Reflections Following the Senate Hearing

Reflections Following the
Senate Hearing

03/14/12 Filed in:

I think TRANSDEF is onto something that no one else is stressing: Because of the way Proposition 1A, AB 3034, was written, there can be no project without private capital and/or a huge federal commitment.

So far, the Authority has been allowed to frame the
consideration of its plan, which makes it seem
reasonable. Here’s why it is necessary to pull back
and look at the bigger picture:

The strictures of AB 3034 prohibit the very kind of
incremental improvements that would be most sensible
(and which are standard practice everywhere else in
the world): building a HSR-compatible but
unelectrified connection between Bakersfield and LA
and improving the bookends to enable shared use.
Doing all this would demonstrate the ridership
potential of decent train service, which would allow
an entirely different kind of discussion–a grounded
one, rather than a theoretical one–of a statewide
HSR system.

Instead, AB 3034 demands a quantum leap to HSR. A
state-funded project simply cannot accomplish that
heavy a lift. Because AB 3034 prohibits operating
subsidies, massive capital is needed assemble a
system attractive enough to generate an immediately
profitable level of ridership. An incremental
approach simply can’t get there.

I think HSRA has been heading in the wrong direction
for years, and has now reached the end of that road.
The fundamental flaws are evident for everyone to
see: I think Mike Brady’s lawsuit is correct in asserting that the Central Valley project, is ineligible for bond funds, because it lacks a Usable Segment. (The HSRA’s response was to try to get the lawsuit thrown out.)

It is clear to me that, to start the project, the
Authority should have asked private operators what it
would take to get them to invest in a statewide
system–and then focused on determining whether a PPP
was feasible. Building an AB 3034-compliant system on
its own was never a possibility. It’s hard to imagine
an Authority management incapable of figuring this
HSRA wasted hundreds of millions
planning a system that can never be built. We have to
wonder what they were thinking… In situations like
this, one starts with the standard questions “What
did they know?” and “When did they know it?”

Comments are closed.