On the rail:

By Matier and Ross : sfchronicle – excerpt

Forces are massing on both sides of Mayor Ed Lee’s study into tearing down the stub end of Interstate 280 and rerouting Caltrain through Mission Bay, with a coalition of civic and transportation activists gearing up to fight the effort.

The mayor’s office is looking into several underground routes through which high-speed trains would eventually travel downtown, including some that would mean tearing down I-280 at Mariposa Street and replacing it with a street-level boulevard.

One route calls for underground tracks and a rail station between the Warriors’ planned Mission Bay arena and AT&T Park.

But the newly formed Coalition to Complete the Downtown Caltrain Extension says any alternative to the current plan for a rail tunnel from Fourth and King streets to the new downtown Transbay Transit Center would be “ill-conceived.”

“This is the most important regional transit project in the Bay Area that has been environmentally cleared and locally, regionally and federally approved,” said coalition spokesman Bob Feinbaum. The group’s members include Save Muni, the Sierra Club, San Francisco Tomorrow and the Mission Bay Alliance, the group opposing the Warriors’ planned arena.

“This project is ready to go, and we are calling for no more delays,” Feinbaum said.

Changing the planned route would probably cost billions of dollars, but Lee figures the payoff of a new neighborhood on land now taken up by the freeway and the rail yard near Fourth and King would be just as big.

The bell rings on round one Tuesday at 6 p.m., when city representatives are scheduled to update the public on their plans at the Potrero Hill Recreation Center… (more)

Rail Capacity Strategy.


Long-term rail proposals will require more complex funding plans. These investments would not be cheap. They’re projected to total $17 billion over 30 years. (The near-term investments are being considered for funding as part of the next five-year Capital Improvement Program for fiscal 2017 through fiscal 2021.)

This idea that 95% of the city needs to be connected by rail is absurd and would be prohibitively expensive. Where does this come from?


Roadshow: Rising cost of high-speed rail (while potholes go unfilled) rankles many

By Gary Richards : mercurynews – excerpt

Our crumbling roadways are not a call for action to raise the gas tax. It’s a call for action to stop the $71 billion crazy train also known as high-speed rail. Our roads are deteriorating around us. There is little money to fix them, yet we can find $71 billion for a fool’s errand that even the high-speed rail authority says may relieve only 1 percent of traffic.

Now that sounds crazy to me!…

When state voters approved a bond measure in 2008 to cover the first $10 billion for high-speed rail, the estimate for the total cost of the project was $40 billion to build tracks from the Bay Area to Los Angeles... (more)


I Think I Con, I Think I Con: Muni Spends Millions to Connect to a Nonexistent Rail Line

By Joe Eskenazi : sfweekly – excerpt

Along with the Hogwarts Express and Polar Express, California’s proposed High-Speed Rail line is quickly becoming one of the world’s most illustrious imaginary train lines.
A pair of rulings last week from a Sacramento judge potentially broke the back of the long-gestating, fantastically expensive train project; the state High-Speed Rail Authority was prevented from selling $8 billion in bonds, and also found to have no inkling how the $68 billion endeavor would be funded. Those crippling blows come on the heels of August rulings against the High-Speed Rail Authority for failing to pony up $25 billion in initial funding and neglecting to undertake onerous environmental studies over the course of hundreds of miles of potential tracks.
As a pot-sweetener for local transit agencies, along with the billions in state High-Speed Rail dollars voters approved in 2008, some $950 million was earmarked for regional projects providing “connectivity” to the future bullet train. Muni was allotted $61.3 million of that pile for work on the Central Subway project. In bagging that money, it executed a neat trick: It applied “connectivity” funds to a project critics claim actually reduces connectivity to the potential High-Speed Rail line — a line that, increasingly, seems fated to never exist beyond renderings, watercolors, and huge vats of receipts…
Municipal Transportation Agency spokesman Paul Rose blithely assures SF Weekly that last week’s legal stake through High-Speed Rail’s heart won’t affect the millions set aside locally to connect to the doomed line…
“The connectivity funds are already in hand,” continues Rose, “and the recent ruling will not have an impact on the Central Subway project.”
Being showered with scores of millions in state funds to provide less access to an imaginary railroad certainly sounds like something out of a fantasy. But it turns out that, not only is reality stranger than fiction — it’s more expensive, too… (more)

Judge stops bullet train in its tracks

By Juliet Williams : Associated Press – excerpt

A Sacramento judge on Monday tore up California’s funding plans for its bullet train project in separate orders that could force the state to spend months or years redrawing its plans for the $68 billion rail line.
Judge Michael Kenny rejected a request from the California High-Speed Rail Authority to sell $8 billion of the $10 billion in bonds approved by voters in 2008, saying there was no evidence it was “necessary and desirable” to start selling the bonds when a committee of state officials met last March.
He said the committee was supposed to act as “the ultimate ‘keeper of the checkbook'” for taxpayers, but instead relied on a request from the high-speed rail authority to start selling bonds as sufficient evidence to proceed.
In a separate lawsuit, Kenny ordered the rail authority to redo its $68 billion funding plan before continuing construction, a process that could take months or years. He had previously ruled that the authority abused its discretion by approving a funding plan that did not comply with the requirements of the law. The judge said the state failed to identify “sources of funds that were more than merely theoretically possible.”… (more)

