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Help Defend High-Speed Rail

The San Joaquin River Viaduct for California HSR, under construction. Photo: Wikimedia commons

The Rail Passengers Association (RPA) started an 'action alert' on Wednesday to stop efforts by mostly SoCal lawmakers to pilfer $4.8 billion in electrification funds from California's High-speed Rail Program, currently under way in the Central Valley (see lead photo).

The lawmakers can't force a redistribution of the funds directly, so their latest strategy is to pressure the California High-speed Rail Authority to shift the money to commuter rail in their districts by playing brinkmanship and threatening to blow up the whole project.

From the RPA alert page, which includes a form advocates can use to write to their elected officials:

In another attempt to defund high-speed rail in the state, members of the California State Assembly last week adopted HR 97 which requests that the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CAHSRA) delay the awarding of several key contracts regarding the completion of the initial 171-mile construction segment currently under construction in the Central Valley.  These contracts include the track construction and electrification of the line, the procurement of electric high-speed train sets, and land acquisitions to continue construction into the cities of Merced and Bakersfield -- all vital steps toward the completion of the route between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Such delays could put the state on the hook for billions in federal matching funds. Basically, the SoCal politicians would be killing HSR. The advocacy group asks supporters of clean, electric rail to write and tweet their legislators using the form they provide and tell them to "stand up for high-speed rail and that you oppose delaying the project as directed in HR 97."

Meanwhile, the politicians behind HR 97 claim to support HSR. But Streetsblog has called out their disingenuous arguments in the past for diverting funds to their own districts. For example, Streetsblog has pointed out that their arguments about transfers (see here and here) are based on misinformation and outdated regulations. Yet they continue to make them.

It's screamingly obvious that the SoCal Democrats involved just want the money, even if it risks trashing the whole project, including the sections in Southern California. And oil-backed Republicans, who never miss an opportunity to obstruct and delay HSR--remember when they even tried stop Caltrain electrification just to hurt HSR--are all too happy to help them.

To be fair, California Democrats take plenty of petroleum contributions too.

LA Times goes Judith Miller again.

In Wednesday's "It’s now or never to save California’s bullet train" the LA Times editorial board, in support of the aforementioned legislative efforts to divert funds from the Central Valley to SoCal, declared: "There’s been no examination of the proposal’s potential effect on greenhouse gas emissions, although it seems clear that delaying electrified rail in the Central Valley would be a disappointing backslide on California’s ambitious climate goals."

No examination of whether investing in the Central Valley versus other regions will do more to reduce emissions?

See the chart below, from the 128-page "side by side" study, which looks at exactly this issue, published in Feb. 2020 by the consultancy arm of Deutsche Bahn, operator of Germany's High-speed rail network.

CVS = Central Valley Segment

The chart lays out how much CO2 emissions would be reduced by the completion of each segment, under various scenarios that are covered in the full study.

There's also a study by KPMG that looks at the same emissions issues.

A Nozomi bullet train in Japan, running on electric power. L.A. politicians want California's system to run much slower while belching out diesel. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
A Nozomi bullet train in Japan, running on electric power. L.A. politicians want California's system to run much slower while belching out diesel. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
A Nozomi bullet train in Japan. Under wire. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

If the LA Times's editors think these studies are flawed, they can say so. They could even say something such as "there's been no unbiased examination." Or they can say the studies are bullsh*t if they want. But to pretend greenhouse gas emission reduction claims are all idle speculation and no professional studies exist on this issue? That's just gaslighting.

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