Thursday, July 09, 2009

Rod Diridon stirring false HSR funding fears

Unfortunately this is looking like a battle between the Palo Alto/San Jose NIMBYs versus Rod Diridon. Rod Diridon is trying to get the state legistlature to remove the language from the budget bill that would require the HSRA to study alternative alignments to the Caltrain corridor in the project-level EIR for the San Jose-San Francisco segment. The NIMBYs in Palo Alto and San Jose are in favor of the language believing that alternative alignments could be chosen that avoid their neighborhoods. Diridon is opposing this claiming the delay caused by further study would force the agency to miss the deadline set by the Stimulus bill and would have to forego funding.

This political tug-of-war ignores reality. First, some of the alternative alignments are very likely to be screened out because of major flaws. Just because a particular alignment bypasses a neighborhood does not mean that it won't cause harm to the environment and stir opposition from others in the community. A proper evaluation would likely show that a Caltrain alignment would produce the least harm.

Second, Diridon's claim of missing the deadline for the Stimulus fund comes from the assumption that the HSRA would submit the entire corridor for Stimulus funding, which timing would either be too tight or impossible to fulfill regardless. This region would not miss most if any of the Stimulus funds if it prioritizes near term improvements that have been studied and received environmental clearance. The near term projects submitted by MTC for the funding costs about 20% of the total $8 billion of the stimulus funds. The projects submitted by MTC are necessary for high speed rail anyway unless HSRA gives up its current preference and repicks an alignment outside the Caltrain right of way, which this language won't do.

Similar to the current events in Iran, the HSRA can only lose trust in the communities by its rush to judgement and its ignorance to their concerns. While the motive of the legislator who placed the language is suspicious, removing this language from the bill will only foster further distrust by those who have the power to cause further delays for the project.

Restoring the trust will likely require some kind of "regime change" at the High Speed Rail Authority currently dominated by Quentin Kopp and Rod Diridon, who both have a history of supporting wasteful transit projects and pick fights against transit advocates to score cheap political points. High speed rail could be way better off with other more competent and less politically divisive boardmembers.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think that sooner or later a "regime change" is inevitable. Kopp is 80, Diridon is 75, and Morshed is also probably around 70. Also, at some point maybe the rest of the state will notice that the HSR project is just another Bay Area political drama and decide to do something about it.

295bus said...

I don't like Diridon, Kopp, or Palo Alto NIMBY's, but--I think the 101 corridor probably needs more serious consideration. By operating in a ROW totally separate from CalTrain, and where nobody would care about noise, HSR would be able to run at it's maximum speed, instead of having to slow down (as is currently planned) for the shared CalTrain/HSR segment.

The CAHSR hasn't given the 101 corridor much consideration, since they claim it would be more expensive to build there. But they are claiming that they would have to build elevated tracks *over* the 101 freeway. Seems like it would be possible to squeeze tracks in the median (or the freeway could loose center lanes, but new ones could be added at the edges).

The CASHRA has a long history of deciding what they want to do, and then underplaying the difficulties of that choice, and playing up the difficulties of alternatives.

Still, for myself, I do *want* CalTrain to get electrification and grade separation out of the HSR project, so whatever.

arcady said...

If you build in the median, you're constrained by the curves on the 101. And the design speed there is 65, not 200 mph. For 200 mph, you need curve radii on the order of 2.5 miles. In most places, the median isn't wide enough to build two tracks, and widening of the 101 is going to be an expensive proposition as it will require tearing down the soundwalls, completely rebuilding the frontage roads, and probably rebuilding most if not all of the existing bridges over the highway. In some places, the median isn't even wide enough to provide room to work on support columns for an el, which might mean narrowing the highway to 3 lanes for the duration of construction (as happened on the Van Wyck when they were building the AirTrain).

And finally, it's not true at all that "nobody would care about the noise" along the 101. There's plenty of people living there, and especially having an elevated alignment with trains running at 200 could make for an increase in noise over the existing conditions. Of course, you could still argue that those people are "nobody" because they're mostly poorer and browner than the wealthy white Palo Alto NIMBYs, but do you really want to go there?

MikeOnBike said...

In urban areas, regardless of the alignment, I wouldn't expect HSR to run at top speed. I thought it was only out in the central valley where HSR would typically run at top speed.

So the issue of wanting (or not wanting) 200 MPH trains on the peninsula is a red herring.

arcady said...

Even for 125 mph, you need curve radii 4 times bigger than for 65 mph. Will the track fit in the 101 alignment even with elevated structures? I'm not sure. And there's another problem: where do you put the San Jose station? Cahill Street? Then how do you make the connection? Along the 87? That's definitely going to require a long and complicated elevated structure and may have impacts on houses, industry, and parks. And if you stay on 101 all the way through, you lose the downtown station entirely, and along with it the connections to Caltrain, ACE, Capitol Corridor, possibly the airport (unless they build the station there).

Anonymous said...

Thank you for exposing this.

Chuck Reed was on the radio telling the same lies. No doubt the Mercury news will follow with an article soon.

This type of behavior is what makes everyone inherently suspicious of the CAHSRA.

With these kinds of tricks - this project is doomed to fail.

accountablevta said...

It is surprising all the complaints are coming from the San Jose establishment, whether it is the Murky Propaganda, Reed, or Diridon. It appears that they would have more to lose than San Francisco.

Reed and Newsom both signed off on the same MTC deal that would pull in nearly $2 billion in Stimulus funds, with over a hundred million for a double deck station in San Jose. What else do they have to worry about? If the HSRA agreed to settle, then they won't have to risk delays like the San Francisco's bike plan.