Monday, November 23, 2009

California Leaders Call for HSR Funding to Create Jobs

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

This is a welcome letter:

In an effort to deal with California's spiraling unemployment rate, Gov. Schwarzenegger and the state's two senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, sent a letter Monday to President Obama urging funding of the state's high-speed rail project and improvements in its intercity rail service.

They urged Obama to fund the projects through federal stimulus funds, the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

"With unemployment in California reaching 12.5 percent – the highest unemployment rate in nearly 70 years – the impact of providing 130,000 construction-related jobs statewide cannot be understated," the letter said.

As talk ramps up of a "second stimulus" in the form of a job creation bill, and as the jobs crisis continues to worsen, high speed rail funding becomes all that much more important to California and the nation's economic recovery. California simply cannot have recovery without jobs in sustainable infrastructure, and we aren't going to have a long-lasting recovery if we don't start moving away from oil dependence. And the nation as a whole cannot have meaningful economic recovery if California, a major part of the national economy, is lagging behind and mired in high unemployment.

Given that over $50 billion in HSR funding applications were submitted to the FRA for only $8 billion in available funds - all of it for projects meeting the federal guidelines of being "shovel ready" by September 2012 - the Obama Administration and the Congress ought to strongly consider fully funding every HSR application as part of its job creation efforts. There's no reason states should be fighting against each other for that money, since many of the states applying have significant job creation needs of their own.

UPDATE: The complete letter:

November 23, 2009

The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

We write in strong support of California’s applications for high-speed and intercity rail funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). California has led the nation in its commitment to creating a statewide high-speed rail system.

Our state has been a leader and innovator in addressing environmental and transportation challenges on a national level. Last November, California voters approved nearly $9 billion in state bonds for high-speed rail construction, far outpacing other states’ efforts to secure local and state funding for these projects. California has completed design and planning for the nearly 800-mile system and made significant progress on the environmental review, making our state uniquely qualified to employ federal funding quickly.

California’s high-speed rail applications have broad support across the state, with backing from leading business, environmental and labor leaders. The California Chamber of Commerce, the Labor Federation of California and the Sierra Club have all endorsed California’s applications for funding. The success of California’s high-speed rail system is enormously important to our state. High-speed rail will help ease congestion and improve air quality. With unemployment in California reaching 12.5 percent – the highest unemployment rate in nearly 70 years – the impact of providing 130,000 construction-related jobs statewide cannot be understated.

We appreciate your attention to the needs of California and thank you for your commitment to this important issue. We stand ready to work with your administration in the coming years to ensure that high-speed rail has the resources necessary to continue to be a national priority.

Sincerely,

Barbara Boxer
Dianne Feinstein
Arnold Schwarzenegger

Good framing, good letter. Kudos to all three for writing this.

58 comments:

Vernon Malcolm said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rafael said...

@ Vernon Malcolm -

I deleted your comment because it was not even remotely on topic.

Anonymous said...

@ anon 250,
WHAT THE HELL WAS ALL THAT ABOUT!? Anyhow, glad to see that letter.

Spokker said...

Can you stop deleting comments? I and others want to see what people have to say. Why is everybody so draconian these days?

Anonymous said...

"California has completed design and planning for the nearly 800-mile system"

This is a blatant lie.

Peter said...

@ Anon @ 3:52

Nice cherry-picking. The sentence you quote continues: "and made significant progress on the environmental review".

Rafael said...

@ Spokker -

in this particular case, it was a long, meandering rant about mental illness and stuff that had absolutely zilch to do with HSR.

Rest assured, I don't delete comments lightly. This one would have steered the entire thread wildly off topic and I don't want to waste readers' time.

Anonymous said...

Peter, that's an "AND", that means both parts of that statement are supposedly factual. The first part is a blatant lie, the second part is questionable, the Program EIR for the Bay ARea was just ruled inadequate and they were told to decertify it. So for the second part of the sentence, we can argue the meaning of 'significant' and we can argue the meaning of 'progress', but tell me how you would argue the first part of that sentence - at all. Its a pure lie.

Spokker said...

