July 2010 Issue
Latest News From Californians For High Speed Rail
Welcome to the Californians For High Speed Rail E-Newsletter

As our organization continues to ramp up, we have added another way of communicating with our members and supporters through our e-newsletter, The High Speed Rail Advocate. Instead of just reporting on HSR news, we will keep you updated on recent CA4HSR activities and offer perspectives on pertinent HSR issues.

The last few months have brought several important successes and new challenges to California's high speed rail planning. Capping years of efforts by Californians For High Speed Rail, final agreement was reached in April on the final design for the San Francisco Transbay Transit Center. The California High Speed Rail Authority's approval of a refined design for train box and approach clears the way for construction of phase 1 of the underground train station and the above ground to be built. The state's very first HSR project will be underway within a few months!

Challenges have also arisen with negative reports for both the State Legislative Analyst's and the Auditor's offices. Both reports detailed problems in program and budget management, due to insufficient in-house staffing and procedures, and unfairly attacked the Authority for the lack of a full funding agreement from the Federal Government and private investors. We share the auditor's concerns regarding sufficient project oversight and budgetary controls and urge the legislature to take action to allow the Authority to hire staff needed to manage a public works and planning project of such an enormous scale.

We will continue to push for Congress to approve the $50 billion in HSR funds that the House subcommittee and over 100 representatives have proposed, as part of a new transportation bill. Until then, we all need to remind lawmakers, the media, and the public that Californians voted for Prop 1A back in 2008 when there was zero federal funding for HSR. Since then the funding picture has only improved - $2.25 billion already committed to California and another $2.5 billion approved and awaiting distribution to the various HSR projects across the country.

Finally the Union Pacific Railroad continues to oppose efforts by the Authority and the state to work cooperatively to build the best possible HSR project for the state while helping Union Pacific as well. The company has instead adopted hostile and counterproductive stance that is harming station planning in the Central valley and across the state.

Californians For High Speed Rail has undertaken a number of actions over the past two months. We launched Local Advocacy Teams in two areas of the state, The San Francisco Peninsula and Los Angeles to Anaheim. The San Francisco peninsula continues to be a challenging area for the project. Several articles in this e-newsletter detail how Californians For High Speed Rail is taking action to organize supporters and ensure that both the Authority and Caltrain continue forward with the project and design it to maximize the benefit for future riders. We have made good progress in bringing advocacy groups together around a consensus package of improvements in the Los Angeles area. Finally, we met with several legislators, including State Representative Galgiani, the author of Prop 1A and will be working more with her office to help build support for HSR in the legislature and ensure HSR planning provides the best possible service and economic development potential to the Central Valley.

This is the first edition of a regular e-newsletter that we will be bring to our members and supporters to keep you up to date with our recent actions. As a grassroots group we need your action and activism to succeed, please join us and volunteer to ensure that California gets the HSR network we voted for and deserve. With your on-going support we hope to continue growing our capacity and develop an in-depth quarterly print publication.

Yours Truly,
Brian Stanke, Executive Director, CA4HSR

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About the High Speed Rail Advocate

California High Speed Rail Highlights
Los Angeles to Palmdale Section Update
By Michael Gimbel

It's been seen as the key to revitalizing a struggling airport. It's been seen as a potential barrier between a park and a community. It's been seen as a way to relieve congestion in one of the world's largest car cultures. The Palmdale to Los Angeles section of the planned California High-Speed Rail system stretches approximately 58 miles from Los Angeles Union Station to the city of Palmdale; stopping Burbank and Sylmar along the way. This section is currently scheduled to break-ground in late 2014/early 2015 and would begin revenue service in 2020. Riders would see a journey time of about 30 minutes from Palmdale to Downtown LA; a large savings on a route than can take up to 2 hours on the adjacent freeway. This section of the high-speed rail system is estimated to cost $7.646 billion with trains capable of reaching their maximum speed of 220 mph.

