Today’s Headlines

  • Driver Arrested, Charged With Assault After Road Rage Incident With Man on Bike (SF WeeklyExaminer)
  • Skateboarder in Critical Condition After Being Hit by Driver at Holloway and Junipero Serra (KTVU)
  • Five SF Firefighters Involved in DUI Truck Crash With Motorcyclist Could Be Suspended (SFGate)
  • Board of Appeals to Take on Embattled Parking-Free 1050 Valencia Project (Mission Local)
  • More on the Mayor’s Transpo Task Force Recommendations for Transpo Funding (SF Examiner)
  • Judge Orders CAHSRA to Revise Funding Plan (SacBeeCoCo TimesAlmanacKTVU)
  • San Rafael Takes Steps Towards Demand-Based Parking Pricing — Sort of (Greater Marin)
  • More on the 3-Year-Old Killed in Stroller by Driver in San Jose (CoCo TimesKRON, CBS)
  • Caltrans to Reconfigure Hazardous Interchange at El Camino Real and Route 92 (SM Daily Journal)
  • Fremont Students Remember Football Coach Killed on Freeway Directing Traffic (NBC)
  • UCLA Installs California’s Second Digital-Display Bicycle Counter (Streetsblog LA)
  • A Meditation on the Debilitating Effects of “Car Brain” (NYT)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • No comments from Streetsblog on the high-speed rail decision? You folks have supported this boondoggle. Please explain why judge Kenny is wrong in ruling against the project.

  • timsmith

    If you’ve had time to thoroughly read through the decision already, and are not employed by either party in the dispute, I suspect it not your hard earned tax dollars we’re all spending.

  • Ted King

    Judge Kenny pulled off a “Solomon” – he gave both sides something to crow over. Neither side really won, just a couple of issues were identified that needed fixing. Yes, CAHSR needs to do a lot more paperwork but the preliminaries like land acquisition and construction staging can continue. According to comments at the link below the next major deadline is April of 2014 – that’s when matching funds for the federal dollars have to be available.

    Judge Makes Unfavorable Ruling – But What Does It Mean For Project?
    http://www.cahsrblog.com/2013/11/judge-makes-unfavorable-ruling-but-what-does-it-mean-for-project/ (CAHSRblog.com post, 25 Nov. 2013)

  • Mario Tanev

    Ron,

    Maybe you can enlighten us on what basis judge Kenny ruled? What we know is that his decision validates sabotage tactics.

    The state voters agreed to spend money as long as the feds matched. The feds agreed to spend money as long as the state matched.

    The sabotage started by those who oppose the project to undo funding decisions already made. They delayed the project, degraded public support, and removed future ongoing funding (which they did not do for highways).

    California will spend 400B in the same period on highways, with no real plan to pay for them and no real opposition. It’s just that they are many piecemeal projects that add up.

    Judge Kenny rewarded sabotage tactics and local maximization – piecemeal projects that end up costing a lot more, and set a much higher standard for HSR than exists for highway spending.

    I don’t know what law or precedent he based his judgment, and I am not a lawyer to assess the validity of his ruling, but I do know that laws exist to serve the people. This kind of ruling serves the narrow interests of NIMBY saboteurs and anti-rail republicans.

  • davistrain

    The “Meditation” on “Car Brain” reminded me of a news item from earlier this year marking the 100th Anniversary of Henry Ford’s first assembly line. At least the “Model Ts” that it cranked out were mostly “open air” roadsters and touring cars. Today’s cars, with air conditioning, tinted windows and sound systems are much more isolating. And some people like it that way; walking or riding a bus can mean associating with one’s “inferiors”. To a person on foot, going faster means running, and thus, depending on one’s physical condition, tiring out more quickly. With a car, going faster just takes a slight movement of the right foot. Car metaphors are even found in non-automotive sports–a football player who’s been playing hard and needs a break is often said by the commentator to be “out of gas”.

  • That’s incorrect as a matter of fact. The judge rejected the CHSR’s “validation” challenge to all possible litigants, and, in the other decision, invalidated its funding plan. The CHSRA will now have to come up with a valid funding plan, which will be impossible, since it doesn’t have enough money to even finish the first segment of the system as per Proposition 1A passed by state voters in 2008.

    Links to the decisions: http://www.saccourt.ca.gov/general/media/docs/tos-v-ca-high-speed-rail-authority-ruling2-112513.pdf

    http://www.saccourt.ca.gov/general/media/docs/tos-v-ca-high-speed-rail-authority-ruling-112513.pdf

  • You’re making some kind of political argument against the decision, which you apparently haven’t read. These two decisions are simply legal decisions and really have nothing to do with the issues you cite.

  • Ted King

    Where’s the cease and desist order ? The judge did NOT issue one – he just ordered them to get the paperwork fixed and put a hold on the 1A bond money until then. But that leaves several doors open – federal dollars, CalTrans reserves, cap-and-trade, etc.

