DeSaulnier Blasts High-Speed Rail Commission's Secrecy

Do you think bids to build the system's first 29-mile stretch should be public record?

Saying that the process is insufficiently transparent, State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) is criticizing the way state officials are evaluating five bids to build the first stretch of California’s high-speed rail system.

This week, developers vying to lay the initial 29 miles of track in the Central Valley will formally deliver their bids to Sacramento. However, the amounts will remain sealed and secret so evaluators can first weigh the proposals on their technical merits. De Saulnier doesn’t agree with that approach, according to the Bay Area News Group.

"The process is supposed to be transparent," DeSaulnier told BANG. "Once the bid is in, it's in the public domain, and the public needs to (be able to see) what the bids look like, especially on a project like this."

The whole project, the most expensive in California’s history, was approved by voters four years ago and is expected to cost almost $70 billion.

c5 January 16, 2013 at 10:32 PM
the entire project is a disaster for the state of california, the lack of transparency being but a minor piece of what is going to be a very bad puzzle for the citizens of the state.
CJ January 16, 2013 at 11:41 PM
I have yet to actually talk to someone who would ever ride this thing. The only people who advocate it are bloggers on forums with their statist agendas. But real people will just take a SWAir flight at what I promise will be 1/2 the cost or in my case free as I fly frequently on business so any personal tips are free. Even if I had business in Bakersfield or Fresno and I do. I would never use it as I would still be compelled to rent a car. Have you ever been to Fresno or BField? You must have a car to do anything. Ths thing is a make work program for Unions and nothing else and our children will be subsidizing it in perpetuity unless they are lucky enough to relocate elsewhere. Maybe to Idaho which is where mom and dad will be by the time they get out of college.
El Cucuy January 17, 2013 at 12:07 AM
I wonder if high speed rail will be economical for most families. Imagine you are driving a huge gas guzzler which gets 15 mpg. The trip from SF to LA is about 400 miles. That's almost 27 gallons of gas. At current prices (averaging $3.625/gal in CA), that's about $98 in gas, one way. Not bad. Now -- how many people have you loaded in the gas guzzler? If you've got 4 people, that about $25 a head. If you've got your family of 5 plus grandma, that's only $16 each person, one way. OK, so what if gas prices go up? At $5/gallon, the one way trip becomes $130. At $10/gallon, the one way trip is $260. That's still only $43/person in your 6-passenger Canyonero. So how much are these train tickets going to cost? Remember that rising energy prices will likely make the train more expensive, too. And you've got to multiply that ticket cost by 4 or 5 or 6 to get the whole clan down there. Of course, this doesn't take into account things like wear and tear on the car, or travel time. So sure, driving takes 6-8 hours. But how long is the train going to take? Do I drive to the station? Park? Is there security? Am I renting a car in LA? All that stuff eats time. A lot of questions. But these back of the envelope calculations are the ones regular people make all the time. Is the answer high speed rail?
El Cucuy January 17, 2013 at 12:18 AM
Here's another scenario. Gas prices have risen to $10/gallon. Everybody panic! Now, once you've calmed down, you drive down to LA with three of your friends in a newer model midsize sedan, which gets 40 mpg. The cost of your one-way trip is $100, so you each need to chip in $25. Would HSR be anywhere close to $25 one way from SF to LA? What are you willing to pay for the convenience of rail? High speed rail would offer the comfort and scenery of train travel, you'd avoid the stress of driving, shave an hour or two off the length of the trip, maybe get some work done. Is that worth an extra $25 each way? Is it worth an extra $100? What is a trip on high speed rail going to cost in this world where gas is $10/gallon? And remember -- airlines still exist. And they can make the SF to LA trip in an hour, although you've got to get to the airport and make it through security first. And what if a competing fleets of luxury non-stop buses have also entered the market to compete for those trip dollars? Where does high speed rail fit in?
Chris J Kapsalis January 17, 2013 at 12:26 AM
We will ride it.Sounds like fun, like a big roller coaster minus the roller. Wont it go like 160 mph and get you to LA in a couple hours? It would be cool if you could get on here, take a connecting train and get off in Las Vegas in 3 hours or so sight seeing the while way. Speed sight seeing. Going that fast at ground level has to be a blast. Just hope it is not like the monrail in the Simpsons too much.
CJ January 17, 2013 at 12:37 AM
