Tag Archives: Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund (TRANSDEF)

California Legislators Concerned About California High-Speed Rail Accountability

During the past four weeks, the California State Legislature has discussed the 2016 Draft Business Plan for California High-Speed Rail in several hearings. While some legislators continue to effusively praise the project, many legislators – both Republicans and Democrats – have expressed grave concerns about the abrupt change in the direction of the project and the outlook for funding sources.

On March 28, 2016, the California Legislative Analyst’s Office released a report entitled Review of High-Speed Rail Draft 2016 Business Plan. This report stirred the Assembly Transportation Committee enough to pass Assembly Bill 2847 on a 15-0 vote on April 18.

Introduced by Assemblymember Jim Patterson (a critic of the project), AB 2847 requires the California High-Speed Rail Authority to do two things in future business plans: (1) include projected financing costs for a proposed segment or combination of segments, and (2) identify any significant changes in scope for segments identified in the previous business plan or project update report, and provide an explanation of adjustments in cost and schedule attributable to those changes.

Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) continues to be active in calling for public accountability for this beleaguered project. CCHSRA Co-Chair Frank Oliviera spoke during public comment at the April 6, 2016 hearing of the Assembly Budget Committee #3 – Resources and Transportation – on California High-Speed Rail funding. (Watch the video clip of Frank Oliviera testimony.) A letter from CCHSRA was cited in a March 28, 2016 Associated Press article, State Lawmakers Poised to Scrutinize California High-Speed Rail Plan:

In a letter to the committee, Citizens for High-Speed Rail Accountability urged lawmakers to reconsider all funding for bullet trains. “There is not enough money available to put a functional financially sound high-speed train on what they are building,” the group wrote.

Nevertheless, the project moves on, with an Assembly budget hearing scheduled for April 20 to discuss the $500 million annual budget appropriation of cap-and-trade tax revenue to the California High-Speed Rail Authority.


On March 28, the California State Assembly held an oversight hearing to review the Draft 2016 Business Plan for the California High-Speed Rail Authority.


On April 4, the California State Senate held an oversight hearing on California High-Speed Rail: An Overview of the 2016 Draft Business Plan.

Agenda: https://docs.google.com/gview?url=http%3A%2F%2Fstran.senate.ca.gov%2Fsites%2Fstran.senate.ca.gov%2Ffiles%2Fagenda_4-4-2016.pdf&embedded=true

Complete Video: http://calchannel.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=7&clip_id=3525

Individual Speakers (video compiled by derailhsr)

State Senator Lois Wolk: https://youtu.be/xTK8-13P7iY

State Senator Richard Roth: https://youtu.be/rYq34TFI75Y

State Senator Jim Nielsen: https://youtu.be/ebxdrSkUWbo

State Senator Cathleen Galgiani: https://youtu.be/N89xw1YaLNk

State Senator Ted Gaines: https://youtu.be/kuB2ECon1hc

State Senator Ben Allen: https://youtu.be/Iy9BaL-ubAk

State Senator Bob Huff:  https://youtu.be/iCnPn36NSu8

Lou Thompson, California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group: https://youtu.be/7gZvvW4Jmvc

Jessica Peters, California Legislative Analyst’s Office: https://youtu.be/FXI3GHg3OLM

Dan Richard, Board Chairman, California High-Speed Rail Authority: https://youtu.be/yBnVW-0jHuw

On April 6, the Assembly Budget Subcommittee #3 Resources and Transportation held a hearing on California High-Speed Rail.

Agenda: http://abgt.assembly.ca.gov/sites/abgt.assembly.ca.gov/files/Sub%203.%20Exide%20Cleanup%20and%20High%20Speed%20Rail.%20Revised%20-%20final.pdf

Complete Video: http://calchannel.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=7&clip_id=3543 starting at 13:03

Individual Speakers (video compiled by derailhsr):

Jessica Peters, California Legislative Analyst’s Office: https://youtu.be/PhuWAclk0zI

Assemblyman Jim Patterson: https://youtu.be/iBziL_H0xOc

Dave DePinto, Save Angeles Forest for Everyone: https://youtu.be/3Xuz0BvdLes

Frank Oliveira, Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA): https://youtu.be/J9DeiYsyxYE

Mike Brady, Community Coalition on High Speed Rail (CC-HSR): https://youtu.be/QiHX1IGyXZY

David Schonbrunn, Train Riders Association of California (TRAC) and Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund (TRANSDEF): https://youtu.be/-jYy0F2cevM

William Grindley, high-speed rail analyst and critic: https://youtu.be/t9KEffvGG34

Cindy Bloom of Save Angeles Forest for Everyone: https://youtu.be/OyB6UUaf6bY

Future Segment of California High-Speed Rail Not Exempt from California Environmental Law

Today (July 2, 2015) the federal Surface Transportation Board rejected a request from the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board meant to exempt the proposed Caltrain Electrification project from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The Caltrain governing board wanted the Surface Transportation Board to declare that the proposed Caltrain Electrification project is a matter of interstate commerce and therefore covered under federal and NOT state environmental review.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has a vision that one day its high-speed trains will share track with Caltrain between San Francisco and San Jose. This is the northern “bookend” in the current California High-Speed Rail Authority Business Plan.

Electrification of Caltrain is a step toward achieving that vision. It is even receiving funding from Proposition 1A.

On May 19, 2015, the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board petitioned the Surface Transportation Board to do what the California High-Speed Rail Authority has successfully done twice: get an exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) so that it doesn’t have to deal with litigation challenging the adequacy of the approved Final Environmental Impact Report.

The Surface Transportation Board didn’t buy the argument that Caltrain commuters were engaging in interstate commerce.

In February 2015, the Town of Atherton, the Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail (CC-HSR) and the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund (TRANSDEF), known as the “Atherton Parties,” filed a lawsuit contending the environmental review under CEQA for Caltrain electrification was insufficient. This lawsuit will continue now that the Surface Transportation Board has denied the Caltrain petition.

Joining the Atherton Parties to argue against CEQA exemption was the Alliance for a Cleaner Tomorrow (ACT), which alleged that agencies such as the California High-Speed Rail Authority and Caltrain seek special CEQA exemptions after those agencies commit to a Project Labor Agreement with trade unions for construction.

Here is a link to today’s decision from the Surface Transportation Board: