CA Legislature Ponders the Future of High-Speed Rail Program

Louis Thompson of the High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group testified at both recent legislative hearings.
Louis Thompson of the High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group testified at both recent legislative hearings.

The California legislature held two hearings this week to discuss the future of the high-speed rail program. The hearings were prompted by the recent release of the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s (CAHSRA) updated business plan, which issued new—higher—estimates of the project’s costs and a longer timeline for building its parts.

At a Crossroads

CAHSRA’s new director, Brian Kelly—who until recently was head of the California State Transportation Agency—told both committees that the plan identifies enough money to complete most of its component parts. “In essence,” he said, the remaining funding gap is the same as the cost to build a tunnel through the Pacheco Pass to connect the Central Valley with rail improvements in the Bay Area.

But the identified funds rely on continued large allocations from the state’s cap-and-trade program, which has been a volatile source of funding until now and is currently only authorized until 2030. And the business plan calls for borrowing against uncertain future cap-and-trade revenue to build the system sooner than later.

The two hearings, one in the Assembly Transportation Committee and the other a joint Senate hearing between the Transportation and Housing Committee and the Budget Subcommittee on Resources, Environmental Protection, Energy, and Transportation, listened to largely the same testimony from mostly the same people. But the tone of each hearing differed. The Assembly committee, chaired by Jim Frazier (D-Oakley), was combative and hostile, with Assemblymembers tending towards grandstanding, focusing on “promises made to the public” and rising costs, but never quite getting to a substantive discussion of how to move forward.

Assembly Chair Frazier said that the program was “at a crossroads,” and the legislature, as a funding partner, needed to figure out what the next steps should be.

But in the Senate hearing, when Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama) blustered that the program is “like a voracious beast” and should be sent back to the voters, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) quickly shot that idea down.

“I don’t think this should go back to the voters,” he said. “We should just build the damn system—excuse my language—and do our job.”

Kelly, for his part, repeated at both hearings that the project never did have all its funding up front, nor was it supposed to. When the original authorizing legislation, Prop 1A, passed, it included funding to the tune of $9 billion, which, said Kelly, was about one-fifth of the total amount the project was estimated to need at the time.

Costs have risen, and now, he says, the funding in hand covers about one-third of final project cost estimates. There is no real surprise here—voters were certainly never promised that they would be able to travel between San Francisco and Los Angeles for $9 billion, as some seem to imply. Environmental clearances, obtaining right of way, and figuring out alignments in the face of local objections is expensive and time-consuming. The volatility of funding sources, both state and federal, given politics as well as a host of other unknowable factors, adds to the uncertainty of cost estimates.

Meanwhile, the project is being built, and it is bringing major economic benefits to the state already. Kelly claimed the program was having a $6 billion impact on the state’s economy, saying that one-third of the jobs in the Fresno area could be attributed directly or indirectly to the high-speed rail program.

“We still have challenges,” he said, “but with the revenues that we have in hand, we can deliver 224 miles of high-speed rail.”

Options for Moving Forward

Louis Thompson, testifying for the High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group, outlined four possible options for action at this point (“There may be others,” he said):

First, the state could abandon the project. This would mean stranding all the current assets, including the half-built viaduct near Fresno, losing a considerable number of jobs and impacting many small businesses, and having to pay back stimulus funds the federal government has contributed to the project. This is not really a credible option, said Thompson.

Second, the Central Valley portion of the project could be completed, and the state “could keep whatever value we could create there,” serving San Joaquin Valley cities with a much better rail system than is possible with the current Amtrak-sharing-tracks-with-freight situation. With this option, “you would at least complete something usable in the Central Valley,” he said, which should mean not having to pay back the federal funds.

Third, the Central Valley portion could be completed between Bakersfield and Merced; current Caltrain electrification plans could be extended to Gilroy, and plans to reconfigure downtown L.A.’s Union Station could proceed. All three areas would benefit from faster, cleaner, more frequent train connections with these project pieces complete, even without being connected in one continuous line. The Union Station project, for example, would increase regional rail capacity by as much as sixty percent, according to a representative from L.A. Metro, making faster trips possible from San Luis Obispo to San Diego.

Then, the last remaining piece–the Pacheco Pass Tunnel–could be considered a separate finishing project, and it would wait until funding could be found specifically for it.

This option, said Thompson, makes the best use of the current situation. It would provide real, near-term benefits, although financing for the remainder of the system would still be up in the air.

