To Donald, from Ben: Don’t fund Honolulu’s train

By Catherine Cruz : kitv – excerpt (includes video)

HONOLULU – Former Hawaii governor Ben Cayetano took out a full page ad in Friday’s Washington Post newspaper.  The letter calls on the President to terminate Honolulu’s Full Funding Agreement for transit.

“Honolulu’s rail project does not deserve a single dollar more from the federal government.  It has become a poster boy of how politics, incompetence, disinformation and outright lies are at the root of wasteful  projects which do little for the public except raise taxes.”

The ad also notes that the city is at least $3 billion short and six years behind schedule.

The ad comes as the legislature decides next week on whether to extend the half percent excise tax an extra two years or another ten.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell released the following statement:

“The people of O’ahu have now gone through three election cycles where rail was the issue of the day, and each time affirmed that rail should be completed as originally planned with 20 miles of guideway and 21 stations. In each of those elections, ads like the one that appeared in today’s Washington Post were paid for by those who oppose the project, as is their right under the First Amendment. I remain focused on working really hard to extend the city’s half-percent rail surcharge for at least another 10 years. This will allow the country’s first driverless train to reach all the way to Ala Moana Center and ensure a viable project. That’s what the people of O‘ahu expect, and that’s what I’m concentrating on.”

Tune in to KITV Island News at 5, 6 and 10 as rail proponents react to this latest campaign… (more)

California is not alone in the quest for bogus transit project funds. Governor is already under attack for the “pothole” gas tax he just signed. People are watching that money and there is already a recall effort out of San Diego.

Head of California high-speed rail project calls it quits

yahoo – excerpt

The head of California’s $64 billion high-speed rail project said Friday he’s stepping down after five years pushing forward a vision of 220-mph trains that still faces stiff resistance from lawmakers and the public. Jeff Morales, 57, told The Chronicle that uncertainty over the project’s future had nothing to do with his resignation, only a genuine desire to move aside after breaking ground on the nation’s largest infrastructure project. Morales, who sent his resignation letter to Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday, plans to remain chief executive officer of the California High Speed Rail Authority through June 2, long enough to find his replacement. In May 2012, Morales was hired by the rail authority’s board as the project struggled to get off the ground, with agency staffing stalled, lawsuits looming over rights-of-way, and the Legislature yet to commit to construction. […] the agency has bought up more than 1,000 parcels of land and hired a handful of contractors to begin building 119 miles of rail line between Madera and Bakersfield. […] in Sacramento, the state’s cap-and-trade program, which essentially sells pollution credits to industry to fund projects like high-speed rail, has failed to meet revenue expectations. […] he worked as a senior vice president at Parsons Brinckerhoff, an international transportation firm that has been a primary contractor for the rail authority…(more)

State Seeks Hefty Fine For BART in Deaths of Two Workers

Jaxon Van Derbeken reports for ncb investigates : nbcbayarea – excerpt (includes video)

State regulators want to fine the transit agency for alleged safety lapses in the deaths of two track workers hit by a train during a strike in 2013. NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit obtained BART’s own surveillance video of the accident that shows how the rookie operator tried but failed to sound the horn before hitting the workers… (more)

The 22nd Street Caltrain Station To Stay, But Needs Better Accessibility

by Shane Downing : hoodline – excerpt

Earlier this week, Socketsite suggested that the 22nd Street Caltrain station could be removed or relocated, based on a new study.

But Planning Department spokesperson Gina Simi says that suggestion, which appeared in a number of other local publications, is “simply inaccurate.”

What is happening is that a study on railyard alternatives and the I-280 boulevard is currently being conducted. As part of the study, the Citizens Working Group (CWG)—comprised of 21 members without decision-making power—was asked to weigh in on priorities and concerns about the forthcoming Transbay Transit Center, redeveloping the Caltrain depot at 4th & King streets, and tearing down I-280’s northern terminus in San Francisco…

However, the real issue at stake was not the removal of the 22nd street stop. Instead, improving ADA access and connecting the 22nd Street station to San Francisco’s street grid and other transportation, which were supported by 90 percent of respondents, are bigger priorities for Planning… (more)

How BART strike ban could be key to big transportation package

By Matier & Ross : sfchronicle – excerpt

The big and bold blitz by Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers to raise the gas tax and vehicle license fee to pay for a $52 billion fix-up of the state’s crumbling roads, rails and bridges has hit a speed bump right here in the Bay Area — thanks to a trio of suburban lawmakers saying, “Not so fast.”

