We agree with Merced County Planning Coimmissioner Jack Mobley's letter below. The people of California generally believed that they were voting to spend $9 billion to plan for a railroad along existing rail routes from LA to SF to travel at a high rate of speed. What they bought for their money was dishonest ridership. cost and job estimates, routes going through both suburban and rural areas that would be extremely disruptive to flows of existing traffic and the movement of farm machinery, staff barring the public from public meetings, supine federal resource agencies selling out the environment "because The Boss wants high speed rail." and a seemingly endless stream of ubiquitous, meaningless flak fomented by local land-sue authorities and their boosters like Merced trying to cover up their disastrous failures of judgment about housing and growth by denying the simple facts Mobley outlines below. The destruction keeps on going on, directed by our leaders, the same shoddy actors as always, individuals incapable of thinking beyond the idiotic economic model of growth defined by Finance, Insurance and Real Estate special interests, They imagine, as always, that if they cannot bring Silicon Valley (evidently the only healthy part of the state's private economy outside of wine and movies) to Merced, they will make commuting to the Sacred Shrine of High Tech/Bio Tech an effortless, high speed cruise (at a price yet to be determined but undoubtedly with Starbucks on board) through Pacheco Pass to the very doorsteps of their "campuses." Wildlife and farm machinery will compete for access to rare underpasses
Below Mobley's letter find some examples from a week's worth of news clips of high-speed-rail flak art and the consequences of getting caught at it
Badlands Journal editorial board
Jack Mobley: A joke on California…JACK MOBLEY, Merced…Letters to the editor
The recent high-speed rail meeting in Merced reminded me of the joke involving a lawyer, an engineer and an economist. Stranded on a desert island, they took turns at formulating a way to open their only can of food. The economist began with, "First, assume we have a can opener ... " The High-Speed Rail Authority is the economist in the joke, with the line being, "assume we have the money ... "
That's the joke on the citizens of California. There's no money at any level of government. Congress has wisely stopped any more federal money from flowing into the project, and on a local level it is ludicrous to think about any money being available. Private money is too smart to get involved, and yet the authority is pushing as though they had a limitless credit card.
Experts around the country agree that this project won't work. Three other states have refused federal money for similar projects because they deemed them impractical. Here in California, the finances didn't work when the assumption was 41 million riders and $43 billion.
Why would it work now with half the riders and over twice the cost?
Let's fix and expand the infrastructure all Californians use. Unless we do that, our economy will never recover. We have a chance now to stop the high-speed rail boondoggle before it breaks the economic back of California.
California High-Speed Rail Authority
Date: December 21, 2011
From: Board of Directors
Subject: Statement on Jobs from the High-Speed Rail Authority
There has been considerable discussion of the impact of the high-speed rail project on job creation in California.
Job creation is certainly an important immediate benefit of the project, but first and foremost the purpose for developing a high-speed rail system in California is to address the long-term mobility needs of a quickly growing population. This mobility requirement must be solved with either a rail system or new roads and runways.
High-speed rail is a lower-cost, more environmentally friendly way to address the State’s future mobility needs.
As stated by Mike Rossi, a High-Speed Rail Authority Board member appointed by Governor Brown as the State’s Senior Advisor for Jobs and Business Development:
"The construction of a high-speed rail system will create thousands and thousands of well-paying jobs for Californians, but it is important to emphasize that the case for high-speed rail does not revolve around jobs.
It is clear to Californians that something must be done to keep our State moving over the next generation.
"The case for high-speed rail is in the numbers. High-speed rail is lower-cost than the alternatives, creates a revenue stream that pays for its operation, maintenance and future capital needs and can contribute to its own construction.
"State leaders should be open to whatever alternative can best solve the long-term mobility problem, but I do not see a better financial or environmental alternative.”
Chapter 10 of the Draft Business Plan issued by the Authority on November 1, 2011 defines the construction and permanent job impacts of building high-speed rail.
Consistent with analysis for capital projects used by transportation agencies throughout the country, the employment impacts of construction are expressed in terms of “job years.”
The Draft Plan defines this term explicitly to embrace both the number of workers and the longevity of their work. For example, one person working on the project for five years would constitute five “job-years” of employment.
