Category Archives: Public Accountability

Rail Design and Safety Veteran Requests Immediate Stop Order for the California High-Speed Rail Project’s Fresno to Madera Section

Rail design and safety veteran Susan MacAdams has requested an immediate stop-work order for the Fresno to Merced section, also referred to as Construction Package 1 (CP-1). MacAdams is a Track and Alignment Expert with previous experience working for the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) and the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro).

She raises concerns about the dangerous mix of track curves, elevations and spirals, and suggests that they are more appropriate for amusement park rides.

MacAdams has yet to study the curves in Construction Package 2-3 (CP 2-3) which runs from Fresno to Bakersfield, but feels that if she were to, she “would come to the same conclusions.”

For years, the leadership of Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) has heard rumors about flaws in the design of the track alignment for the California High-Speed Rail. We’ve heard that certain “Japanese engineers” are astounded about how the state is building the track. In fact, there is credible documentation that outlines the specific problems with track design.

The email below was sent by Ms. MacAdams on April 11, 2018 to the CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority and is a public record. We believe it’s the start of a series of devastating revelations about the track design.


April 11, 2018

To: Brian P. Kelly
Chief Executive Officer
California High Speed Rail Authority
770 L Street, Suite 620
Sacramento, CA 95814

RE: REQUEST FOR IMMEDIATE STOP WORK ORDER FOR MERCED TO FRESNO SECTION

Public Safety should be paramount in any track design for High Speed Rail (HSR), but the design for the track curves across the Herndon Overpass structure north of Fresno is a public safety hazard and poses a serious threat to derailment.

California High-Speed Rail Alignment Merced to Fresno - Attachment 1B

California High-Speed Rail Alignment: Merced to Fresno

Background

Building straight tracks along the UPRR corridor from Merced to Fresno was the shortest route for HSR.

In 2012, the track route called the Hybrid was chosen by the Authority. This route veers from the UPRR corridor and zig-zags across open farmland. The sixty mile straight route now contains nearly 25 miles of high speed curves and horizontal super-elevated spirals with an additional ten miles of track. Trains will travel over the curves and spirals on ballasted track built on alluvial soil at 220 mph. The California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) officials continue to state that this route between Merced and Fresno is the backbone of the high speed rail system, yet this backbone has developed scoliosis, or curvature of the spine; the area in question will need a spinal brace.

(See Attachment 1A and Attachment 1B for Merced to Fresno Section alignment.)

This is a request for an immediate Stop Work Order for the Fresno to Merced section to reevaluate the curve designs. This report focuses only on the curve north of Fresno between Herndon Drive and the San Joaquin River. However, similar alignment flaws are shown on the Authority’s construction drawings in Madera County for the Chowchilla Boulevard/UPRR Bridge, the Fresno River Bridge, the two single track crossovers between Avenue 10 and 12, and the entire Wye complex surrounding the storage facility site. Each of these high speed rail curves should be re-evaluated, realigned and reconfigured as they each contain similar alignment problems that will lead to future operational and maintenance hazards and derailments.

Dangerous Design

North of Herndon Drive in Fresno, near the San Joaquin River, there is a wide support structure for high speed rail currently being constructed over a single UPRR track. (See Attachment 2 and Attachment 3.) As the HSR tracks curve northwards, this wide track support structure transitions into tall support columns. (See Attachment 4 and Attachment 5.) The trains will travel at 220 mph on top of these 60 to 100 foot tall structures. Near the transitional area between the wide deck and the support columns, the track design calls for a combination of overlapping horizontal and vertical curves. This combination violates the Authority’s own Criteria for safe track design. The track design is extremely dangerous; this track design cannot be easily built or safely maintained, thereby creating a significant risk of derailment.

The Draft Environmental Report, the Final Environmental Report and the Construction Documents all use the same curve design for this track; the two sets of environmental documents are identical. This is non-standard practice for good curve design. Usually, in critical locations such as this, between the draft, final and construction documents, multiple track designs are evaluated in order to determine the best and safest fit. For this alignment, there was only one proposal. A single drawing from the Final EIR will be used for ease of argument.

