Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sen. Feinstein: Combine High Speed Rail Authority with CalTrans

Written by 

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) urged California Governor Jerry Brown to act swiftly to improve the viability of high-speed rail in California by strongly supporting a plan to move the California High Speed Rail Authority into a transportation agency under the governor's direction.

Following is the text of the letter to Governor Brown:

Dear Governor Brown:

I am writing to express my strong support for your plan to move the California High-Speed Rail Authority into a Transportation Agency under your Administration's direction. I encourage you to act swiftly to address the high-speed rail project's problems, which I fear will put more than $3.5 billion in Federal funding at risk if not addressed.

Deploying the expertise and resources of CalTrans towards this effort over the next six months, in direct cooperation with the California High-Speed Rail Authority, could permit a rapid reassessment of the route, decisions regarding the stages of construction and substantial progress on acquiring right of way, in order to expedite the beginning of construction by the Federal government's Fall 2012 deadline.

The California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group's recent report, which failed to endorse state funds for the California High-Speed Rail project until further steps to reduce project risk are taken, vividly identifies the need to act quickly. As you know, without the Legislature's approval of this appropriation, more than $3.5 billion in Federal funding competitively awarded to California would be at risk. Specifically, the group called for the Authority to:

• select an initial operating segment as soon as possible,

• include a deployment plan for electrified high speed trains with positive train control systems,

• further develop the business plan to address risk and cost issues,

• involve the private sector in project design,

• increase project management capacity,

• subject demand forecasts to greater scrutiny, and

• "reduce the risk to the state of a stranded project" by investing initial funding in the segments that currently serve significant train ridership (San Jose to San Francisco and Anaheim to Los Angeles).

I find it very hard to debunk some of the group's key conclusions. But I also believe that many of the concerns could be addressed quickly with a concerted effort under your leadership.

As I have discussed with you previously, putting this project on a steady path to success would demonstrate that California remains capable of building big projects, putting thousands of our citizens to work and leading the nation. I am concerned that our state's future would be greatly hindered if this project either failed to get off the ground, or failed to be completed. I have spoken to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about the importance of utilizing CalTrans' expertise and we both agree that your leadership in this area could improve prospects for success.

As you know, I have advocated for a high-speed rail link up the spine of California since 1990 and I first experienced high-speed rail in Japan more than 40 years ago. More than 150 million people a year use the bullet train service between Tokyo and Osaka, demonstrating the wisdom of Japan's investment in infrastructure made more than a generation ago.

I appreciate your efforts to assure that California's initiative succeeds and that the investments we make produce jobs today and economic efficiency for future generations. I look forward to working with you.


Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

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