Fourth, the state could recommit to long-haul high-speed rail from San Francisco to Los Angeles as originally envisioned, understanding that the costs will probably end up being much larger than originally estimated. This option, said Thompson, “cannot be done with current funding provisions or sources.”

What is clear to the High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group, he said, is that it is “no longer fair or credible to demand this project be built with funding sources that are inadequate and unreliable.”

“This is not a new issue,” he added. “There has always been a gap in funding. What is new is the increasing size of the gap.”

Questions

Assemblymembers wanted to know what would happen if the project were abandoned, whether the federal government could forgive the debt, whether there were better uses for the money, whether, if abandoned, it could be used for freight instead—that last question from committee chair Jim Frazier. The answer, in short, was no.

In the Senate Hearing, Senator Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) expressed frustration that her input into the project did not seem to be taken seriously, and she reminded those present that other high-speed rail systems were rarely built in one go.

“In Europe and other places, they built it in stretches,” she said, connecting new rail with existing systems and putting the different sections to use as soon as they were complete. “You never set out to build an entire system at once,” she said. Senator Galgiani knows that her Central Valley district desperately needs good rail options to give people alternatives to driving, and that even a system built just in the Central Valley would not be a railroad line “to nowhere,” as some critics have implied.

The takeaway being: Don’t dismiss the Central Valley. Fresno, at its center, is the fifth most populous city in California.

“Please take this seriously,” Galgiani told Kelly. “One of the reasons we were able to get cap-and-trade money [for high-speed rail] is because of agreements we made to build connected systems” that serve local areas as well as cross the entire state.

Kelly responded that the new business plan aims to do exactly that. “With constrained funding,” he said, “we have to make investments that build [the system] incrementally.”

CAHSRA’s approach, he said, is to provide mobility and maximize connectivity for Californians, “whether that means improving Amtrak or building a connected electric service to Amtrak,” or whatever it takes so that “the public can start receiving benefits from the system earlier [rather] than later.”

If high-speed rail can connect Bakersfield to Merced, and then help make connections on Amtrak to Sacramento or the ACE train to Silicon Valley, it would be an improvement over what is available today.

Is it Worth the Investment?

Turn that question around: are the expensive highways California is so enamored of worth it?

There are legitimate concerns about this megaproject. But legislators instead focused on whether the final project will take two or three hours to travel between L.A. and San Francisco, and on whether using cap-and-trade funds to pay for debt on bonds to build the project—rather than directly for the project itself—is a legitimate use of that funding source.

The big question that went unasked at these hearings is whether California should be investing so much time and energy into a rail project that will likely induce sprawl—encouraging commuters to travel much longer distances than make sense now—and which may very well induce more driving, not less, especially where its destinations are ill-served by connecting transit. Proponents tout the project’s future ability to substitute trains for air travel, without thinking through the emissions repercussions of freeing up airports to serve longer trips, as SFO is planning to do.

But there is no doubt that improving and increasing existing transit and local connections—providing fast, frequent train service for people who believe driving is their only viable commute option—will benefit everyone. If that means Caltrain goes electric and increases service along the San Francisco peninsula, that is not a waste of time and money. If it means creating a faster alternative for rail commuters now sharing tracks with freight trains in the Central Valley, that is no waste of effort.

Besides, until California transportation planners begin to give serious consideration to the sprawl-inducing impacts of building highways, still a popular use of state money, there’s no reason to point the finger at rail.

The CAHSR 2018 Draft Business Plan is open for public comment until May 9.

  • HayBro

    Build it. Find ways to speed up construction rather than ways to slow it down.

    Beyond all the benefits HSR will deliver when it is done, a huge chunk of the money is being spent on workers, who will then turn around and spend that money at businesses throughout the state. It’s not like someone is throwing money into a bonfire here.

  • Eric Talbot

    Even a Democrat Governor will shut it down – it’s only Governor Brown who is standing in the way of its termination. This thing is fast losing what little support it had even as recently as a year ago.

  • zoom314

    Next Republican California Governor? LOL.

    That ain’t happening…

  • QuestionQue

    California’s next Republican Governor will try to stop High-Speed Rail.

  • QuestionQue

    There should be an “Elon Musk’s Hyperloop” comic book because that is the only place this technology will exist.

  • Eric Talbot

    At this point, we are highly accustomed to our status-quo of taking MegaBus, driving our own car and/or flying & renting a car at our destination. Our infrastructure is financed and built around these modes.