For five years, I was the Manager of Metro’s Green Line track contracts in Los Angeles. This included the Aviation Wye, which is located on the southern boundary of the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The size and type of the structures near LAX are similar to the size and type structures from Herndon Drive to the San Joaquin River. On the Los Angeles project, there were many track alternatives studied before the trackway was built. There is not any evidence of any other track design proposed for this critical structure near the San Joaquin River.

At the overlap of vertical and horizontal curves, the tracks begin to curve away from the large structure; three mathematical models are needed to construct the tracks, an unsafe track engineering practice. (See Attachment 6, Attachment 7, and Attachment 8.) A horizontal spiral curving outwards is built on top of a vertical curve going downwards. (See Attachment 9.) The tracks will be super-elevated from zero to six inches on one side, while the trains are spiraling downwards on a maximum grade slope across the top of a vertical curve. Normal track design does not allow this combination except in amusement parks and coal mines; this is not Disneyland and all of the curvature for HSR should be seriously investigated. The northbound train has the greatest potential for derailment when traveling across the peak of the vertical curve. Maintaining a slower speed may actually make things worse.

This combination of curves is avoided in rail and roadway design criteria, including the CHSRA Criteria. (See Attachments 10A, 10B, 10C and 10D and the criteria of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials – AASHTO)

For high speed rail, due to the large radius and length of curves, there can be some overlap at the edges. But in this case, the horizontal spiral and the vertical curve are on top of one another. It will be impossible to build, maintain and operate trains safely over this combination.

Fresno suffers from extreme heat and cold. This will result in extremes in the expansion and contraction of the rail and the structures. Rail and concrete expand and contract at different rates. Has this been taken into account in the curve designs that are built on the structures? (See Attachment 11.)

Summary: Combining a horizontal spiral that increases from zero to six inches of super-elevation with a maximum grade vertical curve built on top of a transitional structural support system in a geographical area that experiences extreme temperature range is very dangerous for trains traveling at any speed. This is a request to immediately issue a Stop Work Order to the Contractor for all structures on the Merced to Fresno segment of California High Speed Rail.

Please see additional attachments for further information.

Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.

Susan MacAdams
Track and Alignment Expert
Former High Speed Rail Planning Manager,
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro)
Metro Red, Blue and Green Lines, Los Angeles
Light and Heavy Rail Track Design and Construction: Baltimore, Boston, & Washington DC
susan.macadams@gmail.com

New Business Plan for California High-Speed Rail Slices Through San Joaquin Valley at Much Higher Cost to Taxpayers

On March 9, the California High-Speed Rail Authority released its Draft 2018 Business Plan and asked for public comments about it.

According to the new business plan, the cost of Phase 1 construction between San Francisco and Los Angeles/Anaheim is now estimated at $77.3 billion. The route is expected to be completed in 2033.

Read the plan: California High-Speed Rail Authority Draft 2018 Business Plan and consider commenting about it using this web site: Draft 2018 Business Plan Comments.

California High-Speed Rail Cost Increase to $77.3 Billion

California High-Speed Rail Cost Increase to $77.3 Billion

How has the plan changed in ten years?

One dramatic change is cost and scope. Proposition 1A authorized the state to borrow $9.95 billion to get the project going. Information about Proposition 1A in the November 2008 Official Voter Information Guide stated that “the total cost to develop and construct the entire high-speed train system would be about $45 billion.”

This $45 billion “entire high-speed trail system” included service to Sacramento and San Diego as well as the route between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It also assumed dedicated track for the entire system, as opposed to the current “blended” plan in which high-speed trains share track with commuter light rail at the “bookends” near San Francisco and Los Angeles.

See the text of Proposition 1A and the ballot material related to it: Prop 1A: Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act.

In 2008, supporters of Proposition 1A declared in their official ballot argument to voters that “signers of the ballot argument against Proposition 1A are habitual opponents of transportation improvements. Their claims are wrong and their data simply made up.”

Ten years later, it is proven that opponents of Proposition 1A were indeed wrong. They underestimated how bad it was going to be!

Meanwhile, the groups making money off of California High-Speed Rail continue to push for the project to continue. The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, a coalition of unions with a monopoly on the construction workforce for the project, issued a statement on March 9 supporting the 2018 Business Plan: SBCTC Statement on California’s New High Speed Rail Plan.

