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Local News July 15, 2004

Group Seeks to Stop The Sprinter

 

This afternoon Thursday, July 15th, at 2pm, an aggressive group of protesters against the proposed ‘Sprinter” rail line plans on appearing at the North County Transit District Meeting.

 

Opponents are urged to speak out against what organizers call a “boondoggle.”

 

Organizers argue the state of California has withdrawn $80 million in funding so NCTD simply went to SANDAG and persuaded them to “lend” the $80 million plus shortfall.

                                                                  

Organizers are also urging opponents to contact their elected representatives to let them know how widespread and how strongly felt the opposition to The Sprinter is.

 

Oppenents argue that for the cost to build and operate the Sprinter, based on current projections, NCTD could lease a new Ford Taurus every three years for every new rider projected to use the Sprinter.

 

The Sprinter originally started out as a $31 million project, and it has since escalated to $351 million, but will likely top out at $1 billion.  Congressman Darrell Issa stated that there was an excellent chance that this project will double.

 

Escondido Councilmember Ed Gallo said, “wow!  I hadn’t heard that figure.  It sounds like an exaggeration to me.  However, costs have gone up astronomically.  There was a 16.5% increase in steel just last month.  I’d like to see some more information concerning that allegation.”

 

Opponents are very concerned about spending $351 million (a 2001 cost projection) of taxpayer money on a 19th century technology (rail) that will only reduce peak hour traffic by 250 cars on Highway 78. This cost is only an estimate, and doesn’t include the approximately $570 million more dollars (NCTD projection) to mitigate traffic, at-grade safety/congestion, and noise problems caused by the Sprinter.

 

The NCTD, they argue, purposely did not include this additional cost in the estimates for the rail line, leaving the impacted cities to seek funding separately. 

 

Light rail projects are typically over budget, they say. San Jose, after a billion dollar investment in light rail, is now facing a 200 million dollar operating deficit. The San Jose area transit agency plans to reduce bus and light rail service by 40%. San Jose’s light rail project was used by NCTD to help predict the Sprinter’s ridership.  San Jose’s Vice Mayor Pat Dando recently stated “We have invested a billion dollars and we don’t want to pull the plug carelessly, but how long do we carry the light rail system if it is not serving the needs of the people?” (L.A.Times June 1st 2003).

 

Councilman Gallo:  “Well, with the dot.com collapse they saw a drastic decline in real estate values as well as riders.  There are a lot of other factors to consider that don’t always show up.  We in north county are a more diverse economy.  If one industry fails, it won’t kill us.”

 

Opponents cite a quote of NCTD Board Member David Drucker, who said “Whether or not the project is "cost-effective" is not an issue”, (North County Times 5/18/03).

 

They ask, “are we facing a “San Jose” scenario somewhere down the financial tracks? NCTD is “banking” on us voters to extend the ˝ cent “Transnet” tax in 2004 by a 2/3 rd’s vote to support the operations of the Sprinter. What if that does not happen?”

 

Councilman Gallo:  “That’s a very good question.  I’d like to hear some answers to that question myself.”

 

The Sprinter will not relieve traffic congestion on Highway 78, they argue.

 

They argue the North County Transit District has “cooked the books” to try and make this project appear as a “congestion relief” project, when the reality is it will add to surface street congestion at most of the 30 at- grade crossings in the 22 mile trip.

 

According to the San Diego County Grand Jury report of 2001/2002, “As presently planned, this proposed light rail line may not provide any significant relief to traffic congestion in the area.”

 

The report states “it will still only remove less than 3% of the new travel on the Highway 78 corridor.”

 

The Orange County Grand Jury studied Light Rail and had this to say: “Twelve new light rail lines have been built in the U.S. over the past 18 years. Unhappily, they have provided virtually no reduction of traffic congestion and, consequently, no reduction in air pollution. The percentage of people using transit to get to work has declined in all major metropolitan areas, and the decline has been as significant in the metropolitan areas that built light rail as in the ones that did not.”