    Therefore, at this late date, it makes little or no sense to spend billions after the fact to re-incorporate another mode of travel which has, for all intents and purposes, been cast aside. It is fast dawning on everyone that California’s effort to build a high speed train is running into one costly obstacle after another.

    I expect that, after Governor Brown terms out of office and his replacement is sworn in, that California’s next governor will act swiftly to put a full stop to this ill-fated project. Although there will be costs involved with shutting it down, the train project is still so early in its development that not much will be lost, relatively speaking, compared to what WILL be lost if it is allowed to be completed decades from now, if ever.

  • Eric Talbot

    @ Hugh Shepard – The “Catch-22” you refer to is, yes, a fact – and as a result intercity rail hardly factors into our travel planning.

    At this point, we are highly accustomed to our status-quo of taking MegaBus, driving our own car and/or flying & renting a car at our destination. Our infrastructure is financed and built around these modes.

    Therefore, at this late date, it makes little or no sense to spend billions after the fact to re-incorporate another mode of travel which has, for all intents and purposes, been cast aside. It is fast dawning on everyone that California’s effort to build a high speed train is running into one costly obstacle after another.

    I expect that, after Governor Brown terms out of office and his replacement is sworn in, that California’s next governor will act swiftly to put a full stop to this ill-fated project. Although there will be costs involved with shutting it down, the train project is still so early in its development that not much will be lost, relatively speaking, compared to what WILL be lost if it is allowed to be completed decades from now, if ever.

  • Eric Talbot

    Where is Elon Musk and his Hyperloop at this critical moment when we need him the most?

    I’m waiting with bated breath for Mr. Musk to confidently stride into the State Capital in Sacramento and talk the legislators into putting what remains of California’s H.S. Rail dollars into his Hyperloop, instead, which Mr. Musk promises will be far faster than high speed rail and much cheaper and quicker to build.

    Please, Elon, come to our rescue and save us from this monumental social, engineering and fiscal disaster!

  • City Resident

    The BART extension to San Jose is a continuation of the Richmond-Fremont/South Fremont/Warm Springs line, using BART’s unique non-standard gauge and “regular BART trains.”

  • Eric Talbot

    I agree with you, Kevin, that the public IS rapidly losing patience with this thing as it becomes increasingly evident with the passage of each day, week, month and year that its completion date is being pushed ever farther into the dimly-lit future.

    Even today’s college students will be frail elders or dead and buried by the time the trains finally enter service.

  • LazyReader

    Because until we invent useful jetpacks or teleporters cars are the superior technology, regardless of date of invention

  • Eric Talbot

    Where is Elon Musk and his Hyperloop at this critical moment when California needs him most? I’m waiting with bated breath for Mr. Musk to march into the State Capital in Sacramento and talk the legislators into throwing all the state’s H.S. Rail money at his Hyperloop, which Musk promises will be far faster than high speed rail and far cheaper and quicker to build.

    Please, Elon, save us from this monumental engineering and fiscal disaster!

  • CeeTee55

    Why do you keep peddling a 19th-century transportation mode (cars)?

  • CeeTee55

    Cool boilerplate, dude.

  • Hugh Shepard

    Your argument is a Catch 21. Basically, since the US has largely invested in highways instead of intercity rail for the past 50 or so years, there is not much intercity rail, and therefore not much intercity rail ridership. You argue that because there is not ridership in rail currently, we cannot make future investments in intercity rail that would increase ridership.

    Also, were long-distance trains made obsolete by planes? I’m not so sure about that. I mean, maybe long distance as in cross-country, or from SF to Chicago, etc. But there is a market where high-sped rail is more efficient than planes. This spot involves transporting large numbers of people between dense population centers that are within 2-4 hours of each other via high-speed rail.

    Also, rail can be built for different amounts of demand. That’s why there are low platform lines, single tracked lines with diesel engines, and also high-platform, electrified liens with high platforms. That’s why some rail lines are grade seperated and some are not. That’s why there is this thing called ‘light rail’, and this thing called ‘heavy rail’. That’s why there are different lengths of trains.

    “The buses are winning because they’re going non-stop from departure to destination without stopping” – um, no. Stops do not take that much time. Time spent stuck in traffic in a bus will almost always be greater than the amount of time spent stopped in a train. And unless you are serving two extremely popular destinations, it’s going to be hard to get the capacity needed to run a bus line if you only have two stops. So that’s why plenty of intercity bus lines have intermediate stops.

