TRAC’s opinion piece on September 28th (http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/op-ed/article2614730.html) in the Sacramento Bee apparently annoyed the denizens of the California High Speed Rail Authority, leading to a response by CEO Jeff Morales (http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/op-ed/article2623053.html), plus a followup, much more detailed letter directly to TRAC on October 22 (http://www.calrailnews.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Response-to-TRAC-10.21.14.pdf).
The text of our response to Morales’ Bee op-ed and followup letter is presented below.
You PR people chose to reiterate their talking points rather than respond to our arguments, in composing your October 21 letter responding to our SacBee OpEd. Key examples:
You write “We remain confident that an operating segment can be delivered with existing funds and future Cap and Trade proceeds, at which point a private entity would pay for the rights to operate the system (and receive the revenue it generates), thus allowing for completion of the full statewide system.” Note the lack of an answer for how CHSRA will fill the $26 billion shortfall in the budget for its Initial Operating Segment, which it admits needs to be complete before any private investment is possible. We all know Cap and Trade won’t go that far.
Your people either don’t understand or refuse to accept the judicial rulings. As we wrote, both the trial court and the Court of Appeal found deficiencies in CHSRA’s compliance with Proposition 1A. The Court of Appeal, however, ruled there was no remedy for the failure to comply, at this time. The Supreme Court chose to not review that decision. In no way did it “reaffirm compliance.”
Your comments about “what the Congress and President appropriated under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” betray either an intentional misstatement of the terms of the legislation, or ignorance of them. Several Midwestern states are upgrading Amtrak service to 110 mph under that program, on “tracks owned by private freight operators.”
You write “Currently, there is no passenger rail link between Bakersfield and the Los Angeles Basin…” If CHSRA makes good on its intention to proceed with Palmdale-Burbank, there won’t be one for a very long time. While it wasn’t mentioned in the OpEd due to space considerations, TRAC has long considered the missing rail link as its top state priority.
You write “We have consulted extensively with experienced foreign governments and high-speed rail operators to improve and refine our plans.” This is a far cry from the open bidding process we recommend, where the successful bidder puts capital at risk, rather than mere advice.
Finally, you offer a very skewed reading of Proposition 1A. CHSRA is reverent about complying with legislative intent (except that of having an operating system by 2020), even though these are not mandatory provisions. Yet it brazenly flouts the mandatory requirements–the part of the bill it didn’t write–and then begs the Supreme Court for a Get out of Jail Free card when caught.
If you wonder how CHSRA managed to alienate rail advocates that would otherwise be its natural supporters, look no further than these points.