Well, just keep in mind that we're adults and we can look at a comment and decide if we want to consider it or not. Wasting time is part of having a free Internet, that someone might post something you think is stupid, but you can also see things you might not have otherwise seen.

Eric M said...

Anon,

Completed design and planning is different than completed ENGINEERING. You are misunderstanding what they are saying.

Aaron said...

Spokker, not all of us have the time or patience to wade through garbage comments to reach the insightful ones (or even just the on-topic ones!) They're welcome to bring their off-topic rants to other blogs, imho.

Personally, I'd be grateful for more weeding, and appreciate the work Rafael and Robert do here.

Anyhow, it's good to see that they're not asleep at the switch here. When is the DOT decision supposed to be released?

Michael said...

Did anyone else see this on the Board Meeting Agenda for December? It is really scary and I have no idea where it came from:

Rescission of Resolution Certifying Program EIR, Bay Area to Central Valley
The board will discuss and take action on a resolution rescinding its approvals and certification of the Bay Area to Central Valley Environmental Impact Report.

Joey said...

The result of this lawsuit requires them to rescind their certification of that particular segment of the EIR, because of a few minor issues. What happens after that is not completely sure. Some believe that they will have to re-open the whole EIR process. I think it's much more likely, however, that they will just need to amend the sections that were deemed inadequate and that will be the end of it. Guess we'll find out on the third.

Rafael said...

@ Michael, Joey -

the judge did not spell out what CHSRA had to do to get its program-level document back into CEQA compliance, though he did itemize the specific complaints upheld in the lawsuit.

Basically, since CEQA requires planning agencies to certify their own process, i.e. to assert that they are in compliance, it's up to CHSRA to decide how to proceed.

After they make their draft changes, they'll have to have another round of agency and public comments, incorporate those into a final document, collect yet another round of comments and then certify the revised document.

It's not clear to me if at that point, only edits/lack of edits directly related to the issues on which the judge ruled in favor of plaintiffs are open to fresh legal challenges. In a sane legal system, that's how you would maximize the chances that the process could eventually be completed.

However, this being California, it's conceivable that the entire document is once again fair game. Lawmakers love to write laws that maximize billable hours for trial lawyers, who return the favor in the form of generous contributions to political campaigns.

Brandon in San Diego said...

When does this blog move to the other site?

Joey said...

Over thanksgiving break.

looking on said...

A comment made like, "because of a few minor issues" (Joey), implying the Judge threw out the EIR over really nothing is to say the least an incorrect analysis.

The few minor issues included the fact that the Authority studied a route from San Jose to Gilroy, owned by the UPRR and a route that the UPRR said they may not use. The Judge had really no alternative but to order the rescission of the certification. The arrogant Authority basically had its nose rubbed in the dirt. The taxpayers of the State, must pay for the court costs, lawyers fees and now a re-do of the program level EIR.

So much for misinformation from Authority board members calling the suit "frivolous"

The do not have to start completely over. Only the points ruled invalid need be fixed.

The major one is, they must find a new route from San Jose to Gilroy. they must study that route, do the public meetings and outreach etc.

In addition, since any new route from San to Gilroy could affect the decision as to going Altamont or Pacheco, that decision must be re-visited, even though Pacheco was approved under the original study.

The Authority could re-do anything else as well --- like should it abandon the CalTrain ROW and use 101. They could, but they won't, and they don't have to.

But they will have to do what I outlined above, or it will come back to the Judge, who will rule the writ has not been satisfied and the new EIR would again be ruled invalid.

This information came from an attorney and expert on this case.

Peter said...

@ looking on

I overall agree that that is what is likely to happen.

I just do not think that they will be revisiting the Altamont-Pacheco issue.

Joey said...

It's not like getting from San José to Gilroy is even that hard, even without UPRR's cooperation...

Peter said...

@ Joey

Exactly. They've already identified a number of other options that they are studying for the Draft EIR.

To address the issues of UPRR balking, essentially all that they have to do is come up with engineering drafts that show that it is in fact possible to get to Gilroy without encroaching on UPRR's ROW. That was one of the things that Judge Kenny mentioned in his holding. He stated that CHSRA had claimed they could build HSR along the ROW without encroaching on it, but had submitted no documentation in the EIR process to support that.