Once the project is in operation, permanent jobs are created to operate and maintain the system into the future. As stated in the Business Plan jobs during the construction period represent years of employment while jobs related to operations are permanent positions.
The Draft Business Plan estimates that erecting the Initial Construction Segment (130 miles of track and civil works in the Central Valley) will generate 100,000 job-years of employment in the region with the highest unemployment in the state. The development of the entire Phase I system over the next 20-25 years will generate approximately 1,000,000 job-years of employment. We also estimate that permanent employment associated with the operation of just the Initial Operating Segment will be 1,300 – 1,600 jobs.
In some cases, discussion of construction employment has been shorthanded to refer simply to “jobs”, which is an imprecise and potentially confusing description.
The Final Business Plan and any related jobs discussions will an consistently use the terms “job-years” when referring to construction employment and “jobs” for permanent operational positions.
Congressman Dennis Cardoza Newsletter
...3. High Speed Rail Funding to Extend First Phase toward Merced
Chowchilla battles high-speed rail plan…Joshua Emerson Smith, Merced Sun-star
MERCED -- The new high-speed rail plan that would link Merced and Fresno sets up a battle in Chowchilla, where state officials want to build a three-way intersection that will connect the Central Valley and the Bay Area.
Chowchilla representatives are upset about hosting the intersection and have threatened to take legal action against the California High-Speed Rail Authority if their concerns aren't addressed.
However, it's not clear if there is anything High-Speed Rail Authority officials can do to appease disgruntled city politicians and business owners.
"It has dramatic effects on the community of Chowchilla, no matter where they put it," said Jim Kopshever, a Chowchilla council member and real estate agent.
"It intersects our general plan in three or four different places. From a circulation standpoint, from a development standpoint, Chowchilla then becomes landlocked. We can't grow in any direction."
There are three proposed routes under consideration for running the tracks through Chowchilla. One veers to the west of downtown and splits along Avenue 24. Another follows Highway 99 near the city's main retail corridor and splits along Avenue 21. The third veers east of downtown and splits along Highway 152.
Denham calls high-speed rail 'bait-and-switch'…Sun-Star staff
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Jeff Denham guest hosted for Ray Appleton on KMJ on Monday. Listen to the full hour on California’s High-Speed Rail Project below. Denham had Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association on as a guest and answered questions from callers throughout the hour, according to a news release from Denham's office.
KMJ 580: Denham Hosts Ray Appleton on KMJ – 12/12/11
Denham Hosts Ray Appleton on KMJ - Discusses CA HSR Part 1 of 4
Denham Hosts Ray Appleton on KMJ - Discusses CA HSR Part 2 of 4
Denham Hosts Ray Appleton on KMJ - Discusses CA HSR Part 3 of 4
Denham Hosts Ray Appleton on KMJ - Discusses CA HSR Part 4 of 4
Denham, member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, voiced his growing concerns and frustrations with the proposed California project in the Administration’s high-speed rail program during a House Committee hearing on Thursday. The project has recently seen its cost and construction time projections increase dramatically compared the proposal California voters originally approved.
“The California High-Speed Rail project has spun so drastically out of control even California voters are questioning its viability,” said Denham. “The project is so far from the original proposal that according to a report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the business plan does not even meet important requirements of the ballot initiative approved by California voters. I want to create jobs and expand upon our transportation portfolio, but we must be responsible for how we are spending taxpayer dollars. As we learned in today’s hearing, the Rail Authority can no longer ignore the facts that the project is lacking oversight and a disciplined plan to attract the private sector investment it needs.”
Thursday’s hearing was the second in a series over the past two weeks focusing on missteps in the Obama Administration’s rail program initially funded by the Stimulus. With other large proposed projects under the program having been rejected by their state’s governors, the California project remains one of the most high profile in the program that is funding no other projects with any real high-speed potential. Congressman Denham questioned Sec. La Hood at a hearing last week and was not able to get a concrete answer as to whether or not this was going to be the final cost figure…Sec. LaHood said that the cost could be different tomorrow.
Denham: “But you do agree with the $98.5 billion dollar number. That means - that we’re starting with a factual baseline that that’s going to be the true cost.”LaHood: “It’s going to be expensive to build the high speed rail. If that’s the figure today, that’s the figure today. It’ll be different tomorrow.”
