Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cali High-Speed Rail Alternatives

Source: Cover graphic from the California Legislative Anaylst's Office (LAO) publication, "California High-Speed Rail is at a Critical Juncture" (PDF - May 10, 2011) prepared by Eric Thronson and reviewed by Farra Bracht. The LAO is a nonpartisan office which provides fiscal and policy information and advice to the Legislature.
California Legislative Anaylst's Office Recommendations
We recommend that the Legislature take the following actions to increase the likelihood that the high-speed rail project will be developed successfully:

• Fund Only Needed Administrative Tasks for Now.
We recommend that the Legislature reject the administration’s 2011-12 budget request for $185 million in funding for consultants to perform project management, public outreach, and other work to develop the project, and only appropriate at this time the $7 million in funding requested for state administration of the project by ... [California High-Speed Rail Authority (HSRA)].
• Seek Flexibility on Use of Federal Funds.
We propose that the Legislature direct HSRA to renegotiate the terms of the federal funding awarded to the state by the Federal Rail Administration (FRA). We believe the state must obtain relief from the current federal restrictions on the project if it is to be developed success- fully, and therefore that the Legislature should proceed with the project only if this flexibility is obtained from the federal government.
• Reconsider Where Construction of the Line Should Start.
If the federal flexibility proposed above is obtained, we recommend that the Legislature further direct HSRA to reevaluate which segment or segments should be constructed first based on criteria determined by the Legislature, such as potential statewide benefits from building a particular segment and whether a selected segment could generate the ridership and revenues to be financially viable on its own. The HSRA would be authorized to subsequently seek a budget augmentation to fund the development of whatever segment the Legislature approves based upon these new criteria.
• Improve the Way Project Decisions Are Made.
We recommend that the Legislature pass legislation this session that shifts the responsibility for the day-to-day and strategic development of the project from HSRA to the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). A new and separate division of Caltrans dedicated to the high-speed rail project would be better positioned, if equipped with the appropriate project delivery tools, to manage the development of the system in this phase. In addition, we recommend that the Legislature remove decision-making authority over the high-speed rail project from the HSRA board to ensure that the state’s overall interests, including state fiscal concerns, are fully taken into account as the project is developed.
Question for Blog Readers: In your view, what is the likelihood of the LAO recommendations being incorporated into legislation passed by the California State Legislature?

LIFT (acronym: Link I Found Today)
Simply the last segment to read at the end of this post and may or may not be in any way appropriate or relevant to anything ...

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