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February 13, 2019



When I write that there is confusion over what the Gov. meant, here is an example:


Despite Newsom’s statements, the governor’s office insists that the SF-to-LA connection is still on. In fact, it appears that little about the high-speed rail project’s plan has changed.

After the speech, Newsom told ABC 7 that he is “fully committed to building high-speed rail between San Francisco and Los Angeles.”

San Francisco-based State Sen. Scott Wiener, however, told Kevin McCarthy to “stay in his lane” and swiftly issued a statement proclaiming, “The Bay Area and Los Angeles must be—and will be—part of California’s high-speed rail network.”

Sen. Wiener confirmed to Curbed SF that the high-speed rail project was still on, noting that, eventually, the high-speed rail will connect to the city’s troubled Transbay Transit Center.
Weiner is turning out to be as clueless about rail as he is about zoning.

Peter Garrison

Sounds reasonable.


Here are a few choices quips from today's WSJ editorial:

Like Richard Nixon and the Vietnam War, California Gov. Gavin Newsom inherited a quagmire in the state’s bullet train with no good options.

The choo-choo’s supporters vowed that the federal government and private investors would foot most of the estimated $33 billion bill, and the referendum explicitly stated there would be no subsidy. President Trump’s promise to make Mexico pay for a border wall was more believable.

The state rail authority has spent more than $5 billion acquiring and destroying hundreds of properties but not yet laid tracks.

Liberals envision that the bullet train will someday turn Fresno and Merced into Silicon Valley suburbs and ease the Bay Area’s housing shortage. But this too is a dream. As economic consultants William Grindley and Bill Warren document in a recent study, a worker who lives in Fresno would spend 10 hours and 20 minutes each day commuting to San Jose at a cost of $154 round trip—assuming no subsidies.
Good stuff. I have a copy of the Grindley-Warren analysis and may add a bit of detail to the Journal's synopsis later. The bottom line is the idea of HSR as a commuter rail is BS.

 It Don't Come Easy

I'll still be supporting anti-HSR groups until the HSR coffin is shut, nailed, and adorned with a wreath of garlic.

Jennifer Pfaff

This is a good synopsis in timeline form-
Train to nowhere? Here’s how high-speed project went off the rails:
Its budget has ballooned from $33 billion to $77 billion, with no secure financing plan.


The Legislature creates the High Speed Rail Authority to design a plan to connect the state’s major job and residential centers with a high-speed train — an idea that had enthralled state officials since the early 1980s. Officials begin laying out business plans, but it will be more than a decade before significant funding emerges.

August 2008

The cities of Atherton and Menlo Park sue the Rail Authority over its decision to run trains over Pacheco Pass, and then up the Peninsula, instead of running them over Altamont Pass, which would have taken trains through the East Bay. The cities ultimately lose their fight to keep the proposed line off the Peninsula, but the challenge over where trains should run is one of many that will hamper progress on the project.

November 2008

Voters approve $9.95 billion of bonds for construction of an 800-mile track, with promises to whisk riders between Los Angeles and San Francisco in two hours and 40 minutes for a fare cheaper than an airline ticket. The act locks in expectations that will prove difficult to meet. It also leaves a large gap in funding that rail officials hope to fill with money from the federal and state governments.

President Barack Obama approved federal funds in 2009 for the construction of the high-speed rail, suggesting construction start in the Central Valley.


California secures $3.3 billion for the rail line from the federal government’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and other grant programs. Because it’s money intended to stimulate the economy, the federal government urges the state to begin work in the Central Valley, between Madera and Bakersfield, where the rail line becomes widely criticized as a “train to nowhere.”

With federal money in hand to build the high-speed rail in California, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (second from right) samples fast-train technologies in South Korea, one of three countries he visited during an Asian trip in search of more details.


Kings County and several Central Valley farmers who oppose the project sue the Rail Authority. They allege that the agency will never follow through on commitments made for the train, adding to the project’s legal snags.

Aaron Fukuda stands outside his home in Hanford (Kings County) that lies in the proposed high-speed rail route.
Photo: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press


Gov. Jerry Brown elevates the rail project as a priority, hardening the state’s push for the train while Republican legislators step up opposition. They call the project a waste of money, a view that eventually begins drawing Democrats.

Gov. Jerry Brown (center) surrounded by construction workers and elected officials after signing SB1029 to authorize initial construction of the high-speed rail line during a ceremony at Union Station in Los Angeles in 2012.
Photo: Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press

The Rail Authority negotiates its first purchases of private property for laying the rail line, in Madera and Fresno counties. The process of acquiring more than 1,000 parcels over the next few years results in countless delays, budget overruns and postponements of construction contracts.

