Luck May Be Changing for California High Speed Rail

No, the debilitating lawsuits haven't been resolved, so the HSR Authority still can't tap the $10 billion in voter-approved bonds, but the new state budget based on cap-and-trade revenue for HSR is sparking inquiries from private investors.

2 minute read

July 24, 2014, 9:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


FLV California train

California High Speed Rail Authority / Wikimedia Commons

Jessica Calefati of Inside Bay Area News writes that along with demolition beginning "in Fresno to clear the way for the first stretch of track, a budget agreement brokered by Gov. Jerry Brown that guarantees the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles rail line its first funding stream -- one that leading economists say could reach about three quarters of a billion dollars annually -- has emerged as a 'game changer,' high-speed rail [HSR] experts say."

As a direct result of that agreement, "private investors across the country and abroad are expressing new interest in bankrolling part of the $68 billion project," Calefati writes. The High Speed Rail Authority is expecting private interests to provide significant funding. See HSRA pie chart [PDF].

The new funding gives us confidence that as political leanings and priorities change, it won't be easy for the government to back out of its end of the deal," said Stephen Polechronis, senior vice president of Los Angeles-based AECOM, one of the world's largest engineering and construction firms. "We feel we have a partner now. [Note: AECOM agreed last week to purchase URS Corp., the engineering and construction-management company, for about $4 billion.]

However, the lawsuits have not gone unnoticed by potential investors. "AECOM and others are still troubled by the number of lawsuits filed against the authority -- 13 so far -- but Polechronis said it's common for large infrastructure projects to face litigation."

Another sign of interest came from "Vinci Concessions, a French company that is considered a world leader in developing highly technical high-speed rail projects; one of the nine companies that eagerly wrote to California about the bullet train last month."

"Developing the first high-speed rail corridor in the United States is an extremely exciting proposition," said Sidney Florey, Vinci Concessions' director of North American business development, whose company is now building a bullet train between Tours and Bordeaux in France. "If California makes the right offer, anybody in this industry would be interested."

Correspondent's addendum: We noted last month that the budget funds provided by cap and trade revenues would, in addition to funding high speed rail, provide a major source of funds to affordable housing, smart growth planning, public transit et al. provided they reduce carbon emissions. And yes, the cap and trade program is itself being litigated.]

Friday, July 18, 2014 in Inside Bay Area

Large blank mall building with only two cars in large parking lot.

Pennsylvania Mall Conversion Bill Passes House

If passed, the bill would promote the adaptive reuse of defunct commercial buildings.

April 18, 2024 - Central Penn Business Journal

Rendering of wildlife crossing over 101 freeway in Los Angeles County.

World's Largest Wildlife Overpass In the Works in Los Angeles County

Caltrans will soon close half of the 101 Freeway in order to continue construction of the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing near Agoura Hills in Los Angeles County.

April 15, 2024 - LAist

Workers putting down asphalt on road.

U.S. Supreme Court: California's Impact Fees May Violate Takings Clause

A California property owner took El Dorado County to state court after paying a traffic impact fee he felt was exorbitant. He lost in trial court, appellate court, and the California Supreme Court denied review. Then the U.S. Supreme Court acted.

April 18, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

Wind turbines and solar panels against a backdrop of mountains in the Mojave Desert near Palm Springs, California

California Grid Runs on 100% Renewable Energy for Over 9 Hours

The state’s energy grid was entirely powered by clean energy for some portion of the day on 37 out of the last 45 days.

7 hours ago - Fast Company

Close-up of hand holding up wooden thermometer in front of blurred street

New Forecasting Tool Aims to Reduce Heat-Related Deaths

Two federal agencies launched a new, easy-to-use, color-coded heat warning system that combines meteorological and medical risk factors.

April 24 - Associated Press via Portland Press Herald

View of Dallas city skyline with moderately busy freeway in foreground at twilight.

AI Traffic Management Comes to Dallas-Fort Worth

Several Texas cities are using an AI-powered platform called NoTraffic to help manage traffic signals to increase safety and improve traffic flow.

April 24 - Dallas Morning News

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.