    The thing I would like to see in this mess is a version of judicial efficiency for giga-projects. The courts can consolidate several law suits into one jumbo suit. How about imposing a similar requirement on the various challenges to projects like CAHSR ? And the only way a late challenge can proceed is that it documents either substantial harm or gross misconduct. Some of the farmers’ complaints about ROW impacts are for things that can easily be mitigated and could lead to substantial improvements in their operations.

  • Wrong again. What the authority has to do is come up with a new funding plan, since the judge did in fact invalidate the plan of 11/3/11. No one seriously thinks that there will be more “federal dollars” for this project. Nor will CalTrans reserves or cap and trade be able fill the gap.

    You don’t seem to understand the scale of the investment needed for this project—or even just for the $9 billion authorized by Prop. 1A. From the 2008 voter information ballot: “Fiscal Impact: State costs of $19.4 billion, assuming 30 years to pay both principal and interest costs of the bonds. Payments would average about $647 million per year.”

    http://voterguide.sos.ca.gov/past/2008/general/pdf-guide/suppl-complete-guide.pdf

    One of Kenny’s decisions I linked above is in fact about a consolidation motion filed by the authority. Judge Kenny rejected it.

  • jonobate

    It’s not at all clear what this ruling means for the project. I wouldn’t start crowing just yet.

    The ruling is that CAHSR needs full environmental clearance and full funding for the Initial Operating Segment (Merced – Burbank) before they can access Prop 1A funds. The Initial Construction Segment (Madera – Shafter), which is to be paid for with a mix of Prop 1A and federal ARRA funds, is still under construction and has not been halted by the judge, as CAHSR intend to spend ARRA first and match with Prop 1A dollars once the legal issues are sorted out. Prop 1A funds require a one-to-one federal match to be used.

    The current federal funding agreement specifies that Prop 1A dollars must be available by April 2014. That could be renegotiated, but following this ruling it’s very likely that the feds will want assurance that Prop 1A money will eventually be available before they agree to a timeline extension. So CAHSR need to at least demonstrate a plan to satisfy the funding and environmental requirements for the IOS in a very short time frame.

    The funding issue could be dealt with by earmarking sufficient cap and trade revenues or other state funding sources as required to fund the IOS. Another possibility is that the feds will agree to contribute more money, which will free up more Prop 1A dollars. The IOS will cost roughly $30bn, so a $6bn federal commitment (in addition to the existing $3bn commitment) would free up the $9bn in Prop 1A; add in $12bn of cap and trade or other state funding and you’ve got your funding plan.

    Another way to achieve a funding plan would be to cut costs from the IOS. CAHSR are already looking at bypassing Bakersfield to the west and using Bear Trap Canyon (near I-5) rather than SR58 to get to Palmdale. If you cut Palmdale off the mainline entirely and go straight to Burbank, you might reduce the IOS cost by $5bn. Palmdale (and eventually Las Vegas) could be connected to the system later with a cheap connector line across the high desert, joining the mainline near the I-5/SR158 interchange. That would then give you an IOS for an extra $6bn federal + $7bn state.

    Yet another way to achieve a funding plan would be to end the IOS in Palmdale, which would cut ~$15bn off the cost. The challenge here is demonstrating that this truncated IOS would break even in operations, which is a Prop 1A requirement. If XpressWest (Victorville – Las Vegas) and the High Desert Corridor (Palmdale – Victorville) were also funded at the same time, that might generate enough extra passengers to tip the scales. That would then give you an IOS for an extra $5bn federal, OR an extra $10bn state, or some combination of the two.

    An even bigger challenge is completing all the environmental permits before the time comes to access Prop 1A money for construction, especially if these route changes come to pass. The four EIRs required are Merced – Fresno, Fresno – Bakersfield, Bakersfield – Palmdale, Palmdale – LA. The first is completed, the others are on track for Winter 2014, Fall 2015, and Spring 2015 respectively.

    Expect to see all efforts being focused on creating a plan for achieving the funding and environmental milestones in the next few months.

  • Mario Tanev

    Rob,

    I know you are trolling, because there aren’t really that many people who can give a legal opinion on a legal matter and I know you were not expecting that. This is not a legal, but a policy/advocacy site.

  • Policy is inevitably related to and inextricable from the law. The high-speed rail project litigation is now all about what the state’s voters voted for back in 2008 and the implementing legislation.

  • The federal government has given the state $3 billion that must, as you note, be matched by the state. There won’t be any more from that source. Beyond that it’s unlikely that the state legislature will be eager to pour more money into this bottomless pit. Recall that last year the funds only won in the state senate by one vote.

    http://district5diary.blogspot.com/2012/07/high-speed-rail-green-light-for-red-ink.html

  • jonobate

    Just to summarize that rather lengthy comment:

    1) CAHSR need to come with a plan to fund and environmentally clear the Initial Operating Segment sufficient to convince the feds not to pull their $3bn in committed funds, by April 2014.