Tony D. said...

Looking On,

Just stop with your nonsense while your behind. Who's to say UPRR won't come to an agreement soon with CAHSRA on the SJ/Gilroy ROW. And even if they don't, as Joey and Peter alluded to,...WHO CARES! HSR from SJ to Gilroy can either go alongside the UPRR ROW down Monterey Hwy. and/or east on the 101. And no, no, no, Pacheco Pass won't/doesn't have to be revisited! How many times must this be stated!

"The arrogant authority basically had its nose rubbed in the dirt...the taxpayers of the state blah blah blah...abandon the Caltrain ROW...information came from a guy who knows a guy."

Give us all a damn break! Joey is right; these are minor issues that will be easily addressed. L.O., HSR will be built as planned from Gilroy to SF via Caltrain ROW and perhaps 101 in southern SCCo...Live with it!

By the way, what were the other "minor issues" with the program EIR that will be impossible to solve (sarcasm)?

Joey said...

see for yourself

Anonymous said...

They're not going to be able to bring a new EIR to the public with false, old, outdated information. The judge wisely allowed study to continue, and a lot of new information is now available. Plus, new Altamont study has also occured. Additionally, new route information brings new cost estimations. Finally, one of the inadequacies I believe the judge ruled was land use wrt eminent domain. So, I'm not seeing them being able to just pick and choose a few paragraphs of this EIR to update. It will have to be a major overhaul to bring it current.

Not to mention, are they allowed to have a predetermined decision made? They technically don't even have an EIR at this point. If they don't revisit their decision based on all the new information, then they'de just be digging themselves a hole.

Anonymous said...

People,

There was never enough room on the UPRR ROW, even if UP only kept 25 feet for a single track and a crash wall. Even to do a two track system (forget about the 4 track commuter/hsr system), you will need to either take a lot of properties or do a major lane reduction on a major road.

The ONLY impact mentioned in the EIR was a "new visual element".

Because of the frequent crossings and an access road, the cheap and cheerful grade level system is also not feasible.

You will need an elevated system for much of the route and it seems unlikely that they would also grade separation for the freight trains, given the cost. That fact was also left out.

The Pacheco math is quite different when you look at the additional costs and impacts originally calculated. That is why the question of Pacheco vs Altamont is very much an open one.

Even ardent Pacheco fans should favor an open and honest comparison between the best Pacheco route and the best Altamont alignment. Right now, lingering doubts about the process are the proverbial festering sore.

The extra year or two will be nothing in the scheme of things - the mountain crossing to LA will almost certainly take more time than anticipated to complete. And until that is done...

Joe said...

The "CHSRA-can-do-no-wrong" crowd has never understood (at least not willingly or honestly) how sloppy and unprofessional the program EIR was in regard to the Pacheco Pass study. This lawsuit exposed their extreme bias and unprofessional neglect. It should be no surprise that the lawsuit challenge won given the obvious weaknesses of the program EIR. It's as simple as that. You should demand more professionalism from the CHSRA Board and its consultants. If they don't get their act together, this project is going nowhere.

Tony D. said...

anon 8:09,

"The Pacheco math is quite different when you look at the additional costs and impacts originally calculated. That is why the question of Pacheco vs Altamont is very much an open one."

What the hell are you talking about?! Let me explain something to you "people": Monterey Hwy through south SJ is ultra-wide (6-lanes with wide median and shoulders) that could easily be reconfigured to accomodate HSR. Monterey Hwy from SJ to Morgan Hill is 4-lanes and very, very lightly travelled (a vestige of its days as the primary 101). And guess what else: It's either owned by the State or city's of SJ/Morgan Hill, so any land acquisitions for CAHSRA could be cheaper than dealing directly with UPRR. Additional costs? How about less costly!

"Even ardent Pacheco fans
should favor an open and honest comparison between the best Pacheco route and the best Altamont alignment."

Why do you keep beating a dead horse. This debate was settled over a year and a half ago, war over, case closed! Pacheco Pass WILL act as the primary route into the Bay Area and Altamont will get its HSR overlay.

