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 Post subject: Re: The Bullet Train to Bankruptcy
PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2018 12:08 pm 
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http://www.latimes.com/local/california ... newsletter


Quote:
The bullet train is California's biggest infrastructure project — but it's seldom discussed in governor's race

Ralph Vartabedian
By RALPH VARTABEDIAN
MAY 16, 2018 | 8:50 PM

It's the biggest infrastructure project in state history, but the California bullet train gets hardly any attention on the campaign trail.

The leading candidates for governor have said little publicly about how they would fix dire problems in the $77-billion mega-project that has already overrun its initial cost estimate by $44 billion.

The next governor, as well as the state Senate and Assembly, will inherit a financial storm and face the tasks of finding money to bore tunnels under three mountain ranges, develop complex passages through the state's biggest urban regions and avoid further political compromises that would slow travel along the route.

Yet the California political system is largely shying away from addressing the problems at the very moment when the project's chief proponent, Gov. Jerry Brown, prepares to leave office.

Fixes will grow ever more costly as decisions are delayed, and the probability increases of even greater problems in the future, infrastructure experts say. Every six-month delay in making decisions drives hundreds of millions of dollars in future inflationary costs.

A new business plan, approved by the state rail authority on Tuesday, presents an ambitious 2033 completion date — but offers few details about how it can be executed on time. Based on the authority's own cost and schedule figures, meeting the deadline would require spending about $4.6 billion per year that doesn't exist, an average of nearly $13 million per calendar day — a staggering construction rate never approached in U.S. history.

"Successful projects have adequate funding and realistic plans from the start," said Bent Flyvbjerg, professor and chair of Major Programme Management at Oxford University's Said Business School and one of the world's top experts on high-speed rail projects. "They don't say we are optimistic about the budget. California is unusual in the degree of uncertainty. It is very risky."

Over the last decade, three independent advisory panels and the chairmen of three legislative committees have told the state rail authority that basing plans on uncertain funding would undermine the system's long-term success.

Those warnings were repeated in recent weeks, when the Legislative Analyst's Office and the state-appointed peer review committee told lawmakers that the 2018 business plan is "not viable." The U.S. Department of Transportation inspector general and the state auditor have launched inquiries into the project in recent months as well.


Democratic gubernatorial candidates Gavin Newsom and John Chiang and Republican candidates John Cox and Travis Allen declined requests for interviews on the issue or did not return phone calls. Delaine Eastin could not be reached when her staff was contacted Tuesday.

Of the leading candidates, only Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat, discussed how he would fix the project. In an interview, he said the bullet train would become an economic engine for the state and that he would find private investors that can plug the funding gap — despite the state's failure in recent years to attract such capital.
He wants to streamline permitting and find ways to cut costs, he said. More state money isn't likely, he said, and he stopped short of giving his full support to some of the financing schemes that the rail authority wants to use.

In a recent debate, Democratic candidates said they wanted to keep the project going, though they did not address its problems. Eastin has said she would impose an oil severance tax on petroleum producers that could be used to finance the bullet train.

Cox has said he would kill the project, though it isn't clear how he would unwind the project without violating federal grant agreements. Allen also said in a debate that he would end the project.

The forces restraining detailed discussion of the project's future grow out of many fears: the consequences of betraying Brown, the scant political payoff in discussing government dysfunction, the possibility that the problems have no legitimate solutions and the potential of alienating the rail system's supporters. The backers, including organized labor, the construction industry and engineering consultants, have poured millions of dollars of contributions into the political system over the last decade and many show up at every hearing in the state Capitol.

"They can't talk about it," said Art Bauer, a retired Senate staffer who was involved in launching the project. "You can't fix it as it is currently conceptualized. And anything you say could alienate your base. There is a lot of support for high-speed rail among Democrats. They just want the government to find a way to make it work."

Brown has tightly controlled the politics of the project, owing to his mastery of using the power of his office and his vast personal campaign war chest, political analysts say. Appointees to the rail authority board have never strayed from what Brown sought and have until recently minimized any serious public examination of the problems they face in monthly meetings. Brown declined a request for an interview.

The California political system has benefited from nearly $8 million in contributions to candidates, propositions and other organizations in the last decade by the engineering and construction firms working on the project, according to an analysis of contribution reports. Building trade unions involved in the project have contributed more than $1.3 million directly to Newsom, Villaraigosa and Chiang.

Minor candidates, who garner little public attention, have articulated some of the clearest strategies on high-speed rail. Michael Shellenberger, an environmentalist Democrat, said in an interview he wants to kill the project because the world is on the cusp of a transportation revolution with autonomous vehicles that will soon offer much higher speeds than existing automobiles. He believes the project cost will likely exceed $100 billion, which he says the state can't afford as it grapples with a housing crisis, falling support for education and the loss of middle-class jobs.

