Tuesday, January 27, 2009

HSR in the Stimulus: Call NOW!

NOTE: We've moved! Visit us at the California High Speed Rail Blog.

Things move quickly on Capitol Hill, and we have a window for bringing real funding to intercity rail, which can include HSR. I'm crossposting this notice wholesale from Open Left:

1. several House members are submitting amendments to increase rail funding to the stimulus package:

The amendment would distribute $1.5 billion for the Transit Capital Assistance Program and $1.5 billion for Capital Assistance Grants, known as the New Starts Program.

The bill is introduced by Representative Nadler, and can be read here. There are other amendments introduced by Representatives Corinne Brown and Hare, that would increase rail funding by $3.9 billion and $500 million respectively. Any and all amendments to increase rail funding would be great.

2. These amendments must be approved by the House Rules Committee today in order to be considered on the floor tomorrow. The Rules Committee will be meeting at 12:30 p.m. Pacific to consider amendments to the stimulus bill.

This gives us just over one hour to make our voice heard for more rail funding in the stimulus bill. To do so, please contact the Rules Committee. Politely state your support for the Nadler, Brown and Hare amendments for increased rail funding. Ask the committee to approve these amendments for a floor vote tomorrow.

Their phone number is 202-225-9091.

This is a very short window, as the situation is fluid and happening fast. However, this also means we can make a difference. Please call now, and let the Rules Committee hear your support for the Nadler, Brown and Hare amendments to increase rail and mass transit funding.


And direct contact info for California Rules Committee members:

David Dreier - Republican from 26th District (San Gabriel Valley foothills). Phone numbers: DC office (202) 225-2305, San Dimas office (909) 575-6226, Toll-free (888) 906-2626

Doris Matsui - Democrat from 5th District (Sacramento). Phone numbers: DC office (202) 225-7163, Sacramento office (916) 498-5600

Dennis Cardoza - Democrat from 18th District (Stockton, Modesto, Merced). Phone numbers: DC office (202) 225-6131 or (800) 356-6424, Merced office (209) 383-4455, Modesto office (209) 527-1914, Stockton office (209) 946-0361.

UPDATE: Nadler amendment appears to have been approved by Rules and sent to the floor. Will get firm info and then ask you to contact your members of Congress. CALPIRG is petitioning Speaker Nancy Pelosi to make good on her mass transit commitments.

27 comments:

Kyle - Boston said...

I just called and voiced my support...they have been getting calls and the committee will be taking up the amendments at 3:30.

Spokker said...

I hope my call put it over the top!

Jim said...

i called too.

Rafael said...

Proposed amendments to HR 1.

Only the amendments related to rail & transit are listed below. Emphasis mine.

Note that only a single amendment related to rail and transit was submitted by the California delegation in the House. What gives?

---

Nadler (NY)/DeFazio (OR)/Ellison (MN)/McMahon (NY)/Lipinski (IL)
#70
Would increase transit capital funding by $3 billion.

---

Brown, Corinne (FL)
#28
Would increase funding for Intercity Passenger Rail Service from $300 million to $3.5 billion and would increase funding for the National Railroad Passenger Corporation from $800 million to $1.5 billion.

---

Hare (IL)
#102
Would increase the amount appropriated for “Capital Assistance for Intercity Passenger Rail Service” from $300 million to $800 million.

---

Oberstar (MN)
#178
Would amend the aviation, highway, rail, and transit priority consideration and "use-it-or-lose-it" provisions to require that 50 percent of the funds be obligated within 90 days.

---

Sanchez, Loretta (CA)
#107
Would create a new U.S. Treasury savings bond, called the Re-Build America Bond, and would establish a Re-Build America Trust Fund with in the Treasury of the United States so that all proceeds from the Re-Build America Bonds would be directed to this trust fund and that expenditures from the trust fund could only be made to redeem the bonds and as provided for in appropriation Acts for purposes of making expenditures for transit, water, highway, bridge, or road infrastructure projects of any governmental unit.

---

Brown-Waite (FL)
#19
Would redirect $200 million from the “National Mall Revitalization Fund”, $50 million from the “Grants and Administration” heading of the “National Endowment for the Arts”, $800 million from the “Capital and Debt Service Grants to the National Railroad Passenger Corporation” (Amtrak), and $600 million from the “Energy Efficient Federal Motor Vehicle Fleet Procurement” to the Small Business Loans Program Account.

eddo said...