  • zoom314

    And let Me guess, land is insanely cheap?

    Land has gotten more and more expensive over the last 50 years, but then California is a popular place, people need somewhere to live at, that’s demand, land is the supply, not enough supply and prices go up, lawsuits have not been very helpful, unless one is in to selling land to squeeze every last drop of value out of a sale as one can, but that’s real estate, agents and brokers make their living, as do title companies, it all adds up.

  • zoom314

    $333 Billion? Seriously?
    HSR has no preexisting lines outside of Caltrain and Metrolink, everywhere else has to built from scratch.

  • zoom314

    Have you done a search on the State Legislatures website on Bills? I have, Republicans routinely vote NO on everything, HSR included.

    Here’s the page with
    AB-3034 Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century.(2007-2008)
    Assembly 58-15
    Senate 27-10
    http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billVotesClient.xhtml?bill_id=200720080AB3034
    SB-415 High-speed rail: rights-of-way. (2017-2018)
    4-7(Fail) http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billVotesClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB415
    AB-1442 Bonds: transportation: water projects.(2017-2018)
    4-9(Fail) http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billVotesClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180AB1442
    AB-1442 was about stealing HSR money and using it for Water, when there are $7.5 Billion in Water Bonds already.
    SB-414 Transportation bonds: highway, street, and road projects.(2017-2018)
    Sen Transportation and Housing 4-6(Fail)
    Sen Transportation and Housing 3-6(Fail)
    http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billVotesClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB414

    In all 4 bills, whether from 2008 or from 2018 Republicans are against HSR, and Democrats are for HSR.

  • zoom314

    The problem with what the Senator said is in Europe the track and row(land) are owned by government, in California the government owned railroads are Caltrain, Bart, Metrolink, and Metro, the freight railroads like the BNSF and UP are all privately owned, so I see no ability to do incremental anything, so what the Senator was trying to do is an Apples to Oranges comparison.

    HSR largely has to be built from scratch, I wish it wasn’t so, but option #1 is not feasible as it would mean paying back $3.5 billion out of the General Fund in an appropriation, possibly with Interest which would mean Republicans would demand cuts once again like was done in 2009, an appropriation requires a 2/3rds vote, not a simple majority, Option #2 while doable, is not agreeable, Option #3 is not much better than #2, Option #4 is the best option, $9 Billion was never more than a down payment, lawsuits created delays and the delays meant as time passed land went up in value, take My grandpa’s old house in Culver City CA in 1970 in an estate sale the house, garage, and land sold for $20,000.00, today it would sell for between $750,000.00 and $1,000,000.00 and that house was built in 1920.

    Some might ask, why not run freight? Freight trains are heavy and long, while passenger trains are lighter and shorter, and the freight railroads don’t need the HSR row as they have their own row.

    I say build it, as time is not going to wait, and land ain’t being made anymore in this state.

  • LazyReader

    It’s not a “Modern” anything. Short-distance passenger trains like streetcars and trolleys (0.5-10 miles) were made obsolete by buses in the 1920s. Long-distance trains (500+ miles) were made obsolete
    by planes in the 1960s. When other transportation technologies, such as horseback riding, steamboats, and canals went obsolete, we let them go except for recreation, tourists and museums. Now the last vestige the passenger rail consortium wants to capture the intermediate distance travel market (50-250 miles) and Inter-city buses have already taken that market. Megabus, Bolt Bus, Peter pan, greyhound. The intermediate travel market is only about 1% of the miles traveled in the US. What possible justification could spending tens of billions on new infrastructure to run a transportation method that’s lost so much of it’s
    patronage vs Buses which cost little to build and require no additional
    infrastructure since they utilize pre-existing one, our roadways which
    are paid for with user fees vs rail transit which was paid for by an
    array of means including milking drivers and political handjobs to
    lobbying firms.

  • OaktownPRE

    Bums in tent camps can move someplace cheaper. I don’t see what that has to do with California building a modern transportation system.

  • Matt Korner

    In order to prevent sprawl, don’t build parking at the stations and regulate ride-sharing.

