Friday, July 11, 2008

AB 3034 Update

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

Yesterday the Senate Appropriations Committee met to discuss and approve AB 3034. The committee proposed just a few amendments, most of them minor. The most significant change was the deletion of the controversial provision agreed to in the Senate Transportation Committee giving project design and engineering work to Caltrans. Several Senators and engineering companies argued this move was unconstitutional and it will no longer be part of the bill.

The committee also plans to change slightly the language regarding phased construction. Leland Yee's amendment provided that no bond funds could be spent outside of the SF-LA-Anaheim "spine" until that project had been fully completed. Here's Yee's version (indicated by strikethrough text):

for the usable segment
of the high-speed train system between San Francisco
Transbay Terminal and Los Angeles Union Station and Anaheim.
Once construction of the San Francisco-Los Angeles usable segment is
fully funded, all remaining funds described in this subdivision
shall be used for eligible capital costs, as described in subdivision
(c), for the following high-speed train system corridors:

And here's the new language (indicated by italics):

(2) Upon a finding by the authority that expenditure of bond
proceeds in corridors other than the corridor described in paragraph
(1) would advance the construction of the system and would not have
an adverse impact on the completion of Phase 1 of the high-speed
train project, as adopted by the authority in May 2007 and described
in paragraph (1), the authority may request funding for capital
costs, and the Legislature may appropriate funds described in
paragraph (1) in the annual Budget Act or separate statute, to be
expended for the following high-speed train corridors:

(A) Sacramento to Stockton to Fresno.
(B) San Francisco Transbay Terminal to San Jose to Fresno.
(C) Oakland to San Jose.
(D) Fresno to Bakersfield to Palmdale to Los Angeles Union
(E) Los Angeles Union Station to Riverside to San Diego.
(F) Los Angeles Union Station to Anaheim to Irvine.
(G) Merced to Stockton to Oakland/San Francisco
Oakland and San Francisco via the Altamont Corridor.
(3) Nothing in this section shall prejudice the
authority's determination and selection of the alignment from the
Central Valley to the San Francisco Bay Area and its
certification of the environmental impact report.

So as I read that, the Appropriations committee has constructed a usable compromise between Yee's position and those who wish to see the bond funds become available to all segments of the ultimate HSR route. It allows the Authority to request bond funds be used for other segments of the route but only if they've determined it won't adversely impact Phase 1 - the "spine" from the Bay Area to SoCal. This is a good compromise and will allow the project to move forward with strong support from around the state.

The language also gives the Authority final determination over how to connect the SF Bay Area to the Central Valley - meaning that if this passes, Pacheco will definitely be the route used. It's about time we settled that long-running debate.

The Appropriations committee will meet again on Monday to give a final vote on the amended version of AB 3034. This blog supports the new language and believes it should pass out of committee. From there it's not clear what the schedule for consideration will be - after Monday the Senate is scheduled to go into recess until August 4. Presumably the Senate as a whole could vote on the project on Monday once the Appropriations committee passes it - that would be the ideal outcome, allowing us to move forward with the campaign to pass Proposition 1 in November.


Brandon in California said...

The revised AB 3034 language does indeed appear to be a good compromise.

I also find it satisfying that the Altamont corridor is a permissible use of funds; while still retaining Pacheco as the preferred alignment. Altamont remains an option, or at the least, could become a 2nd entry into the Bay Area at some point in time. It makes sense too... as it provides a shorter and more time-efficient trip to Stockton and Sacramento.

However, if it's one or the other, I prefer the Pacheco alignment b/c it does not have the capacity limitations that Altamont does and appears faster.

As for the SF to LA spine as a first phase priority, I am very much agreeable to it. I also understand the need for something politically palatable for those in the Valley and on the Coast. The original AB 3034 language would have permitted the prioritization of links based on which had the greatest chances for success at the least cost. This should make sense to a lot of people.

And I recall San Diego-Riverside-LA Union Station could have risen to the top priority.

Anonymous said...

Brandon M. Farley said... "Altamont remains an option, or at the least, could become a 2nd entry into the Bay Area at some point in time."

Maybe that was the plan all along?

