More than two years ago Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) announced a formal agreement with the developers of Quay Valley to develop an installation of the Hyperloop along a five-mile stretch of the town running alongside I-5 in Kings County. They said construction would begin in 2016, to be the first working passenger-ready Hyperloop in an urban area.
So what’s happening today? In a word - never mind.
The company CEO recently told CNBC news they are now focusing on multiple proposals around the world to build a test track including in Indonesia where the government has offered a contract for $2.5 million. Also in the Middle East the United Arab Emirates has made offers.
This month Hyperloop’s CEO Dirk Ahlborn told CNBC at a Singapore conference that the first track will unlikely be in Quay Valley. "(It) is a commercial project that makes sense when the city is there. Until they start construction, it doesn't make sense for us to start there," Ahlborn said, adding it made more sense for HTT, which is largely privately backed, to focus efforts in markets where "governments actually pay us.”
Kings County planner Sandy Roper says HTT has not yet responded to requests to update their environmental documents as of March, the next step needed to move forward. As for the even more ambitious Quay Valley project itself, consultants for the company continue to work on their environmental documents with any public hearing, months away at best.
Kings County to continue HSR battle
After losing another round in Sacramento Superior Court, Kings County will nevertheless continue the battle against high-speed rail with a new filing says Board of Supervisors Chairman Doug Verboon. The board voted this week to file an amended or supplemental complaint.
Their attorney says the issue may now “be ripe” claiming Prop 1A is unconstitutional. Kings County attorney Stuart Flashmn says they hope to get a “quick decision” from another judge on the issue. Since the April ruling against Kings County, the state now has permission to sell voter approved bonds to fund construction, but Verboon says that makes it an opportune time to challenge the legality of the action.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Raymond Cadei turned down a request April 25 by Kings County and farmer John Tos and others to block expenditure of Prop 1A bonds, recently sold by the state to benefit construction of high speed rail. He turned down an injunction saying that would likely cause significant harm.
Kings jobless rate falls below double digits
For the first time since 2007 Kings County's jobless rate in May has dropped below double digits. The EDD reports the jobless rate fell to 9.5 percent in April - below the 10.2 percent number a year ago and a 11.2 rate in March 2017. Non-farm jobs were up 400 from a year ago but farm jobs dropped by 900 year-over-year, an 11 percent decline. Helping to ease the jobless rate is the fact that the labor force shrunk here from 57,500 a year ago to 56,000, a 2.6 percent decline.
County population drops
Kings County’s population fell again in the past year by 285, says the California Department of Finance. The estimate of total population stands at 149,537. The biggest drop was seen in Corcoran - down 3.8 percent - 850 prisoners who are no longer housed here. There are 8,804 inmates in Corcoran and 3,356 in Avenal. Lemoore saw the largest city growth at 1.1 -percent - now with a population of 26,369.
Trump approves funding for Bay Area rail electrification
In a shock to some GOP critics of high speed rail, President Trump’s administration has approved federal funding, $647 million, to electrify the Bay Area train system over objection by the state’s GOP delegation who wanted him to block the grant. The money will go to Caltrain to retire sooty diesel locomotives between San Jose and San Francisco over several years helping to connect to the state's all electric high speed rail project.
GOP congressman Jeff Denham said the grant requires a state match that will come from Proposition 1A approved by voters for California’s High Speed Rail project.
“This is yet another bait and switch to deceive state taxpayers and take imaginary dollars from one project to pay for another, putting at risk California’s transportation future. Caltrain is not, nor will it ever be, ‘high speed’ and should not be funded with high speed rail dollars, especially when that project has yet to prove its own financial viability."
But Senator Diane Feinstein hailed the news. “Almost two decades of planning for this $1.98 billion project hinged upon this grant agreement. For the past three months we’ve waited to hear the status of the grant, while Caltrain was forced to spend roughly $15 million to hold its contractors in place. With this agreement, the project can finally begin.” She cited the jobs that will come from this infrastructure improvement.