Robert Griffis, a retired engineer and Democrat, says the project was a good idea but was hijacked as a profit machine by the organizations that put it on the ballot. "It is going to be psychologically difficult to admit its failure," he said. His priority would be reducing the state's debt.

Bauer, the former Senate staffer, believes the next governor will have to call a timeout and do a forensic analysis of what can realistically be accomplished and what is "pie in the sky."

Programs that encounter higher costs and long delays often "get completed in some shape or form, but they have a tormented process," said Flyvbjerg, the Oxford expert. He pointed to Berlin Brandenburg Airport, which is set to open in a couple years about a decade behind schedule at a cost that by some estimates has quadrupled to more than $11 billion.

Legislators have already been urged by the peer review panel to consider options that would make high-speed rail more affordable.

The options, say various analysts, watchdogs and critics, include: curtailing service to San Jose by entering the Bay Area through Altamont Pass; eliminating tunnels through the San Gabriel Mountains by using the existing Metrolink corridor; eliminating a 1.3-mile tunnel under downtown San Francisco; relocating a heavy maintenance facility from the Central Valley; and halting future construction until a realistic funding plan is developed.

The rail authority, in its 2018 business plan, foresees a different path, hoping that the Legislature will act by about 2020 to extend greenhouse gas fees, which have contributed $1.7 billion to the project so far. The existing program would expire in 2030, so the rail authority wants that extended to 2050. Under its plan, the rail authority would be granted legal authority to issue bonds against its share of future fees. That would raise an estimated $4 billion to $11 billion. But the plan may have to be approved by voters and could encounter resistance when Brown is gone.

Officials close to the project say the underlying strategy is to get the project so far along that it would compel the state to finish it, even if the cost grows and the schedule slips. It is a well-worn approach to all kinds of federal, state and local projects, including weapons systems and subways.

Even with that cap-and-trade infusion, however, the project would be short at least $50 billion. The state has had no success since 2010 in getting additional federal support. Thirty-six private firms told the state in 2015 that they would not invest anything in the project without a guarantee that they could not lose money, a demand that would violate the terms of the 2008 bond act.

And pumping more state money into the project would put it in competition with other high-priority goals that have their own power constituencies like single-payer healthcare, an expanded program for the homeless, and shoring up the higher-education system to stem increases in tuition. Then there are demands for local transit, highway repairs, greenhouse gas reduction, water supply projects and much else at least as important to many constituents as high-speed rail.

Continued at above link due to length

I predict that someday California will elect another Republican governor...and then blame the entire high speed rail boondoggle on him/her minutes after they are sworn into office.

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 Post subject: Re: The Bullet Train to Bankruptcy
PostPosted: Sat Aug 04, 2018 4:13 pm 
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Photo released of the prototype train for the California High Speed Rail:

Image

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 Post subject: Re: The Bullet Train to Bankruptcy
PostPosted: Sat Aug 04, 2018 4:49 pm 
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Robert Griffis, a retired engineer and Democrat, says the project was a good idea but was hijacked as a profit machine by the organizations that put it on the ballot. "It is going to be psychologically difficult to admit its failure," he said. His priority would be reducing the state's debt.


I knew we were screwed when that bond measure passed. How can you call something a "good idea" when it is not economically feasible?

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 Post subject: Re: The Bullet Train to Bankruptcy
PostPosted: Sun Aug 05, 2018 11:09 pm 
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jack t ripper wrote:
Quote:
Robert Griffis, a retired engineer and Democrat, says the project was a good idea but was hijacked as a profit machine by the organizations that put it on the ballot. "It is going to be psychologically difficult to admit its failure," he said. His priority would be reducing the state's debt.


I knew we were screwed when that bond measure passed. How can you call something a "good idea" when it is not economically feasible?


You mean like Obamacare.

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 Post subject: Re: The Bullet Train to Bankruptcy
PostPosted: Fri May 17, 2019 11:32 pm 
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Quote:
The Trump administration on Thursday followed through with its plan to pull more than $900 million in federal funds from California’s beleaguered high-speed rail project.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said California officials “failed to make reasonable progress” and had not met federal requirements for a project beset with cost overruns. But the decision is also consistent with President Trump’s penchant for sparring with leaders of the liberal-leaning state. …

In addition to revoking the federal government’s agreement to contribute $929 million to the project, the administration Thursday said it “continues to consider all options regarding the return of $2.5 billion” in stimulus funds given to the state.



https://hotair.com/archives/2019/05/17/ ... l-project/

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 Post subject: Re: The Bullet Train to Bankruptcy
PostPosted: Sat May 18, 2019 2:06 am 
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Make it a little shorter.



