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Editorial: Can cities stop a juggernaut?

Original post made on Aug 18, 2008

It was a no-brainer for the Menlo Park and Atherton city councils to join a cost-free lawsuit challenging the route chosen for the high-speed rail project that will be on this November's state ballot. What local resident wants the impact of 220-mph-trains in his or her backyard?

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, August 13, 2008, 12:00 AM

Comments (8)

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Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Aug 18, 2008 at 8:15 am

As a perpetual pessimist, I believe that this train wreck can't be stopped. As the editorial makes clear, massive bond issue promotions on TV and the print media will seduce the voters into believing they will get a whizzy fast train for a mere $9 billion in bonds, which, of course, they don't have to pay for. This project has always been snake oil. The rhetoric offers us a miracle cure for all of California's problems: jobs, traffic, the economy, the environment, fuel costs. It seems too good to be true. It is too good to be true.
1. Once they start it, they may never finish it.
2. Their cost projections are ridiculously low.
3. They will need to return to California taxpayers again and again for more funds.
4. All their miraculous curative promises are false and will never, ever become a reality.
5. The total cost of a completed HS train system will be well over $100 billion.
6. They will never be able to assemble the $45 billion they now claim will be the total cost.

California, caveat emptor!

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Posted by Tom
a resident of another community
on Aug 18, 2008 at 11:14 am

Martin, Tom again, with yet another question. I read over the weekend that the budget deadlock in Sacramento has several of the Govenor's pet projects in jeopardy because the deadline for getting them on the ballot was yesterday-hence the Sunday vote in the Legislature (unsuccessful). The paper listed Prop. 1 as being one of the items that could not go on the ballot without the budget being approved because the $$ for it are in the budget. Do you know if this is true?

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Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Aug 18, 2008 at 3:02 pm

Tom, you are referring to AB3034, the amendment that is meant to correct all the missing pieces of the bond issue that is presently on the ballot. That amendment has passed the Legislature and is being held back by Assemblywoman Gulgiani, its author.

The reason is that the Governor has pledged to veto any bill that hits his desk until he has a state budget from the legislature that he can sign. In order for that veto to not take place, AB3034 is being held back until the budget is signed.

That's a problem. I believe that the deadline has passed (one of them was last Monday) for getting this amendment into the basic ballot book to be sent to all the voters. That means, they will need to print a "supplement" which will contain the revised Proposition 1(A). That can't be done either until the Governor signs and makes the amendment law. However, as I have been told many times, there are no deadlines in Sacramento, so everything I say can be wrong.

Right now, we are following on an hourly basis the never-ending adventures of our State Government, busily solving all our problems, humming quietly to themselves as they diligently perform their many duties.

Welcome to Sacramento, where the deer and the antelope play and there is very little reality.

The Sacramento Bee is online and a very good source for following this exiting story.

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Posted by Morris Brown
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Aug 18, 2008 at 8:49 pm


Just to be clear. Prop 1 will be on the ballot. AB-3034, which is an amendment to Prop 1, and which had the Governor's approval is being held up by the impasse over the budget. Apparently if it does appear, it will be labeled Prop 1A.

The deadline for ballot propositions to appear on the November ballot, has passed, but apparently deadlines for the State Legislature sometimes don't mean anything, and some people think AB-3034 will still appear on a supplemental ballot.

One way or another, voters will vote on whether to approve spending 9.95 billion dollars, as a down payment on a High Speed Rail project. As Martin as pointed out above, the current projection of $45 billion is grossly under estimated.

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Posted by M3
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 19, 2008 at 6:47 am

Thank you Martin, Morris and The Almanac for educating us on this economic folly.

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Posted by PA Resident
a resident of another community
on Aug 19, 2008 at 5:00 pm

This is a typical comment from those who wish to hide in the past. 21st transport solutions will only happen if there is enough forward looking thinking that looks more than 10 years into the future. We need to act now so that those in 30, 40 and 50 years into the future are able to keep up with modern technology rather than 20th century travel. The future of Californian travel will not be the motor car.

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Posted by 21st century
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Aug 19, 2008 at 6:11 pm

Who says that the future is a train, though? Isn't that 20th century also?

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Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Aug 19, 2008 at 6:56 pm

Actually, the first successful steam engine railroad was in the UK in 1811. However, in defense of railroads, it is certainly the most efficient mode of freight transport available to us. No offense to the trucking industry, but many predict a major increase in rail freight traffic, with industry stock climbing presently as an indicator of their profitability and success. Which is to say that there is indeed a future for freight rail transit.

Passenger rail is a somewhat different matter. Despite my strong opposition to the California High Speed rail project for a variety of reasons (including some having little to do with trains as such), passenger rail can be enormously successful within appropriate contexts, like in high population density geography as in Japan or Europe. It has been the primary mode of travel there for many generations and the high-speed versions are the icing on the cake.

Certainly a vastly improved high-speed train plying the Northeast corridor, from Washington to New York to Boston, would benefit that region immensely. Even within the population regions in California (the Bay Area, east and north, as well as the LA Basin, east and north), a fast train link as a component of an integrated, multi-modal transit network is highly appropriate. As it happens, we already have that with Caltrain on the Peninsula. We surely don’t need a redundant one here, whereas the East Bay up to Sacramento would benefit from additional fast transit services.

The point of the Almanac "Juggernaut" editorial that spawned this thread is that there will be an enormous impact on Menlo Park if the bond issue passes and the high-speed rail joins Caltrain on the corridor. And then the question becomes, what will this be like and what, if anything, can we do about it?

(Parenthetically, I would appreciate an explanation of why it is necessary to use a pseudonym rather than one's own name in these discussions. Is it shame or embarrassment?)

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