I've said it once and I'll say it again: some "people" are going to be absolutely miserable when HSR is up in running in 2017-20. Oh well!

Joe said...

Gilroy Tony:

Take the decertified EIR and eat it!!! It worthless at this point and has no standing.

Tony D. said...

Joe 9:42,

I didn't realize that every single EIR put together in this state was perfect and flaw free! Hundreds of shopping malls, roadways, office complex's, airport expansions, schools, sports stadiums, dams, viaducts, you name it...every EIR was perfect until CAHSRA came out with their's. Unbelievable!

Anonymous said...

The whole CHSRA plan is flaky. What a disappointment. A good idea dumbed down.

Tony D. said...

I guess for the record we should put out the following: to any individual who's ardently against HSR, it appears that all the work being conducted is worthless, has no standing, is a boondoggle in the making, flaky, sloppy, unprofessional, arrogant, you name it! It's almost as if this forum, for some, has become a place to vent all frustrations related to the reality of our future HSR system.

Wait till 2017-20? Heck, some people are aleady pretty miserable!

Peter said...

Ahh, I love the sweet sound of NIMBYs whining in the morning. Sounds like ... losers.

Anonymous said...

Scoreboard...

Anonymous said...

Will help ease congestion - where?

"The impact of adding 130K construction related job can not be understated" - but it certainly can be overstated. Because the stimulus dollars they are requesting are not for shovel ready projects - those dollars will employ "PR" firms, engineering consultants, and if it goes that far, purchase of a bunch of non-US made equipment technologies. However, how far WILL 1-2B go toward creating 130K contruction jobs- when the project will require more like 80B, and the rest of the funding is a big black hole? zilch. So, its pretty easy to overestimate the constructino job impacts that federal stimulus dollars for CHSRA will have in the State of California.

Wonder if any of these three political big (wigs? mouths?) would be willing to stake their political reputations by guaranteeting these federal grant monies stay inside California, for the much needed California job creation?

Peter said...

I love the 80 billion number. Why not just call it "the number some pro-sprawl anti-rail fanatic pulled out of his a$$"?

All ABOARD! said...

The topic here is jobs. Not altamont. This project will create jobs, period. good jobs. jobs that can pay rent or a mortgage and feed families. and all the jobs that support those good jobs. and we'lll have a new peice of infrastructure that will benefit the state for the next 100 years or more. do it now.

Anonymous said...

http://foxandhoundsdaily.com/blog/michael-bernick/5599-what-we%E2%80%99ve-learned-so-far-from-federal-stimulus-california

Morris Brown said...

Readers of this blog might find this amusing; surely at least interesting.

The Oct 9th LETTERsent to the FRA and signed by 24 California members of the congress, also has appended a large number of letters, supposedly from supporters of this project.

Now if you will note Page 109 of this letter, is a letter from me, addressing the issue of whether Prop 1A funds can be used to match any stimulus funds for construction, unless full funding of a segment were to be secured before construction could start.

I doubt anybody reading this blog, thinks I am a supporter of this project, but my letter was included, as if it was a letter of support, rather than a letter questioning legality of funding.

BTW, just to make clear, my letter was written and known to the Authority well before the final decision of what funding was to be requested. The Authority certainly could have changed their stimulus requests to meet the requirements I note.

My letter was obviously ignored, since the final funding requests certainly do not meet the criteria for use of Prop 1A funds to match the federal dollars, even though the Governor told the FRA, State funding would match any Federal dollars received.

To date I have received no communication from the Authority, nor anyone else concerning my objections.

Peter said...

That is amusing.

Of course, this assumes that anyone actually read your letter at the Authority.

Also, I don't think they have to respond to your letter unless it is part of the official public comment period.

Joey said...

While I think public comment is an important part of the planning process, they probably don't have the resources or time to respond to every comment given.

Joey said...

And @looking on:

I'm sorry, but you can't use the UPRR argument in favor of Altamont. The problem is at least as bad through Fremont, Pleasanton, and Livermore. In many places you have houses right up against UPRR property, with no space to spare (bulldozing ensues). At least south of SJ there's a decent amount of open space. Altamont has many arguments for it, but THIS is not one of them.

