Lawmaker rips plan for 'blended' rail system

Author of Proposition 1A claims Peninsula legislators' plan to blend Caltrain, high-speed rail amounts to a 'bait and switch'

A Central Valley assemblywoman came out swinging on Friday against a proposal by three Peninsula lawmakers to 'blend' Caltrain with California's proposed high-speed rail, calling the proposal a "Great Train Robbery."

The proposal, which state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, and state Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, unveiled on April 11, would run the voter-approved high-speed rail line along the Caltrain system on the Peninsula. The Caltrain line would be electrified and upgraded with new signals and trains, enabling the trains to carry passengers up and down the Peninsula at a speed of 120 mph.

The three lawmakers also called on the California High-Speed Rail Authority to stop considering aerial viaducts for the new rail system and to scale back its environmental analysis for the full system.

While the new plan received a warm welcome on the Peninsula, in part due to Caltrain's presently shaky financial future, it is facing resistance from Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani, D-Tracy, a leading proponent of the controversial rail project and the author of Proposition 1A, a bond measure approved by the state voters in 2008. Proposition 1A authorizes $9 billion for a San Francisco-to-Los Angeles high-speed-rail system.

Though Simitian, Eshoo and Gordon said their plan would reduce both the costs and the impacts of the rail project, Galgiani characterized their proposal as a betrayal of Proposition 1A, which requires a high-speed-rail line that can go from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2 hours and 40 minutes. In her statement, she called the plan a "bait and switch effort by certain interests to take money away from the high speed rail system, and use it to cover shortfalls in funding the Caltrain commuter rail system on the San Francisco Peninsula."

"It is highly suspect that the same few wealthy communities on the San Francisco Peninsula who want to stop the High Speed Rail project would cynically work to divert money to meet their existing obligations to the Caltrain system," Galgiani said in her statement.

Galgiani issued her statement one day after Simitian discussed his proposal for the linked system with California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Roelof van Ark. At Thursday's budget hearing, van Ark offered reservations about Simitian's proposal, claiming that a blended system would have trouble complying with Proposition 1A because it would slow down the high-speed trains.

"The two systems, high-speed and commuter rail, operate at very different modes," van Ark told Simitian's budget committee. "Commuter-rail systems have to stop at basically every station. High-speed rail doesn't want to stop at stations.

"You cannot pass the trains because you're behind them when they're loading and offloading passengers in the corridor."

Simitian replied that Proposition 1A's requirements can be met simply by having one train per day run at the necessary speed to get from San Francisco to Los Angeles in the mandated time.

"If at any time of the day or night a train can make its way from Los Angeles to San Francisco in the allotted time, then we've complied technically with Proposition 1A," Simitian told van Ark. "We can clearly make that happen."

Though Simitian did not actually propose that the system have only one train running at top speed, Galgiani blasted his technical argument as one that runs counter to the voters' wishes. Simitian, she said in a statement, "should fix his own system, not tell the HSRA how to build theirs."

"Senator Simitian essentially put a gun to the Authority's head and said, 'Do it my way or no way,'" Galgiani said in a statement. "Well, I've got news for him. This is not Florida, this is California. Proposition 1A is a voter mandate, and if we have to we'll sue."

The rail authority estimates the cost of the project at about $43 billion, though watchdogs estimate the cost to be closer to $60 billion. Simitian, Eshoo and Gordon said their proposed project would reduce the costs of the rail system and, in doing so, make the statewide project more viable. Simitian, a former Palo Alto mayor, reiterated this argument at Thursday's budget hearing.

"To the extent that we saw an opportunity to reduce costs up and down the corridor also in our view meant the project writ large would be more viable in the long term and we can avoid unnecessary expense," Simitian said.

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Like this comment
Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Apr 30, 2011 at 10:01 am

High-Speed Rail: it's not about the train, it's about the money!

This just in: In California, one Democrat (Galgiani) from the State Assembly is angry at another Democrat (Simitian) from the State Senate because she thinks he's stealing a billion dollars from a project that includes his district, and that was going to dump this money into her district. Supposedly, he wants it for the local commuter rail instead of high-speed rail. Whatever.

Galgiani's district is in the Central Valley, the only place in California that is currently intended to have and spend construction dollars to build the now famous "Train to Nowhere." Galgiani has been the legislative and political tool of the CHSRA and has constantly produced legislation and support to keep the rail authority in business. The Central Valley is the "lucky" recipient of federal and state bond funds for this initial HSR construction. And, that's what pork and boondoggles are all about.

To his credit, State Senator Simitian has been a persistent critic of the rail authority's mismanagement of the project; his patience is worn thin. He recently made a case to have work suspended on the Bay Area Peninsula until further funding is assured and the needs of the numerous communities on the Peninsula are addressed. However, please note that Simitian is a high-speed rail supporter, just like Galgiani.