Why do people advocating for this think there will be security any different than Airports? This is a HSR. It will subject to the same TSA efforts as any other mass transit. I , nor anyone I know would ride it except once as a novelty. It is intellectually dishonest to state otherwise and you know it. The ticket cost will be at least as much a plane ticket and I am not subsidizing that planefare in any way near what this thing will demand. Airports are for the most part self sufficient enterprises run outside of any government tax funding.
CJ January 17, 2013 at 12:45 AM
If it went from LA to Vegas it might actually make sense. But it won't. It will go to LA which will neither scenic nor fun. Just get it done on a plane as everyone still will from here. Saramento will not use it, Bay area will not use it, anywhere north of us will not use it. Central valley may have a few towns that will use it as they have no real air option and the further south you get the more it makes some sense. But at what cost for so few users? It is a make union work project because it will not stand up to any real scrutiny on economics or real benefit.
El Cucuy January 17, 2013 at 01:13 AM
The top speed for the CA high speed rail looks to be about 220 mph. I've been on the Shanghai Maglev which tops out around 265 mph. It's fun to do once for the novelty. I wouldn't consider it the optimal speed for sight-seeing. As for travel times, I'm sure that airline lobbyists are hard at work as we speak to guarantee that high speed rail will be as "safe" as flying -- they'll do everything they can to ensure that security checks at train stations are as long and detailed as those at airports!
Chris J Kapsalis January 17, 2013 at 01:29 AM
@ El, Maybe you know. How long does it take to deselerate and stop and a stop, pick up, crop off, then get back up to cruising speed? And how many stops say from here to LA? I imagine it would be the stops that would add more time then the actual trip if it were non stop?
El Cucuy January 17, 2013 at 02:36 AM
On the official website of the HSR project, they estimate the trip time from LA to SF at 2 hrs 38 mins. I don't know if that includes stops in PA, SJ, Gilroy, Merced, Fresno, Bakersfield, Palmdale, and Burbank -- but those are the proposed stations. If the 2 hrs 38 mins is non-stop, surely there is a sensible proposal for a bypass or "express" track, so that the LA to SF nonstops can leapfrog the "local" trains moving along from station to station, right?
No Terraces In Lafayette January 17, 2013 at 02:42 AM
Pick up your litter in Lafayette Mark DeSaulnier. I know ...I know...you hired the same political sign installation team that George Miller, Anthony Peegram, Saltzman, and Yes on Measure A used. The problem is these folks only paid for installation of their political signs. The removal is left up to others. Please see the 7 11 parking lot on Mt. Diablo Blvd. in Lafayette.
El Cucuy January 17, 2013 at 02:49 AM
Take a look at some of the potential routes here: http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/trip_planner.aspx There are some interesting possibilities for new work commute routes. For example, you'll be able to get from Irvine to LA in 28 mins on HSR. Right now, the drive is unthinkable during rush hour. But I know some people who have done this with the existing rail service. It's something like an hour station to station. Cutting that in half would surely increase property values in South OC, since you're now effectively a bedroom community of downtown LA. Anaheim to LA in 20 mins is also impressive. Also, what about Merced to San Jose? Right now that's at least a 2 hr drive. But it's only 45 minutes by HSR. On a modest tech salary in SJ you could own a mansion in Merced and send your kids to private school. I bet developers are licking their chops at some of the possibilities.
Dive Turn Work January 17, 2013 at 05:22 AM
Something tells me this project is going to be as disastrous for CA as "SuperTrain" was for NBC. And equally as stupid.
Bill Schilz January 17, 2013 at 03:13 PM
Why build high-speed rail when we already have the Coors Silver Bullet... It gores fast and goes anywhere it damn-well pleases! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IZqRdznPs8
Darlene January 17, 2013 at 03:29 PM
This project should be cancelled before it is too late. It simply does not make economic sense.
Ron Skrehot January 17, 2013 at 04:05 PM
Of course, it's only about money, not common sense. I don't see Mark DeSaulnier complaining about the fact that the State is broke but is going to spend billions on this train to nowhere, his only complaint is that he can't see the bids. Duh, that's the reason they are sealed, so other bidders can't under cut them. They'll be open to the public after the deadline and evaluation. The citizens of California should be in an uproar because the politicians continue to cut services we pay taxes for but plan projects like this that will benefit rich contractors, not you or me.
Doreen January 17, 2013 at 05:46 PM
Stay on 'em, Mark!
Charles schwartzmunde January 17, 2013 at 06:40 PM
