Thursday, July 23, 2009

Menlo Park Town Hall Postponed

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

This Saturday's planned HSR town hall meeting in Menlo Park has been postponed indefinitely, according to Representative Anna Eshoo's office:

Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) received notice today that she must postpone the scheduled meeting in Menlo Park on Saturday, July 25th due to critical votes in Washington, D.C. As a Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee she must remain in Washington over the weekend to vote.

Congresswoman Eshoo apologizes for any inconvenience the schedule change may cause and is committed to hosting a meeting in the near future with experts who can answer citizen questions on High Speed Rail. She will inform constituents as soon as possible of the new date and time.

The background here is that the Energy and Commerce Committee is at the center of the fight over health care reform. The "Blue Dog" Democrats, a group of right-wing Democrats, have been holding up the committee's progress on marking up the health care bill. There is a lot of pressure on Congress to postpone its planned August recess to get the health care bill ready for a vote on the floor of both the House and the Senate, so it should come as little surprise that Anna Eshoo is going to have to stay in DC until this is resolved.

There's every reason to expect this town hall meeting will happen and soon. When it gets rescheduled, I'll be sure to announce that here on the blog.


Anonymous said...

There may well have been other reasons.

Bay Area Resident said...

LOL there is every reason to expect a reschedule? Based on what. This is such a small issue in the general scheme of things, and Menlo Park, Atherton and Palo Alto don't really matter to anybody. I really don't like this HSR project but what bothers me even more is Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton TUNNEL VISION as if the entire Norcal is going to buy into a plan that does nothing for anybody but THEM.

Bay Area Resident said...

Anonymous, what other reasons do you think caused them to cancel this?

Anonymous said...

What critical votes. It's not as if they have to vote on healthcare or anything like that.

Anonymous said...

Roberts explanation makes no sense.

Reid, over in the senate announced that the Senate is not going to bring the bill forward until this fall.

The whispering is that the Authority asked her to cancel -- they are having their problems along the peninsula and a memeting like this certainly wasn't going to help.

Certainly health care wasn't the reason she pulled out.

Robert Cruickshank said...

I'm just passing along the release from Eshoo's office. But it makes sense to me. Reid may have folded like a cheap suit, but Nancy Pelosi has been pushing hard for the House to vote on something before the August recess. Henry Waxman, who chairs the Energy and Commerce committee, has also been pushing for the markup to be finished before the recess.

So this is entirely plausible. I have not heard that the CHSRA wanted this meeting postponed, and if you've got evidence of that, please share it and stop rumor-mongering.

YESonHSR said...

Damm just cancled plans so I could go TO this thing..O well guess we all wont meet

Straight_Report said...

I just heard Feinstein on KGO saying there is no way they will be voting on anything related to a healthcare bill before the recess since no actual bill has been presented.

Robert Cruickshank said...

That's the story over in the Senate. But so far, Pelosi plans to push the House to vote on a bill by the recess. The plan as I understand it is to have a bill the House has approved as leverage to get the Senate to back a public option - and that leverage is increased if the bill has been approved before Senators go back in their states over the recess.

YESonHSR said...

The House passed the transportation
bill WITH the 4billion for HSR so the Lanehm? was not able to get it stripped away ..though he did make a comment on it saying "Are we really ready for a 100billion entitlement"..

WYSIWYG said...

maybe eshoo was worried about getting questions about this

Isn't that letter dated before the Program EIR was completed?

Robert Cruickshank said...

WYSIWYG, you are correct that the letter is dated prior to the completion of the Program EIR (which was finalized in summer 2008) and the selection of the Pacheco route. Many, many, many people and organizations submitted their comments about their preferences for the route.

Agree that it will be interesting to see how Eshoo handles questions from the Peninsula NIMBYs about that. Although I don't see why she would have canceled the town hall over that. The health care committee excuse is legit - Pelosi doesn't want anyone leaving DC until the full House has voted.

WYSIWYG said...