With politically powerful unions continuing to support this project, the spending will continue until the courts finally stop it. Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) and other organizations will continue to argue to the judicial branch that the state’s legislative and executive branches have failed to uphold the promises made to voters in Proposition 1A.

In the meantime, the property takings and cultural erosion of agricultural communities far away from San Francisco and Los Angeles will continue at the hands of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. Join Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) in the campaign to stop this misguided plan targeted at the San Joaquin Valley. Make a contribution to our fight here.

As Expected, Cost Soars for First Construction Segment of California High-Speed Rail

Everyone knew it was coming – even the board and top executives of California High-Speed Rail Authority.

At the Authority’s January 16, 2018 board meeting, board members received a “Central Valley Cost Update” presentation. The news was – as usual – bad.

The Madera to Fresno first construction segment is now $1.2 billion higher than the original estimate. And the Fresno to Kern County second and third construction segments are now $700 million higher than the original estimate.

Construction Package 1 (with Highway 99 improvements) is now estimated to cost $3.4 billion. Few people remember the public relations bonanza for the California High-Speed Rail Authority in June 2013, when the Authority board awarded that package at the low, low bid of $985 million. (Approved change orders for that contract as of November 30, 2017 have already increased the project cost by $355.6 million.)

The total estimated cost of the Initial Construction Segment (Madera to Shafter) is now $10.6 billion. And this is the cheap, easy part of the route: flat farmland.

Few people remember that in November 2008 voters approved Proposition 1A and authorized the state to borrow $9.95 billion to get the project underway. Some of that money was spent in other parts of the state on planning and “connectivity projects” such as train cars for the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) district.

In the meantime, Governor Jerry Brown and the governing majority in the California state legislature continue to support the project. Repeated efforts by Assemblyman Jim Patterson to initiate audits of the California High-Speed Rail Authority have failed to pass the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. Lobbyists for big corporations and labor unions boost the project, in defiance of reality.

Meanwhile, Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) continues to pursue its lawsuit contending that the Authority has failed to comply with Proposition 1A. But as construction creeps forward through prime farmland and quiet agricultural communities (yes, land is already being torn up), cost overruns – or a fiscally responsible new Governor – may stop the project before the courts do.

PRIMARY SOURCES

California High-Speed Rail Authority Central Valley Cost Update – January 16, 2018

Construction Package 1 (CP-1) Monthly Status Report Through November 30, 2017

SAMPLE OF NEWS MEDIA REPORTS

California Bullet Train Cost Surges by $2.8 Billion: ‘Worst-Case Scenario Has Happened’ – Los Angeles Times – January 16, 2018

Is High-Speed Rail Dying? This Could Be a Crucial Year for the Troubled Project – Fresno Bee – January 18, 2018

Legislative Leaders Reject Request for Urgent Audit of California High-Speed Rail

In 2017, California-based news media has relentlessly reported the failures and setbacks of California High-Speed Rail, as documented by Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA):

California High-Speed Rail Summer Highlights, Part 1: Lack of Leadership

California High-Speed Rail Summer Highlights, Part 2: Failed Promises

California High-Speed Rail Summer Highlights, Part 3: Community Disruption

Some legislators noticed what was happening. On November 14, 2017, Assemblymember Jim Patterson of Fresno asked the Joint Legislative Audit Committee for an urgent audit of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. The chair of the committee rejected the request on November 27, 2017: Joint Legislative Audit Committee Denies Patterson Request for Urgent California High School Rail Authority Audit.

Joint Legislative Audit Committee Denies Patterson Request for Urgent California High School Rail Authority Audit

NEWS MEDIA COVERAGE

Request for Emergency Audit of Bullet-Train Project Is Denied by Legislature LeadershipLos Angeles Times – November 27, 2017

Leading Dem Supports Patterson’s HSR Audit RequestGVWire.com – November 27, 2017

Fresno Assemblyman Says He Won’t Take No for an Answer on High Speed Rail Audit – KMPH Fox 26 News (Fresno) – November 29, 2017

Put California Bullet Train Audit on the Fast TrackLos Angeles Daily News (editorial) – November 30, 2017

Take Five: Newsom on HSR Audit, Toxic MasculinityGVWire.com – November 30, 2017

California High-Speed Rail Summer Highlights, Part 2: Failed Promises

Contrary to the claims of the taxpayer-funded California High-Speed Rail Authority Communications Department, the summer of 2017 was grim for the future of California High-Speed Rail.

Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) continually tracks developments (or lack of developments) for this costly, misguided high-speed rail plan. We see several trends ongoing with this project. The second is Failed Promises.

In November 2008, when California voters were considering Proposition 1A to borrow $9.95 billion for California High-Speed Rail, fiscal conservatives warned about the official projections:

California General Election Official Voter Information Guide – Proposition 1A – November 4, 2008

Now, almost nine years later, the truth is being revealed. The project is much more expensive than was claimed:

California Bullet Train Costs Up $1.7 Billion for Central Valley SegmentLos Angeles Times – September 28, 2017

Even board members of the California High-Speed Rail Authority were compelled to ask about cost overruns:

California High-Speed Rail Authority Board Meeting Transcript of Proceedings – September 19, 2017 (also California High-Speed Rail Authority Board Meeting Video – September 19, 2017)

“That my concern and my discomfort level is that while this is short-term cash flow kinds of decisions that need to be made, in the big picture for the public, for our stakeholders where we don’t frankly have a great deal of good will or confidence in us, this sort of shell game of moving money around where we know we’re going to eventually — especially items three and four — we’re eventually going to have to come up with the money that we’re moving around.”

Rail Board Members Question Bullet Train Budget Overruns  – Associated Press – September 20, 2017

And it’s way behind schedule:

High Speed Rail in Valley Was Once Supposed to Be Done by Saturday. Not Even CloseFresno Bee – September 24, 2017

Not that any observers of California High-Speed Rail are surprised their predictions came true:

Why Missed Deadline for California Bullet Train Is No SurpriseSan Diego Union-Tribune – September 30, 2017

Of course, what California High-Speed Rail is today is not what was promised to voters in 2008:

High-Speed Rail Gets Us Stuck in Traffic – California Policy Center – July 24, 2017

Former leading backers of the project are now highly critical, especially former California State Senator Quentin Kopp:

Bogus Bullet TrainSacramento Bee – September 14, 2017

The Politician Behind California High Speed Rail Now Says It’s ‘Almost a Crime’ – Reason Foundation – September 20, 2017

But what can ordinary Californians do? One area where citizens have exposed the California High-Speed Rail Authority concerns its schemes to circumvent environmental review:

California’s Bullet Train Is Likely to Face More Environmental Hurdles After a High Court RulingLos Angeles Times – July 31, 2017

High-Speed Rail Backers Lose Another Round in Court – Los Angeles Times – August 2, 2017

Governor Jerry Brown and the majority party in control of the state legislature are committed to support this project to the end. Citizens have turned to the courts to bring California High-Speed Rail Accountability to the public:

Lawsuit Demands California High-Speed Rail Comply With Voter Intentions – California Policy Center – June 1, 2017

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More Oversight Needed for Promise of California High-Speed Rail Job Opportunities

A majority of Californians now realize that the state’s promises to voters in Proposition 1A (2008) about California High-Speed Rail aren’t going to be fulfilled. This has forced the California High-Speed Rail Authority and its defenders to emphasize the project as a massive stimulus package to create jobs for disadvantaged workers in the San Joaquin Valley.

But how accurate is the rhetoric? The California Policy Center has begun an investigative project to determine how many jobs are being “created” and how many of those jobs have gone to disadvantaged workers who are San Joaquin Valley residents. This is the type of oversight that the California legislative majority does not do, for reasons that seem to be obvious.

Newly-obtained records from the State Center Community College District reveal the details of a union-only pre-apprenticeship program for construction trade workers funded by a $440,717 state grant. The records suggest that actual job creation isn’t matching the rhetoric. Unions either don’t have jobs to provide to local disadvantaged workers or choose not to provide jobs to local disadvantaged workers. See results as of June 2, 2017 below:California Apprenticeship Initiative - State Center Community College District

See the June 13, 2017 California Policy Center article at California High-Speed Rail Jobs: High Hopes, Harsh Reality.