As Palmdale continues to grow at an astonishing rate, the high-speed rail system will be needed both to relieve congestion on State Route 14 and whisk commuters into the commercial centers of the Los Angeles Basin and San Fernando Valley below. The city also sees it as an opportunity to revitalize its long-struggling airport. After the completion of the high-speed rail project, city officials of both Los Angeles and Palmdale hope to see a future connector that would usher in new passengers from the train station only a few miles away. At present, Palmdale Airport has been straining to attract new passengers who are willing to make the drive from the Los Angeles Basin. High-speed rail would be a game-changer by allowing new customers to reach the airport in a mere 30 minutes.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority also touts the benefits the Los Angeles-Palmdale section would have for the existing Metrolink Antelope Valley Line. Within the San Fernando Valley, new tracks and grade-separations along the existing right-of-way would mean fewer accidents with auto traffic and faster travel times. The Authority hopes the combination of faster travel times and better service will attract a greater number of commuters who at-present, drive the parallel Interstate 5 and State Route 14 freeways.

Those who decide to stick with their cars would also see benefits. By removing commuters from the adjacent freeways and placing them in trains, drivers would see less congestion on freeways. Within existing urban areas, grade-separations would result in fewer traffic delays and accidents. With the removal of grade-crossings, surrounding residents would notice a new-found silence as trains no longer have to use their horns for oncoming intersections.

But not all see the future rail line as a blessing. Back in January, the Cypress Park Neighborhood Council raised the issue over the future tracks acting as a barrier between the community of Cypress Park and the Los Angeles River State Park. A little known fact is the "LAUS to SR-134 Draft Alternatives Analysis Report" already states that the future high-speed rail and existing Metrolink tracks will be placed in a trench to allow easy access to the park. This plan includes partly covering the trench with a covering for as much as 800 feet to allow compatible uses such as parking, recreation and landscaping to improve the existing corridor.

In the future, Angelinos may see a connection to the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas with the coming of the DesertXpress high-speed rail line. Privately funded, the first phase is scheduled to break-ground this year and begin revenue service to the city of Victorville by 2014. With the completion of the Los Angeles-Palmdale section, DesertXpress Enterprises hopes to extend their rail line to the City of Palmdale to operate trains into LA and Orange Counties. But according to Andrew Althrop, project manager of the Los Angeles-Palmdale section, the California High-Speed Rail Authority has not yet had any discussion with DesertXpress Enterprises over the issue of operating trains into Los Angeles.

The future of transportation in Southern California looks bright. High-speed rail will unite cities and open up new job opportunities. By allowing a fast and convenient option to driving, the new rail service will become an economic boon for the region, resulting in new growth and forever changing LA's love-affair with the car. Already, a series of light rail and subway lines built in the past two decades has been changing the city's mindset of a car-based culture. The Los Angeles County Metro Rail system has already resulted in countless transit-oriented communities and has changed growth patterns to focus more around transit stations. We can safely say that high-speed rail will do the same thing; all we have to do now is build it.


Optimistic residents eager to see what HSR will mean for Potrero Hill, San Francisco
By Evan Goldin

At a meeting hosted by the Potrero Boosters Neighborhood Association earlier this year, residents of the Potrero Hill neighborhood in San Francisco got their first official introduction to the high-speed rail project — and most liked what they saw.

The neighborhood, between the 101 and 280 freeways, already has a Caltrain station and mostly grade-separated Caltrain tracks run through the neighborhood, under Interstate 280. Like many neighborhoods bordering the current tracks, residents were to eager to learn what high-speed rail will look like in the neighborhood.

Consultants speaking for the agency fielded questions about the project. Questions mainly focused on what will happen at 16th Street, the only grade-level crossing in the area and how the high-speed rail project will impact freight rail on the Peninsula. As Potrero Hill borders the former Mission Bay rail yards, many residents have lived near freight rail for years, and many former Union Pacific retirees still live in the area.

Overall, residents were supportive of the project, and were eager to see the benefits of high-speed rail brought to Potrero Hill. In particular, they pointed out that the 22nd Street Caltrain station is ripe for transit-oriented development. The current station has no shops within two blocks, despite thousands of commuters coming through every day. Significant empty land borders the station, along with a number of Muni bus and maintenance yards. Additionally, Potrero Hill's housing prices have jumped in recent years, with much of the jump being attributed to residents who want to live near the 22nd Street station.

Residents are also eager to see safety improvements come to Potrero Hill's Caltrain tracks. The 16th Street crossing was the site of a particularly bad crash between a automobile and a train in 2009, and much of the tracks that run along Seventh Street are easily accessible to pedestrians.