Example: 580/680 interchange. The biggest jam and worst ramp and most traffic was from west 580 to south 680. So which giant flyover did they build? South 680 to east 580. Probably the least-needed one. The W580/S680 ramp remains the same congested mess.

Was this poor planning? No, it was brilliant planning, if you make your living constructing flyover ramps, or your political campaigns are funded by people who make a living constructing flyover ramps. Eventually, somebody will be hired to build the the W580/S680 flyover.

Likewise, build Pachecho first and we'll eventually need to build Altamont, too. Probably as part of the Sacramento phase. Going to Sacramento via Pacheco is ridiculous, of course.

And some or all of BART to San Jose might get built in the meantime.

But if we build Altamont first, we don't need Pacheco, or BART to San Jose.

Why build one route (Altamont) when you can build three?

I don't want to suggest that political decisions are made based on what best serves the contractors who support their election campaigns, so I won't.

This isn't meant to be cynical, this is just a guess at how the system works.

I bet once HSR is running through Pacheco, the cities along the Altamont will be begging for their own HSR route.

Anonymous said...

Altamont is a dead issue -- its been dead since last fall, since has previously commented, CHSRA has not made any changes due to public input. They just hold the hearings and do what they want.

Robert fails to mention, that the revised version essentially guts the peer review panel that was mandated for reviewing the business plan due to be published by Oct 1st. No longer will it contain any project experts.

Brandon in California said...

I believe you guessed wrong.

I am in San Diego now, but I relocated from Walnut Creek and I am familiar with the 580/680 interchange. Politics may very well have played a roll there, but, functionally the S680 to E580 270-degree loop move was very problematic and created delays and safety issues. The pre-improvement maneuver required merging and weaving with those same autos you have preference for; W580 to S680. The resultant flyover improved both maneuvers… not just S680 to E580.

As for HSR, whether it’s Altamont or Pacheco, it’s no substitute for BART. BART is primary for local & regional travel. It’ll have more stations and they’ll be closer together. It’s for commuters too. Access is key. HSR is primarily for statewide travel. A statewide system will have stations further apart with stations in denser urban cores and downtowns…, rather than in suburban park&ride lot communities.

And to anon 4:14, Altamont is not aborted and may return in the future. It just will not be the first born.

Anonymous said...

As for HSR, whether it’s Altamont or Pacheco, it’s no substitute for BART. BART is primary for local & regional travel. It’ll have more stations and they’ll be closer together.

Where new HSR tracks are built in urban areas, standard industry practice is to leverage that huge investment to run a variety of local and regional services. London, Madrid, Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris are a few examples.

BART is a dead-end 1960s technology, with no express service and limited to 79mph. The new HSR tracks built will provide "BART" type service as a nice side benefit. On the Peninsula, HSR and Caltrain will run in the same corridor, with Caltrain providing the short station stop spacing on the locals.

Altamont is not aborted and may return in the future. It just will not be the first born.

Altamont is pretty much dead. As noted by "mikeonbike", an Altamont HSR alignment would take away money from the contracting Mafia, who want get more money building a more expensive (and much less useful) BART extension to Livemore and San Jose.

The goal here is to maximize transfer of wealth from taxpayers to the contracting Mafia. If an actual transportation need is satisfied, that is mainly by accident.

Anonymous said...

Not only is Altamont dead, service to Sacramento is gone also and I don't think anyone in the San Diego north to Anaheim is holding their breath that they will ever get service in the next 50 years either.

The project still will need the Fed matching funds, which on a scale this large is going to be a hard to find earmark especially with our weak representation from Boxer and Feinstein. In case nobody has been noticing, the whole financial structure of the US is in trouble with the now take over of IndyMac and people are even worrying about Fannie Mae and Fannie Mac. We are talking about huge possible drains on federal resources and when you see Senator Dodd trying with all his might to re-assure the financial community that all is ok, fears run high and runs on banks start to become common.

The private sector contribution to this project seems like fantasy. It won't materialize and Kopp's big lie that all HSR systems in he world are profitable won't carry any weight with the Wall Street crowd. Lehman was gong to be a big supporter and right now they are fighting to stay afloat themselves.

These are not good times in the financial world. The excesses of the past 10 years or so are coming home and not only is California in deep trouble, but so is the US as a whole.