Also, here are links to source documents about the $440,717 state-funded union-only pre-apprenticeship program at State Center Community College District:

California Apprenticeship Initiative at State Center Community College District – Grant Agreement

California Apprenticeship Initiative at State Center Community College District – Year to Date Expenditures and Progress Reports

California Apprenticeship Initiative at State Center Community College District – Performance Results

 

Convenient Sources of Information About California High-Speed Rail

Convenient Sources of Information About California High-Speed Rail

People frequently ask CCHSRA for some concise information about California High-Speed Rail or a synopsis of the project.

We now have that information available for you on our website. Send it to your family, friends, and work colleagues.

You can read the short and simple “Ten Things to Know About California High-Speed Rail.” Versions of this list have been floating around on the web and via social media for a few years and we obtained permission from the author to republish the latest version.

Ten Things to Know About California High-Speed Rail

For people looking for more comprehensive information, we have posted a somewhat longer 1300-word synopsis explaining the law and the background of the California High-Speed Rail project.

Synopsis of California High-Speed Rail

If you really want to master the details of this project, read the 110-page report submitted to the California High-Speed Rail Authority by CCHSRA in 2014. It attempts to provide a REAL business plan that fulfills what the law required of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. It’s a couple years old but still quite relevant.

Legacy Issues: The Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability 2014 Business Plan for the California High-Speed Passenger Train System, Including Direct Connections with Existing and Planned Intercity and Commuter Rail Lines, Urban Rail Systems, and Bus Networks Using Common Station and Terminal Facilities

You can help to inform the public about the reality of this project. The more people learn about California High-Speed Rail, the more likely they are to oppose it.

California High-Speed Rail Authority Blames You for Its Four-Year Delay

On May 16, 2016, the Federal Railroad Administration and the California High-Speed Rail Authority revised their agreement for $2.6 billion in federal funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) for the High-Speed Passenger Train for the 21st Century.

California High-Speed Train Program ARRA Grant

The revised agreement can be found here: FRA Grant/Cooperative Agreement for ARRA Funding (Amendment, FR-HSR-0009-10-01-06)

In a California High-Speed Rail Authority press release dated May 18, 2016, the Authority CEO claimed that “High-speed rail construction is underway in California and this agreement is consistent with our efforts to connect Silicon Valley and the Central Valley by 2024, and then move forward with connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles.” Those “efforts” were just adopted by the Authority board on April 21, 2016 as the California High-Speed Rail Authority 2016 Business Plan.

This revised plan anticipates high-speed passenger trains running on electrified track between the Central Valley and San Jose by 2025. The 2014 Business Plan had anticipated high-speed passenger trains running on electrified track running between the Central Valley and the San Fernando Valley by 2022.

A May 18, 2016 article in Politico quoted the CEO as saying “Early on, there was a vision, but no clear sense of how to implement that vision…We have that now, and we’re moving ahead aggressively.” Central Valley residents are surprised to learn there had not been clarity in how to implement a vision, considering that the Authority has tried for several years via negotiations and eminent domain to acquire private property for the supposed implementation of a vision.

Proposition 1A was approved in November 2008. The federal grants were awarded in 2010. As of today (June 2, 2016), the Authority has not even issued a Request for Qualifications for track between Madera and Shafter (Construction Package #5) and there is no schedule yet for bidding on electrication or a heavy maintenance facility coveted by local governments in the San Joaquin Valley. Construction has been limited to a viaduct, the demolition of structures and a street bridge in the City of Fresno, and some token archeological investigation.

Who’s to blame for the delay? The Obama Administration and the California High-Speed Rail Authority have designated a villian, and it is YOU. The May 18, 2016 article in Politico reports the contention of the Authority that your quest for public accountability is to blame:

Federal Railroad Administration officials assigned much of the blame for the lags to the project’s vociferous critics, who have tied it up with a tangle of lawsuits, administrative challenges, and other red tape. They complained that the opponents, especially Central Valley farmers and other not-in-my-back-yard landowners, have gotten far more traction against the railway than they would have against a highway, reflecting a cultural and political bias in favor of traditional asphalt infrastructure. But while they described today’s agreement as a routine bureaucratic clarification, they said they expect an explosive reaction from opponents looking to score political points in Sacramento and Washington.

