Saturday, March 31, 2012

When it comes to truth from High-Speed Rail, it's catch me if you can

Regarding high-speed rail, I can't get Rita Wespi's concept of the law as a key issue out of my head.  

Yesterday she found a comment in Cruickshank's blog by John Nachtigall. We just posted a blog entry about that below this one. The point John and Rita make is that it's no longer about the train, and it doesn't matter whether one is a train supporter or opponent.  It's about the law.  Laws are being broken and will be broken and that should concern each and every one of us, regardless of our train and electrification position.

Since the biggest supporters for this lying project are the Legislature and the Governor, it raises the question: if the cops break the law, where do we turn for justice? If the elected officials in Sacramento can break this law with impunity, they can also do so regarding other laws. 

There's also a corrollary here. And that's lying.  This new forecast number, $68 billion, is arrived at by discounting the higher costs of actually building out the Caltrain corridor up here as well as all the intended construction from Anaheim to Palmdale in SoCal. It's not really cheaper, they just took a few items out of the grocery bag at the check-out counter, only to put them back in later, when they have more money.

Without closer analysis, the forecast price-cut would seem really noteworthy and all the press has picked up on it. The fact is, it's meaningless.  We don't know what's included in that price and what isn't, what has been left in and what has been taken out.

It doesn't mean these intended but suddenly cut build-outs (four track elevated viaduct) are totally off the table forever. Since the funding doesn't exist, what's the point of adding in those calculations?  Better to lie and help us all recover from the $100 billion price-tag sticker-shock that everyone nearly fainted over.  This is all about perception management. Question: How is the CHSRA different than a used-car salesman?

Let me get to the point.  We were lied to with Prop. 1A and all the verbal packaging intended to sell this project to us as the greatest thing since sliced bread. The rail authority, Van Ark, Morshed, the PR staff, the Board. . . all of them, lied to us. They lied about everything.  Even as Board and staff members turn over, they are still lying about everything.  Nothing can be believed.

Does that sound overly dramatic?  Sorry.

Do you believe that the electrification/blended system will obviate further Caltrain corridor build-outs? Even if Caltrain tells you so?

Can you doubt, from everything we all have read, that the final cost for this project, from Sacramento to San Diego, completed in forty years or so, will be well over $200 and possibly over $300 billion? 

"Attention shoppers. Today only. Formerly priced at $100 billion.  But, for the first five callers, the price will be reduced to a ridiculously low $68 billion. Don't wait. Call now!"

Their lies are bread-crumbs for us to follow and constantly analyze. Those figuratively speaking bread-crumbs are deceptive and misleading trails.  Lies are all a part of their public relations packaging, since they depend upon persuasion to sustain our support. It's something that they are obviously lousy but persistent at.  Costs too much? We'll come up with new numbers.  Ridership still too high?  We can make money with only a handful of riders.  And so on. 

Dear friends, we can and we must stop this project. Florida voters, a number of years ago, supported a similar project, only to reject it subsequently.  What Governor Scott did was to repeat what Jeb Bush had done as Governor; terminate the project.

We can't expect our Governor to take such a step, but we can certainly make a massive and concerted effort to get this on the ballot again for a re-vote. It will haunt us forever if we don't try. Our Governor makes two unforgivable mistakes; he cuts the budget for what really matters to people in this state, and he promotes expenditures that will be bottomless and non-productive.

Before it is too late, we must all come together around a single effort to bring this project to termination.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Jerry Brown changes high-speed rail plan, lowers cost by $30
By Dan Smith and David Siders

Published: Friday, Mar. 30, 2012 - 11:00 pm

The Brown administration has lowered the projected cost to build California's high-speed rail line by $30 billion - to $68 billion - as it braces for crucial hearings in the Legislature, according to sources familiar with the plan.

The lower estimate is tied to a series of changes to the project, primarily by relying on existing rail lines in and around Los Angeles and the Bay Area.

The changes are expected to be announced Monday in Fresno, just five months after the California High-Speed Rail Authority estimated the project could cost $98.5 billion. The business plan underpinning that estimate was widely criticized as inadequate. The critics included lawmakers and the rail authority's own peer review group.

Elements of the revised plan were suggested by rail officials weeks ago, including the "blended approach," in which existing tracks in urban areas would be upgraded and eventually used by high-speed rail.

The plan now will rely on a high-speed line down the spine of the state - from Merced to the San Fernando Valley - with tie-ins to improved tracks in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

The approach could result in the authority spending more than $1.5 billion to improve commuter rail service in and around Los Angeles and the Bay Area, pleasing lawmakers in those areas.

The new plan also will abandon the idea of the so-called "train to nowhere," the much criticized initiative to begin the project with a line from near Chowchilla to Corcoran, in Kings County, sources said.

The federal government, which is contributing about $3.3 billion to the project, conditioned funding on starting in the Central Valley.

Now construction is planned to begin in Merced and move south to Lancaster and the San Fernando Valley.

Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to ask the Legislature to appropriate some $2.3 billion in rail bond funds within weeks. This week, he told reporters he spent "several hours" on the project changes.

"We are striving mightily to get a plan that can pass muster and work, and get the train built," Brown said.

The plan still is almost certain to rely, however, on as-yet-unapproved federal funding in future years, a chief complaint of the California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group.

In a March 21 letter to legislative leaders, the group said it expected the plan "to be changed in significant ways" and would re-evaluate it when it is approved. The rail board is likely to approve the revisions on April 12.

Public opinion has turned against the project since voters approved $9 billion in high-speed rail bonds in 2008, and critics roared when the authority in November released its $98.5 billion cost estimate, far higher than its previous estimate of $43 billion.

Brown, a Democrat, embraced that business plan. In the wake of the criticism, however, he said the cost would be reduced.

Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, has previously said it would be difficult for the rail authority to produce any plan sufficient to be approved by the Legislature before June, the end of the fiscal year.

When it released its business plan in November, officials said the cost would still fall lower than the cost of airport and highways expansions to accommodate a growing population.

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