The lead doubter is state Sen. Steve Glazer, a moderate Democrat whose district stretches from Livermore up to Orinda and over to Brentwood. Not only is he tax-averse, but his single biggest concern is outlawing BART strikes like the two that made life miserable for his constituents in 2013 — and word is, he won’t vote for the transportation package unless it contains such a ban…

The two other Bay Area question marks on the mega-transportation and tax plan are Democratic Assemblyman Timothy Grayson of Concord and GOP Assemblywoman Catharine Baker of San Ramon — both from the same neck of the woods as Glazer…

Last week, a KPIX-5/Survey USA statewide poll found that only 23 percent of Californians surveyed think taxes and fees need to be raised for roads, compared with 61 percent who think Caltrans should spend its money more efficiently… (more)

At this point the riders are going on their own strike as fewer riders are showing up for the service on weekends, BART is losing more support from the public that is conducting its own vote by choosing more comfortable and reliable modes when possible.

Proposed Trump budget makes billion-dollar cuts in city transportation, development funds

By Patrick Sisson : curbed – excerpt

Mayors: “mortally wounds the places where the majority of Americans live, work and play”

The numbers are in. The preliminary 2018 federal budget proposal was released by the Trump administration today, and it doesn’t look good for urban infrastructure funding.

The “blueprint budget” offers a series of sizable cuts in domestic spending, totaling $54 billion, including reductions that would target transportation funding, community development, and public housing. If this budget is adopted by Congress, these cuts could create massive shortfalls in city and local budgets and hinder future plans for reinvesting in urban communities… (more)

from @yfreemark : List of all transit projects in line for federal funds in the next few years, but which would have their funding cut with Trump budget.

U.S. Transportation department executive approved grant days before taking job with rail contractor

By Ralph Vartabedian : latimes – excerpt

A top Obama administration executive at the U.S. Department of Transportation approved a $647-million grant for a California rail project in mid-January and less than two weeks later went to work for a Los Angeles-based contractor involved in the project, The Times has learned.

The grant provides a significant part of the money required to install a $2-billion electrical power system on the Bay Area’s Caltrain commuter rail system, allowing the rail to retire its diesel locomotives.

The power equipment will eventually be used by the state’s bullet train from Los Angeles to San Francisco, making it a critical part of the $64-billion program. The California High-Speed Rail Authority has pledged about $713 million to help install the system, according to state records.

The grant was handled by Carolyn Flowers, the acting chief of the Federal Transit Administration.  Flowers announced the grant approval in a letter, dated Jan. 18,  to congressional leaders. The Times obtained a copy of the letter…

Thirteen days later, Flowers went to work for Aecom, a Los Angeles-based engineering firm. The company news release announcing her hiring says she will head its North American transit practice. Aecom provides program management services to Caltrain for the electrification project, according to Caltrain documents. It was formerly a regional consultant to the high-speed rail project as well.

On Friday, the federal transit agency said it had “deferred” a decision on the grant and said it would look at the matter in the next federal budget cycle. The decision may be an early sign of the Trump administration’s view of the bullet train project. The line is already under construction and will need significant federal funding moving forward.

The delay follows a letter from every Republican member of the California House delegation to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, asking that the grant be put off until an audit of the high-speed rail project is completed.
This is exactly what America hates about Washington, D.C… (more)

Don’t they call this the revolving door?

RELATED:
Carolyn Flowers-letter to congress

Trump administration deals a big setback to Caltrain

By Matier & Ross : sfgate – excerpt

In the first big hit to the Bay Area from the Trump administration, newly minted Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has put the brakes on $647 million for Caltrain to go electric — and in the process pretty much killed hopes for high-speed rail coming to San Francisco anytime soon.

