Vidak: Governor Brown, Why Don't You Come to Your Senses?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Senator Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) responded today to Governor Jerry Brown’s budget proposal to use cap-and-trade money to fund the High-Speed Rail (HSR) project with the following statement:

Governor Brown, why don’t you come to your senses?

In 2008, 52 percent of the electorate voted to pass Proposition 1A, which allowed the State of California to issue up to $9.95 billion in bonds to construct a high speed train.  In addition to allowing the state to issue bonds, Proposition 1A set a number of conditions that the high-speed train had to achieve.

Since the passage of Proposition 1A, the voters have learned that the HSR project will not be able to meet any of the promises that were laid out before the voters.  Below are five areas where the train is failing to live up to its promises to voters:

Cost.  The supporters of Proposition 1A told the voters that the cost to complete the entire project would be around $33 billion.  Additionally, supporters argued that the state investment in this would be no more than $11 billion, with the belief that the federal government would provide an additional $11 billion and private capital would provide the final $11 billion.  Since then the authority itself has projected that the final cost of the project could exceed $100 billion, there is still no sign of private investors and the chair of the Senate Transportation and Housing committee recently said that “Californians might be spending $300 or $350 billion” on the system.

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 the train ride from Los Angeles to San Francisco will take over three hours.

Speed.  In the voter pamphlet the 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 authority itself has said that there will be numerous stretches of the trip where the train will have to maintain lower speeds for safety and to curb excessive noise in urban neighborhoods.

Existing Corridors.  Voters were told that to reduce impacts to the environment and mitigate the use of 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 HSR route will plow through family farms and tear apart businesses that have been in operation for generations.

Dedicated System.  HSR was supposed to have a dedicated track system so it could meet the speed and time requirements as presented to voters.  Now we learn that in certain parts of the state the HSR Authority plans a “blended” track system, which will mean reduced speeds and increased travel times. Again, not what was promised.

For these reasons and more, the voters of California have started to question HSR.  A recent LA Times poll found that 52 percent of Californians are now opposed to the project and 70 percent want a re-vote on HSR.

Hijacking cap-and-trade dollars to fund High-Speed Rail is clearly a desperate measure. As columnist Dan Walters put it, “the diversion is more likely to be dumping more money into a bottomless rathole.”

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