@ Robert - any word on the language that was slipped in the State budget?

BTW saw your name on the Courage Campaign - I can see you're following the healthcare vote on several fronts. Nice Work!

Robert Cruickshank said...

WYSIWYG, I've been checking the bill updates all day for news on the HSR language, and so far haven't found anything. There are apparently 31 bills that are part of the budget deal, and only about 12 have been posted so far.

It's possible the deal will come apart tonight, so it may be a while before we know the fate of the "HSR killer"...

Anonymous said...

Eshoo's position on HSR and the Pacheco has been well known along the Peninsula. It was secured by the Authority as part of their campaign to discredit the alternate Altamont routing. What Rep. Eschoo knows about rail and HSR in particular could be put in a thimble.

HSR has all been driven (up north) by the interests in San Jose and SF.

Her excuse of needing to stay in DC is lame. At the extreme she could have been present via telecom or video-com. Senator Simitian's presence was more than enough to make attendees happy.

Whatever -- she called for this meeting on very short notice and canceled on even very much shorter notice -- she certainly didn't make for herself or the Authority any benefits.

Anonymous said...

R.I.P Robert -- the language has been removed

WYSIWYG said...

@ anonymous

Proof please? A link? something?

If you're so informed - spill the beans - your posting anonymously anyway!

Brandon in California said...

Eschoo cancels/postpones meeting due to schedule conflict with legislative vote in Washington DC.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Anon @6:47 - got proof or a link?

Evan Goldin said...

Oh sweet, I was going to be out of town for this. Hope I can make it when it's rescheduled.

Anonymous said...

"Right-wing Democrats?"

Blue Dogs are very centrist. Hardly right-wing. It's this group that the Democrats have a majority. Without them, the Republicans are back in power.

Rafael said...

Off-topic: LA Metro board approves strategic partnership with CHSRA

This announcement doesn't really have any immediate impact. The headscratcher is why anyone felt this decision was even necessary at the present juncture.

Reading between the lines, I think the underlying message is a recognition on the part of the city and county of LA that they will need to shoulder a greater share of the financial burden of remodeling LA Union Station for HSR than they had bargained for. However, no dollar amount is mentioned, so this is just my personal take on the press release.

Between run-through tracks on two levels and the anticipated growth in pedestrian flow, whatever planning for the new LAUS complex is already underway needs to become much more visible to the general public. Note that passenger throughput there is already much higher than at SF Transbay Terminal, San Jose Diridon or Anaheim ARTIC.

Plans for transit-oriented commercial/residential development near LAUS are also needed but complicated by the presence of the LAPD headquarters and county jail to the east. A pedestrian (*gasp*) footbridge across the freeway to new buildings along E Commercial St. might be worth considering, especially if it's enclosed, air-conditioned and equipped with moving sidewalks.

Note that LA Metro's decision came right on the heels of a tentative budget deal in Sacramento that in effect shifts the burden of increasing revenue from the state to local authorities.

In addition, California officials are no doubt lobbying USDOT for as big a slice of PRIIA and ARRA funds as possible. Securing formal partnerships with providers of connecting transit may make that task easier.

Brandon in California said...

DOH! I thought my earlier comment was on another blog posting. Arg

Brandon in California said...

LA Metro is probably the most active transit operator in the country regarding all their rail projects... extensions or new lines. As a governmental organization, they are probably only surpassed by 'countries' in terms of their efforts.

But, concerning their participation in funding local HSR efforts and Union Station... the effort could very well be timed to re-inform their board as they consider their Long Range Transportation Plan... and/or... provide greater confidence to the Feds that the State/CHSRA application for ARRA funding has local support.

Just speculation.

Either way, I look forward to seeing concept designs for the LA Union Station... and San Diego Union Station too.

bossyman15 said...

XD way off topic but related to bullet train.. a fun read

sport car vs bullet train

Anonymous said...

