CAHSR May Get Federal Funds; Honolulu LRT to be Re-routed; London Transit Plans Shrink

Now that the election’s over, we can start talking about some of the consequences. The most important event Tuesday night was the decision by California voters to approve a $10 billion bond for high-speed rail in that state, and the High-Speed Rail Authority there is already beginning work. Though construction won’t begin until 2010 at the earliest, the Authority has already been allocated $40 million for the completion of the environmental studies. But the main task of the agency will have to be finding the other $22 billion that will be necessary to complete the first link, from San Francisco to Los Angeles, with an extension to Anaheim. This money is expected to come from federal and private sources.

Some of the $1.5 billion recently allocated by Congress for rail projects will probably go to California. But Democrats have previously promised a lot more funding for high-speed rail, so we might see $10 billion from the legislature for this project if the infrastructure bill we discussed previously comes through. California’s line will be the first funded in the nation, especially because the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is from San Francisco, and the head of the Senate’s infrastructure committee is California’s Barbara Boxer. There will be money for this state’s system, probably allocated during the first few months of Obama’s campaign.

Private companies need to be attracted to contribute the other $12 billion necessary, and they’re likely to chip in for land surrounding proposed stations where public-private development will be encouraged. The real question is whether the current real estate downtown will negatively affect this project or whether these sources of money will look at the long-term of high-speed rail.

Meanwhile, the Bus Riders’ Union, always defending buses, sees this project as a “luxury train” and is likely to push for its derailment. Fortunately, the BRU, which we’ve discussed in the context of Los Angeles, has little influence statewide.

In Honolulu, the rail system that was approved on Tuesday is likely to be re-routed. Current plans are to have the 20-mile system leave downtown and head west through a section of the city called Salt Lake. This would mean that any airport service would come in another phase as a spur line. But it appears that the vote in favor of rail has changed the minds of some council people (a map showing the two routes is in the Honolulu Advertiser story), who now suggest that a line to the airport would be more valuable than one through Salt Lake.

There are benefits to both routings: whereas the Salt Lake line would serve more locals and a major mall, the Airport route would be better for tourists. Reelected Mayor Mufi Hannemann has in the past expressed his interest in the airport route, so we’ll see in the next few weeks what the council decides.

Meanwhile, in London, which, as we’ve discussed before, has a major transit system improvement plan, new Conservative Mayor Boris Johnson is scrapping a large number of projects meant to improve service in poor East London, which voted for him over former Labour Mayor “Red” Ken Livingstone. Livingstone had a number of projects planned for the east side of the city, including tram extensions and the pedestrianization of several open spaces in the city’s center.

Johnson, however, sees those projects as unnecessary and instead wants to focus on the government’s Crossrail program, a regional rail through link with underground stations in the city center (much like Paris’ RER or Philadelphia’s CCCC). He also wants the continued improvement of London’s Underground with air conditioned trains. This is disappointing news for East London but keep in mind the city has an astonishing 39 Billion Pounds worth of transit projects that will be complted before 2018.

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