Wednesday, June 10, 2015

High-speed rail project under increasing attack

The hits keep coming on the poorly-conceived, under-financed high-speed rail project. People near Bakersfield forced reconsideration of its route earlier this week. 

The first operating segment was planned for the Valley because, after all, there's nothing there but some farmers, unlike the built-out Peninsula where there was bound to be more opposition. Wrong! From Monday's LA Times:

State bullet train officials have cut eight miles of track from an initial 130­ mile section of construction in the Central Valley as a result of legal disputes with local cities. Instead of ending in the outskirts of Bakersfield, the rail work will now stop just north of Shafter. A still­ pending legal battle also could eliminate a proposed elevated structure that would have carried high­-speed trains through Shafter's downtown. The California High­Speed Rail Authority says the distance covered by the initial construction plan had to be reduced because of a December agreement that settled a lawsuit brought by Bakersfield officials. The settlement calls for a review of the proposed route through the city. The change is the latest development stemming from legal disputes over the effects of the massive project on Central Valley counties, cities and farms. Additional meetings and studies of the route could take months...

Hundreds of protesters packed a high-speed rail meeting yesterday in LA:

About 300 protesters from the San Fernando Valley showed up Tuesday at a meeting of the California High-Speed Rail Authority in downtown Los Angeles to complain about the proposed bullet train route through Southern California. Outside the Ronald Reagan State Building, about 50 of them carried signs saying "Devastation and Destruction" and "NO HSR, YES H2O" in objecting to a route that would head into the heart of the Valley. And at 10 a.m., the line to get into the session snaked around the block while protesters chanted "Hell, no! High-speed rail has got to go."

A story in the LA Daily News last Friday:

The California High Speed Rail Authority is in damage-control mode in Southern California. Planning is underway for the Palmdale-to-Burbank section of the $68-billion bullet train, and the rail authority is required to solicit community input on proposed routes. On Monday, Team Bullet Train was at the Santa Clarita Activities Center to comply with that legal mandate. The strain was evident. “Santa Clarita has been very effective at vocalizing its concerns to the High Speed Rail Authority,” a rail official stated with cool irritation. “I will lead the City Council to file a lawsuit if it goes through Santa Clarita,” Council member Tim Ben Boydston said later...

The story included skepticism about the project's claims about the possibility of private investment, of which there's been none so far:

In another questionable assertion, the [high-speed rail]team insisted that the bullet train is financially viable and won’t need taxpayer subsidies to operate. They offered up a stack of year-old letters from private sector companies as evidence. But the letters are about construction loans, not financial self-sufficiency. In the very first letter a CEO writes, “we believe that long-term funding by the State is needed...”

Any government subsidy to operate the system is forbidden by the legislation authorizing the project passed by state voters in 2008. Voters were assured that the system would operate free of taxpayers' subsidy, unlike every other high-speed rail system in the world.

Funny, but a poll by the liberal Public Policy Institute published last week failed to ask any questions about the high-speed rail issue, though it asked about everything else (see the questions asked, pages 24-29). The institute has been accused of liberal bias before.

Thanks to

Later: Kathy Hamilton on the June 9 HSR meeting.

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