Thursday, January 12, 2012

All hands abandon ship

In the past three days, the California High Speed Rail Authority's press secretary, CEO, and chairman have resigned. While Robert Cruickshank's reaction was essentially "Meh", this has major importance for the future of the project, especially given the timing, right after the horribly flawed Grapevine alignment study was released. A few unorganized thoughts:

1. I don't believe there is a single person who actually believes a major executive when they say that they resign to spend more time with family or on personal issues. This was either in protest or he was essentially forced out.
2. The Authority isn't going to survive this unscathed. Given Senator Feinstein's recent support for the bookend approach to building CAHSR in a letter to Governor Brown, I consider it highly likely that the Authority will not receive the funding appropriations this year that they are seeking. While this will rule out the use of some ARRA money, it frees the remainder to go back into more sensible route build outs, such as the Los Angeles-Bakersfield section.
3. Given the above, CAHSR is going to live or die on the Authority's response to a funding delay. Appropriately spun, they could play it up as taking more time to get a better plan set out (skipping the ICS and go straight to the IOS for instance) which would have a far better PR appeal.
4. The recommendation of Dan Richards, a former BART director with a less than stellar record when it comes to cost and contractor control, as chairman of the Authority's board, does not inspire confidence that the Authority will manage to salvage their position.

1 comment:

  1. The Authority has to seriously retool the project before it goes down in flames. These recent developments and continued backlash will test the viability of high speed rail in the state.

    How I'd save the CAHSR project:

    1. The firm used by the Authority has to be fired pronto. There is no justification for a $98.5 billion price tag and even less so for viaducts that appear to be four times as tall as Caltrain bridges when CAHSR ought to be sharing tracks along an electrified SJ-SF route.

    2. Outsource the entire 800-mile route to one or more international agencies no later than 12/31. Operators like JR East, Korail, and DB (I can't include the Chinese due to their shoddy work coming to light recently) actually know how to operate fast trains and could serve as a template for other states on how to correctly implement 150-220 mph service. The state could even set it up as a bond that the operator(s) will have to repay over a given period of time.

    3. Someone from the Authority needs to learn from the Swiss or find some other way to integrate HSR with existing rail routes and other transit modes because everyone will win in the end if the CAHSRA learns how to share urban tracks (shared tracks=tens of billions of dollars saved).