Quite frankly my big fear is nothing gets built, but the gang running CHSRA for a few years spends the 2.5% of funds allowed on administrative fees enriching themselves and their cronies.

Brandon in California said...

Anon 2:10am

So, CHSRA should not happen at all because the money will not be forthcoming from the feds or private sector due to national economic doom and gloom news, or fantasy thinking?

I am tempted to ask if the time of your post had anything to do with your message.

I am certainly not in the dark concerning the nations economy, but in one or two respects, HSR is an answer to the very things you raise.

It will provide an economic stimulus to the economy, at least in California, and will provide a cheaper alternative for in-state air travellers.

As for Lehman, yes, their strength has just about folded over. As an indication, their share value has dropped approximately 75% since February. Ouch.

Regardless, I speculate that as they are an investment bank that their contribution to the CHSRA system would not directly be their money, but money from their clients. I am not an expert on this topic, I admit.

Also, Lehman's particpation appears to be as a sub to Infrastructure Management Group. If Lehman no longer becomes a viable sub, I speculate that they could be replaced.

Additionally, other private sector parties would be apart of the investment. At the end of the day, their commitment, if any, would likely be well less than 20%. Maybe in the single digits.

CALPERS has been speculted to partipate in the project. CALPERS is about 5 times more holdings than Lehman Brothers.

Anonymous said...

(I'm California resident)

If I were a participant in CALPERS, (which my wife has a small position), I would be absolutely incensed that my pension fund would even begin to consider participation is such a highly risky investment.

In point of fact, they may well be prohibited for such an investment.

Remember, the funding is supposed to be 1/3 from each of the bond issue, private, and Fed Support.

AB-3034 doesn't presently say that, but that was what Schwarzenegger proposed was the equation in order to get his support.

Brandon in California said...

IF CALPERS participated, it would be a decision made by their Board of Directors. The State nor the Gov has any influence in their decision making. Their funds cannot be touched by the State.

CALPERS is among the most highly respected investment pools in the world. They are diversified and huge, with $258 billion (as of 2007) in whatever (funds, stocks, options, etc.). They have a highly trained staff that makes sound decisions and actions.

When they act, the investment community watches.

Whether or not they particpate, that decision will have a balanced risk and will be well reasoned.

Anonymous said...


Your statement regarding CALPERS.

"The State nor the Gov has any influence in their decision making."

Surely you don't believe that.

With the rest of your post, I agree, with exception of the final sentence,

"Whether or not they particpate, that decision will have a balanced risk and will be well reasoned.

which must be taken into context with my disagreement, that this judgment may well be influenced by political pressures.

BTW, some of the board is appointed by the following:

Three appointed members:

* Two appointed by the Governor - an elected official of a local government and an official of a life insurer
* One public representative appointed jointly by the Speaker of the Assembly and the Senate Rules Committee.

Four Ex Officio members:

* The State Treasurer
* The State Controller
* The Director of the Department of Personnel Administration
* A designee of the State Personnel Board.

Brandon in California said...

Anon 3:00pm,

You left off the other Board members. All told, there are 9 voting members, 2/3rds of them come from the following...

* Two elected by and from all CalPERS members
* One elected by and from all active State members
* One elected by and from all active CalPERS school members
* One elected by and from all active CalPERS public agency members (employed by contracting public agencies)
* One elected by and from the retired members of CalPERS.

I suspect the ex-officio members (that do not vote) are there to keep abreast of CALPERS decisions and provide expert/specialized opinion.

Each of the 6 elected members have a vested interest in the stability and success of CalPERS funds. Afterall, it's a good portion of their retirement they make decisions on.

I am confident that their representation is not cow-towing to the appointed members by the Guv or legislature.... which btw, should be motivated to also see CalPERS make wise decisions.

Anonymous said...

My intention was only to point out that at least some of the CALPER'S board are certainly politically motivated.

Anonymous said...

Brandon M. Farley said... "The resultant flyover improved both maneuvers… not just S680 to E580."

The new interchange is better than the old. My point is that the greatest improvement didn't match the greatest need. That leaves open the possibility of building another flyover in the future.

Likewise, building Pachecho first leaves open the possibility of building Altamont in the future. But build Altamont first and it's difficult to justify Pacheco second.