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)