Posts Tagged ‘Gavin Newsom’

Draft Environmental Report Issued for Proposed Segment of California High-Speed Network

May 29, 2020

A draft environmental impact report was to be released this week by the California High-Speed Rail Authority regarding a 14-mile high-speed section between Burbank and Los Angeles.

The report evaluates the effects and benefits of CHSRA’s plan to realign existing rail tracks in the corridor to allow for two additional tracks.

The added tracks would be electrified for high-speed rail and could be shared with Amtrak and Los Angeles commuter railroad Metrolink.

The project section would connect Burbank Airport Station and Los Angeles Union Station.

CHSRA will host an online community open house and hearing for the public to submit oral and written comments.

The draft will be available for review from May 29 through July 16.

A final environmental report is expected to be issued in 2021.

In a unrelated development, the Sacramento Bee reported that California Gov. Gavin Newsom will remove 88 positions for private-sector consultants from the state’s high speed project.

Instead, the state will create 70 new jobs for public employees.

The change is designed to address criticism that there are too many consultants with insufficient oversight overseeing the project.

A 2018 audit found the project relied on high-priced consultants “for whom the state’s best interests may not be the highest priority.”

 

Calif. Gov. Seeks Funding for High-Speed Rail

January 15, 2020

California Gov. Gavin Newsom wants the state legislature to appropriate $4.2 billion for the state’s High Speed Rail Authority over the next five years.

The funds would be used to pay for construction of the Central Valley segment of the high-speed rail network between Merced and Bakersfield.

The budget request does not say anything about funding construction of the network beyond the Central Valley.

The plan contains no funding for the Authority in the first fiscal year, $291 million in year two and $3.9 billion in year five, with years three and four left unfunded.

In a related development, the Authority will sponsor a public meeting on Jan. 22 to “provide an opportunity for interested small businesses to meet directly with the pre-qualified prime contractors and to learn more about the procurement.”

The meeting will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. on the second floor at Fresno City Council Chambers, 2600 Fresno Street.

Three companies have been selected by the Authority to bid on the final track and systems proposal for the initial 119-mile segment.

Calif. Fighting FRA Revocation of High-Speed Grant

May 18, 2019

California is fighting back against a move by the Federal Railroad Administration to formally cancel grant money awarded to the state to develop a high-speed rail line.

FRA Administrator Ronald Batory announced earlier this week that the grant had been revoked, saying the project had changed since the funding was approved.

Batory was referencing a decision made earlier this year by Gov. Gavin Newsom to scale back to the project to a line in the state’s Central Valley.

The original plan had been to link San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Newsom said the state will contest the FRA’s ending a grant of $929 million for construction.

He called the FRA action an “illegal and a direct assault on California, our green infrastructure, and the thousands of Central Valley workers who are building this project.”

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California has also joined the fight against the FRA, saying the grant funds were appropriated by Congress and obligated by the president and thus can’t be legally withdrawn without good cause.

The grant was made in 2010 by the Obama administration to the California High-Speed Rail Authority, which the FRA said has failed on several occasions to file adequate reports to fulfill the terms of the grant.

“There is nothing in the FRA’s long working relationship with CHSRA to suggest that CHSRA would likely be able to initiate and complete the necessary corrective actions,” Batory said in a letter revoking the grant funding.

Losing the federal funding would deal the project a devastating blow said CHSRA Chief Financial Officer Russell Fong.

He said, though, that it might be possible to make up some of the loss of federal funds with high-speed rail’s share of revenue from California’s cap-and-trade market if it continues to run above projections.

The cap-and-trade market netted $767 million for high-speed rail in 2018. That was above the $500 million that had been expected.

Current plans are to build the high-speed line for 171 miles between Merced and Bakersfield.

After Newsom announced that the project would be curtailed, the Trump administration said it would seek to “claw back” $2.5 billion in federal funding that has already been spent on the project.

The FRA has said the inadequate reporting from CHSRA dates to the third quarter of 2016.

“Indeed, since 2014, CHSRA has not submitted a single satisfactory and acceptable (project management plan),” Batory said.

Agency Criticizes FRA Funding Clawback Effort

March 7, 2019

The agency overseeing development of the California high-speed rail project is pushing back against the efforts of the Federal Railroad Administration to recall funding awarded to the state to help finance the project.

In a letter to the FRA, the California High-Speed Rail Authority denied that it violated the terms of the agreement of the $3.5 million in grants awarded for the project.

The letter described the FRA’s clawback efforts as “rash and unlawful.”

CHSRA said that contrary to the FRA’s assertion, the project is making progress in the state’s Central Valley.

The tiff was triggered by an announcement by California Gov. Gavin Newsom in his state of the state address that the project was being scaled back.

Originally designed to link San Francisco and Los Angeles by high-speed rail, Newsom said the line would only be built between Bakersfield to Merced in the Central Valley.

