Monday, October 19, 2015

High-speed rail boondoggle update

Spain's system has problems

From an L.A. Times story (California bullet train project is attracting interest — but not fundingon the high-speed rail project earlier this month:

...A solicitation issued to potential partners this year drew 36 responses from rail, construction and engineering firms around the world, offering what California High-Speed Rail Authority officials say are encouraging ideas and feedback that will aid future planning. But the companies didn't signal a readiness to invest their money, according to the rail authority staff and board members...

With slim near-term prospects for additional state or federal funding, the project needs billions of dollars in private investment to supplement government funding as it tries to complete its first passenger-carrying segment.

Rail authority Chairman Dan Richard said the companies generally want either a revenue guarantee or a record of financially successful operations. A state-backed operating revenue guarantee would be a "nonstarter" under voter-approved financial protections placed on the project, said Michael Rossi, a retired Bank of America vice chairman and a rail board financial expert.The companies that responded to the state solicitation left the door open to forming partnerships and making investments, but under terms that could be problematic for high-speed rail officials. "There is no proposal, there is no commitment to do anything" in the responses, Rossi said at a board meeting this week. "We need to be very, very careful."

...The state has about $15 billion in funding: $9 billion in bond proceeds approved by voters in 2008 and $3.2 billion in federal grants. Another $2.5 billion is expected to come from [cap and trade]fees paid by businesses for generating greenhouse gases. But the cost of the initial 300-mile operating system from Burbank to Merced is an estimated $31 billion. "We still have a funding gap," Richard acknowledged. "We need that other piece that is new money"...

Elizabeth Alexis, a co-founder of a Bay Area group[Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design] critical of the rail authority's planning, said the results of the solicitation are a setback. She predicted there will be "some serious soul searching on the next step"...

Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability wonder who's paying for a junket to Spain.

Speaking of Spain, Tim Sheehan wrote in the Fresno Bee about how poorly that system was conceived.

Last week the Palo Alto City Council blasted high-speed rail plans for the Peninsula:

"I think what they are planning to do is a prescription for failure," [Councilman Pat]Burt said of the rail authority. "It is the sort of process that resulted in the horrendous backlash on the Peninsula previously."

The Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail's critique of the October high-speed rail meeting on the Peninsula: "High Speed Rail is rearing its ugly head again on the Peninsula."

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