Thursday, March 28, 2013

Overseeing California High Speed Rail

(3/28/13) – IE Transit Talking Points Short

A poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California shows that California voters object to spending $68 billion in public funding on high-speed rail by a margin of 54 to 43 percent. The reasons behind the dissents are very clear. The plans from the California High Speed Rail Authority don’t match financial reality, its ridership projections are suspected to be spun, and the risks of having billions in taxpayer money spent on the project without an efficient business plan is drastic.

The latest 2012 CHSRA Business Plan calls for a $68 billion project cost. The rail agency has proposed what is essentially a second rail system for the central valley, duplicating existing usable infrastructure and potentially disrupting the robust farming sector in the marketplace. Earlier this year, CHSRA was found to dole out $8 million to rail contractors...to simply submit losing bids to the project. And now, Fox News reported that 10% of the high speed train's labor force must come from the "disadvantaged", which would potentially include ex-convicts, high school dropouts, foster children, and union apprentices--Forget having a fair screening process should a better qualified applicant apply for an affected position. To be fair, assisting disadvantaged workers is noble, but aren't there already non-profit organizations out there like iSeek which assist ex-cons in seeking honest work?

The Transit Coalition believes that public transportation projects need to be both cost-effective and non-disruptive to the communities they serve. For starters, a cost-efficient hybrid blended system through already-developed areas could allow high-speed rail to use existing upgraded commuter and intercity rail corridors--using a combination of electrification, separated grade crossings, positive train control, and/or upgraded rail cars--while improving speeds and travel time for existing train routes. The $9.95 billion in public seed money is more than enough separate several grade crossings along the existing passenger train routes throughout the urban areas of the state to speed them up, or perhaps that seed money can be used to close the Los Angeles-to-Bakersfield rail gap for a potentially profitable intercity rail corridor between the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and San Diego. That would bring in private investment for the remainder of the high speed train project, would it not?

And if there's some "law" that panders to the interests of special labor groups like the "disadvantaged" which unfairly displaces better qualified applicants from the job, the state legislature must repeal it immediately.

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