This week's issue of the Sacramento News & Review includes an article discussing Sacramento's frustration at not being included in Phase I of the HSR project:
Even though the state’s high-speed rail system is slated to begin construction in about two years, it may not reach Sacramento for another 20 years, and even that isn’t certain. The Capitol Corridor line is one of the most heavily used conventional passenger rail lines in the country, but when it comes to high-speed rail, Sacramento is being treated like a backwater
First off, this is nonsense. Sacramento isn't being treated like a "backwater" - they're part of the planning process and are scheduled to be included in Phase II. There are a LOT of communities in California that aren't slated to get HSR service at all, from my own town of Monterey to Oakland to Redding to Santa Barbara to Palm Springs. The article is unfortunately taking the fact that someone else goes first to make it look like once again, poor old Sacramento is getting slighted. City officials are making similar comments:
That has chafed a few Sacramento leaders. Back in March, Mayor Kevin Johnson told The Sacramento Bee that he was “disappointed” at Sacramento’s second-tier status.
“I’m very interested in how we can expedite Sacramento being a part of the high-speed train,” Johnson said Tuesday. “We want to be a part of that first leg.”
I'm all for expediting the link to Sacramento. But the fact is, someone is going to get the HSR line first, and that means someone else won't. In this case, Sacramento is in the second tier behind the higher priority (more people, more riders, virtually no existing direct train service) route from SF to LA. It would be one thing if Sacramento were being left out entirely from the HSR project. But they're not. If they suddenly witnessed a population boom that gave them more people than the Bay Area or LA, I might say they had a case for moving up in the queue. Right now though, they don't. That's nothing personal. Strictly business.
Moreover, Prop 1A includes hundreds of millions in funds for the existing and popular passenger rail route connecting SF to Sacramento, the Capitol Corridor:
Even if Sacramento ends up being the last community in California to get high-speed rail, it might benefit from Prop. 1A sooner. The initiative included $950 million for upgrading conventional rail projects around the state. The idea is to beef up the local feeder systems for the eventual build-out of high-speed rail. Sacramento’s Capitol Corridor could attract a big chunk of that money in order to add additional track, to completely separate freight and passenger operations along the corridor, and to increase speeds for the commuter trains.
Dickinson noted that a rail trip to the Bay Area now takes about an hour and 40 minutes, a bit longer than driving. “But if we can take off 15 or 20 minutes, the train then becomes an extremely attractive alternative,” said Dickinson.
In fact, the Capitol Corridor is already programmed to receive a significant portion of that money. They were also programmed to get new train cars out of the 2006 transportation bond, Prop 1B, but Arnold Schwarzenegger's Department of Finance delayed that (the delays are over, but the new cars still haven't been ordered, through no fault of the Capitol Corridor). Improving the Capitol Corridor would give Sacramento a significant interim boost while they await the construction of their connection to the HSR "spine" at Merced.
So it's not clear that the situation is as dire as the SN&R would have readers believe. HSR is on its way to Sacramento, as is improved passenger rail service. In January the project-level scoping work will commence and locals will get a chance to weigh in on route and structures. In the meantime, locals are advocating for a Sacramento person to be given a seat on the CHSRA board:
Along with lining up its ducks, Sacramento could use a little political muscle to advance its interests. Cohn noted that the High Speed Rail Authority board, with nine members, is mostly composed of people from Southern California and the Bay Area. The one Central Valley representative, Fran Florez, is from the Bakersfield region—which is due to be connected on the first leg of the system.
“Not one of those board members is from Sacramento,” Cohn said. He suggested that Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg could appoint a Sacramentan when a seat opens up.
For example, board member Lynn Schenk is still serving on the board, even though her term is expired. Board rules allow members to stay until their replacement is chosen. Schenk is the governor’s appointee, but Steinberg could suggest a candidate for the governor’s consideration.
“Between the governor and Sen. Steinberg, who knows?” Cohn said. “But we need to be represented.”
I think finding a Sacramentan for the CHSRA board is a reasonable thing to do. Of course, Schenk is from San Diego, so it doesn't quite make sense to leave the other city to be served in Phase II unrepresented in order to give something to Sacramento. Surely there can be some way to resolve that matter.