As we have pointed out over and over, the rail authority's management has been a text-book disaster. Even those passionate in their support of high-speed rail as a concept have been appalled by the flagrant abuses of this appointed and unregulated agency.

For those of us who so vehemently oppose this project in California, Democrat fighting Democrat, not over transportation issues, but over the earmarked pork dollars, confirms our contention that this project is a totally unnecessary waste of vast resources that should be far better spent on much more urgent needs.

Thanks, guys. Keep up the fight.

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 30, 2011 at 11:39 am

Maybe they should just build a big circular HSR in the valley and anyone ho wants to could just go ride it round and round.

Like this comment
Posted by PoliticalNewbie
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 1, 2011 at 1:00 am

Why hasn't ANYONE simply put together a plan to REPEAL this ridiculous BOND? Doesn't anyone have the moxy, charisma and last but not least courage to document all of, but not limited to the "misleading via media, total public disinformation prior to the 2008 vote that was so methodically disguised within the words of the voting materials, making people believe, what now, we learned to be inflated reports, false surveys, EIRs, and the like, by the "powers that be"?!!! Can't we, the people Take away what we gave under false pretense for us here, in the Bay Area? And, IF Ms. Central Valley wants it so bad and believes in it so much, why can't SHE just spread the costs down her way for her people to pay!?! I'll bet she doesn't even live close to the train, and I wonder how often she'll be going to "San Francisco from Los Angelos"? Anyone notice how it was always brought up as "LA to SF"? Or am I just totally too new to be asking questions? Come on people, stand up and speak your words~look what happened in Egypt when the people stood up!!! THINK about it PEOPLE~USE YOUR HEADS~CAN'T YOU SEE THAT ALL OF THESE ANTICS ARE SIMPLY glittering guises and endless "compromises" THAT shatter OUR the illusion of integrity!?

Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Woodside High School
on May 1, 2011 at 3:31 pm

would it violate the bond language to have HSR run to the Bay Area, but stop in the largest city, San Jose?

Like this comment
Posted by peter c.
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 1, 2011 at 6:19 pm

[Post removed. Please use a name other than "peter c.," which is too easy to confuse with a frequent poster, Peter Carpenter. I assume this is not Peter Carpenter and that he would use his full name.]

Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 1, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Thank you, editors.

This kind of deception needs to be nipped in the bud.

Like this comment
Posted by peter carter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 1, 2011 at 8:04 pm

Why do you continue to delete my posts? I have never said I am "Peter Carpenter." I have no idea who he is. Are you saying that there can only be one person named Peter on this forum?

My question again, does PoliticalNewbie know if any efforts to start a repeal have been made?

Like this comment
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on May 1, 2011 at 9:31 pm

Interesting article posted on this subject tonight on Bay Area News (SJ Mercury) by Mike Rosenberg. I don't know how to post a link but you can go online and will probably be in paper tomorrow.

Like this comment
Posted by WAKEUP
a resident of another community
on May 2, 2011 at 8:34 pm

It already happened two years ago.

Like this comment
Posted by peter carter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 2, 2011 at 8:38 pm

The article Reader mentions is in today's San Jose Mercury News.

Like this comment
Posted by morris brown
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on May 2, 2011 at 11:05 pm

The link to the San Jose Mercury article referenced above by "Reader" is:

Web Link

That article has plenty of flaws.

One should really be aware, that this new proposal from Simitian/Eshoo/Gordon would seem to indicate that electrification is all that is needed to make this work, but that is hardly the case.

There are numerous grade crossings that will have to be constructed and other elements (more by-pass tracks).

The implied price tag of $1.5 billion would just be the start. A much more realistic price of the needed upgrade will be $5-7 billion
(and this for 2 tracks). Please note also, that the UPRR has rights on the tracks also, and makes for even more problems.

Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 11, 2011 at 6:54 am

A recent report from the state's independent analyst called for major changes to the HSR project.

"Analysts recommended that lawmakers slow down the project, which is supported with nearly $10 billion in voter-approved bonds, and shift operational and strategic oversight to the state Department of Transportation."

Web Link

Personally, I think HSR will be the boondoggle of boondoggles. Besides, we have no money.

Like this comment
Posted by Poster
a resident of another community
on May 11, 2011 at 8:50 am

Report: Strip power from California rail authority Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Pietro
a resident of another community
on May 12, 2011 at 11:53 am

Since Peter Carpenter may as well call this online playground including sandbox and blackboard, why not just rename it THE PETER PRINCIPLE" or something permitting his favoritism because of his hands being found in everyone's pie?
Poor Peter C. does not confuse me, who has an Italian spelling of the same name.
However, I am not quite so puffed up as to be known as an expert from everything from A-Z.
Give this Peter C. permission to use his given name. Otherwise, it becomes really unfair. Even the Carpenter man would permit entry, uless it is possible he has your editor's job as well.
At this point, The Alamanac News information has fallen into satire, anyway.
I have the Weld families in Boston reading it regularly.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 12, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Pietro = R. Gordon

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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