But I am not certain what Trump is talking about, the border wall or his small hands? :roll:

And it it is funny that he still thinks that raking forests is a thing. :lol:



In Finland it may be, perhaps. I am not allowed to tell. ;)

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 Post subject: Re: The Bullet Train to Bankruptcy
PostPosted: Wed Jun 12, 2019 7:27 am 
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https://www.latimes.com/local/californi ... story.html

Quote:
High-speed rail route took land from farmers. The money they’re owed hasn’t arrived

By RALPH VARTABEDIAN
JUN 10, 2019 | 5:00 AM

John Diepersloot squinted under a bright Central Valley sun, pointing to the damage to his fruit orchard that came with the California bullet train.

He lost 70 acres of prime land. Rail contractors left mounds of rubble along his neat rows. Irrigation hoses are askew. A sophisticated canopy system for a kiwi field, supported by massive steel cables, was torn down.

But what really irritates Diepersloot is the $250,000 that he paid out of his own pocket for relocating wells, removing trees, building a road and other expenses.

“I am out a quarter-million bucks on infrastructure, and they haven’t paid a dime for a year,” he said. “I don’t have that kind of money.”

Up and down the San Joaquin Valley, farmers have similar stories. The state can take land with a so-called order of possession by the Superior Court while it haggles over the price.

But farmers often face out-of-pocket costs for lost production, road replacement, repositioning of irrigation systems and other expenses, which the state agrees to pay before the final settlement.

Those payments and even some payments for land have stretched out to three years. State officials have offered endless excuses for not paying, the farmers say.

Eminent domain, the legal process by which government takes private land, is complicated enough, particularly in California with a maze of agencies involved. But the rail authority’s constantly changing plans, thin state staff and reliance on outside attorneys have made it more difficult, some say.

“They are bogged down,” said Mark Wasser, an eminent domain attorney in Sacramento who has represented more than 70 farmers and other businesses losing land to the rail project. “I would draw an analogy to Napoleon’s invasion of Russia.”

Many government highway and rail projects end up seizing private land for the greater good, leaving owners angry about the disruption to their lives and the loss of something they worked hard to build. In California, the slow payments are adding to the farmers’ frustration.

Image

Tim Raven, a walnut and almond grower, is owed $500,000, he told The Times. John Tos, a big grower who has waged a legal battle against the project, says the state owes him $150,000. Wasser says Brenda Church, a former client, has been owed $1.9 million for three years. Ray Carter, who voluntarily sold his farmland, says he has been owed $630,000 for three years.

Carter’s brother-in-law, Vince Carter, also could not collect money for farm property that the California High-Speed Rail Authority took, which gave him a “lot of frustration,” Ray Carter said. “He died of a heart attack. I think it played a role in what happened.”

Asked about the allegations of nonpayment, the rail authority issued a statement, though it did not explain why the problem existed.

“We understand the concerns of private property owners affected during the acquisition of their property … and construction of the high-speed rail system,” wrote Don Odell, the agency’s director of real property. He added that the authority tried to minimize effects on farmers, cover their expenses and ensure they got fair-market value for land.

One problem was the agency’s decision to issue construction contracts with only 15% of the rail design completed, a so-called design-build approach. With only preliminary designs of highway bridges, rail structures and utility relocations, it was difficult to know how much land would be needed and the degree to which farms would be hit.

In fact, the rail authority has had to go back to landowners hundreds of times for additional land or to discuss unforeseen effects on farms. In Diepersloot’s case, the authority is building two perpendicular highway bridges to go over its rails along his property. That has created a 70-acre triangle that is inaccessible. And it had to pay in perpetuity a walnut farmer next door to allow Diepersloot to use his private farm road for access.

“I don’t dislike trains,” he said. “I use them. But this one is a boondoggle.”

Some of these direct costs could have been avoided if the rail planners had paid closer attention a decade ago to what lay in the path of the planned rail route. A multimillion-dollar rendering plant is being rebuilt in Kings County. A possible redesign to avoid an oil terminal in Kern County could cause a $19-million delay. A cold packing house had to be relocated in Fresno. And other examples abound in just the first 119 miles of the route.

“They shouldn’t have run this through the breadbasket of the state,” Wasser said, echoing a sentiment of the rail system’s critics that the state should have aligned the route adjacent to Interstate 5 and not through the nation’s richest agricultural belt. California farmers grow more than half of the fresh peaches and almost all of the canned peaches that Americans eat.

The state relies on outside contractors to provide land agents, appraisers and surveyors, along with many other crucial functions necessary to buy farmland. The legal negotiations are handled by attorneys on loan from the California Department of Transportation, spread throughout the state. “It does not work well. There are interagency tensions,” Wasser said.

The rail authority’s unusual relationship with consultants is another issue. The agency appointed attorney Odell as director of real property in September. Odell reports to a consultant, Kristina Assouri of WSP, whose title is chief of real property. Assouri reports up the line to WSP’s Roy Hill, who is on suspension pending an ethics review. Hill reports to Chief Operating Officer Joe Hedges, a state employee.

Rail authority Chief Executive Brian Kelly said he had initiated a job-by-job review of such complicated lines of authority and hoped to streamline the organization, putting state employees in charge of key functions.

Neither Odell nor Assouri can sign a check. That function resides with the state controller after a payment goes through a tangled state bureaucracy.

Responding to an aggrieved businesswoman about a late payment this year, Assouri wrote an email that illustrated the cultural divide between Central Valley farm families and bureaucrats.



Continued at above link

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Last edited by chijohnaok on Wed Jun 12, 2019 7:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: The Bullet Train to Bankruptcy
PostPosted: Wed Jun 12, 2019 7:28 am 
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Quote:
“Of paramount importance is the Authority’s commitment and responsibility for ensuring that funds expended under any state contract are in compliance with the requirements and provisions of the stated contract, which includes but is not limited to state and federal law and the Authority’s documented policies and procedures,” Assouri wrote.

Raven, the walnut and almond grower, is getting hit harder than many others. He had to replace wells, lost a 100-acre crop of table grapes and had other costs, totaling about $500,000, he said.

“There is nobody to make a decision,” he said. “Nobody wants to make a mistake. Everybody wants to talk to somebody else. That’s where we are.”

Ultimately, the ranch will have a 200-foot-wide scar. “They are going through five miles of our property at an angle,” Raven said. As a result, he and his crews will have to drive their tractors, sprayers and harvesting equipment up to five miles along county roads to get from one side of a field to the other.

“It is like cutting your house in half and having to go around the back to get to your kitchen,” Raven said.


Tos, the farmer who is waging a legal fight against the project, said that state agents during negotiations had shown a surprising lack of knowledge about agriculture. When the rail authority wanted a strip of his land for a temporary construction easement, an agent suggested that Tos transfer his mature walnut trees to pots for five years and then put them back in the ground.

“They don’t know what a walnut tree is,” Tos said.

The farmers feel their way of life is being upended. Diepersloot helped pioneer growing golden kiwi in the Central Valley, erecting a 20-acre canopy with a misting system that kept the fruit cool. About half of the ripe fruit was jetted overnight to Tokyo and other Asian cities, where he said it sold for top dollar. But the rail authority needed part of the land for its rail route and was willing to pay him to reengineer it. In January, he pulled down the canopy.

Diepersloot is a third-generation farmer. His three children attended top universities and then started their own Central Valley farms. He said the slow payments had forced him to tap his “crop note,” a bank loan that is used by almost every grower to cover operating costs.

“The bank knows what is going on and doesn’t like it,” he said. “I have never done litigation. I am a farmer.”

Ralph Vartabedian

Ralph Vartabedian, a national correspondent at the Los Angeles Times, joined the newspaper in 1981. In his many reporting assignments, he has written on Toyota vehicle defects, presidential candidates, the New Orleans levee failures, the defense industry, the Columbia space shuttle accident investigation, nuclear weapons, tax collection abuses, and the California bullet train, among much else. He won the 2015 Gerald Ford Presidential Foundation award for defense writing, as well as Loeb awards in 1987 and 2010. He was also a Pulitzer finalist in 2010, among many other career recognitions. In 1989, the Delta Mu Delta honorary society at California Polytechnic University school of business gave Vartabedian a special award for integrity. He covered aerospace and defense issues for 10 years at The Times, covering the military buildup that preceded the end of the Cold War and its decline afterward. He spent five years as a Washington, D.C., reporter for the paper and then four years as the deputy business editor. He previously worked at the Minneapolis Star and the Kalamazoo Gazette. Vartabedian is married to Jeanne Wright, a freelance writer. Born in Detroit, he graduated from the University of Michigan with a master’s degree in economics and a bachelor’s degree in journalism.




Image

Just put that walnut tree into a pot for 5 years. :roll:

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 Post subject: Re: The Bullet Train to Bankruptcy
PostPosted: Wed Jun 12, 2019 7:54 am 
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I just wonder how much land is under the rail lines in comparison with the highways? :roll:

Ever heard about a city destroyed by railways? :shock:

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 Post subject: Re: The Bullet Train to Bankruptcy
PostPosted: Wed Jun 12, 2019 5:45 pm 
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Argument number 1387 against eminent domain seizures of anything ever.

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