There will always be politicians and special interest groups who will blame any California High-Speed Rail failures on ordinary citizens who exercise their rights to bring public accountability to this boondoggle. Advocates of the high-speed rail often express resentment about being subjected to checks and balances inherent in the United States Constitution and the California Constitution.

But the truth is that the legislative branch and the executive branch have generally ignored opponents, and the judicial branch has mostly rejected legal arguments from opponents. The real cause of the delays is the flawed language in Proposition 1A approved by 53% of California voters in November 2008. That ballot measure made promises to voters that it could not possibly keep.

Since then, the California High-Speed Rail Authority and Governor Jerry Brown have used every trick in the book to keep the taxpayer money flowing and their patrons happy. (The funding comes from the annual state budget, particularly through cap-and-trade taxes.) Meanwhile, the self-declared author of Proposition 1A continues to receive awards and acclaim for putting out the bait while the switch goes on in Sacramento.

SOURCES

Federal Railroad Administration Cooperative Agreement with California High-Speed Rail Authority – California High-Speed Train Program ARRA Grant – Amendment No. 6 – May 16, 2016

High-Speed Rail Gets a Four-Year Delay: The California Bullet Train Megaproject Was Even Less Shovel-Ready Than AdvertisedPolitico – May 18, 2016

California High-Speed Rail Authority 2016 Business Plan

High-Speed Rail and Federal Partners Realign Grant to Reflect Updated Business Plan – California High-Speed Rail Authority Press Release – May 18, 2016

People of California (and America): Please Comment on 2016 California High-Speed Rail Business Plan

In 2014, Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) submitted thoughtful comments to the California High-Speed Rail Authority evaluating its 2014 Draft Business Plan. CCHSRA even prepared its own alternative 110-page Business Plan from scratch that tried to fulfill requirements in state law for the contents of the plan. See the CCHSRA alternative plan here:

Legacy Issues: The Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability 2014 Business Plan for the California High-Speed Passenger Train System, Including Direct Connections with Existing and Planned Intercity and Commuter Rail Lines, Urban Rail Systems, and Bus Networks Using Common Station and Terminal Facilities

Our long title was deliberate and revealed something few people know: the California High-Speed Rail Authority was authorized by Proposition 1A to spend almost $1 billion of borrowed money on “connectivity” projects. The State of California had already borrowed that money through bond sales to investors, and the state legislature appropriated the money to various state and local agencies for expenditures such as new train cars for the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) commuter rail.

Our alternative Business Plan served as a comprehensive centralized source of organized data that the public could not find elsewhere. In preparing our version of the Business Plan, CCHSRA determined that the California High-Speed Rail Authority did not comply with state law and actually COULD NOT comply with state law in preparing its official Business Plan. Perhaps that’s why the official Business Plan appeared to be a promotional marketing piece.

Nevertheless, the CCHSRA alternative Business Plan and comments submitted by hundreds of other Californians served as an outlet for public frustration and set a foundation for anyone wanting to add a new lawsuit to the many lawsuits filed against the California High-Speed Rail Authority. In a few cases, the California High-Speed Rail Authority revised its 2014 Draft Business Plan because of constructive public comments.

Now, we encourage YOU to read the California High-Speed Rail Authority 2016 Draft Business Plan and submit comments by close of business on Monday, April 18. Here are the instructions:

First, look at the 2016 Draft Business Plan:

Connecting and Transforming California: 2016 Draft Business Plan

Then, submit your comments. There are five ways to do it:

Attn: Draft 2016 Business Plan
California High-Speed Rail Authority
770 L Street, Suite 620 MS-1
Sacramento, CA 95814

  • Leave a verbal comment on the Draft 2016 Business Plan voicemail at (916) 384-9516
  • Submit written material or provide oral public comment during the March 8 and April 12 meetings of the California High-Speed Rail board of directors. (Note: public comments at board meetings usually have a three-minute time limit, and we recommend bringing 10 copies of any written material to submit to the board.)

