Commentary, Reports

CA High Speed Rail January Meeting report

Commentary and Report by Hal Wanaselja

I attended the CAHSR Authority meeting in Sacramento on January 29, and as they say “there is good news and bad news.” First, let me say that the choice of Quentin Kopp as chair is a godsend. He is very astute and knowlegeable. He really belives we shoud have HSR, and has a huge number of political connections around the state. If anyone can pull this off, he can. It is also clear that our Governor, now that he has been re-elected as a “Democrat” and is a lame duck, has reverted to his Republican self. He is busily trying hard to kill HSR!

Following is a summary of the meeting:

1. The Authority requested $103million in the Fy08 budget. This would fund all of the on going engineering and enviromental work and actually start critical property acquisition. The Gov reduced this to a paltry $1million to keep the office open.

2. The $10billion bond issue is curently scheduled for the Nov 08 election. The Gov has proposed to postpone this indefinitly effectively killing the project.

The Authorty took very firm stands on both issues, but it is clear there will be a big fight in the legislature this session. We all need to get behind this and do what we can to support Kopp and his team mates to win this fight. “Vote in 08!”

3. The Authority met with the deputy director of the FRA to discuss rolling stock. As I’m sure most of you know, current FRA rules prevent the use of any of the HSR trains now operating in the rest of the world to run on any track used by regular American trains. This joint use of trackage is essential if HSR is to serve either San Francisco or Los Angeles. Staff reported that the FRA was receptive and expressed a willingness to deal with the problem and hopefully change the rules. This also supports current Caltrain efforts on the same subject.

4. KQED (PBS) in San Francisco has a new variety talk show and they plan to feature HSR on one of the shows in February.

5. Staff is working with the CAPUC and CTC on future grade crossing separations. They are trying to get any work on a designated future HSR route to recognize this fact and allow for expansion for HSR.

6. The Sacramento-Fresno Preliminary Design and Project Specific Envronmental Contract was approved for DMJM-HARRIS.

7. The Fresno-Bakerfield Contract went to URS-HATCH MOTT MAC DONALD/ARUP.

8. The Los Angeles-San Diego via Inland Empire went to HNTB.

9. The PMO RFP was released.

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