Funds for High-Speed Rail Face Cuts in GOP Amendments to Spending Bill

Posted: July 24th, 2009 08:50 AM EDT

By Colby Itkowitz
Congressional Quarterly Today

NATION - House Republicans will seek to strip a major increase in high-speed passenger rail funding from the $123.1 billion fiscal 2010 Transportation-HUD spending bill, which lawmakers begin debating on Thursday.

A proposal by Tom Latham, R-Iowa, to cut $3 billion of the proposed $4 billion boost in high-speed rail funding from the bill is among 23 amendments that will be allowed for floor debate. Eighty-five amendments were filed with the committee.

Republicans were again rebuffed in their request to bring the bill to the floor without restrictions on amendments. They say the restrictions on spending bills depart from House tradition and unfairly limit debate. Democrats have argued that GOP stalling tactics have forced their hands.

Overall, the bill (HR 3288) would raise spending by 13 percent over the total enacted in fiscal 2009, although that excludes funding increases for housing and transportation programs that were included in this year's economic stimulus law (PL 111-5).

The bill would provide $75.8 billion for the Transportation Department and $47 billion for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It would provide $68.8 billion in discretionary spending.

In a statement of administration policy released Wednesday, the White House endorsed the bill as an investment that will "help build a new foundation for long-term economic growth."

Latham's amendment aims at a provision in the bill that would quadruple the $1 billion increase in high-speed passenger rail spending that President Obama sought. The stimulus already provided $8 billion this year for high-speed rail.

Of the $4 billion for high-speed rail, appropriators included $2 billion as a placeholder for a National Infrastructure Bank, if Congress authorizes one -- another Obama administration priority. The bank would bankroll high-value transportation projects of national significance.
Amendments Allowed

Republicans Jeff Flake of Arizona and Jeb Hensarling of Texas have offered amendments to strike specific earmarks from the bill.

Republicans also will be allowed to offer amendments that would cut the overall spending in the bill. A proposal by Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., would cut funding for all accounts in the bill by 5 percent, while an amendment offered by Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, would reduce the bill's bottom line by $13.5 billion.

Lawmakers will also debate an amendment by Dan Burton, R-Ind., that would bar Amtrak from using any appropriated funds to provide free alcohol. The amendment is apparently a response to an Amtrak promotion in 2007 that offered customers on some sleeper trains $100 in free alcohol.

The spending bill would also provide $150 million for safety and maintenance improvements to Washington, D.C.'s Metrorail system, in the aftermath of a crash in June that killed nine people.

The Federal Transit Administration would receive $10.5 billion, an increase of $352 million over fiscal 2009 levels and $148 million more than the administration requested.

The bill would provide $41.1 billion for highways, $1.5 billion for Amtrak and $3.5 billion for airport improvement grants, all about equal to Obama's request.

The bill would slightly increase the funding the president sought for low-income affordable-housing programs.

Section 8 tenant-based vouchers would be funded at $18 billion, which is $406 million more than Obama requested. Housing for the elderly would be funded at $1 billion, about $235 million more than the White House has sought. The bill would provide $1.85 billion for Homeless Assistance Grants, an increase of $56 million over the president's request.

Source: CQ Today Round-the-clock coverage of news from Capitol Hill.

©2009 Congressional Quarterly Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Joe Roberts said...

I hope it is rescheduled so we can begin to see the real cost and impact of this disaster project. Perhaps we will learn many things: there will be justification for the neighborhoods ruined, for the 65 million riders promised, for the 200+ mph trains that will cover the distance in 2:40, for the incredible disruption of the construction, for the finances that will show how a 40-60 billion project can pencil out....the list goes on and on. This makes the Big Dig look like a small hole. HSR=High Speed Rathole, as the money is poured in, vanishing into more government sponsored waste.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 11:22am -

Newsflash: House Republicans wield exactly zero power right now. Tom Latham's amendment to cut HSR funding will go exactly nowhere.