All public comments submitted about the California High-Speed Rail Authority 2014 Draft Business Plan can be found on another website:

The People Express Frustration and Outrage about California High-Speed Rail in Comments about 2014 Business Plan; Read All Comments – commentary by Kevin Dayton at www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – April 25, 2014

What were the comments submitted to the California High-Speed Rail Authority about its 2014 Draft Business Plan? Here’s what was submitted through April 10, 2014, when the board approved the draft (with some minor changes) to be sent to the California State Legislature. I classified the comments based on three perspectives: critical, concerned, and supportive.

Court Hears Arguments on California High-Speed Rail Authority Prop 1A Compliance

Several members of Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) attended the February 11, 2016 Sacramento County Superior Court hearing in Tos v. California High-Speed Rail Authority. From throughout the state, critics of the current high-speed rail project joined CCHSRA members in the courtroom to watch oral arguments in this pivotal lawsuit for the People of California.

Along with CCHSRA, John Tos and the County of Kings contend that the Authority has failed to comply with Proposition 1A. This is the ballot measure, approved by 53% of California voters in November 2008, that authorized the state to borrow $9.95 billion to start building the high-speed train system.Flashman and Brady at Tos v California High-Speed Rail Authority

Attorneys Stuart Flashman and Mike Brady came to the hearing prepared to make this case for Mr. Tos and Kings County. They refuted many of the claims of the state attorneys representing the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

Here are some of the arguments from Mr. Flashman and Mr. Brady:

  • Prop 1A as presented to voters contains much more than just an authorization for the state to issue bonds. It sets specific criteria for the construction and operation of the system itself. For example, Prop 1A requires the train to be capable of traveling between San Francisco and Los Angeles in 2 hours and 40 minutes, with five minutes between each train.
  • Authoritative studies and analyses (for example, from Caltrans) indicate that the mandates of 2 hour, 40 minute travel time and five minutes between trains cannot be achieved under the blended plan. And the slower and less frequent trains under the blended plan mean that ridership and revenue projects do not achieve the Prop 1A guidelines either.
  • Studies and analyses produced for the California High-Speed Rail Authority to demonstrate compliance with Prop 1A are based on erroneous, unlikely, and untested assumptions.
  • California High-Speed Rail was portrayed to voters as a dedicated track system, not a “blended” system in which the high-speed train shares track with commuter rails (Caltrain and Metrolink). There are no references to a blended system in the 2005 and 2008 Environmental Impact Reports related to the project. The 2012 legislative mandate for the system to share track with commuter rail was a novel development that surfaced after Prop 1A was enacted by voters.
  • If the California legislature or the Authority wants to deviate from Prop 1A, they need to ask voters to authorize those changes. Prop 1A was a constitutional measure that cannot be altered by simple legislative action.

Here are some of the arguments from the California High-Speed Rail Authority:

  • Like in Phase 1 of this lawsuit, it is premature to claim that Prop 1A guidelines can’t be met.
  • The Authority was required to develop a blended approach by the legislature. This plan served the public by reducing the cost of Phase 1 from $98 billion to $68 billion.
  • There is a lot of evidence in the administrative record showing that the Authority can meet the requirements of Prop 1A.
  • The court needs to defer to the decisions of the experts of the agency working on the project.
  • Parties to the lawsuit are inappropriately challenging experts.
  • When the judge asked the Authority’s attorney what would happen if the court determined that the Authority could not fulfill the Prop 1A travel times, the attorney responded that it would be the fault of the legislature, not the Authority.

A ruling is expected in 60-90 days.

News Media Coverage

California High-Speed Rail: Landowners’ Lawsuit Goes Before Judge – Associated Press (via San Jose Mercury-News) – February 11, 2016

Kings County Opponents of High-Speed Rail Get Their Court DateFresno Bee – February 11, 2016

Lawsuit Contends the California Bullet Train Project Is Violating State LawLos Angeles Times – February 12, 2016

Legal Challenge Could Freeze Billions In Funds For California’s Bullet Train – Capitol Public Radio (via KVPR – Valley Public Radio) – February 11, 2016

Videos from Court Hearing (courtesy of DerailHSR)

Part 1 – Tos v. California High-Speed Rail Authority – Sacramento County Superior Court

Part 2 – Tos v. California High-Speed Rail Authority – Sacramento County Superior Court

Part 3 – Tos v. California High-Speed Rail Authority – Sacramento County Superior Court

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