Saturday, February 7, 2009

HSR News From Around the World

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

Some tidbits for the weekend:

  • Portugal to move ahead with Lisbon-Madrid HSR line, slated for completion between 2013 and 2015. The ruling Socialist Party believes it has the funding in place, and though a defeat in upcoming elections might derail the plan, the Socialists currently lead the polls. My wife and I are planning a trip to Portugal later in the year, and we'll make extensive use of their existing train infrastructure.

  • Rochester, Minnesota is getting serious about being part of a proposed HSR line from Chicago to the Twin Cities. The Mayo Clinic, a large employer in the town, is strongly in favor of Rochester's inclusion, but other cities in southeastern Minnesota want the HSR route to follow the existing Amtrak route.

  • A Georgia Senate panel has endorsed HSR to Chattanooga - don't know much about this particular proposal, but it's good to see Georgia getting serious about HSR planning.

  • The FRA got a strong response to a solicitation for interest in building HSR. The Transport Politic has a full list of those groups that submitted bids and plans.

  • Also from The Transport Politic (that site is an amazing resource) comes word that the otherwise flawed Senate stimulus bill avoids cutting transit funds and includes the $2 billion for HSR funding that we'd supported. I expect that to remain in the reconciliation process with the House, although it would be good if the state stabilization funds are restored - if California doesn't get federal help to close the deficit, that will hinder HSR planning efforts and hurt transit more broadly around the state.

What's on your mind?


Rafael said...

It's unclear to me why CHSRA isn't applying for funding from every source available, specifically the $1.5 billion already approved for HSR in the most recent Amtrak bill.

Also curiously absent from the list is DesertXPress, the Nevada DOT and the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG).

Perhaps there is method to this madness and I just don't see it.

Anonymous said...

@ Rafael
Where did hear they have not? I thought this bill was over 5 years. I know I read on SFgate that this was one of the sources that they were to target

Anonymous said...

Ugh, I sure hope California doesn't have to revert to socialism to get CAHSR passed. I'm glad Portugal is trying to build HSR, but I wasn't aware that the socialist party was in charge.

Can you clear up your wording regarding the $2 million for transit? You mean it has not been cut?

Anonymous said...

Nikko, I'm not sure how you're defining "socialism," but the Socialist Party (Portgual) is a pretty centrist party. It's like the equivalent of the Labour Party in the UK. It would only be considered leftist from the perspective of the United States, which itself is a very right-wing country.

Robert Cruickshank said...

The $2 billion for HSR *is* part of the final Senate version.

bossyman15 said...

from Rochester, Minnesota site. But while building a new route from Rochester to the Twin Cities could allow for higher train speeds, it would also be "an extremely expensive initiative" because there is no existing rail line and right-of-way would have to be acquired. Based on a 2002 estimate, the rail line from Chicago to the Twin Cities -- including a line to Green Bay, Wis. -- would cost $1.86 billion. Minnesota's share would be $400 billion

i hope that's just a typo.

Rafael said...

@ yeson1a -

see the post on The Transport Politic that Robert linked to. The current list of 80 applicants does not include CHSRA.

@ nikko pigman -

wasn't it the US that just partially nationalized its banks?

@ Robert Cruickshank -

it ain't final until it gets 60 or more votes. Harry Reid decided against calling a vote when he had the votes on Friday evening, no doubt Mitch McConnell and others will try to cajole Susan Collins, Arlen Specter (and Olympia Snowe) into changing their minds to wring additional concessions out of the Democrats over the weekend.

Te $5.5 billion "at the discretion of the Secr. of Transportation" appears to have been scrapped in favor of more funds dedicated to highways. If the $2 billion for HSR still are in the bill by the time the senate passes it, that's great.

However, we'll see what happens in conference with the House. I read a rumor that DiFi's amendment to add $25 billion for transit and water infrastructure might make it back in at that time, but that was a few days ago. The situation is still very fluid.

@ bossyman15 -

many MSM "journalists" don't do math, because it's you know, like, hard and stuff.

Anonymous said...

For a Frenchman, American transit funding looks incredibly complex and uncertain. Things are much simpler in France. We have a big company, the SNCF. Although it is state-owned it is run like any big private business. It has many joint ventures with other firms, in France and abroad. It does not have to buy French if a foreign firm offers a cheaper deal. For example, a $5bn deal for Paris regional trains went to Bombardier in spite of a virulent "Stop SNCF Killing French jobs" campaign.
When, with Alstom, it launched the Paris-Lyon TGV project, it met with strong opposition from the government. Fortunately, what it needed from the authorities was not money but just permission to proceed (déclaration d'utilité publique).
To finance the project, 10-years' bonds were floated on the mostly American financial market. Thus, ironically enough, the TGV may owe its existence to the fact that American investors supported it while top French politicians did not.

The CHSR situation is just the opposite. Its dependence on state and federal politics is total. It has to beg for a million here, a million there. Whereas American investors were eager to buy the SNCF bonds, nothing is happening with CHSR bonds. Should the CHSRA plan a joint venture with the SNCF in order to be credible to American capital?
In the same conditions, the project would have been a non-starter in France. If it succeeds I will believe in the American miracle again.

Anonymous said...

looks like that list is not for money from the Amtrak bill rather one that is being proposed by Mica.
Yes it even mentions lack of CAHSR submiting..I did notice all of the big CAHSR contractors on it so maby its in there

BruceMcF said...

@ Rafeal 7Feb09 1:15 ... AFAIU, its expressions of interest under the designated corridors, so DesertXPress would not be able to put in until it gets designation for. The list as of October 2008 did not include Nevada.

The story in the post refers to a September 2009 deadline, so hopefully the CAHSR will get their oar in the water before the starters gun goes off.

BBinnsandiego said...

"American transit funding looks incredibly complex and uncertain..."

Andre has hit the funding nail directly on the proverbial head. If HSR is going to succeed anywhere in this country it's going to need a sustained and steady commitment of funds. For a project that may take as long as 20 years to complete this is hard to do. Especially in a democracy like ours.

I would argue that the reason the highway system got built had little to do with a sustained bipartisan commitment to highways and everything to do with the gas tax- an independent self-sustaining funding source that freed highway construction from the need for direct congressional appropriations and ,more important, competition with other funding priorities.

Two billion dollars from the stimulus bill is no small victory. The money will go along way to getting HSR off the ground. But the real battle is to create a permanent funding mechanism. Something similar to the funding mechanism enjoyed by the highway lobby. I'm not sure that even the Kerry bill does that.

Rafael said...

@ BBinnsandiego -

iff HSR can attract sufficient ridership, it will not need operating subsidies after a ramp-up period of a few years. The only source of revenue will be fares and trackage rights for high speed cargo operators, if any.

The tricky part is securing a long-term commitment to getting the starter line of each HSR system built. For that, a substantial injection of public money is required. There appears to be a great deal of bipartisan support in Congress for the notion of improved passenger rail, including HSR. It's just that the deep recession has modified spending priorities in the short term.

If Gov. Schwarzenegger had allowed the HSR bond measure to go onto the ballot in 2004, CHSRA would have broken ground already and few would question allocating stimulus funds to the project.

Anonymous said...

'around the world', where 'world' means the US

neroden@gmail said...

While some Minnesota cities prefer the river route, I expect Northfield, MN, where I went to colege, will be quite happy if the Rochester route is taken. Due to the way the rights-of-way run and the distances, Northfield would become almost certain to get service either directly or through a very nearby town.