 

The Sprinter is not a trolley

 

It is a heavy diesel burning train that travels up to 55 mph (trolley’s travel 35 mph) past 4 schools and through 30 at grade intersections, the group argues. Somewhat ruefully, the oppenents say, “it is called the Sprinter because it has to sprint between 15 stops in 22 miles in order to make the trip in slightly over an hour.”  They also argue that noise is a factor, claiming that residents along the Sprinter corridor will hear an 85 decibel Sprinter horn 72 times a day, from 5 AM to 11PM.

 

As to safety, they cite as an example, the Blue Line in LA County -- like the proposed Sprinter -- a 22 mile commuter rail line -- has averaged five fatalities every year since the rail line opened.

 

School children who currently cross the existing railroad tracks where slow moving freight trains only run late at night, will be defenseless targets of these diesel trains that will run every 15 minutes and “sprint” up to 50MPH.

 

The opponents claim to be in favor of mass rapid transit, but they claim bus rapid transit is less expensive to build, safer, and more flexible for future needs.

 

Bus rapid transit is the choice for I-15, but was never considered as an alternative.  Councilman Gallo agrees, “we’ll have Bus Rapid Transit on I-15.  It did not seem practical to have a train attempt to climb the steep hills at Pomerado Road and I-15.  It was felt that buses could handle that more adequately.”

 

Gallo did acknowledge that the opponents to the light rail system raised some excellent points.  “The cost of steel is a major issue.  It has added $14 million to our public safety bond issue that we are presently studying.  It may well have an impact on the Sprinter project.  I’m open to examining further information.”

 

The opponents are hoping other legislators can be persuaded to examine the issue and are urging constitutents to contact their legislators or attend the NCTD Board meeting today, July 15, 2004  @ 2:00 P.M.

 

Supervisor Bill Horn  - 5th District Representative

E-mail: Bill-Horn@co.san-diego.ca.us%20

phone: (619) 531-5515

 

Councilman Ed Gallo - City of Escondido

201 N. Broadway, Escondido, CA 92025

E-mail: egallo@ci.escondido.ca.us 

Phone:(760) 839-4631

 

Deputy Mayor Jack Feller -  City of Oceanside

E-mail: jfeller@ci.oceanside.ca.us 

phone: (760)435-3056

 

Vice Mayor Mike Preston

City of San Marcos

Mobile: 760.802.0708

 

Cabaret!

 

The City of San Marcos, Community Services invites area talent to come to audition for a role in The Cabaret Show to be held on the Hearth Theatre outdoor stage. 

 

The audition will be held at the Community Center, 3 Civic Center Drive on Saturday, July 31st at 10 AM.  Acts need to be pre-rehearsed and ready to perform at the audition.  Please come prepared to perform on stage including music, costumes, and props.  Music accompaniment can include CD, tape or live music.  Show acts can include singing, dancing, vocals, instrumentals, magic, drama, etc.  All materials and acts must be family-viewing appropriate.

 

The Cabaret is an evening of entertainment featuring singing, dancing and music!  The event will be held on Friday, August 14th at 8:00 p.m.   Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance at the Community Center.  The prices are $5 for adults and $3 for youth 10 and older seniors over 55 and students with an I.D.  Children under 10 are free! 

For further information call 760.744-9000  x3504

 

CSUSM Spending on Admin and Managerial Costs Too High, Critics Say

 

The budget went down on instruction while administrators and managers feathered their nests, so says faculty members from CSUSM and elsewhere.

 

At a time when students are asked to pay increased tuition, and schools within the education system are asked to tighten their belts, a number of officials and members of college faculty are scratching their heads, wondering how justification was made to increase spending on admin and managerial salaries by 8.4 percent; meanwhile, faculty salaries went up only 4 percent.

 

Faculty spokesmen argued that CSUSM spent a disproportionate amount on management and administration for the year 2002-2003.

 

Meantime, it has been well documented that CSUSM spent the lowest amount on instruction per student of all 23 campuses within the CSU system.

 

CSUSM personnel argued that the school received a higher number of students than anticipated and the state did not reimburse the school so it had to dig into its own reserves, spending some $3.5 million to accommodate the increase.