  • LazyReader

    Short-distance passenger trains like streetcars and trolleys were made obsolete by buses in the 1920s. Long-distance trains were made obsolete by planes in the 1960s. When other transportation technologies, such as horseback riding, steamboats, and canals went obsolete, we let them go except for recreation, tourists and museums. Now the last vestige the passenger rail consortium wants to capture the intermediate distance travel market (50-250 miles) and Inter-city buses have already taken that market. Megabus, Bolt Bus, Peter pan, greyhound. The intermediate travel market is only about 1% of the miles traveled in the US. What possible justification could spending tens of billions on new infrastructure to run a transportation method that’s lost so much of it’s patronage.
    UC professor Charles Lave insisted on observing the “Law of Large Proportions.” Investing $1 Billion on the option used by 87.9% of the people (Drive Alone and Carpool) will produce far more benefits than investing the same $1 Billion on the option used by less than 2.0% of the people (Rail). Anything you can do with trains you can do with buses.
    – At it’s current rate of building, High speed rail wont be available to move anyone til at least 2030, Buses can move people NOW. And for those who worry the stigma of riding a bus there are luxury buses with leather seats, wi-fi, power plug in, snacks, lumbar support seats, big windows.
    – Buses respond to demand, rail does not. The buses are winning because they’re going non-stop from departure to destination without stopping except for perhaps fuel or rest period. Trains cant do that, they’re linear and have to run from stop to stop.
    – Trains are not scaled to consumers, buses can. Buses can be double decker or articulated and carry 90 passengers, standard sized 40 footers that carry 40-50, more comfy same sized buses that carry 30 or less, mini buses that carry less than 20 passengers or even microbuses that carry no more than 10, and can navigate the city streets, drop you off at your exact destination.

  • LazyReader

    10 things you need to know about Megaprojects

    1: Megaprojects are inherently risky due to complexity and long time horizons.
    2: Projects are often led by inexperienced planners who keep changing over the course of the project CHSR has gone thru several directors
    3: Decision making involves many actors and stakeholders with conflicting interests;
    4: Technologies and designs are often non-standard, which not only makes projects more difficult but persuades managers that their projects are unique and so they don’t learn from others’ experiences
    5: People often commit to projects at an early stage leaving alternative analyses weak or absent
    6: Large sums of money lead to rent-seeking behavior and optimism bias
    7: Project scope is likely to change significantly over time
    8: Projects are particularly vulnerable to black swans
    9: Planners rarely account for complexity and black swans, which is why projects go over budget and under perform
    10: misinformation about benefits, costs, and risks is the norm throughout project development.

  • Ethan

    The Sierra Club: No sprawl, no infill, no anywhere, no alternative, no sense.

  • QuestionQue

    BART would like a large double decked tunnel to Diridon costing about $4.7 billion. They would need Federal funds. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/vta-to-approve-downtown-san-jose-tunnel-for-bart-extension/vi-AAvvUgN

  • Jason

    Is BART to San Jose going to be regular BART trains? I could be totally wrong but I thought it’s going to be more like the standard-gauge Yellow Line Antioch extension.

  • Jason

    I’d point at Europe instead of China–it’s too easy for the conversation to get derailed (pun intended) by discussion of China abusing the laborers etc. Europe isn’t quite as cheap and fast as China on this stuff but they’re still a hell of a lot better than we are.

  • Jason

    It’s like the Republican starve the beast mentality–people opposed to the project refuse to give up their land in the middle of nowhere and then turn around and point at the resulting ballooning costs of acquiring that land as evidence that the project is a waste of money.

  • CharlesWilliamMorganJr

    We need to overcome ALL obstacles and get the entire route under construction as quickly as possible. Once the entire line is open from LA to SF, people will be delighted and ask why it was not built years earlier.
    Recent news reports have shown how the Chinese have much more rapid, cheaper, and efficient construction methods than we are using. Our slow methods are archaic. Rather then view this as a project to permanently employ people, let’s call in the Chinese to show us how to build the entire system quickly, efficiently and cheaply. We don’t want the system 15 to 20 years in the future – we need it NOW!

  • Vooch

    Agreed – as insanely expensive and time delayed this project has become; its absolutely vital.

    Once it is operating ; people will wonder what the heck all the fuss was about.

  • It sucks to have to admit this, I’ve beat the drum in support for CAHSR for years but I have to agree with you. The project is stating to get ridiculous, and it’s only going to get worse. I want it to succeed but at the same time we’ve been shown our government bit off more than they could chew and as always with politicians nobody can own up to their screwups.

