One of the more common complaints on the Peninsula has been "omg nobody told us about this!!" Such claims are not credible, as there was widespread discussion especially in the news about the HSR project and that it would involve the Caltrain ROW - enough discussion to lead the city of Palo Alto to unanimously endorse Prop 1A and begin discussing how to implement it within their town.
Of course, you can never have too much engagement with the public, and during the recent fight, some artist renderings of what possible structures might look like along the Peninsula route would have been incredibly useful in helping to dispel the "Berlin Wall" lie that has been dishonestly spread around the region.
Unfortunately it has been difficult for the CHSRA to provide that level of information because the state budget crisis has left the CHSRA unable to pay its bills. The agency has been struggling with a lack of financial support from the state of California since at least 2007, when Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed an almost total elimination of CHSRA funding. Last October Quentin Kopp reported that the CHSRA's executive director, Mehdi Morshed, had not been paid for months because of the Legislature's inability to pass a budget.
The situation has now grown quite serious, as reported by the AP:
California may have to halt work on its high-speed rail project if it does not get an infusion of cash from the state's infrastructure fund.
Aides told the state's high-speed rail board today that the project is out of money and unable to pay its bills. The problem is an outgrowth of the state's larger budget crisis.
Some of the rail project's engineering and environmental review contractors have said they will not continue working without being paid.
The rail board has asked the state's Pooled Money Investment Board for a $29.1 million loan to fund its operations through the end of June. But the state's budget problems forced the board to freeze funding for infrastructure projects.
That has not changed even though the Legislature passed a two-year budget plan last month.
It must be made quite clear - because HSR deniers on the Peninsula will spread misinformation about this - that this is not the result of any wrongdoing or mismanagement on the part of the CHSRA. They are at the mercy of the state government as a whole and cannot create money out of thin air. They have asked contractors and their own employees to work without pay for months. Clearly that is an untenable situation.
The PMIB will likely restore funding for infrastructure projects, including the CHSRA, but that will take some time. And the state budget mess is far from over - if the initiatives on the May 19 special election ballot fail, California will face a $6 billion gap, on top of whatever gap the state will face as a result of the worsening economic crisis.
Again, there will be some critics who will take this to mean that the state cannot build HSR at all. That would be an extremely reckless answer to this problem, abandoning economic recovery because "gee it's too hard to fix the current crisis." California must demonstrate a commitment to high speed rail and fund the operations of the CHSRA - funding that will help provide accurate information to the residents of the state and counter the lies being spread by HSR opponents.
All of this is further evidence that California politicians must make a clearer and stronger commitment to high speed rail. It is all to easy to let this necessary project fall prey to the same failed politics that have produced the dire crisis the state finds itself in today. To borrow an overused phrase, high speed rail is too important to let fail.