Peter Nelson attended the California High Speed Rail Authority Board Meeting in San José on Wednesday and filed this report. The agenda is here and Peter has organized his report according to each item. Scroll down for some media files - an MP3 of the CHSRA lobbyist's report on federal funding prospects, and a PPT of the Work Program. My comments are in italics. Lots to chew over here!
1-2, closed doors.
3. Approve Oct. Meeting Minutes - I noticed that at the meeting "Frank Guzzo from Siemens presented an overview of Siemens' progress in high-speed train technology." This sounds like it would have been an interesting presentation, but unfortunately the Authority does not seem to video tape their own meetings. It would be nice if they had something like SFGTV, where every single SF meeting is recorded and placed online. [Robert: Yes, this would be a very good way to encourage citizen engagement and continue to promote a culture of openness at the Authority.]
4. Something about compensation for meetings, I didn't listen.
5. Member's Reports - this was most of the patting themselves on the back. Really nothing of substance. There were also a bunch of people like the San Jose mayor and a Silicon Valley Leadership Group representative that gave generic reports / congratulations.
6. Executive Director's Report. This was the start of any actual substance.
- They decided they will produce an annual report to the legislature with the past year's progress. Very good idea, and kinda cool that they brought it up on their own without being told to do so. I assume like the other major filings this will appear online (after a few weeks delay).
- BNSF has indicated that they are open to negotiation and sharing of their Right of Way, unlike most other companies that own track.
- The executive director is in the process of negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding with Caltrain defining both sides rights/responsibilities. This is so that the shared Caltrain corridor is developed in a coherent fashion by a single joint entity. Along with Caltrain, it was explicitly mentioned that this would involve also talking with the Transbay Joint Powers Association to get to the Transbay Terminal. So despite the media reports, the Transbay Terminal is still their plan. [Robert: Yes, this was indeed always the plan. As we reported last month there are some turf wars going on between CHSRA and the TJPA, some of it over legitimate issues. But conversations continue to happen, which is very good.]
- The FRA has given a Record of Decision signing off on the SF/Bay Area EIR.
- All future meetings will be on the 1st Thursday of the month in Sacramento, so this looks to be the only meeting I'll be attending. [Robert: That's probably a sensible cost-savings move, although it would be good to have a few meetings in other locales around the state each year. I'm going to try and make as many of these meetings as possible. Yay for the Capitol Corridor!]
7. Cooperative Agreement with Caltrans. There was some argument about this agreement. The idea was basically to utilize some of their expertise in RoW acquisition and construction inspection, by contracting the work to them. One board member was quite against giving anything to Caltrans that could be done by a private firm, basically anything related to construction. The main concern though was if Caltrans could actually meet reasonable schedules to expedite the work. It was decided that the executive director would negotiate a contract with Caltrans and then bring it back to the board for approval.
8. Federal funding. Most of the meat managed to be within a single 5 minute presentation by one Mark Kadish, the CHSRA's lobbyist in Washington DC (used to be Dianne Feinstein's Chief of Staff). Click here for an MP3 of his presentation. He mentions a number of different funding sources that are being looked into:
- The Amtrak re-authorization bill with $1.5 billion in it.
- The new HSR bill Kerry introduced with billions in it.
- The economic stimulus package everyone is expecting to come into Washington with Obama that will be mostly transit related. Initial wording of the stimulus though is for things that can turn dirt within 180 days, which we are nowhere close to. He mentioned this horizon might be expanded, and they're looking to see if there's anything useful that could be done so quickly (I can't think of anything). [Robert: We'll see about this. There is a lot of momentum and support for a broader stimulus, especially given the likelihood that this recession is going to last a while. Still, this Congress is not known for its grasp of policy or forward thinking, so we will have to work hard to ensure HSR gets stimulus money.]
- Doing this as an annual appropriation is not realistic, we need to build it into the baseline.
- Build a coalition for a national program, not a 1-state HSR program. Need to get other states closer to the the CA level in both planning and funding. This will help us get the funding we want, by helping others.
[Robert: As you can hear in the clip, Kadish believes that striking while the iron is hot and ensuring that HSR is part of a stimulus package is key to getting this funded. This site will be part of a grassroots effort come January to ensure that happens.]
There also was a lot of talk about getting more early private investment and reviewing the state of the private investment workings, especially since Lehman Brothers is no more due to going bankrupt. Conclusion was to have a report at the next meeting.
9. Work Program update. Unfortunately this was the point that they broke for lunch and I left. Before leaving I managed to snag the PPT that was going to be presented, and it looks like it would have been an interesting update. Without any notes the PPT by itself is somewhat limited in usefulness, but I've attached it anyway. [Thanks for getting it Peter!]
So ends Peter's report.