The tone of this article suggests that the Northeast is getting the shaft while California is getting a windfall when it comes to HSR money. While I would argue that HSR makes much more sense in the northeast than in California, the interesting part of this article is the whining about environmental review. It’s not like California hasn’t gone through its paces or paid its dues here: the state’s HSR commission has done its due diligence with regard to performing the EIRs and invested heavily in the documents. I can argue with the quality of the assumptions, but you can’t argue that California hasn’t put its money where its mouth is.
The bottom line: everybody loves environmental review until it comes to their own projects; and as a result, the policy and planning world has a love-hate relationship with environmental review. It holds up bad projects; it holds up good projects. But even good projects can be poorly implemented if the communities get bulldozed along the way. These agencies want to fast-track or bypass EIR, and it doesn’t look like FRA is going to give it to them. It will be interesting to see if John Kerry has the muscle and the will to force the issue. It would be very interesting to see EIR as a regulatory regime fall down because of the new, rampaging desire to build rail when it was constructed in part to slow down the rampaging impulse to build roads.