ECA NEWSLETTER 8-1-19
High Speed Rail Project-We Shall See–
Most of you are aware that I have opposed the High Speed Rail project that voters approved in 2008 in California. I have always believed our roads and bridges need those dollars rather than a train project that is likely to run so far over budgeted estimates that it may never get built. Budget concerns are real-despite the original estimates that the project would cost some $33 billion when voters approved this ballot measure in 2008, the estimated costs (which are far from being dialed in) now vary between $98 billion and $120 billion for the rail project. Trump and California have a feud ongoing and Trump has requested some federal funds be returned because of cost overruns of the rail project as well the Feds claiming mismanagement of the project. Not surprisingly, California refuses to give the money back and the final outcome will probably be decided in the Courts and I would bet that California wins that Court battle.
Governor Newsome made national news in his inauguration speech when he announced the High Speed Rail Project would cost too much and he was putting the brakes on the project. What has happened since that speech is “business as usual” which makes the Governor’s speech even more confusing. Hundreds of workers are busy near Hwy 99 through Madera County and Fresno and the various segments of work are quite visible if you drive Hwy 99 in the Central Valley.
Although this project obviously has some effect on the Northern Bay Area as to State funding of both Cal Fire and local infrastructure projects, this is largely a project that is out of play for our membership. Huge Joint Venture contracting groups are doing the work (Flatiron and Tutor are involved), and the work is under the authority of Project Labor Agreements which means virtually every worker on the project is a union signatory member. This is a huge boost to unions and it helps our own workers as their collective bargaining agreements will certainly be affected by the influx of dollars into the union training and pension and health care funds that will not have to come out of the pockets of local workers that are ECA members.
There are “visions” of extending the high speed rail in two directions-one to build a link to Sacramento, and the other is to build a link to Las Vegas. From my perspective, both of these make more sense than the route from SF to LA but that is my own prejudice. To try and put this mega project into some digestible form, I combed the internet and the best report I could find is this link —
Progress of the first 119 mile segment can be tracked online at this link–
I will say when you go to this map, it claims you can get all the information about who the contractor for each segment is, the value of the project and photos of the work being done. The photos are there, and I was able to find some anecdotal information as to some of the subcontractors, but nowhere was a “handy dandy” list of GC’s in charge of each segment. Maybe you folks are better at this “deep dive” internet treasure hunt than I am. Despite my whining, the progress of the work is quite impressive, and the Central Valley is “alive” with work on this mega project.
Another development that is of interest, is the “go ahead” for the environmental impact reports and studies over the final alignment of the High Speed Rail project. This is a big deal as the EIR will start the process of going out to bid for the final right of way purchases that will then sharpen the focus on the final cost of this project.
The latest construction update video dated July of 2019 is worth your time to review. Very impressive video can be viewed here—
To read about this development on Environmental Reviews getting approved for final alignment routes, click here–
To read about the “vision” of high speed rail extension to Las Vegas being promoted and discussed, click on this link –
To read about the Merced to Sacramento 115 mile future HSR link, click here—
I am very interested in seeing what happens when the initial funding dries up. Will this be the biggest boondoggle in recent memory, or will this be the first step in a visionary project that will lower carbon emissions and get cars off of Highway 99 and Interstate 5?
We shall see—
That’s All Folks