    2) CAHSR then need to actually obtain that funding and environmental clearance before that $3bn in federal money runs out, probably in 2 year’s time.

    This is all my interpretation, of course.

  • jonobate

    Sure. Not saying it won’t be challenging.

  • Prinzrob

    BART has finally approved a contract for the long-awaited Bike Station secure parking facility at the 19th Street Station in Downtown Oakland (1775 Broadway): http://www.bart.gov/sites/default/files/docs/agendas/11-21-13%20Agenda%20Packet_1.pdf

    From the agreement: “The proposed Bike Station will provide secure weekday parking for approximately 120 bicycles and bicycle support services. Bicycle support services include on-site bicycle maintenance and repair services, sale of bicycle accessories and community bicycle education classes.”

    I hope that there will also be a 24/7 access area like the Berkeley Bike Station as well, though. The 19th Street facility is slated to open in 2014.

  • CamBam415

    Even money says Kenny’s decision will be overturned on appeal. It was a very subjective ruling. Inevitably, CAHSR will go to the CA Supreme Court, wasting more tax dollars & time. Nimby’s like you, use frivolous law suits to waste time & precious tax dollars… Fortunately the bike lanes were built and good triumphed evil. It will be the same for CAHSR, even if we have to resort to China funding, building, and operating it…

  • p_chazz

    Unlikely that CHSRA would choose the Grapevine route now considering that Palmdale sued in federal court in 2011 to keep HSR in Palmdale

  • Andy Chow

    I think this is a disappointing moment for rail even though I have disagreements of what HSRA has done in the past.

    I largely blame the Schwarzenegger administration and the HSRA headed by Kopp and Diridon for the current state of mess. Prop 1A was written hastily in the last minute. Kopp and Diridon (but mostly Kopp) believe in big buildout (like how China is building HSR recently) so the Prop 1A was written to reflect that intention, but it has always been politically unrealistic. When Brown and this generation of HSRA board has decided to get real on the project, the Prop 1A has become an obstacle that HSR opponents were able to take advantage of.

    Nonetheless I think California should have high speed rail. If high speed rail is killed it would be dead for at least a generation. That means a generation loss to more highway expansions and sprawl. This is something that I cannot accept. I also will not accept any alternatives for Caltrain other than full electrification. If you think you can push HSR on I-5 by killing this HSR, it might happen 30 years later when sprawl begins to show along I-5.

    High speed rail can and should be fixed at the ballot box. I think this would be likely next year in some form.

  • Sounds like you haven’t read the decisions. Nothing “subjective” about them, since they are based on what voters passed in 2008 and the implementing legislation that was designed specifically to protect California taxpayers.

    Please explain why our litigation against the city on the Bicycle Plan was “frivolous” and why two judges—and the court of appeal—ruled that it wasn’t.

    China has problems paying for its own system. Why would they want to build ours?
    http://district5diary.blogspot.com/2011/03/china-and-high-speed-rail-cautionary.html

    You have to look more carefully at 2008’s Proposition 1A, which only passed because of all the assurances written into it to protect taxpayers: the state is required to make each segment operational; it must have enough money guaranteed to pay for each segment; and it must be self-supporting if/when it’s completed, that is its operational expenses cannot be subsidized by the taxpayers.

    Every high-speed system in the world has been built with taxpayers’ money and then subsidized by governments after they are built. Only a few HSR lines in Japan and Europe actually make money.

  • Not likely that this can be fixed at the ballot box, since public opinion has turned against the project:
    http://articles.latimes.com/2013/sep/28/local/la-me-poll-high-speed-rail-20130928

  • murphstahoe

    If Public Opinion turned, it can turn again. In this case it will.

  • Based on…?

  • Andy Chow

    HSR doesn’t have to be a stand-alone project at the ballot box. Most transportation ballot measures are multi-project and inter-modal (especially if highway is involved) anyway. The good part about it is that it would be hard to kill it at the ballot box, but at the same time to have HSR you will have to appease the highway and local transit interests.

    For example, parts of the original BART line and the current eBART project is being done in conjunction with freeway widening, so that proper ROW for rail is available in the freeway median. Highway widening is being done all over the place in California and land acquisition for highway do not generate as much controversy. It is clear that the right-wing teabag interests are sponsoring those plaintiffs that otherwise won’t if this is say a CA-99 widening.

  • Hard for you to believe, perhaps, but this is not about right versus left. Of course it’s easy for the Repugs to oppose high-speed rail because it’s essentially a liberal folly and, alas, supported by President Obama himself. I’m speaking as a Democrat who’s saying that this project is dumb and impractical from a financial point of view. Debra Saunders calls high-speed rail the Democrat’s Bridge to Nowhere, and she’s right, even if she’s wrong on everything else.