That prompted a demand by President Trump that California return the money awarded by the federal government for the project and shortly thereafter FRA Administrator Ron Batory notified CHSRA that it would terminate the federal grant money being awarded to the agency.

Batory said FRA would terminate a $929 million grant issued in 2010 and seek to recover $2.5 billion that has been awarded since 2009. Some of that money has already been spent.

In its letter to the FRA, the CHSRA said it was “committed to building a transformative, visionary high-speed rail project in full compliance with federal grant requirements.”

CHSRA counter argued that it has made progress and met its commitments under the grant agreements.

The agency CEO, Brian P. Kelly, wrote that “Termination of FY2010 agreement would be unwarranted, unprecedented and legally indefensible, and it would gravely harm a historic project on which the FRA and CHSRA have collaborated productively for nearly a decade.”

Kelly also said that the federal government’s efforts to recall funds would be disastrous policy.”

“It is hard to imagine how your agency — or the taxpayers — might benefit from partially constructed assets sitting stranded in the Central Valley,” Kelly said in the letter to the FRA.

“It is equally difficult to imagine the policy benefit of sending home the more than 2,600 craft workers, men and women who have been dispatched to work on the 119-mile segment now under construction.”

California to Fight FRA Grant Clawback Attempt

March 3, 2019

The California High Speed Rail Authority recently said it is working to meet a March 5 deadline to respond to the Federal Railroad Administration plan to cancel a $929 million grant and seek the return of $2.5 billion previously transferred to the CHSRA.

CHSRA head Brian Kelly said the agency has received a letter from the FRA threatening the funds it received.

“We are preparing a comprehensive response by their requested deadline of March 5,” Kelly said. “We remain committed to delivering high-speed rail and its many economic, environmental, and mobility benefits to Californians.”

In a related development, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and President Donald Trump recently briefly discussed the California high-speed rail project, but no meeting of the minds apparently occurred.

The two met at a dinner in Washington last week. Newsom also met with several cabinet officials of the Trump administration, but it is not known if that included officials at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Newsom recently announced that development of the rail line to Los Angeles and San Francisco would not proceed but the project would continue to be built in the state’s Central Valley.

High-Speed Rail Decision Draws Mixed Reviews

February 16, 2019

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to scale back his state’s high-speed rail project triggered no shortage of views, including a tweet from President Trump calling on the state to return $3.5 billion it received for the project.

Newsom rejected that, saying the project may be smaller but is still being built.

The governor has proposed that the high-speed line be completed in California’s Central Valley. Trump called the program a “green disaster.”

Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said Trump’s efforts to claw the money back won’t be easy so long as California meets all of the required guidelines of the grant.

LaHood was head of the U.S. Department of Transportation when the grant was awarded and believes that California has California correctly used the funds.

He called Newsom’s decision “short-sighted.

However, the American Public Transportation Association supported Newsom’s decision, saying it would still result in the creation of thousands of jobs and produce dramatic improvements in mobility through clean, efficient public transportation.

Jim Mathews, president of the Rail Passengers Association, had a pragmatic take, saying Newsom’s decision recognized that many in California had lost faith in the ability of the project’s managers to complete it.

In a statement, Mathews said that even a shortened high-speed rail service would go a long way toward restoring public trust, but said the line must eventually connect to urban areas in the north and south of the state.

The Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada also offered support for Newsom’s decision, but called for “improved rail service and transportation capacity to California travelers, especially those residing in the San Joaquin Valley.”

Calif. Gov. Scales Back High-Speed Rail Project

February 14, 2019

The proposed high-speed rail line in California has received a slow order from the state’s governor.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said in his recent state-of-the-state speech that although he remains committed to the project, he is scaling it back to operate only for 160 miles in the Central Valley.

The original plan had been to link Los Angeles and San Francisco.

That scaled-back project is now projected to be built between Merced and Bakersfield.

In his address, Newsom cited cost overruns in making his decision. The project cost had been put at $64 billion but has increased to $77.3 billion with completion not expected until 2033.

By then Newsom will be out of office, a fact that might also have played a role in his thinking.

Newsom said the project has had “little oversight and not enough transparency.”

Newsom also said the line lacks a clear path to get between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Nonetheless, he said he will continue to lobby for federal and private funding for the entire rail line.
“We’re going to make high-speed rail a reality for California,” Newsom later said on Twitter. “We have the capacity to complete the rail between Merced and Bakersfield. We will continue our regional projects north and south. Finish Phase 1 enviro work. Connect the Central Valley to other parts of the state.”

Caltrain Executive Director Jim Hartnett said Newsom’s focus on the Central also includes a commitment to help fund Caltrain’s electrification project.

“The state’s high-speed rail project is required to provide $713 million toward Caltrain’s $2 billion project to electrify the rail corridor and replace most of the commuter-rail system’s aging diesel trains with a new electric fleet that will reduce travel times, improve train frequency, and increase systemwide capacity,” Hartnett said.

That project, which is already underway, is expected to be finished in 2022.