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January 13, 2010

Comments

Russ

The meeting was well attended and many of the speakers articulated their concerns about how High Speed Rail would impact their towns.

Most of the discussion centered around the HSR recently released business plan. Many who analyzed the plan including the Legislative Analysts Office concluded that the plan was woefully deficient in many areas.

The Daily Journal and Post covered the issue. Here is a link to the SMDJ article written by Bill Silverfarb: http://smdailyjournal.com/article_preview.php?id=123524

Burlingame was well represented at this meeting as well as at the two previous Senate subcommittee meetings held last week in Sacramento.

Several residents along with Burlingame Mayor Baylock made the trip in order to relay concerns regarding the project directly to Sen. Simitian and Sen. Lowenthal.

Terry Nagel

Mayor Cathy Baylock, Council Members Jerry Deal and Michael Brownrigg and I all attended this very long and extremely interesting meeting.

Joe

Here's a bit of the SM County Times' write-up of the meeting. I guess calling the discussion of the business plan "overwrought" is true if someone has no idea what a good business plan looks like. The latest business plan reads like a piece of fiction.

"There's a huge untapped reservoir for high-speed rail (support) on the Peninsula, in particular, but I think it's true statewide as well. No one's tried to go out there and mobilize it," said group Chairman Robert Cruickshank, a public policy director for an online advocacy organization. He started the California High-Speed Rail Blog in March 2008.

Cruickshank is quick to point out that, despite local residents' and officials' decries of the project — particularly in Burlingame, Belmont, Menlo Park, Atherton and Palo Alto — 61 percent of San Mateo County voters approved Prop 1A.

But the group knows many initial allies have since changed their minds as they started paying closer attention to the plan, and they will have to step up their presence or risk losing more backers.

To do that, they will focus on the issues — particularly messages of loosening roadway and airport congestion, environmental benefits and job creation, says Executive Director Brian Stanke, a Bay Area urban planner.

The most pressing topic is the California High-Speed Rail Authority's recently released business plan. It showed much higher fares and project costs than promised to voters in 2008.

"A lot of the discussion of the business plan has been a bit overwrought," Cruickshank said.

Stanke added that the higher cost for the project — it soared from $33.6 billion in 2008 to $42.6 billion now — was in part due to unavoidable inflation.

Ron Fulderon

$42,600,000,000 doesn't even begin to cover the project costs. The San Bruno station change is currently budgeted as $260,000,0000. (as another point of reference the Cal Berkeley stadium earthquake upgrade, not part of this, is $300,000,000) $42B doesn't get the project done.

And as I understand it 1) the state has authority to go out and get $9B in bonds that will lower our bond rating even further and cost California big bucks in higher loan rates, 2) they are hoping for a few billion more from the democrats in washington and 3) investment from Lehman brothers, Bear Stearns, etc. Good luck with that.

Joe

Here's a column by Dan Walters of the SacBee--a veteran legislative watcher.

The first episode of a new network television series, "Human Target," is set aboard the maiden run of a high-speed train from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The story involves a plot to kill its designer, financial chicanery by its contractor, and a fatal flaw in its braking system.

The show concludes with the runaway train demolishing itself, which could be an omen.

By happenstance, the episode premiered last week just before state senators delved into the real – or perhaps fictional – California high-speed rail project.

They examined a report from the Legislature's budget office that's highly critical of the High-Speed Rail Authority's much-touted business plan and a legislative staff report that echoes the criticism and adds grave doubts of its own.

The twin reports provide potent ammunition for project critics, especially those from the San Francisco Peninsula who oppose running 200-mile-per-hour trains through their bucolic, affluent neighborhoods.

Peninsula residents, many of them experienced managers and financial analysts, lined up to denounce the business plan's shaky – even outlandish – assumptions about ridership, fares, construction costs and operational margins.

Curt Pringle, the Anaheim mayor who chairs the rail authority, found himself on the defensive as senators used the staff reports to sharply question aspects of the project, especially its suppositions and what legislative budget analyst Eric Thornson said is the agency's "wholly inadequate" consideration of downside financial risks.

Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, pressed Pringle on the assumption that the federal government would pick up half the system's $40 billion projected cost. "Is that a wish?" Lowenthal asked. "It's a hope," Pringle replied.

Even the pro-high-speed-rail California Rail Foundation found the project lacking, with its representative telling senators, "We can't believe any of the numbers presented in the business plan."

At one point in the "Human Target" episode, its hero, a personal bodyguard named Christopher Chance, is told that the train cost $80 billion and complains about his taxes paying for it.

One suspects that the TV show's $80 billion is more realistic than the $40 billion projected by the rail authority, given the immense delays and cost overruns on other major public works projects in California, such as the still-unfinished overhaul of the Bay Bridge or any number of half-baked state government computer projects.

The gaping holes in the business plan must be filled with hard facts and reliable numbers – if they can be filled – before we begin selling and spending the $9.95 billion in state bonds.

It would be better to derail now rather than plunge California into a bottomless money pit that would once again make it a global laughingstock.

Terry Nagel

The PowerPoint presentation that the Peninsula Cities Consortium gave at the State Senate hearing is now posted on the PCC site at www.peninsularail.rom. It's on the home page and also in the "Get Educated" section.

Joe

This excerpt if from today's Wall Street Journal. Keep your fingers-crossed that Florida gets most of the money:

The Obama administration is expected to announce as early as this week what projects will receive stimulus funds.

The $8 billion "is oversubscribed by a factor of eight to one," said Richard Lawless, chief executive of U.S.-Japan High Speed Rail, a consulting company JR Central created to market the bullet train. "Of all the corridors we looked at, the one that looks the most promising and immediate is Florida."

The proposed Florida high-speed rail would cost a total of $3.5 billion to construct, including rolling stock, JR Central said.

Florida has purchased land rights for the project and recently cleared a federal environmental review, clearing major hurdles that many other states haven't, said Nazih Haddad, who manages the state's passenger-rail development program.

Jim

Can we post the names of Burlingame council members who are in favor of this gov't monster ruining our city? I know Terry Nagel is on baord with HSR. Who else? Also, can this go back on the ballot for Burlingame residents? Sorry for all the questions but I just discovered your website. I live in Burlingame.

bjm


Jim

Please see the meeting notice I just posted about an upcoming High Speed Rail Meeting on Monday, February 8thwith our City Council. Important to let them know what you think. Also, for more information on HSR, two good websites:

www.dontrailroadus.com(Burlingame concerned citizens group)

www.cc-hsr.org(Community Coalition on HSR, a Peninsula-based organization that is swiftly growing statewide)


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