Voters Can Set California Priorities Straight: Water In, Train Out

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Aaron Fukuda, 559-707-8928 or cchsraorg [at] gmail.com

Voters Get Opportunity to Set California Priorities Straight – Water In, Train Out

 

(Hanford, California, Thursday, November 12, 2015) – The voters of California now have an opportunity to determine where the priorities of California need to be in the near future. Board of Equalization Vice Chair George Runner and Senator Bob Huff have submitted a voter initiative to the Attorney General that could be placed on the 2016 Election. This initiative will give voters a choice to take unused bonding capacity from the California High Speed Rail Project (HSR Project) authorized under Proposition 1A and put it towards water infrastructure projects that are vitally need to meet the current water needs of the State and to prevent social and economic impacts when the next drought strikes California.

This initiative comes at a critical point in the HSR Project as the California High Speed Rail Authority (Authority) has made very little progress on the project and numerous questions of legitimacy surround the Authority and the HSR Project. To fund water projects in California, the initiative seeks to redirect unused HSR funds from the project that were authorized by the voters in 2008 under Proposition 1A. The Authority has spent eight years trying to develop a project that meets Proposition 1A’s requirements, and both the courts and the public have highlighted numerous shortcomings that have kept the Authority and the State from issuing Proposition 1A bonds.

More recently, the Authority came under fire for withholding key documents that showed that the 2014 Business Plan that was presented to the California Legislature was based on artificially low values, and the project will likely exceed the budget set forth in 2014. The Authority also received proposals from 36 international companies that specialize in high-speed rail projects, most of which told the Authority that private funding was not coming to the rescue and that the approach planned by the HSR Authority is not technically or financially feasible.

The Democratic Party-controlled California Legislature, charged with the responsibility to oversee the HSR Project, has refused to appropriately address concerns and has opted instead to loosen oversight of the project. Recently, Assembly Speaker Tony Atkins responded to a request to investigate the Authority for withholding documents by brushing off the severity of the incident and emphasizing “broader range of oversight in 2016.” Earlier in the year the legislature passed Assembly Bill 95, which eliminated the requirement for the Authority to produce and submit key progress reports and reduced the frequency that the Authority produced and submitted project and financial reports.

A large majority of voters of California are tired of watching communities, farms and businesses struggle with the lack of water while a rogue agency like the California High Speed Rail Authority and the Legislature mismanages their multi-billion dollar project. We hope that in 2016 voters will send a message to the Governor and the California Legislature that we can and will set water as our priority in the State of California and hold our public agencies accountable for the use of our limited tax dollars.

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Voters Get Opportunity to Set California Priorities Straight – Water In, Train Out

One comment

  • Safe, Reliable? That’s how 2008 Prop 1A was entitled. That’s the High-Speed Rail we thought we were buying. It’s not what we’re getting!

    Railroad tracks – especially at road crossings and stations – are dangerous. California law gives CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission) jurisdiction over railroad operations. CPUC’s Rail Crossings and Engineering Branch (RCEB) oversees about 13,250 public and 3250 private rail crossings, of which about 10,000 are at grade (rail and road at the same level).

    CHSRA, California High-Speed Rail Authority, plans grade separated road crossings south of San Jose. From there to San Francisco, however, they plan to run on Caltrain track, with high speed trains whizzing past dozens of Caltrain stations and at-grade road crossings.

    Seven years past the election, so far as I know, CHSRA has yet to seek and obtain CPUC approval of such operation. Caltrain’s maximum speed now is 79 mph. (That’s how fast trains ran at Bourbonnais, Illinois, when Amtrak’s crack “City of New Orleans” hit a heavy truck at a grade crossing, derailing two locomotives and 11 of 13 cars.) They plan on raising that speed to 110 mph, or possibly even the 125 mph maximum allowed nationally for grade crossings.

    All that to give San Francisco a one-seat HSR link with Disneyland in Anaheim. Public access to tracks – especially with vehicles – makes the trains vulnerable to accidents, suicides, sabotage, and the consequent delays. Safety must trump a one-seat ride. End HSR at San Jose, with near-seamless transfers there to Caltrain, Capitol Corridor, BART, Amtrak, etc., until Caltrain is full grade-separated and CPUC approves the operation. CHSRA needs to seek CPUC concurrence ASAP.

    RCEB, in its oversight responsibilities, weighs many factors in evaluating road crossings for separation, e.g.:
    V Average Daily Vehicle Traffic
    T Average Daily Freight/Commuter Train Traffic
    LRT Average Daily Light Rail Train Traffic (Usually counts as 1/10 of T)
    C Project Cost Share to be Allocated from Grade Separation Fund
    AH Accident History (Number of Accidents at Crossing)
    SCF Special Conditions Factor
    SF Separation Factor

    Especially for new separations:
    VS Vehicular Speed Limit
    CG Crossing Geometries
    BD Crossing Blocking Delay
    RS Rail Speed Limit
    PT Passenger Trains
    OF Other Factors (Passenger Buses, School Buses, Hazmat Trucks, Community Impact)

    Especially for existing separations
    WC Width Clearance
    SR Speed Reduction
    POF Probability of Failure
    DE Delay Effects
    HC Height Clearance
    AS Accidents Near Structure
    AP Accident Potential
    SF Separation Factor

    All of these factors play into a formula setting the sequence of separation projects, based on the available funds. A high priority for CHSRA – even before building its test track – should have been CPUC review of plans for the Peninsula operation.

    One of my duties for years at SP was preparing the Western Division (Bay Area and San Luis Obispo to Sacramento) monthly Form G report to CPUC on road crossing changes, separations, warning devices (gates, flashers, wig-wags), etc. Although that was years ago, I am familiar with the proper role for CPUC & RCEB. CHSRA has failed miserably on its plan for safe, reliable High-Speed Rail.

    Robert S. Allen 925-449-1387
    BART Director, District 5, 1974-1988
    Retired, SP (now UP) Western Division, Engineering/Operations

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