High-level doubts on high-speed rail highlighted
Skirmishing sparked anew at hearing in Washington…MICHAEL DOYLE, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- California's ambitious high-speed rail program reignited high-level skirmishing Thursday that crosses party lines and shows every sign of extending into the future.
Taken together, the sometimes combative rhetoric at a House committee hearing seemed to change no minds but did underscore the political barriers complicating California's high-speed rail program, now estimated to cost $98.5 billion over 20 years.
"The California project appears to be a disaster," said Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. "The project seems to be imploding."
Other skeptics, not all of them Republicans, variously called California's proposed high-speed rail system a "boondoggle," a "fantasy train" and an "extremely poor investment" whose initial San Joaquin Valley route, Mica said, offers "more cows and vegetables ... than riders."
Seemingly outnumbered on Capitol Hill, at least in the Republican-controlled House, California's high-speed rail proponents urged a longer-term perspective. Once ground is broken next year, or perhaps once the trains start running, advocates believe skeptics will come around.
"High-speed rail is not without its challenges," Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin acknowledged, "but its operating model, dramatic improvements in travel time and affordable ticket price make it a compelling opportunity for our state and nation."
Dan Richard, a board member of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, added in an interview that "construction is a game-changer" in securing more public and political support.
The long-term California plan calls for connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco with rails on which trains can travel up to 220 mph. The overall $98 billion estimated cost is more than double original expectations.
California voters have approved a $9.9 billion bond measure. The Obama administration has kicked in $3.6 billion, in addition to several hundred million dollars for other California rail projects.
Congressional Republicans have stymied further funding, contending that the public shouldn't subsidize an unproven project in which the private sector has not yet invested.
"We'd love to support it," said Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Atwater, but "my concern is, where's the (other) money going to come from?" Denham led much of the four-hour hearing Thursday, which high-speed rail supporter Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, denounced in advance as a "dog and pony show."
The arguments were frequently fervent, but missed by most. For much of the hearing, just three or four representatives from the 59-member committee were in attendance.
Cardoza testifies before House committee in favor of high-speed rail in state…Sun-Star staff
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Cardoza (D-Merced) testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in support of California’s ongoing High Speed Rail project. “In both our nation’s and in California’s history, tough times have led to bold and innovative solutions,” Cardoza said in a news release. “The opportunity presented by California High Speed Rail is a continuation of this legacy of visionary leadership.” Congressman Cardoza focused his comments on the economic benefits high speed rail would offer the Central Valley, which has been plagued by high unemployment rates. Congressman Cardoza said, “The people I represent in the San Joaquin Valley are in a dire economic situation. The latest reported unemployment in three of the cities in my District ranges from 15 to 17 percent, nearly twice the national unemployment rate. Crime has increased and jobs are scarce.” He continued, “The economic analysis of this project shows that construction of the initial segment will generate nearly 100,000 jobs. The people I represent desperately need these jobs, the jobs that will be generated as the system becomes operational, and the spin-off of economic activity associated with the project. Furthermore, the San Joaquin Valley desperately needs to be connected to the other major areas of the state in order to realize greater economic, cultural and educational opportunities.” Since much of the concern about the high speed rail project has centered around the cost to taxpayers, Congressman Cardoza noted, “From a practical standpoint, if we don’t construct high speed rail, in order to meet our state’s needs, we would need to construct 2,300 new miles of highway, 115 new airport gates, and 4 new runways -- all at a projected cost of more than $170 billion. While costly, there have been no cost projections for the California High Speed Rail system that have come anywhere close to $170 billion.” In addition, Congressman Cardoza stated that air quality would improve by reducing the number of cars and trucks on the road and it would provide a clear vehicle for economic investment into communities along the rail route. Congressman Cardoza also expressed that in a public meeting recently held by the California High Speed Rail Authority in Merced, more than 90% of those in attendance spoke in favor of the project. Congressman Cardoza concluded his testimony, “The Authority still has a long way to go in the development of the project, but if their handling of the preferred route for the Merced-Fresno segment is any indication, the Authority has the capability of working with local communities to address their concerns.” Read below for his complete testimony, and to see video, click here. Statement of Congressman Dennis Cardoza
Before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
“California’s High-Speed Rail Plan: Skyrocketing Costs & Project Concerns”
· Chairman Mica, Ranking Member Rahall and Members of the Committee, I’d like to thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak about the proposed High Speed Rail system in California.