I called in and left a message for congresswoman Pelosi. I mentioned that I was calling her while on a crowded BART train and that it might be loud and I might lose the call going under the transbay tube but that it was the middle of the day and the train was full with people of all ages and backgrounds and that everyone of these people have chosen public transit over other forms of transportation and that we were all hoping she would support the Nadler amendment to better public transit in San Francisco and the Bay Area and beyond.

The Intellectual Redneck said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
timote said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Francis said...

Whats up with the word Troll all of a sudden? I see it everywhere.

So I'm counting on this stimulus to get me a Job! Besides my part time one that is. I would like to build a train network as a job. So I called in. Phil Hare's second term, Im glad he got re-elected hes a cool dude.

Rafael said...

The Daily Californian, published by UC Berkeley students, claims the Senate version of the stimulus bill explicitly reserves $2 billion for high-speed rail. If someone has a URL to the latest version of the S.1 (111th), please post it - the only one I found was a boilerplate dating back to Jan 6.

The DailyCal also claims that HSR might have a station in Oakland, which is misleading. Only the "HST/commuter rail overlay" might have one, but it was not part of prop 1A.

timote said...

Francis-

Here's a definition of a troll:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_(internet)

"An Internet troll, or simply troll in Internet slang, is someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum or chat room, with the intention of provoking other users into an emotional response or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion."

The comment in question was deleted but it was pretty much classic trolling.

Alon Levy said...

Also, in normal conversation, the word "troll" is also used to refer to someone who disagrees materially with the collective assumptions of the community. Here someone who quotes Wendell Cox on rail subsidies would be called a troll; on Auto Extremist, he wouldn't, but an HSR supporter would be.

Rafael said...

@ Alon Levy -

I'm afraid you're right, many blogs and other online communities do tend to excoriate anyone who dares challenge the received wisdom. We had a little bit of that on this blog before Nov 4, but fortunately there was enough civil and substantive discussion to keep the opposition engaged.

Personally, I hope we continue to reserve the term "troll" to the connotation timote gave.

Rafael said...

Transbay Blog reports that the Senate Appropriations Committee has come up with its own amendments that will now go to the full Senate. If the House and the Senate each pass their own versions, they will be reconciled in conference.

From our point of view, the most significant changes are $2 billion explicitly for HSR, paid for by a reduction in funds dedicated to highway projects.

There is also a $5.5 billion general transportation infrastructure fund that may be used for road or transit/rail, more or less at the discretion of the Secr. of Transportation (Ray LaHood, Republican).

The latter strikes me as inappropriate, the final bill should spell out a formal oversight mechanism for the project selection process. In particular, this has to quantify macroeconomic, environmental and energy security consequences or it'll yet again be down to which lobbyists have the best connections.

Putting construction workers back on site is important, but so is making sure the resulting assets maximize the benefit to future generations. Electric rail systems are arguably the best investment for large MSAs and medium-distance intercity travel between them.

Spokker said...

"Also, in normal conversation, the word "troll" is also used to refer to someone who disagrees materially with the collective assumptions of the community."

This is where I stand as well. You cannot tell whether a person who posts messages on the Internet believes the things they say or if they are simply trying to provoke a response.

And I say, what's wrong with trying to provoke an emotional response out of someone? The great thing about the Internet is that all viewpoints can be heard and it's not a bad thing if the discussion gets heated. As long as people aren't spamming or sending death threats, I say don't stop the party.

Rafael said...

@ spokker -

Monty Python argument clinic

Rafael said...

The Nadler amendment (#70) to HR 1 has been discussed and slightly revised. The $3 billion increase is now split 50/50 between explicit grants for transit and a general-purpose transportation slush fund at the discretion of Ray LaHood.

I'm not sure why any cabinet member of any party should get such a slush fund. This amendment to the House bill proposes raising it from $1 billion to $2.5 billion, while the Senate appropriations committee version has it pegged at $5.5 billion.

I'm not a lawyer so I can't parse all the gobbledegook about how LaHood is supposed to implement the process of competitive tendering, presumably by state DoTs, other than that projects that can break ground within 120 days should be prioritized.

In terms of California HSR, a request for a slice of this slush fund could boil down to a contribution toward

(a) the trainbox + DTX tunnel for SFTT or,

(b) the run-through tracks for LAUS or,

(c) ROW acquisition and construction for the south Fresno-west Bakersfield section Central Valley test track.

BruceMcF said...

Nadler amendment (Rules Committee #4) passes on voice vote.

Rafael said...

More on the Nadler amendment passing.

The only person on the House appropriations committee to vote against it ("reluctantly") was a Republican from California, one Jerry Lewis. His complaint was that nothing else was cut to pay for the extra money for transit.