Anonymous said...

The issue is that in the Pacheco vs Altamont comparison, they ignored UP issues for Pacheco and counted them for Altamont.

Tony D. said...

anon 2:39,
Repeat after me very, very slowly:

ALTAMONT WILL GET A HIGH-SPEED RAIL OOOOOVERLAY!

You're not really pro-Altamont vs. Pacheco Pass; you're just someone holding out hope that somehow, someway this thing won't get built PERIOD! TO BAD!

AndyDuncan said...

@morris:

The So. California segment is clearly ahead of the others, it should be where all the funding should be allocated.

On behalf of all the HSR supporters in southern california, I thank you for your deep, entirely genuine concern for the completion of the LA-Anaheim segment.

As a response to this measure of goodwill, you can count on our support for San Francisco - Palo Alto - San Jose line when the time comes. If you need help securing support, or if the line looks like it might not be completed due to piecemeal funding, please let us know what we can do to help. Too often politics in this state degrade into Norther Vs Southern California. It's refreshing to see someone selflessly concerned with the transportation options available to their fellow citizens.

Peter said...

@ AndyDuncan

Heh

Dan S. said...

Wow, how painful to read the blog today. Some people are so married to their convictions they really don't give any space for their adversaries to block out a legitimate position of their own. Don't fall for what you see paraded on TV as civil discourse; it's a sham and is only leading our country to ruin. As a useless display, I reject such efforts to poison the discussion here.

Guess what - it's okay to be for the train, and it's okay to be against it. Next topic please.

Anonymous said...

Peter,
Ok, then try this:

Will help ease congestion - where?

"The impact of adding 130K construction related job can not be understated" - but it certainly can be overstated. Because the stimulus dollars they are requesting are not for shovel ready projects - those dollars will employ "PR" firms, engineering consultants, and if it goes that far, purchase of a bunch of non-US made equipment technologies. However, how far WILL 1-2B go toward creating 130K contruction jobs- when the project will require more like 40B, and the rest of the funding is a big black hole? zilch. So, its pretty easy to overestimate the constructino job impacts that federal stimulus dollars for CHSRA will have in the State of California.

Wonder if any of these three political big (wigs? mouths?) would be willing to stake their political reputations by guaranteeting these federal grant monies stay inside California, for the much needed California job creation?

Morris Brown said...

Peter:

So far as I know, there is no legal requirement for the Authority to respond to my letter.

However, it certainly was read, since Judge Kopp noted it at the board meeting, and gave it to someone on staff or legal team.

How do you think it ended up as part of the letters that accompanied the California congressional letter sent to the FRA?

It certainly should be considered part of public comment, but that would not demand a reply.

As part of the campaign to stamp out 'misinformation', wouldn't it be to their advantage to refute my ascertains, so that I and others don't spread any claims without substance?

Peter said...

@ Anon @ 5:55

Maybe congestion along Highway 99, where the travelers don't have any option other than driving.

Maybe congestion along the Peninsula? Maybe congestion along Altamont? Maybe congestion along I-5?

It's not just about solely the congestion NOW. How bad is it going to be 20 - 30 years from now?

mike said...

I doubt anybody reading this blog, thinks I am a supporter of this project, but my letter was included, as if it was a letter of support, rather than a letter questioning legality of funding.

In fairness, you framed your letter as if you were supporting the SoCal section of HSR. Your show of "support" may have been disingenuous, but that fact would not be obvious to any reader that is unaware of your ulterior motives!

In spite of what you might think, most people involved in the HSR project have no more clue about who you are than they do about who I am or who Spokker or AndyDuncan or Tony D or anyone else here is.

Brandon in San Diego said...

HSR will provide some relief shortly after it first runs. Airport congestion relief should be most evident at the beginning.

Congestion relief occuring in the future will be more difficult to tabulate. However, relief will be at airports and roadways.

The biggest switcheroo for Californians will be a change in the way we think about travelling. More people will begin to use local public transit vs. driving. Maybe modest at first; however, over time this will increase. Why... because alterntaive forms of transportation will become more of a way of life.