While residents did voice some concerns, there was significant support for the project, and an overall eagerness to see work begin.


Californians For High Speed Rail Campaigns to Ensure Caltrain's Electrification Project is High-Speed Rail Compatible

In the past month Caltrain has moved towards approval of the final clearance of the environmental impact report (EIR) for their electrification project and launched an effort to amend state law putting them in first place for hundred's of millions of dollars of California's high-speed rail funds from the 2009 stimulus bill (ARRA). Californians For High Speed Rail's review of the Caltrain electrification EIR has shown that the plans in the document are out of date and have multiple incompatibilities with the high-speed rail (HSR) planning currently underway by the California High Speed Rail Authority. While CA4HSR have supported Caltrain's electrification since our inception, the lack of integrated planning and incompatibilities with HSR have alerted us to the need for urgent action to get deeply involved in ensuring the project truly supports HSR.

For the past several weeks CA4HSR has met and corresponded with a variety of agencies and decision makers involved in the Caltrain electrification project regarding HSR planning and funding. CA4HSR Executive Director Brian Stanke and Board Vice Chair Daniel Krause met with Caltrain's Executive Officer for Public Affairs Mark Simon and Government Affairs Manager Seamus Murphy for two hours on May 20th. We discussed at length our concerns regarding what appear to us as incompatibilities in Caltrain's current designs. We also discussed Caltrain's plans to implement the project. Mr. Simon and Mr. Murphy assured us that the project will be implemented to avoid incompatibilities. However, we were still left with many questions about how there plans would work in practice.

Our main priorities now are to ensure that the actual work done does not end up being built, then ripped out a year or two later as part of the high-speed rail upgrade project and HSR funds are not squandered. Therefore, as a follow up to the meeting, we sent Caltrain staff a letter asking for additional information and clarification regarding their electrification and signaling system projects. Please check out the letter on our website.

We are now in the process of reaching out to elected officials in the Bay Area to inform them of our concerns and work with them to ensure the best outcome is achieved. We will keep you informed as the situation progressing and alert you to any mobilizations that are needed to ensure that our public agencies are wisely and efficiently using public funds to upgrade passenger rail travel along the San Francisco Peninsula.

A New San Joaquin Valley Alternative for Consideration

A disagreement between the cities of Merced and Madera has recently emerged about which alternative alignment HSR should take between Merced and Fresno. Daniel Krause recently posted a blog entry on the California High Speed Rail Blog that encouraged the California HSR Authority to consider a hybrid alternative that includes portions of both the A1 (BNSF corridor) and A2 (UPRR corridor) in an effort to resolve this potential conflict.

CA4HSR Gathers Political Support
Californians For High Speed Rail Board Members Meeting with Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani

The entire CA4HSR board of directors met with Assemblymember Calthleen Galgiani in San Jose on April 22 to discuss ways we could work together to move the HSR project forward in California. Assemblymember Galgiani is a tireless advocate and leader of the HSR projec in California. We discussed the possibility of doing an event in Sacramento that would promote CA4HSR. Also, we were invited to meet with Assemblymember Galgiani and representatives from the California High Speed Rail Authority in the near future. We also agreed to coordinate efforts in Sacramento to ensure the HSR project is getting the resources it needs. It was a very productive meeting and we look forward to working with Assemblymember Galgiani in the coming weeks and months.

More Meetings

CA4HSR further met or conducted phone conference calls with the following legislators or their staffers in recent months: Senator Jenny Oropeza, Congressman Mike Honda Congressmember Jackie Speier, Assemblymember Bill Monning and more. Our goal is to keep high speed rail for California top-of-mind with our legislators so we can collaboratively work to bring HSR to California.
CA4HSR Grassroots Efforts
Los Angeles-to-Anaheim Local Advocacy Team Kick-Off Meeting

On April 1st, CA4HSR conducted the first meeting of the Los Angles-to-Anaheim Local Advocacy Team in Los Angeles Union Station (LAUS) at the Union Bagel. Daniel Krause and Sharon Sim-Krause, CA4HSR board members organized the meeting in conjunction with Ryan Stern, a CA4HSR member who has been very active in following HSR in the Los Angeles area.