Ed Lee talks of tearing down end of I-280

Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross : Chronicle Columnists – excerpt

Mayor Ed Lee is floating the idea of tearing down the stub end of Interstate 280 in San Francisco in hopes of creating a new neighborhood and speeding up the arrival of high-speed rail service downtown.
The idea, laid out by the mayor’s chief transit planner, Gillian Gillett, in a memo to the regional Metropolitan Transportation Commission, would be to knock down I-280 before 16th Street – eliminating the ramps both at Sixth and Brannan streets and at Fourth and King streets. It would be replaced by a street-level boulevard akin to those built after the Embarcadero and Central freeways were knocked down.
The plan also calls for clearing out the adjacent rail yard to make way for a high-speed rail…
“The mayor is a big proponent of high-speed rail,” said Lee’s spokeswoman, Christine Falvey. “And the mayor is interested in looking at that concept if it can bring high-speed rail to San Francisco faster, better and cheaper.”
She added, “It could be a big boon to the city if we develop a neighborhood in the process.“… (more)

She must mean, tear down the Potrero Hill neighborhood and replace it with new higher buildings. What is faster, better, and cheaper about tearing down an existing freeway and rebuilding it as a surface road?

Dollars into rails

By Eric Young : bizjournals.com – excerpt

Two major transit projects already under way depend on federal money that’s not certain

The fate of two major San Francisco transportation projects appears to hang in the balance in Washington, D.C.
Both the Central Subway and the state’s high-speed rail project, which would terminate in San Francisco, have budgets that are heavily reliant on major chunks of taxpayer money coming from Washington, D.C.
The Central Subway has budgeted some $983 million of its $1.5 billion budget — about 65 percent — to come from the feds. Meanwhile the California High-Speed Rail Authority is banking on about $42 billion from federally controlled dollars toward the overall price tag of $68 billion,…


Central Subway in the News

from SaveMuni.com – excerpt

North Beach Neighbors Presents Central Subway Series

North Beach Neighbors Presents
“Central Subway’s Impacts on North Beach and City”
WEDNESDAY, JULY 25, 2012, 6:30 PM at Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center, 660 Lombard Street.  SPEAKERS:  SaveMuni.com, SPUR and other invitees.

The Central Subway is disconnected from the Market Street corridor, Muni Metro, BART, Ferries, Transbay Terminal, High-speed Rail, regional and statewide transit networks. Muni riders must walk 1,000 feet between the Union Square Station and the existing Powell Metro/ BART Station. Hundreds of thousands of regional riders lose transit connectivity.  Per the FEIR and FTA applications, the Subway will decrease surface buses to the northeastern and southeastern sections of the city, including most of Chinatown. Today’s Muni riders will have longer travel times.
CHRONICLE:  “Central Subway work starts amid problems”
STREETSBLOG:  “Will the SFMTA Gut Muni Improvements to Prop Up the Central Subway?”
CHRONICLE/ BAY CITIZEN:  “Muni fudges on time performance, records show”

High speed rail funds to speed improvements to local transit

By Julie Small : scpr.org – excerpt

Governor Brown will soon sign legislation that approves $4.7 billion in state bonds to launch a high-speed rail system in California.

About $1 billion of the money won’t go to high-speed rail, but will instead fix up rail and subway systems in Southern California. That money was key to winning votes in the legislature for the bonds…

Neely says her agency took care to pick projects that can break ground or at least be funded and ready for construction within eight years…


We hear SF Central Subway is also benefit. Question is, where will the money come from now that the state is broke?

Senator Yee gets an offer he can’t refuse

district5diary – excerpt

High-speed rail supporters: Ma, Brown, and Yee

Matier and Ross tell us how the financially ruinous $4.6 billion in high-speed rail bonds were passed in the State Senate last week:
It took a big behind-the-scenes push from the governor and organized labor—plus a slew of calls from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to fellow Democrats—to pull off the state Senate’s squeaker approval of high-speed rail Friday. There wasn’t a lot of arm twisting—just a final offer that 21 Democratic senators couldn’t refuse.
“That having something was better than nothing,” said state Sen. Leland Yee…
In any event, the Central Subway, Caltrain, and BART payments are arguably illegal under the high-speed rail Proposition 1A passed by voters in 2008, which will be sorted out by the many lawsuits against the high-speed rail project..
CalWatchdog on California’s dismal financial situation.

California high-speed rail funds face key vote in state Senate

By: Will Reisman : San Francisco Examiner – excerpt

The state Senate will vote today on releasing $2.7 billion in funds for California’s high-speed rail project, a decision that will likely define the fate of the $68 billion undertaking…

Read more at the San Francisco Examiner

We know that not everyone cares about the high-speed rail project, but many people are seeing the need for more maintenance on existing local systems rather than financing grandiose future projects in these times of economic uncertainty. Considering the Fed has already passed this on by, perhaps the state should put it on hold as well.