Anonymous said...

Or alternative fuels will become a way of life, and transportion in convenient flexible family size vehicles will remain..

http://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/show_story.php?id=14675

AndyDuncan said...

With regards to "congestion relief". There was a good presentation by the LA Metro board last year when they were pushing for the 1/2 cent measure R sales tax increase.

Basically, their whole pitch was: traffic is getting horrendous, we're so screwed that making things better in the face of the population growth we expect is quixotic at best, all we can hope for is that things will only remain as bad as they are now.

We're not talking about a system that is going to rain unicorns down from the sky, we're talking about a system that will help handle the future demand for inter regional travel.

I think that tomorrow, when many of us are going to be sitting in cars, cursing the d-bag who just cut us off in his lifted tacoma (toys, is that you?), or waiting in line at the airport hoping the gloved hand is gentle this week, we should give thanks that CA voted to pass 1A. I know I will.

AndyDuncan said...

@Randy (I'm going to call you randy, if you don't like it, pick a handle): Or alternative fuels will become a way of life, and transportion in convenient flexible family size vehicles will remain..

I totally agree. Actually I think that electrics are going to take over within 20 years. The issue is capacity. If you think traffic is bad now, wait until the cost of driving goes down to around 10 cents/mile. We are completely, utterly prepared to handle a situation where the cost of driving 10 miles is effectively the same as the cost of driving 30 miles.

All the environmentalists want to push us to electric cars, without ever talking about how electricity is dirt cheap. We're talking 1950s-level gas prices.

The cost of widening the 5 to deal with all the people that will be running their 2033 prius on it is going to be insane.

Rather than worry about what we're going to need to handle a population that can't afford to drive, I'm far more worried about handling a (growing) population where driving is so cheap that we can't afford to build enough roads to deal with them.

And all the anti-growth people need to ask themselves how successful those campaigns have been over the past 40 years. (hint: not very).

HSR is a pragmatic solution. Electric cars are going to be a nightmare.

Brandon in San Diego said...

And in reality.... I really don't believe we'll have ANY real congestion relief. What we'll have is something different.

The thing is... when new capacity is opened up... peeps at home at that time see that traffic flows better at that time of day and then change their behavior to take advantage of that new capacity. That is called latent demand.

Woosh... within a short period of time - say 4-6 years - congestion levels return to where they where prior to the expansion.

Similar applies to non-auto expansion....

When a new rail line opens up... some auto users switch to avoid roadway congestion or the expense of using a car. But, when they leave their cars at home, someone else that was originally home senses/sees that there is now new available capacity on the roadway... and then chooses to drive at that time.

The historic argument that roadway or rail relieves congestion, in my opinion, is false.

But, expansion does have value... but is a bit non-quantifiable and difficult to value by the masses...

The improvement I see is that the overall flow/capacity to move people in a region is increased and improved.

If that expansion involves non-auto uses, then the expansion includes greater modal options. And, vitality or vibrancy or versatility to an area.

In my opion, THAT has great value... because it delivers or provides greater freedom of choice.

Freedom cannot be understated. That is what drives us...

The alternative future, one without any expansion because our roadways are land-locked... is one that has more and more people staying at home. They are avoiding congestion and the hazards and nuisances of driving. They remain sheltered... living alone and without contact with others.

Except perhaps online. And, is that really a life with value? No, I don't think so.

Whether we're talking high-speed rail, light-rail, bike trails, or wider sidewalks... what we're really doing is improving the vibrancy and vitality for people and providing freedom.

That has value.

Brandon in San Diego said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
All ABOARD! said...

The best approach to congestion is to build the new systems that are better, like hsr, while doing nothing to relieve other congestion because the worse it gets the more people will give it up.

Brandon in San Diego said...

In terms of the ability of a roadway segment to process more and more cars... those cannot or will not improve.

The distances involved in roadway congestion will get longer.

The periods of the day that congestion is expereinced will get longer.

Peter said...

@ Brandon

I agree. The best we can do is to limit the damage by giving people better options in terms of long-distance, regional, and local public transportation.