High-Speed Rail not only breaking promises, but busting family budgets

By Senator Andy Vidak
Friday, February 6, 2015

Published in the Bakersfield Californian on February 6, 2015

The governor drove a shovel through the heart of our Central Valley when he “broke ground” earlier this month on the debacle known as High-Speed Rail (HSR). He also left a trail of broken promises made to California voters when, in 2008, they approved Proposition 1A to fund HSR.

Here are just a few of those broken promises:

COST

Supporters of Prop. 1A promised voters that the cost to complete the entire project would be $33 billion; $11 billion from the state funds, $11 billion from the federal government and $11 billion from private investment.  The feds have abandoned the project and no private funding has come forward.  The California High-Speed Rail Authority now says it will cost at least $68 billion to complete.  However, the former chairman of State Senate Transportation Committee, now-Democrat Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, said this massive transportation project could cost taxpayers as much as $350 billion to complete.

SPEED

Voters were promised that the train would be able to achieve and sustain speeds of 220 mph throughout the entire trip.  We now know that this is false and the HSR Authority is saying that there will be numerous areas of the trip where the train will have to maintain lower speeds to reduce excessive noise.   So much for “high speed.”

TIME

Voters were promised that they would be able to get from Los Angeles to San Francisco in two hours and 40 minutes.  Current estimates now show that the train will not be able to meet this time requirement. Instead it is believed that a train ride from Los Angeles to San Francisco could take more than four hours. 

ROUTE

Voters were told that to reduce impacts to the environment, and to mitigate the need to use eminent domain, the train route would follow existing transportation and utility corridors.  From the route maps that have been released by the Authority we know this to be untrue.  The High-Speed Rail Authority has already taken private property through eminent domain and is plowing through family farms and tearing apart businesses that have been in operation for generations.

TRACK

Voters were promised the train would run on a dedicated track.  This dedicated system was required in order for the train to maintain the 200 mph speed as well as meet the time requirements.  Now we know the train will NOT have a dedicated track in certain areas of the state, which will further reduce the speed and increase travel time.

STATEWIDE

High-Speed Rail was sold to voters as a statewide transportation system that would extend to Sacramento, the Inland Empire and San Diego, in addition to connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles.  Instead, the project has been broken up into two segments with the Los Angeles to San Francisco portion being partially funded now.  The Sacramento and San Diego segments are being left at the station, to be funded at some unknown time in the future. 

The building of High-Speed Rail is not only breaking promises, it is also busting family budgets.

Californians are already feeling the pain from the governor’s most recent gas tax hike; a tax he plans to use to pay for the construction of High-Speed Rail. Only in California are gas prices going up.  That is why I and several other legislators introduced Senate Bill 5 last month to stop the hidden gas tax that began gouging our wallets on January 1. The measure simply exempts transportation fuels – gasoline, natural gas and diesel – from the state’s “cap and trade program,” thereby eliminating the tax.

The governor’s multi-billion dollar bullet train is being built on the backs of hardworking Californians and will only leave a legacy of debt for future generations. In the unlikely event it ever gets built, most Californians won’t even be able to afford to ride it.

“People with good intentions make promises, people with character keep them,” so the saying goes.  I have no doubt those that envisioned High-Speed Rail had good intentions, but broken promises are already destroying families, farms and futures in our Valley for a vision that will likely never be realized. 

The majority of Californians say they want to vote again on whether to fund High-Speed Rail. It’s clearly impossible for the governor to keep the promises made to voters in 2008 on High-Speed Rail, so he should have the character to work with the Legislature and put High-Speed Rail back on the ballot for a revote on where Prop 1A money should be spent.

I’m guessing folks in California would rather invest billions of taxpayer dollars to fix our roads, highways and bridges and to expand our current passenger rail system.  That is a more sensible alternative to the governor’s “not-so-fast” train.