Bharat Patel, owner of the Del-Mar Motel in Fresno, is among the dozens of property owners whose businesses are in the path of California’s proposed high-speed rail project.
Photo: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press 2013

The first shovels hit the ground in Fresno, almost three years behind schedule. Crews start construction on a 119-mile segment from Madera to Bakersfield, clearing homes and businesses for the rail line, building bridges over rivers and relocating a 2-mile stretch of Highway 99.

Gov. Jerry Brown (center) and his wife, Anne Gust Brown, sign a portion of a rail at the 2015 groundbreaking event in Fresno.
Photo: Gary Kazanjian / Associated Press 2015

The Rail Authority faces one of its biggest engineering and environmental quandaries: whether to bore a 14-mile tunnel for the rail line through the Diablo mountain range. It will cost substantially more than a track that runs over the mountains, and require workers to confront rocky, undulating terrain. But the tunnel, which remains under environmental review, will allow the train to bypass the San Luis Reservoir, an area teeming with fish and wildlife. The railway faces similar geologic challenges in the Tehachapi and San Gabriel mountains.


Brown helps fund the cash-strapped project by getting the Legislature to extend the state’s cap-and-trade program to 2030. The program, which forces industry to buy permits to pollute, provides revenue that keeps the rail project moving forward as other sources of money prove difficult to come by.

Gov. Jerry Brown waits to speak a rally to urge lawmakers to approve SB1, a $5 billion-a-year tax and fee road repair measure before the Legislature in 2017.
Photo: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press 2017
June 2018

The Rail Authority releases a new business plan that pushes the completion date to 2033, 13 years behind schedule, and raises the cost of the project to $77.3 billion, roughly twice the 2008 estimate. It’s the latest in a series of reports that show cost overruns and delays.

Anthony Garcia and his crew work on an elevated section of tracks in Fresno in 2017. By 2018, it was announced that completion of the high-speed rail was 13 years behind schedule and the cost had grown to more than twice the original estimate.

November 2018

A new 50-mile route from Palmdale (Los Angeles County) to Burbank is in the works, a trade of economic costs for social costs. Instead of snaking along State Route 14 and Interstate 5 through the San Fernando Valley, the Rail Authority opts for a more expensive tunnel beneath the San Gabriel Mountains. The original plan would have displaced 8,000 homes and businesses around the San Fernando Valley.

State Auditor Elaine Howle tells lawmakers that it would take her office six to nine months to audit the state’s high-speed rail project during her appearance before the Joint Legislative Audit Committee in Sacramento in 2018. The audit was approved by the committee. At left is Democratic Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, who represents part of Fresno, where some of the current construction for the project is taking place.

The California State Auditor’s office releases a report criticizing the Rail Authority for “flawed decision making” and “poor contract management” that have led to billions of dollars of cost overruns. The agency has faced criticism before for its lack of technical expertise and questionable contractor oversight.

December 2018

A poll by the Public Policy Institute of California indicates that only 19 percent of state residents believe that high-speed rail is a priority.

February 2019

Newsom says that he will now focus on the Central Valley portion of rail, a 165-mile stretch between Merced and Bakersfield, that’s already under construction. His remarks leave the rest of the project in doubt, though he says he still wants to complete it.

Rachel Swan and Kurtis Alexander are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. Email: rswan@sfchronicle.com, kalexander@sfchronicle.com

Jennifer Pfaff

Forgot to Credit the source--This article appears in Sunday's Chron, February 17th, with photos. Also online, if you can dig through all the ads, first...


The fun quips just keep coming:

SF Comicle editorial today:

"Newsom's first state of the state address and subsequent elaboration revealed that his position on the project is what it's always been: incomprehensible."

"Trump may be our schoolyard bully in chief, but Newsom doesn't have to wave his lunch money in front of him."

From Dan Walters at CALmatters on the Feds getting their money back:

"However, if a Republican still occupies the White House in 2022 and the San Joaquin portion is still incomplete, as the State Audit suggests, the stat could, indeed, be on the legal hook to repay the grant." (Could??????)

Fox and Hounds' Richard Rubin:

But when voters over a decade ago approved the $10 billion bond issue that jump-started this project they did not have a model railroad in mind.
But that is what we will get unless he just kills this boondoggle now!


The Gavinor has put a car guy in charge of his high-cost boondoggle!!!

