Smaller Cities Decry High Speed Rail

At a meeting of the High-Speed Rail Authority in San Jose last night, Burlingame mayor Cathy Baylock described the proposed above-ground route as a “monster” that “will destroy the city of Burlingame” by dissecting it into two. Burlingame already has problems with the ground-level Caltrain lines running through the city, she said. While a meeting to discuss the state’s high-speed rail plan was winding down, a local man was killed by a night train running through the city.

Baylock was part of the standing-room-only crowd that attended the meeting to air its grievances. Local leaders fear that their concerns will be overshadowed by the region’s larger cities, San Jose and San Francisco.

While members of the High-Speed Rail Authority said they understand their concerns, they also pointed out that the preferred solution—putting the line in a covered trench—could cost four to five times as much as the $4.5 billion currently proposed.

Nevertheless, Rod Diridon, Sr. says that no decisions have been finalized yet. Instead the Rail Authority is simply looking at more options. They are hoping to find a compromise, which will address local concerns while keeping costs as low as possible. After all, says, Robert Doty of the Peninsula Rail Program, “We are the great compromisers of the world.”
Read More at ABC 7.
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11 Comments

  1. If San Jose is going to be the “rail hub” wouldn’t it make more sense to terminate the HSR in SJ and then build out the BART up the peninsula and eventually rest of South Bay?  I think BART would be more acceptable the HSR all the way up to SF or rather Millbrae.

    Some complain that BART is “old” technology and we are now talking about electrifying CALTRAIN which is an even older system and going broke.

    Once the HSR reaches the South Bay, it should be one system BART covering the rest of the region.  This would have to be less expensive and more acceptable to the communities.

  2. > While members of the High-Speed Rail Authority …

    > Nevertheless, Rod Diridon, Sr. says that no decisions have been finalized yet.

    Rod Diridon, Sr.?!  The guy responsible for the disastrous, fiscally unsustainable light rail system that no one rides, and is shutting down lines?  THAT Rod Diridon, Sr.?

    How is it that a PROVEN transportation incompetent like Diridon ends up on the “High Speed Rail Authority”?

    If he is employable at all, he shouldn’t be trusted with anything more than polishing hub caps at the car wash.

    High speed rail is cratering big time.  This time, the NIMBY’s are right.  Don’t run this, dangerous, noisy, disruptive terrorism magnet through MY community.

    The only question is:  how fast can we shut down this ill-conceived, obscenely wasteful slab of political pork, put the grifters and shammers in jail, and save the tax payers at least SOME of their ill-advisedly misspent money.

    • Thankfully Wreck’s opinion is in the extreme minority.  Take a look at Today’s Merc and the piece by Patty Fisher.  See the accompanied photo of the meeting?  Nothing against senior citizens or those over 60 (my parents are in this category), but this project is all about the future of California and the Bay Area, NOT ITS PAST!  As for Cathy Baylock and the rest of the NIMBY obstructionists, please stay out of the way of progress and the future; thank you.

  3. Oh and by the way, this project was supported by a majority of California voters and the vast majority of those on the Peninsula.

    • > Oh and by the way, this project was supported by a majority of California voters and the vast majority of those on the Peninsula.

      The majority of California voters and the vast majority of those on the Peninsula are undoubtedly among the 47 percent of households that don’t pay federal income tax.

      Boy, are THEY in for a surprise.

    • That’s the problem. We’ve committed to sell $10 billion in bonds, that will cost us $20 billion to pay back, plus $2-something billion in porkulus funds. Meanwhile, the project is estimated to cost $42 billion, before cost overruns. Where’s the other $30 billion coming from? Santa Claus?

      • > Where’s the other $30 billion coming from? Santa Claus?

        Oh, that’s easy.  It’s coming from the $2.5 trillion Obama “healthcare reform” law.

        $30 billion is just round-off error.

        They’ll just reclassify “High Speed Rail” as an approved medical treatment for human immobility syndrome.  They’all also claim that abortions are performed during rail trips, which is another “medical” justification for sticking the high speed rail snorkel in the healthcare trough.

