Steve Duda, December 19th, 2011

California’s controversial high-speed rail system inched a bit closer to finally laying track recently when the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board, after much hemming and hawing, announced the train’s preferred route and station alignment for its first section, the Merced to Fresno Route.

The approved route, known as the “hybrid” route, was put forward earlier this month by agency staff. The route was one of five originally considered for the section before the choices were narrowed down to a final three routes in draft environmental impact reports in August. The 65-mile hybrid route closely follows Highway 99 north before jogging east to miss the city of Madera. The route then connects with a station in Merced. Other stops along the route include a station in Fresno.

The Merced to Fresno section of the project has an estimated price tag of around $3.8 to $4.8 billion. Earlier, the Obama administration underscored its support of the project when Joseph Szabo, chief of the Federal Railroad Administration, told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, that the agency would not back down from the $3.3 billion they had pledged to fund the section. “We are not going to flinch on that support,” he said. “The worst thing we could do is make obligations to folks and start to renege on our word.”

The California high-speed rail project is a massive undertaking that seeks to connect the Bay Area and Sacramento to Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Diego via 800 miles of high-speed trains and 24 stations. According to backers, once completed, passengers will be able to board a train, which can hit speeds of up to 220 mph, in LA and arrive in San Francisco in two hours and forty minutes. Estimates put the entire cost of the project, which has a completion date of 2033, at nearly $100 billion.

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