Gov. Newsom has named a new State Transportation Agency leader, who will oversee several embattled departments including the Department of Motor Vehicles and High-Speed Rail Authority.
Hyundai executive David Kim will take over the job from Brian Annis, who in turn will become chief financial officer for high-speed rail. Both Kim and Annis will earn $209,900 a year in their new positions.

Annis is following his predecessor Brian Kelly, who, after serving as transportation secretary became high-speed rail’s chief executive. Kelly is still the chief executive at high-speed rail.


The latest Chronicle editorial starts "It’s getting harder by the day to love high-speed rail." Duh. One would have had to be a dreamy-eyed fool to love it even before Prop 1A passed and tethered this albatross to our collective necks. The Chron goes on:

This week he (Newsom) suggested that next year’s state budget will have less money for outside consultants to advise on rail planning, another nudge at getting results with leaner spending. Newsom still needs to offer a full version of his thinking on high-speed rail and whether he supports pushing the full 520-mile route. San Francisco’s Transbay Center was designed to handle bullet trains while Newsom was mayor.

The latest plan for stripped-down service is already inflaming state legislators leery of putting more money into the project. High-speed rail was protected by Brown but isn’t getting the same political insulation this year. A longtime foe, Fresno Republican Assemblyman Jim Patterson, wants the project halted even though it will run through his district.

Shearing down the system remains the best option for now.
"Shearing down the system". I've got a really nice pair of scissors for them!


Finally someone is able to tell the emperor he has no clothes on!!!:

In a dramatic move, the Trump administration announced Thursday it has canceled a nearly billion-dollar funding contract with the California bullet train, throwing the state’s troubled high-speed rail project further in doubt.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom immediately fired back, calling the move illegal and vowing to fight it in court.

The Federal Railroad Administration said it terminated a longstanding contract to pay the California High Speed Rail Authority $928,620,000 because California “has repeatedly failed to comply with the terms of the (2010) agreement and has failed to make reasonable progress on the project.



Wow. Finally. Common sense.
Use the money to fill potholes and pensions.
City Council: listening?


We can always count on the editorial board of the SF Comical to skip commonsense and rely on partisan attacks. Here's today's version in an editorial about the FRA taking back its money (it ain't "California's money") until the check is in the mail:

"The high-speed rail project was facing major obstacles before the Trump administration even began its threats. The project has blown through its budget projections. There have been lawsuits, geological obstacles, engineering problems and bureaucratic delays."

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

They go on:

"Construction workers have already broken ground on the rail line. Even the eventual completion of the 119-mile Central Valley section will give the state a necessary window to see whether a complete project will provide the economic, social and environmental benefits its backers believe it will."

Some window - Merced to Bakersfield is more like a peephole on an oncoming bankruptcy than a "window".


They title the editorial Trump's petty train takeback. I guess a billion dollars is petty cash to them.


The Train to nowhere will never be a success.

Gavin can never become POTUS based upon support for this overpriced and failed project.

Let’s hope Gavin never gets close to the White House.


Today's 989th death cut:

The top consultant on the California bullet train has been put on suspension after a state watchdog agency began reviewing his approval of a multimillion-dollar contract for a company in which he had heavily invested, The Times has learned.

Roy Hill, deputy chief operating officer for the California High-Speed Rail Authority and a senior executive at the lead consulting firm WSP, signed a $51-million change order for the construction team led by the Spanish firm Dragados. It happened in the same year he may have owned more than $100,000 of stock in Jacobs Engineering, which is part of the Dragados team, records show.


I'm so glad are eagle-eyed senators, congressmen and woman and our assemblyman who is the #2 guy in the Assembly are on this. Wait. What? Nobody is saying anything? What?


Here are the numbers behind Newsom's dilemma from Phil Matier's column:

The bloom is off: California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s dazzling debut of new programs during his first five months in office appears to be falling a bit flat with the state’s voters, according to a new poll by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.

While Newsom’s approval rating of 47% among likely voters shows a four point uptick since January, his negative rating has risen twice as much.

“One thing to watch about Newsom is the rise in his disapproval ratings,” pollster Mark Baldassare said. Newsom’s negatives have climbed to 37%, an 8% rise since taking office in January.

Baldassare said much of the shift to the negative column is among voters who were unsure how they felt about Newsom five months ago — now they’re going negative on the new governor.

In his first five months in office Newsom launched a blizzard of programs and policies, including expanding the state’s family leave policy, increasing child-care funding and proposing a sales tax exemption on diapers and tampons.

However, big issues like the future of high speed rail, shipping Northern California delta water to Southern California, and the state’s growing homeless problem remain unresolved.


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