        I don’t mean to be critical, but it’s really too easy to pick your pocket.

  4. There’s basically going to give away the public rail system to a private company who will operate it (take profits from its operation).  This was a compromise as it seemed unrealistic to ask for all $40 billion from taxpayers state and federal.

    The most likely investor at this point in the ROC (Mainland China) which is bidding their system and expertise as well as offering the buy-in $10 billion.  Rules require that the equipment be assembled in the U.S. with a certain % of U.S. manufactured parts, but the threshold is low (20%) so it could work easily using a NUMMI style model (where engines made in Japan and Drive trains made in Korea are shipped into the port of Oakland and assembled with American labor and some body panels and parts made in America.)

    Someone even suggested using the recently closed NUMMI plant for the rail equipment assembly plant.  Other bidders include Germany, France, Spain and I think Japan.  While China is new on the HSR scene, they’ve licensed the best technology and built over 1100 miles of lines with incredible low costs per mile.  Since the People’s Republic of California won’t allow Chinese labor during construction and will mandate “prevailing wage” which means union labor only, it’ll cost at least $40 billion to get a world class system.

    The bad news is that true economies exist when you build a system and once it starts running, you keep building, expanding the network and licensing and selling your equipment and expertise to others looking for a turn-key solution.  That’s how to grow a new industry.  Had we started with BART that way and kept a trickle of infrastructure funding, adding a few miles of track a year and building new rolling stock in house, we not only would have ringed the bay but probably gotten contracts to provide the equipment for lines in cities around the country like LA, Seattle, etc.

    High Speed Rail is a good answer, but NIMBYism threatens it.  I’m reminded of the stories about the 2 freeways, 101 and 280, and how one received lavish spending and quality construction the mitigated impacts on adjacent communities and neighborhoods and the other just imminent domained its way through the poor part of time, often being built at grade and creating a permanent divide for once homogenous neighborhoods and communities.  101 creates not only a physical but also a psychological divide whereby blight, crime, minority enclaves and such are all concentrated on one side of the freeway.

    High Speed rail has the potential to create the same situation depending on how its built.  It’s worth spending more to get a better long term benefit, but the other factor playing in here is the “free rider” syndrome where people want benefits but expect others to pay the costs.  Combined with NIMBYism (Not in My Back Yard) there’s some ugly politics in play.

    I’ll offer an honest solution.  Create a multi-city/county Benefit Assessment District (or Redevelopment Agency) that will leverage tax increment financing to accomplish the following:
    1) Upgrade HSR routing on the Peninsula to below ground tracks and use the right of way above ground for a linear park with regional bike and pedestrian trails.
    2) Implement the Grand Boulevard Initiative for El Camino Real from S. San Francisco to San Jose (where it becomes the Alameda) with intense development along the frontage interspersed with park and pedestrian spaces and served by high quality transit as well as bike and pedestrian facilities…
    3) Run BART from Burlingame/SFO to SJ Diridon Train Station using an underground route built underneath the Grand Boulevard, with local stops in each city (now served by Caltrain) along the route.  The HSR will become the Regional Transit and Long Distance provider and BART could provide the local service using non-street grade tracks that would eliminate the slowdowns and deaths on the current Caltrain system.
    4) If market realities make it feasible, the HSR route could be utilized by a local (baby bullet) train system that would fill in gaps in the HSR schedule for regional commuting.  We could also extend spurs for the Baby bullet line to the East Bay and North Bay for true economies of scale and system integration.

    • > I’ll offer an honest solution.  Create a multi-city/county Benefit Assessment District (or Redevelopment Agency) that will leverage tax increment financing to accomplish the following:

      I don’t question your honesty.  I DO question your sanity.

      This pig wouldn’t even make economic sense in an alternate universe.

      Get over it. 

      To paraphrase a former Navy admiral testifying to Congress about the notoriously stupid Navy F-111 project: “There isn’t enough money in Christendom to make this thing fly.”