    More and more people will wake up to this too. Question is, what can we do to stop the bleeding?

  • Europe is several different countries with different laws and development patterns. You’re right though, most of those countries would develop or build out their transportation networks different from what we do here in the US though.

  • Kevin Withers

    “politicians will follow the will of their supporters and the project will continue.”

    The weak link in your theory…

  • QuestionQue

    Polling shows 67% of Democrats in favor and 69% of Republicans opposed. With Democrats enjoying a 2 to 1 majority in the state Legislature the politicians will follow the will of their supporters and the project will continue.

  • Kevin Withers

    What about political support?
    What about financial support?
    What about Federal support?

  • QuestionQue

    Support for California high-speed rail unchanged after 10 years. Despite delays and billions of dollars in overruns, poll says same percentage of Californians approve of project. https://sf.curbed.com/2018/3/30/17180506/high-speed-rail-california-poll-train-project-cost-voters

  • Jeffrey Baker

    BART to Diridon is going to have way, way higher capacity than the other rail services from the East Bay to San Jose. Capitol Corridor and ACE combined can barely get 10 trains per day on that line, which is an antique and maintained by UPRR with the goal of keeping it that way.

    I believe you were advocating against BART between SF and SJ, where I agree it is redundant and much worse than conventional rail up the peninsula. But BART will indeed reach Diridon from the other direction.

  • QuestionQue

    BART trains to Diridon would be a much more expensive way to carry fewer passengers much slower at a much later start date. Bad idea in many ways.

  • Bassoon Reedman

    Prop 1A couldn’t get support from the Sierra Club until it included the unusual provision that a station in Los Banos is explicitly prohibited (environmentalists fear that people might want to live in less expensive housing in the Central Valley and commute to Silicon Valley jobs by HSR). San Jose is the 10th largest city in the US – running HSR to San Jose, but not through the Peninsula and on to (smaller) San Francisco would be a perfectly acceptable cost reduced solution (with BART to downtown San Jose, Diridon would become the “Grand Central Terminal Of The West”). P.S. In Europe, they build focused on population centers — Europe would never have started construction in the Central Valley, ignoring three of the ten largest cities in the US. Hint: TGV began with Paris-to-Marseilles, the two largest cities in France.

  • Mission Mom

    That’s no coincidence. 1/2 of the money for Caltrain electrification is coming from the State of California.

  • crazyvag

    Well written article and does bring up an important point that HSR in other countries was built to replace and tie into existing segments.

    In LA, there’s not much aside from RoW to tie into.

    In SF, by pure coincidence, Caltrain happens to be electrifying and that’s as close to “existing segment” as we’ll have.

  • M-SF

    When it’s finished, people will wonder why we didn’t build it years sooner. Or we can just give up and stick our heads in the sand. Try and argue BART wasn’t worth the construction disruption and the schedule and cost overruns.

  • Kevin Withers

    Now thankfully, the CAHSR discussion has evolved into how we can best kill/wind-down this project. The original mandate is unachievable, and support is evaporating.

  • LazyReader

    When Governor Brown let the cat out of the bag that this project was to the tune of 100 billion dollars he knew this thing was treading water. When prop 1A passed it was required that it would meet the technical specifications promised. Like going 220 miles per hour and getting from LA to San Fran in 2 hours and 30 minutes. Completion has also been pushed back from 2020 in the 2000 plan to 2029 in the 2016 plan to 2033 in the latest plan.

    Opposing California’s pissing away of what will be, by the time loans
    are paid over, more than 1/3 of a trillion dollars doesn’t make one
    against people; it makes people pro-people. The problem is that
    California has a thousand other things more important that getting some
    upper middle class folks to live in Fresno while working in the Bay.
    California is, per capita, the most impoverished state in the union.
    Google “California homeless camps” to better understand one of the many
    pressing issues that is being neglected. It’s beyond shameful; it’s
    sinful.

  • When the original authorizing legislation, Prop 1A, passed, it included funding to the tune of $9 billion, which, said Kelly, was about one fifth of the total amount the project was estimated to need at the time.

    Costs have risen, and now, he says, the funding in hand covers about one third of final project cost estimates.

    Going from having a fifth of a lower estimate available to a third of a higher estimate means the amount of available funding has increased. People use this project as a reason to deride Gov. Brown, but he really must be commended for inheriting a project and finding money for it to at this point, more than triple what was available when he arrived (counting money from the Feds).

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG