For a long time, we were all under the assumption that high-speed rail, in order to qualify for the awarded ARRA Stimulus funds of $3.3 billion, would have to start construction by September, 2012.
Now we are being told that's not case. The rail authority has permission to delay the start until 2013. Indeed, they won't have all the paperwork done this year anyhow. Furthermore, it turns out that the finish date is the only "fixed" one, and that's not until 2017.
Let's pretend that it's 2017, and the laying of 130 miles of track in California's Central Valley is not complete. What do you suppose will happen? California won't get any of the promised funds? They'll have to pull up all the track? Nonsense. They will get the money which they have already spent anyhow.
In fact, while many of my colleagues concern themselves with all the rules and regulations, as well as all the legal obligations imposed by the legislation authorizing and governing this CHSRA project, when push comes to shove, none of those are cast in concrete.
Rules, regulations, and statutory laws, are meant to be broken. The government wrote those rules and it can break them.
I think we still don't appreciate how ruthless the government can be when its majority Party insists on doing something. To remind you, the voters of California were bamboozled into believing a bunch of stuff about high-speed rail and how great it would be; that it would cost no more than around $40 billion, that the $9.95 billion bond issue was the only cost that the state had to cover to build this project, that there would be 117 million annual riders, that a ticket from SF to LA would cost $55. and that it would take 2:40 hours for the train to make the trip. Oh, and that it would create one million jobs.
None of that, it turns out, is true. Furthermore, the legislation is filled with conditions and requirements meant to protect us taxpayers from fraud and other harm. Watch now as these get ignored, one by one.
For example, now we are being led to understand that instead of merely beginning construction in the Central Valley, as required by the FRA, additional funds are being searched for to pour into projects to upgrade local transit in the two population centers. Whatever the regional politics pushes for, it will be called "high-speed rail" in order to qualify. Let's just see how much our politicians can get away with.
And, those newly conceived dollars will come from Prop. 1A funds, whether matched or not. The law requires them to be matched. Several new lawsuits are being drafted, even as we speak, about all the illegalities now on the table.
What to do about it:
All this requires the spotlight to be turned on to a dynamic that has received insufficient attention. In many of the articles that describe the decision-process of the California rail authority, we are now reading that, due to the constant objections and concerns of citizens, residents, and business people in the Central Valley, the rail authority is revisiting its intended plans, seeking to accommodate those concern.
Here's an example of what I'm talking about: "The delay is helpful for the rail authority, which has withdrawn its environmental report from a segment of the rail system in the Central Valley following heavy opposition from residents, farmers and business leaders, according to the Fresno Bee." That's from today's (3.1.12) PALO ALTO DAILY POST.
What are we to make of this? Protest works. More protest works better. We have not yet begun to protest in earnest.
Dear friends, I believe that stopping this project, regardless of the Governor's Freudian obsession with high-speed rail, is possible. If that hasn't happened yet, it is only because we have not protested enough yet.
There are still too few activists and we are not yet loud enough or visible enough. The Central Valley appears to have their act together, with some help from the Peninsula "Boondoggle.com" group. We, on the Peninsula, are still in debating mode, quibbling about tactics and strategies whereby we believe that we can negotiate our way out of trouble.
That's not what's going to be effective. I call your attention to the recent flurry in Italy where protestors are far more determined than we appear to be.
Read this article and watch this video! Will Governor Jerry Brown turn his water cannons on us if we take to the streets protesting the California high-speed rail project? Will the Governor move to suppress our First Amendment Rights of Free Speech? Or, will we simply lay down and let the trains run over us when the time comes?
Does that sound too dramatic? Watch the video and see what "dramatic" really means when protesting the government's high-speed rail intentions.
I have raised these issues previously in these blog entries. We need to understand:
1. How ruthless the Governor and the rail authority are in promoting a project which now has generated around $6 billion in federal and state funds "in the bank." There may not be more in the foreseeable future, but they sure as hell are determined to get their hands on this amount.
2. The Governor and rail authority can be stopped but it will come at a far larger price than we have been willing to pay so far.
3. We need to recruit many more activist opposers to this project.
4. We need to take to the streets with marches and rallies and become highly visible in the expression of our concerns.
5. We are not yet angry enough, determined enough, focused enough. We won't be able to negotiate ourselves out of this project, we must literally fight to stop it.
Italian police battle protesters over high speed rail
Opponents of a new high-speed rail line clash with police in a small Italian town near Turin.
8:57AM GMT 01 Mar 2012
Italian police on Wednesday used water cannons and tear gas to disperse demonstrators who were blocking highways in Val di Susa, near Turin.
The demonstrators had been blocking the motorway connecting Italy and France for several days, in protest against the construction of a high-speed rail line in the area.
At least 10 policemen, along with several demonstrators, were injured in the clashes that occurred on Wednesday night.
Police pursued protesters who were cleared from the motorway, some of whom sought refuge in the small town of Bussoleno.
The "No-Tav" (no high-speed train) movement has, over the past several years, been protesting against the on-going development to create new giant tunnels and railways in the middle of the Alps.