California

Time for the Union Payoffs! Bullet Train's First Boon Goes to State Highway Workers

A journey of 800 miles begins with spending millions to relocate a small chunk of highway in the middle of Fresno.

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A journey of 800 miles begins with spending millions to relocate a small chunk of highway in the middle of Fresno. Via the Fresno Bee:

Cash in while you can!

It's still not determined when shovels will start digging, but some of the first real construction on California's proposed high-speed train project could be done by the state's highway department.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority [CHSRA] on Thursday authorized its executives to ink an agreement with the California Department of Transportation to handle the design and execution of a 2.5-mile relocation of Highway 99 through central Fresno. The project could be worth up to $226 million. …

The agreement with Caltrans means the highway department will work as a contractor for the rail authority to relocate Highway 99 between Ashlan and Clinton Avenues in central Fresno. That is an area where the highway runs up against a Union Pacific Railroad yard, leaving no room to shoehorn the new high-speed train tracks into their proposed route alongside the freight tracks. Plans call for the highway to be moved west by about 100 feet.

Caltrans will be responsible for designing the project, which will displace a string of businesses that sit along the west side of the highway. A frontage road and three off-ramps also will be affected.

The chief executive officer of CHSRA, Jeff Morales, appointed in May, is a former Caltrans head. That's not really the fun part, though. Obviously, any construction where roads were going to be shifted was going to have to involve Caltrans.

Here's the fun part:

The authority's board, however, was shorthanded for the vote following the resignation of board member Russ Burns. Burns, business manager for the Operating Engineers Union Local 3, sent his resignation letter to board chairman Dan Richard on Monday.

Burns, who also is a vice president of the International Union of Operating Engineers, was appointed to the rail authority's board in late 2009 by then-Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, for a term that was to run through the end of 2013.

Now that Burns has brought home the bacon for his unions he doesn't need the board anymore. He actually makes no bones about it at all in his resignation letter (pdf):

I will continue to work tirelessly as an advocate from my position of leadership at Local 3 and within the larger, statewide labor community. I will be working with my partners, many of them contractors who will end up working with the project, to help make sure the high speed rail is built and built right here in California.

And at twice the cost of what a French company proposed in 2010, when they suggested running the rail parallel to Interstate 5 and bypassing Fresno entirely to create a shorter, faster route – a route that probably wouldn't have created nearly as many union jobs.

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  1. And at twice the cost of what a French company proposed in 2010, when they suggested running the rail parallel to Interstate 5 and bypassing Fresno entirely to create a shorter, faster route ? a route that probably wouldn’t have created nearly as many union jobs.

    Definition of boondoggle: Something the French can do cheaper, faster, and with fewer Union giveaways.

    1. lol. this. i mean seriously. when you are one-upped by the french… GAME OVER, MAN!

  2. So Russ Burns was on the board of CALTRANS whilst also vice president of the International Union of Operating Engineers, who stand to pillage California taxpayers, in order to build this monstrosity?

    Conflict of interest? Helllooo?

    California, you kids are boned.

  3. Conflict of interest? Crony capitalism? Surely not with the California High Speed Rail Authority.

    Board Member Russ Burns (resigning):
    http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/Russ_Burns.aspx
    ==============================
    * Business manager of Operating Engineers Local 3, a major contributor to the California Democratic Party
    * Appointed by then Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, Democrat

    Board Member Robert Balgenorth:
    ==============================
    * President of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, AFL?CIO
    * Business manager/financial secretary of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Local 441
    * Both unions are major contributors to the California Democratic Party

    New CEO Jeff Morales:
    http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca……rales.aspx
    ==============================
    * Director of the California Department of Transportation
    * Former executive vice president of the Chicago Transit Authority
    * Member of President-Elect Obama’s transition team

    1. In a complete coincidence, has anybody noticed the uncanny similarity between the California High Speed Rail Authority logo and the Obama campaign logo? It’s a weird coincidence, I’m sure.
      http://www.twitpic.com/a81wsh/full

      1. OK, that was weird.

    2. What exactly does the business manager of a union do?

      1. Something involving piles of money and many beautiful ladies, I’m sure.

        1. In my experience, s/he ‘visits’ employers, wastes the employers’ and the workers’ time ‘showing the flag’.

  4. I would have voted for the referendum to increase the sales tax, but knowing that money will be spent on this boondoggle, we will not. This will further degrade education and health care for the most needy in this state.

    Jerry Brown is a political hack, and this project is so obviously a waste of resources that it can’t be disguised. So much for having a governor too old to have any political ambitions.

  5. The zombie apocalypse cannot come soon enough for Californians.

  6. Dude is totally making all kinds of sense man, I mean like wow dude.

    http://www.Anon-Got.tk

  7. “The California High-Speed Rail Authority [CHSRA] on Thursday authorized its executives to ink an agreement with the California Department of Transportation to handle the design and execution of a 2.5-mile relocation of Highway 99 through central Fresno. The project could be worth up to $226 million. ?”

    Of course, there isn’t any way this amount will be counted as a cost of the Euro-Cool Choo-Choo. It’s just a ‘highway’ cost.
    Moonbeam (broken clocks and all that) did one thing right; making the RDAs disappear. The news articles following the disappearance (hey, some Reason scribe!) made it quite clear how that slush-fund was being used; none of it was pretty, and the workers were screaming that they had to be given other jobs!
    Why, if not, they would have had to apply for jobs where performance is an issue!

  8. the project, which will displace a string of businesses that sit along the west side of the highway

    Just what California needs right now.

  9. I keep hoping some outrage will develop somewhere within me, but it’s not there. All I can think is, “Whatever. Fuck off, California.”

  10. Definition of boondoggle: Something the French can do cheaper, faster, and with fewer Union giveaways.

    Sorry, but even with the Frogs building it there would have been plenty of “Union giveaways”. My grandfather was a general contractor in the San Diego area in the 1950s and even though he ran an open shop he always used union labor and/or paid union wages, either because he had contracts that required it or because that was the only way he could get workmen who were sufficiently skilled for the work.

    I’d bet it’s pretty hard to undertake a big construction project in California nowadays without at least conforming to union pay rates even if you don’t use the local union hiring hall.

    I know a thing or two about the construction industry and the fact of the matter is that if you want men (or teh wymins) that can do the work, you have to either hire union labor or you have to pay union wages. Nowadays, of course, good journeymen(or wymin) know that that do not have to pay union dues to make the good money.

    1. That last “that” in the last sentence should have been “they”.

  11. Why, color me shocked! A Cali project rife with union graft and conflicts of interest, why I never!

  12. $226 million, for 2.5 miles of highway, that figures out to ~$90 per a mile of highway…. No wonder they think they need a train, California’s politicians must figure nothing could be more expensive than building roads!

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