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Michelle Boehm: Response to Signal editorial 'The high speed rail hoodwink'

Posted: July 20, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 20, 2014 2:00 a.m.
 

The Signal’s opinion piece titled “The high speed rail hoodwink” (Opinion, July 13) recycles many of the myths and misinformation about the California High-Speed Rail Program that have been put forward by opponents.  

Among these are program cost, system run time, requirement for subsidies to operate, the nature of the infrastructure itself, and the validity of past work.

I am writing today to correct the record so that readers in the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys will get an accurate picture of the High-Speed Rail Program.

Program cost

The Phase I Blended System, or travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles/Anaheim, is currently estimated to cost $67.6 billion.

In fact, this number was recently updated for the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s 2014 business plan, and the cost actually went down slightly.

System run time

The system under design is fully capable of achieving the trip time required by Proposition 1A, passed by California voters in 2008.
The independent Peer Review Group stated during a recent legislative hearing that the authority’s “pure run time for nonstop trains from San Francisco Trans Bay Terminal to L.A. Union Station has thus been designed to be 2 hours, 32 minutes.”

In other words, the program’s current design beats the trip times and actually betters the standard required by law.

Subsidies

Proposition 1A requires that the project operate without a local, state or federal operating subsidy. This means that once the project is built, it will not use a government subsidy for operation and maintenance.

The ridership projections in the 2014 business plan lay out the case for this, are based on industry standard evaluation of a full range of scenarios, and include a robust risk analysis as well.

Nature of the infrastructure

The authority is planning a new high-speed, electric, grade-separated rail corridor.

Access to the tracks will be restricted or sealed, so pedestrians will never be in the path of a 200-mile-per-hour train.

Business plans

Current litigation affecting the sale of bonds has nothing to do with the accuracy or validity of the authority’s business plan, past or present.
The authority’s methodologies and process have been reviewed externally by the United States Government Accountability Office.

The GAO found the authority’s cost estimates are compliant with guidelines from the Federal Railroad Administration and the United States Department of Transportation.

Let’s focus on what we are doing now. Since 2007, the authority has been working closely with the people along the alignment, including those in the Northern Los Angeles County Area, to determine the best possible alignment and future high-speed rail stations.

We’ve heard specifically from your elected officials and residents about your concerns. That is why the authority’s latest plan is considering the extension of the existing Santa Susana tunnel by almost two miles.

This could reduce community impacts at this location, as well as increase the speed of the train along this particular alignment.  

In addition, the authority is also considering a more direct route from Palmdale to Burbank, as first suggested by Supervisor Mike Antonovich’s office, and subsequently supported by many local jurisdictions, including the cities of Santa Clarita, Palmdale and San Fernando, as well as some members of the Acton-Agua Dulce community.

This would bypass the city of Santa Clarita completely.

Gov. Jerry Brown has been a staunch supporter of the high-speed rail program because he understands the need for this transformative project that will connect California’s major regions and solve the growing problems of greenhouse gas emissions and traffic, while increasing mobility.

And let’s not forget about the jobs and spending the high-speed rail project is already injecting into our economy.
Japan has had high-speed rail since the 1960s, and countries in Europe and Asia soon followed suit.

There’s a reason why so many nations have built this efficient and clean way of transportation. It’s certainly not a “sci-fi fiction, like cold fusion,” as The Signal calls it.

It’s a reality and one of the most important projects for the future of California.

We at the authority understand that high-speed rail evokes strong feelings on both sides.

What Californians deserve is fair and accurate reporting on the program so that they can formulate opinions based on facts.

Michelle Boehm is the Southern California Regional Director for the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

                                                                          ---

The Signal’s Our View editorial published July 13 to which Boehm is responding was written as a satire.

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