Discussion focused on the latest HSR track alignments under consideration for the southern approach into LAUS. Ryan showed the latest maps the California For High Speed Rail Authority, updating the group about new ideas to have an at-grade HSR station in LAUS. Also discussed was the possibility of combining the southern approach of HSR with the long sought after run-through track project for Metrolink and Amtrak. Also discussed was the recent request by Metro and Orange County Transit Authority for more study of a shared-use track arrangement in the Los-to-Anaheim section.

Finally, there was discussion of the need action to counteract opponents of HSR and for local HSR supports to begin attending meetings related to the Los Angeles-to-Anaheim section. Overall it was a great kick-off meeting and we look forward to more meetings in the near future.

For information on how to get involved in the Los Angeles-to-Anaheim Local Advocacy Team, please visit our website


San Francisco to San Jose Local Advocacy Team Kickoff Meeting

On May 6, Californians For High Speed Rail held its first Local Advocacy Team meeting for the San Francisco to San Jose segment. Turnout was strong, reflecting the level of interest in High Speed Rail in the region. Board members Daniel Krause, Brian Stanke, Sharon Sim-Krause and Bianca Walser attended the meeting as well.

The discussion covered a range of topics, including the history of CA4HSR, the critical importance of Caltrain, and the need for active participation in local meetings. Attendees were very well-informed on the issues specific to High Speed Rail on the Peninsula and a very lively discussion was enjoyed by all.

In addition to a productive discussion, we watched San Carlos Vice- Mayor Omar Ahmad give an inspiring TED talk, and sought to capitalize on his advice. To see Omar's talk, click here.

It was a great start to our work on the Peninsula, and we look forward to our next meeting. Many thanks to CA4HSR member Evan Goldin for generously offering to host our meeting. For information on how to get involved with our Local Advocacy Teams, please visit our website.

CA4HSR Campaigns & Partners
CA4HSR Participates in the RailPAC/NARP Conference

On April 17th, Daniel Krause, CA4HSR board member, gave a presentation at the RailPaC/NARP "Steel Wheels in California 2010" Conference, as part of a panel discussion on HSR. The focus of the panel was what to do with the first pot of HSR money. As part of his presentation, Daniel discussed existing CA4HSR policy regarding the design of the Los Angeles-to-Anaheim section of HSR. He also presented several recommendations of how to strategically apply the initial HSR funds to the LA-to-Anaheim section from the Federal stimulus and state bond money. These recommendations included the following:

•Budget $600 million in ARRA (stimulus) funds out of the total of $2.25 billion and match with state bond money for a total $1.2 billion.
•Complete LAUS southern approach and station modifications necessary for HSR and consider combining with the long-planned LAUS run-through.
•Complete key grade separation projects.
•Complete the HSR portion of the ARTIC station in a cost-effective manner.

A PDF of the full presentation is available on our website.


Californians For High Speed Rail Joins Transportation For America

In May, CA4HSR signed on as a partner organization to Transportation For America, a national coalition working on developing policies for the next Federal transportation bill. Given that one of our top priorities is securing high-levels of Federal funding for HSR, our participation in such a coalition is very important. By having a voice at the table with so many influential organizations that make up the coalition, we can ensure that HSR is prioritized in the platform being developed by Transportation For America.

To learn more about the coalition, please visit their website at http://t4america.org/.


CA4HSR Partners with American High Speed Rail Alliance

CA4HSR recently partnered with Washington-DC based American High Speed Rail Alliance whose mission is to advocate for the development and implementation of a high speed passenger rail network in the United States. With this partnership, we look forward to leveraging both organizations' resources and contacts to organize local and national pro-HSR grassroots events with AHSRA. To learn more about AHSRA, go to http://www.americanhsra.org


CA4HSR Speaks at US HSR Conference in Los Angeles
On June 17th, CA4HSR board member and co-founder Daniel Krause spoke at a conference put on by the national HSR advocacy group US High Speed Rail Association. His main topic was to identify challenges to the California HSR project. Daniel reminded attendees that it is critical that the California project succeed to show the rest of the nation the merit of true HSR. He also discussed the importance of having business and other groups to promote HSR rail through the media to counteract the cynicism of many editorial boards of various California newspapers. Daniel's PowerPoint presentation is available here.