Meanwhile, the bill includes $10.5 billion for the Pentagon, because years of $500 billion regular budgets on top of funds for the wars have left it unable to fund maintenance for its buildings. There's even $350 million in R&D, Test and Evaluation - anyhow core ongoing activities of the DoD. Apparently, there's always plenty of money for finding new ways to lay waste to other countries but very little to build civilian infrastructure in the US.

Anonymous said...

You are nowwhere near ready to spend money on CHSR given that you don't even know the full design, the environmental and human impact, nor the full cost of the route proposed. Its frankly shameful that they are in washington trying to figure out how to stimulate the economy in the next 120 days (with massive spending of tax payer dollars), and you are greedily grabbing away for non-value added pork. Shame on you. How does some millions on a train box stimulate the economy now? We're talking about real people losing their actual homes, their jobs, their retirements. We need to spend tax money as modestly as possible now on the things that will stimulate the economy NOW the most. This is a time for prudence not a grab fest. Don't be greedy. (And we'll keep this in mind, next time you haughtily reprimand the 'deniers' for not taking the greater good of all of California into account.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 1:33pm -

unlike the SF-SJ HSR segment, the SFTT project is actually ready to break ground very soon now. It's important to decide quickly if the infrastructure for the train box will be included in the initial construction phase or if it will be added - at much greater expense - much later on.

Btw, construction jobs are real jobs and, the SFTT will be a large construction site. They help construction workers make their mortgage payments, helping to reduce the severity of the foreclosure crisis. Their discretionary spending helps other parts of the economy.

Shame on you for flunking econ 101. When no-one else is spending because the credit markets are frozen, the government must borrow to prevent stagnation. Japan lost a whole decade of economic growth because it did too little far too late.

Sacramentan said...

There is still the Senate and Feinstein? An still the joint resolution committee to resolve Senate and Congressional differences?

Rafael said...

@ Sacramentan -

yes, both versions of the bill have only just begun to make their way through the respective chambers before reconciliation in conference.

Speaker Pelosi seems confident that the whole thing will be signed, sealed and delivered by President's Day, but this bill is very large and complex.

Afaik, it will require the full 3/5 of seated Senators to pass. With Sen. Burris seated but the Minnesota race still stuck in court, the Dems will need to secure at least 2 Republican votes (more if any conservative Dems refuse to back the final compromise).

Personally, I would have preferred a more structured approach of a coherent program of smaller, more manageable bills each disbursing $50-$100 billion with appropriate oversight mechanisms, at a rate of roughly one a month for the rest of 2009 (and beyond, if necessary).

But the process is what it is, so it looks like there will be a large single bill, knowing full well that some - hopefully small - fraction of the total package will end up being wasted. At this point, doing the right thing too slowly could be worse than throwing money at the problem quickly and hoping that most of it will stick.

Sacramentan said...

I called the
the Rules Committee
David Dreier
Doris Matsui
Dennis Cardoza
thanks for the reminder! maybe we can get a leg up on the next round of calls needed

HST thru menlo park now said...

Anno are you from Menlo Park??

Brandon in San Diego said...

Anon 1:33:

CHSRA can use stimulus funds to purchase critical right-of-way. Many locational segments are known.

True, the funding will not go directly to peoples pocket books and then into cash registers, or to morgage payments; however, of the funds directed toward ROW not all of it will sit idle in bank accounts.

Some funds used for right-of-way aquisition will go immediately to other investments, while some will probably bring a load out of default into current standing. Some will go to local jurisdictions adn provide a short term stimulus to their budgets.

And, what is entirely wrong with funds sitting in bank accounts? ... they'd prop up the capital of the bank and enable them to lend funding more freely... thus further stimulating the economy.

Brandon in San Diego said...

^^^ Ooops, many typo's.

I intended to say that some stimulus funds for ROW acquisition will trickle to property owners needing capital to pay other morgage payments... along those lines.

Additionally, 3rd para should have read 'loan' not 'load'.

BruceMcF said...

CHSRA can use stimulus funds to purchase critical right-of-way. Many locational segments are known.

But the multiplier for that would suck ... maybe not as badly as the corporate tax cuts ($0.30 impact for each $1 added to the deficit), and it would, after all, be sneaking a beneficial long term investment into the stimulus spending ...

... but as stimulus spending, really bad. Indeed, all the weaker stimulus spending in the bill is there at the behest of a particular major political party that seems to have a strong anti-rail bias, so its hard to see how it gets in there politically.

The best prospect would seem to be under the Senate version, with both a dedicated HSR component and the prospect of getting money from the Secretary of Transportation's slush fund.