CJ - take a train ride and then comment.
CJ January 17, 2013 at 06:45 PM
For the sake of my children's tax burden,, same or less ticket price, and 1/2 the combined travel time. I will stick to air travel. I've ridden plenty of trains,nothing romantic about them to me.
CJ January 17, 2013 at 06:58 PM
Doreen-You do realize that this is nothing more than a PR stunt to give the populace paying attention to this which is small anyway, an impression that he is somehow becoming fiscally conservative. His voting record proves he has never met a pork or spending bill he does not love.After all it isn't his money he throwing away it is merely all of ours.
Cynthia January 17, 2013 at 08:57 PM
I recently got back from Germany and France where the public transportation (local bus/rail transit) is excellent. We took an Intercity-Express (aka ICE) bullet train from Heidelberg to Paris and it took us a little under 3 hours to travel about 280 miles. We paid about $89.00 per person but because of the excellent transit system, there was no need to rent a car. It takes about 6-7 hours to travel to Los Angeles from Pleasant Hill, a distance of about 370 miles. Bullet trains make sense. This bullet train that they have in Europe (you can country hop at significantly lower prices than were one to fly) is an excellent traveling and transit tool. Why don't we have that here? I would much rather take the train, enjoy the scenery, and be able to travel to different states, even if it may take a little longer than flying. This would be especially good for wheelchair bound travelers as they can remain in the comfort of their chairs, and not have to transfer to those unsafe and too small airplane aisle chairs. Recently Delta airlines dropped a passenger on his head because they did not secure him properly in their aisle chair when they were transferring him. I say transparency is a good thing with respect to the bidding process, and the process over all, to get a better transit system started. If tax payer money is funding this, then it seems appropriate that citizens should be able to have access to the process and what they entail.
carrera January 17, 2013 at 11:25 PM
Oakland to LA is $24 each way (7 hr trip) on Megabus. I see plenty of people boarding the buses in Oakland outside the Bart station. So why build this Mega-Train when there is already a cheap alternative?
Nancy Dawson Dollard January 18, 2013 at 12:24 AM
We take frequent trips to San Diego and would take even more with high speed rail. If we took it south and then picked up AmTrak it would be a great ride. AmTrak from LA to SDO is a beautiful ride. Flying is no longer convenient, fun or cheap. In the six years I lived in PA I took the train at least once a year to Philadelphia, New York and Washington. I would have done it more if I had the money and time. It's great travel and a wonderful use of time. Read, sleep, walk around, use your laptop -- all nearly impossible to do now on jam packed planes with surly flight attendants.
CJ January 18, 2013 at 12:35 AM
Nancy- If there was the density the eastern seabord has here then your example would be valid. But we just don't have it here nor will we ever have it. The geography and best uses for the land will keep it relatively spread out. This thing is a poor alternative to plane travel. I cannot imagine skipping a 1.5 hr plane flight to SD for a 8+ hr. train ride with god knows how many stops. You really can't be serious?
Dan Buckles January 18, 2013 at 12:52 AM
They said the same thing about Bart, it will never work........and there it is. You really think California's economy and population are going to stay stagnant? What planet are you from? I guess you never drove from here to LA, or Las Vegas? Try it sometime and you'll see what I mean. I would prefer to get on a rail system and do the trip in comfort and when there rent a car. Oh, now, you're going to tell me take a plane and use all that fuel, pouting the atmosphere, as oil prices soar in the future, with ticket prices. The real root of the problem here is the banksters have finnacilized our economy so that no more money is going into the american economy to build industry, but the money is going to the BRICS instead, along with the American corporations who benefit from our tax dollars and consumers. I wouldn't be surprised to find out the real people against it are the airlines and oil companies........and they have ALEC, Business Round Table, and US Chamber of Communists to pay off the legislators to keep California from growing and creating new industries and jobs.
Concord Mike January 18, 2013 at 05:42 AM
This absurd project (the sponsors say) will not be completed until 2032. Knowing how government projects go, more likely 2040. How old will you be by then? Maybe your grandkids will get to ride it, if they can afford the expensive fare. A gross waste of money. I predict it will be cancelled sometime in the next 10 years and what was built will rust away in the central valley fog. Browns folly.


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