Background and Challenges
· California and our nation face a number of challenges, both related to the economy and to our quality of life.
· There is incredible congestion on California’s highways and in its airports, costing California’s economy, the 9th largest in the world, over $14.5 billion each year.
· Travel on the interstate system is increasing at a rate five times faster than capacity has been added.
· California, particularly the San Joaquin Valley where my district is located, has some of the worst air quality in the nation. 1 in 6 children in Fresno have asthma, much higher than the national average.
· And exacerbating all of these other problems is the challenge presented by rapid population growth.
· California is projected to add 20 million people by 2050, and the Central Valley is expected to more than double in size.
· Faced with these simple facts, it’s very clear that investments need to be made to improve mobility, air quality and the economy in California.
· In both our nation’s and in California’s history, tough times have led to bold and innovative solutions.
· The opportunity presented by California High Speed Rail is a continuation of this legacy of visionary leadership.
· From a practical standpoint, if we don’t construct high speed rail, in order to meet our state’s needs, we would need to construct:
o 2,300 new miles of highway
o 115 new airport gates
o And 4 new runways
· All at a projected cost of more than $170 billion.
· While costly, there have been no cost projections for the California High Speed Rail system that have come anywhere close to $170 billion.
· And High Speed Rail has a number of secondary benefits including:
o Improving air quality by reducing the number of cars and trucks on the road
o Reducing the amount of farmland taken out of production, compared to massive highway expansion
o And providing a clear vehicle for economic investment into communities along the rail route
· As I mentioned in the beginning of my statement, the people I represent in the San Joaquin Valley are in a dire economic situation.
· The latest reported unemployment in three of the cities in my District ranges from 15 to 17 percent, nearly twice the national unemployment rate.
· Crime has increased and jobs are scarce.The economic analysis of this project shows that construction of the initial segment will generate nearly 100,000 jobs.
· The people I represent desperately need these jobs, the jobs that will be generated as the system becomes operational, and the spin off of economic activity associated with the project
· Furthermore, the San Joaquin Valley desperately needs to be connected to the other major areas of the state in order to realize greater economic, cultural and educational opportunities.
· There have been some concerns expressed by Members of this Committee about the development of the California High Speed Rail system and about the Authority’s ability to carry out such an expansive project.
· To be frank, I have shared many of your concerns.
· Specifically, the concerns I had involved transparency in the process and potential impacts of the project on the agricultural communities I serve.
· However, I have seen an improvement in the Authority’s process, outreach and transparency. It is essential that these improvements continue as we move forward.
· I was also concerned with some of the alignments that were under consideration that would have resulted in a significant amount of farmland being lost and in drastic impacts on the agricultural community.
· The Authority ultimately selected the correct alternative, the hybrid A-2 alignment, which had the least impact.
· In the same vein, I urge the Authority to select the alignment along the 152 freeway when designing the “WYE” in the Merced to San Jose segment, so that farmland vital to our nation’s food security can be protected.
· As a result of the Authority working side by side with the local communities, there is strong support in my District for bringing High Speed Rail service to Merced and other communities in the Valley.
· The Authority held a public meeting two days ago in the City of Merced to select the preferred route, where hundreds of people were in attendance.
· Over 90% of those in attendance not only spoke in favor of the project, but thanked the Authority for listening to and addressing their concerns.
· The Authority still has a long way to go in the development of the project, but if the the Authority’s handling of the preferred route for the Merced-Fresno segment is any indication, the Authority has the capability of working with local communities to address the local concerns.
· While ultimately all of those concerns may not be addressed, based on the experience of my constituents, the Authority will take a good hard look at all of the alternatives presented and will come to the right solution.
· I’d like to thank you again for the opportunity to speak in support of this project and I look forward to hearing the rest of the testimony.
Denham voices 'growing concerns' over proposed high-speed rail project…Sun-Star staff
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Jeff Denham, member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, voiced his growing concerns and frustrations with the proposed California project in the Administration’s high-speed rail program during a House Committee hearing today. The project has recently seen its cost and construction time projections increase dramatically compared the proposal California voters originally approved.