@ Joe Roberts -

just think how many F-22 fighters have been purchased already (186) and how many of them have seen active service in Iraq and Afghanistan (zero). It'll be a while before Dems are anywhere near as proficient at throwing taxpayer money straight out of the window as the GOP. For now, they're still cleaning up the ghastly mess Bush left behind.

NONIMBYS said...

People made a free choice to MOVE next to an active 140 year old railroad..these towns made very poor planning when zoning and nothing will be destroyed as its already there..enough of the cry
of the "victim" NIMBYS

Joe Roberts said...

The point is not a Nimby point, Mr. NONIMBY. The point is that this is a project that simply doesn't pencil. Look at the assumptions. Look at the cost overruns on large government projects. Why do you think this one makes sense or is any better than what we have now? We have a lot more important priorities in this state than to make sure people get up and down the coast on a fast train.

Regarding the comparison to F22, Rafael, you make my point precisely. Another government project right on track. Let's see, didn't the Dems handle the Big Dig well?

NONIMBY said...

Well maby for you "joe mccain type"
it makes no sense and it never will
The Majority voted YES on this issue..and dont listen to the we have no money...We had hunderd of billions for free market banks and 1 trillion for a war..WE HAVE MONEY FOR HSR

Joe Roberts said...

I'm not a 'joe mccain' type, Mr. NONIMBYS. It's 'John McCain, by the way. I'm just practical. In the end the state or the feds will have to subsidize this project, as it will never run on its own revenue, as opposed to what Kopp and Diridon and the Gov say. So what would you rather have, HSR or decent schools, HSR or an electrical system that works? The comparisons are pretty stark. We're broke as a state and a country. Pouring more money down the HS Rathole is just more of the same problem. What little money we have should go toward things that matter.

NONIMBYS said...

YES YOU ARE,,,,JOE and schools should be funded with local
property taxes..not from my paycheck but with prop 13 welfare
babies that pay 1/10th of what new homeowners pay. "joe the plumer type" if that fits better

Joe Roberts said...

NONIMBY - This isn't personal, so calling me Joe Plumber seems unnecessary. The fact is that you still haven't answered any of my questions. You haven't acknowledged the cost overrun issue, the absurd assumptions behind the numbers, or the fact that there is only so much money to go around in a state that's bankrupt and will be forced to subsidize this project. I don't see our wonderful Legislature--or the voters--changing the way Prop 13 works or the way schools are funded, though I agree with you on that one. So given that, the situation hasn't changed--and likely won't. We're just deeper in debt and the HSRathole will suck more money away. It's a zero sum game.

Anonymous said...

The Blue Dog democrats that are keeping ObamaCare in committee and Rep Eshoo from being here are doing all of us a favor. Keep it from being voted on by the full House...for if it passes, the taxes and debt burden on this and future generations will be even worse than it is now.

Brian Stankievich said...

Mr. Joe Roberts

I did a masters thesis on high speed rail. Every HSR network out there in ten different countries runs an operating profit. EVERY ONE

Connecting LA and SF area in 2 hours and 40 minutes is a guarenteed money maker. Paris to Lyon made so much money on operations that it repaid its capital. That line connects a 14.5 mil. metro area to a 4.5 mil. metro area. La 17.7 SF/SJ 7.2 mil. connects a lot more people. Only China has bigger Metropolitan areas they are connecting with HSR.

So Joe, where is the data, the real world experience to suggest that this train could possibly lose money?

Clem said...

@Brian Stankievich, is your thesis available online somewhere? It would be useful, as would the references therein.

Spokker said...

I'd like to read it too.

Brian Stankievich said...

It is not yet but I will be putting it up on my organization's website in the next week or two and will post a list on this blog when it is up.

Joe Roberts said...

I'd like to see the analysis, Brian. Everything I've seen indicates the assumptions are completely overstated. I'd also like to know the level of subsidies from the French govt. and other govts. on an all-in basis. Also, this is America. We do not have the history of train travel in modern times that other countries do. In the US Amtrak is hugely subsidized, so I don't see how the assumptions could be right and how the financing could work, absent state or federal subsidies.