“It puts the (electrification) project in serious jeopardy,” Caltrain spokesman Seamus Murphy said Friday.

Caltrain carries about 60,000 riders a day between the South Bay and San Francisco, but its diesel-driven trains are both costly to operate and slow. Officials see electrification as a way both to increase ridership and save money on operating costs.

Going electric would also allow the Peninsula line to be the final link in the high-speed rail system that Gov. Jerry Brown wants to stretch from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The Obama administration embraced the idea, but California Republicans have long portrayed it as a boondoggle and sought to kill it.

In this July 1, 2013, file photo, commuters board a Caltrain train at the Caltrain and BART station in Millbrae. The Federal Transit Administration is delaying a decision on whether to approve a $647 million …(more)

California’s bullet train is hurtling toward a multibillion-dollar overrun, a confidential federal report warns

By Ralph Vartabedian : latimes – excerpt

California’s bullet train could cost taxpayers 50% more than estimated — as much as $3.6 billion more. And that’s just for the first 118 miles through the Central Valley, which was supposed to be the easiest part of the route between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

A confidential Federal Railroad Administration risk analysis, obtained by The Times, projects that building bridges, viaducts, trenches and track from Merced to Shafter, just north of Bakersfield, could cost $9.5 billion to $10 billion, compared with the original budget of $6.4 billion.

The federal document outlines far-reaching management problems: significant delays in environmental planning, lags in processing invoices for federal grants and continuing failures to acquire needed property.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority originally anticipated completing the Central Valley track by this year, but the federal risk analysis estimates that that won’t happen until 2024, placing the project seven years behind schedule…(more)

Polk Streetscape Construction Update

Only the SFMTA and the DPW would use a construction photograph as a greeting. They must think we appreciate the appearance of the mud and orange cones as much as they do. Guess what, to us ROAD CONSTRUCTION SUCKS! No one except you thinks they look attractive, so quite sending us these hideous photos of broken streets in your cheerful greetings. You are looking a head to spending more of our tax dollars disrupting our lives. We are NOT! How tacky can you get.

29463164-24ff-4fa9-9a8a-d1854bdc42d5.jpg
Water work on North Point Street, January 11, 2017 – San Francisco Public Works

9b48ec82-e298-4bfd-85f6-f6ff3bfb7911.jpgJanuary 13, 2017
Greetings Polk Street Community Member and Happy New Year!
View the latest construction information for the Polk Streetscape Project. Project Activity Summary – Crews have resumed work in segment 5 on North Point Street, between Van Ness Avenue and Larkin Street performing water main replacement work.

Week of January 16, 2017
Crews will continue water main replacement work on North Point Street from Van Ness Avenue to Larkin Street. Work will resume Tuesday January 17, 2017.

Week of January 23, 2017
Crews will continue water main replacement work on North Point Street from Van Ness Avenue to Larkin Street.

Anticipated construction schedule for Segment 5:
Water work: 01/02/17 – 03/27/17
Concrete Flatwork: 01/09/17 – 02/01/17
Final Grind & Pave: 03/31/17 – 04/03/17

Anticipated construction schedule for Segment 4:
Sewer work: 11/2016 – 04/2017
– Bay to Greenwich
– Filbert to Union
Water work: 01/2017 – 04/2017
– North Point to Bay (16″ Main)
– North Point to Chestnut & Chestnut from Van Ness to Polk (8″ Main)
– Lombard to Filbert (8″ Main)
Concrete Flatwork: 04/2017 – 09/2017
Electrical work: 04/2017 – 05/2017
Final Grind & Pave: 09/2017 – 10/2017

Looking Ahead: Construction for the Polk Streetscape Project is anticipated to be completed in six segments over a 24 month period. Construction in segments 5 & 4 are currently underway, with segments 3, 6, 2 and 1 pending. Work for the Polk Traffic Signal Upgrade Project (Contract No. 2568J) is anticipated to begin January 2017 and will occur at nine intersections from Union to Post streets in segments 4, 3 and 2. We will be working closely to coordinate construction activity in these segments.

Polk Streetscape Project – Things to Know… (more)