Monday, December 1, 2008

Back to transportation...

Sorry for the rant, back on topic. Transportation, specifically transportation here in Riverside.

I spent the weekend before last at the CalPIRG semi-annual retreat in LA, and because we were involved in the passage of Prop 1A, the Deputy Director of the California High-Speed Rail Authority came out to thank us, and take questions. (WOO!)

First off, inspiration. This gentleman said he's been working on California HSR since the early '80's, and the passage of 1A is the realization of his work for his entire career. I'm proud to have been a part of that. He said that even the CAHSRA thought that 1A was doomed in the weeks leading up to the election, and everyone was surprised to see its passage.

Second, some information for everyone. We're still 3 years away from breaking ground on this thing, because of EIS/EIR requirements and dealing with local politics. Yes, the Authority did do an EIR already, but it was not as specific as it needs to be, for lack of funding, and now they're getting down to brass tacks. If you live in any area where the right-of-way is going through, pay attention to the EIR process, because there will be some folks out there who will scream NIMBY on the thing. We need to provide some opposition to them, and show our local governments that high-speed rail is something we really want for our cities and counties. Remember, there is a proposed station in Riverside.

We also need federal funds to get to the $9bn that 1A authorized. There is a transportation bill coming up in September of next year, and we want to make sure that federal matching funds for our train are a part of it. I'm not saying write your congressman/senator now, but keep an eye on it. (And an aside for Riverside- Your congressman is still Kenny Calvert, unfortunately. We missed it by 49-51 because of Orange County voters. Remember that Kenny likes transportation projects that raise his property values, though, so not all is lost. And 2010 is coming!)

Lastly, a bit of disappointment. The Authority is seeking a private partner to operate the railroad. I understand that this is both politically necessary (because the Market rules in this country) and economically prudent (because private companies have money), but let's hope that the state will keep whatever company gets the contract in line. And let's hope it's not Veolia, who can't seem to keep Metrolink trains from crashing into freighters.

Peace, and happy holidays.

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