“The California High-Speed Rail project has spun so drastically out of control even California voters are questioning its viability,” Denham said in a news release. “The project is so far from the original proposal that according to a report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the business plan does not even meet important requirements of the ballot initiative approved by California voters. I want to create jobs and expand upon our transportation portfolio, but we must be responsible for how we are spending taxpayer dollars. As we learned in today’s hearing, the Rail Authority can no longer ignore the facts that the project is lacking oversight and a disciplined plan to attract the private sector investment it needs.”
Today’s hearing was the second in a series over the past two weeks focusing on missteps in the Obama Administration’s rail program initially funded by the Stimulus, according to the news release With other large proposed projects under the program having been rejected by their state’s governors, the California project remains one of the most high profile in the program that is funding no other projects with any real high-speed potential, the release concluded.
In March, I called on the U.S. Secretary of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration Administrator to devote greater federal funding to California's high speed rail project so that the initial phase could be extended to Merced. I argued that a station in Merced would provide a crucial connection between the high-speed rail system and the forthcoming “Super ACE” express commuter rail line to the Bay Area, while also creating thousands of jobs and provide economic relief to the Central Valley.
Just a few months later, I was pleased to announce that the California High-Speed Rail Administration (CHSRA) has been awarded an additional $300 million in federal funding by the U.S. Department of Transportation, enabling California to expand the first phase of the high-speed rail project north toward Merced.
This additional $300 million in federal funding is a step forward in connecting our Valley with the opportunities of the future. The northern part of the Valley has not reaped the economic benefits offered by mass transportation and a stronger link to our state’s major urban centers. High-speed rail will be a bridge to those opportunities, creating jobs and boosting businesses in one of the most economically distressed regions of the state.
In a hearing this month, I continued fighting for high speed rail to Merced when I spoke before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in support of the overall project...
GOP in House seek audit of rail program...MICHAEL DOYLE, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- Congressional Republicans on Tuesday escalated their case against the California high-speed rail program, with calls for an independent audit by a non-partisan watchdog agency.
Led by House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, the GOP lawmakers formally requested a review by the Government Accountability Office. In particular, the congressional skeptics want a closer look at California's ridership and cost projections.
"Allowing the money of hard-working Americans to be wasted on a questionable project with many unanswered questions would be an abdication of our responsibilities," McCarthy wrote in a letter signed by 11 other House members.
Because of the agency's carefully maintained reputation for neutrality and thoroughness, a GAO study could effectively shape both public and political attitudes toward the project. One way or another, it's likely to become ammunition.
"As one of the largest projects in the country and as one of the largest job creators in the country, we realize this project deserves careful review," acknowledged Tom Umberg, chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board.
Umberg, in a statement Tuesday, added that it is "more than appropriate" for the Government Accountability Office to weigh in.
The GAO seems likely to heed the request, whose backers include Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Atwater, and two House committee chairmen in addition to McCarthy. Separately, McCarthy and other Republican lawmakers have introduced legislation to mandate a GAO study.
One of the chairmen urging the GAO audit, Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., already used his House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee position last week to convene a hearing designed to showcase criticism of the ambitious plan.
The latest business plan prepared by the California High-Speed Rail Authority anticipates a $98.5 billion price tag over the next 20 years, more than twice the original cost.
California voters have approved a $9.9 billion bond measure. The Obama administration has provided $3.6 billion, plus several hundred million dollars for other state rail projects.
The Republicans' request identifies seven specific areas for investigation. For instance, the lawmakers want the GAO's assessment of the "accuracy of ridership projections" prepared by California high-speed rail planners.
The House Republicans want an assessment of how much state and federal funding will be required to complete the project. Starting in fiscal year 2015, the project's business plan anticipates some $52 billion in federal grants, according to congressional estimates.
Other California Republican lawmakers signing the letter are Reps. Darrell Issa of Vista, John Campbell of Newport Beach, Brian Bilbray of Solana Beach, Duncan Hunter of El Cajon, Tom McClintock of Granite Bay, Gary Miller of Brea, Buck McKeon of Palmdale and Devin Nunes of Visalia. Republican Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania also signed.