This report is submitted by CARRD co-founders who attended the Sacramento meeting.
The March meeting of the Califorina High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) was largely uneventful and shorter than some recent marathon sessions. There were no angry farmers from the Central Valley and a lot of discussion has gotten pushed off to committee meetings held the day prior to the main board meeting. Several big reports on route selection that were originally scheduled for the meeting got pushed off. A potentially hot topic, the justification of revenue guarantees, got scant mention, although a Business Plan addendum was promised for next month’s board meeting.
There was a pretty presentation from Peter Calthorpe about the benefits of smart growth. Calthorpe is doing a project for the High Speed Rail Authority called “Vision California”. The only issue, pointed out by a number of board members, is the results of the study may not be available before most of the big decisions are made.
The State Department of Audits has been conducting an audit on the CHSRA, the first one to be conducted in its history and one requested by Senators Lowenthal and Huff at a hearing in May 2009 (PDF link, see page 17) . The Authority announced they are going to get the results on April 12th and they will have 5 days to respond, after which it will be released the public.
New Program Environmental Impact Review
The revised Program Environmental Impact Review (EIR) for the Bay Area to the Central Valley (the one they originally completed in 2008 but had to decertify in 2009 under a court order because it was deemed “inadequate”) will be posted online tonight although the official 45 day comment period won’t start until March 11.
We haven’t seen the document yet but it was suggested that only very minor changes will be made.
They announced a public hearing on April 7th in San Jose. The board meetings and committee meetings will also be held in San Jose, with the board meeting on April 8th (this is a change from the previously announced April date).
We complained that everything about the process the HSRA has proposed is the the bare minimum. For instance, even people who live next to the train tracks won’t necessarily be noticed.
In response, board member Quentin Kopp asked the Authority’s lawyer (a member of the attorney general’s office) if their course of action met the letter of the law. She said, yes it did – so far.
Once again, we are back to the letter vs the spirit of the law. The success or failure of High Speed Rail in California hinges critically on the support and confidence of the public and these antics don’t help.
Farewell to Mehdi
The last part of the meeting was dedicated to thanking executive director Mehdi Morshed for his service. Mr. Morshed is retiring at the end of the month and this was his last board meeting. Along with deputies Dan Leavitt and Carrie Pourvahidi, Morshed was at times the entirety of the CHSRA.
Speaking of Carrie P, she got the nod as interim director while the search continues for a permanent CEO.
Carrie Pourvahidi joined the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) in 1998 as the Chief Fiscal Officer. In 2001, Carrie became one of two Deputy Director’s for the Authority. She is currently in charge of directing the work of the Program Management Team as well as the preliminary engineering and environmental efforts currently underway in the three regions stretching from Sacramento to Los Angeles.
Carrie comes to this position with experience in transportation finance having held positions at Business, Transportation and Housing Agency and the Department of Transportation. She is also directing development of the Financing Plan for the entire high-speed train program.
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