Skip to comments.Feds Insist On Rail Funds For CA Boondoggle
Posted on 12/20/2011 2:38:41 PM PST by lasereye
If it is built, Californias High-Speed Rail would be the largest public works project in state history. That fact alone appears be intoxicating to state officials, in a perpetual quest to have California be the first state to do anything.
Despite the warnings of a nearly $100 billion ballooning price tag, no track laid, no trains running, decreasing legislative support and even opposition from diehard rail advocates, the High-Speed Rail Authority is steaming ahead full throttle with plans to build the most expensive high-speed rail system in history.
But there is pushback coming from so many places that it must be difficult to keep up the cheerleading. Even the latest Field poll found that two thirds of Californians want a new referendum on the project. And by a two-to-one margin, they say theyd vote to derail it.
Many say that the plans will only unveil a state-subsidized train system, wrought with malfeasance, payola and unscrupulousness.
And even more question the need for another rail service, with Amtrack already operating throughout California. Others say that California already has high-speed travel airplanes.
The state legislative hearings with the High-Speed Rail Authority have become something of a bad joke. Legislators ask most of the right questions. They even ask the tough questions. However, High-Speed Rail Authority board members never answer the questions.
Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, has been asking where the money to build the rail system is going to come from. However, Harkeys questions have also been ignored, by rail authority members who appear accountable to no one, particularly if they are not answering legislators questions.
Last week, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood practically insisted that California take and use the $3.9 billion in federal money to build the Central Valley segment of High-Speed Rail. A hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee was held to look at mistakes and lessons learned from President Barack Obamas rail initiative. House Republicans were critical that the Obama administration mistakenly tried to push high-speed rail in the West, instead of the Northeast, where rail travel is already popular.
But the $3.9 billion offered to California was American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, federal stimulus money, and came with a requirement of use in the economically depressed Central Valley.
While the Central Valley is desperate for jobs of any kind, many in the region are welcoming High-Speed Rail with open arms.
The fear is that they are going to use the federal funds anyway, said Harkey. But the High-Speed Rail Authority is not answering questions.
Harkey recently attended the High-Speed Rail draft business plan presentation to the Orange County Transportation Authority board.
The OCTA addressed concerns with the rail authority, and called the funding plan largely speculative, and cost comparisons theoretical.
They were being kind.
Harkey said that she reiterated to the OCTA board that if a rail system is going to be built, High-Speed Rail needs to start in a more realistic location, such as Los Angeles to Anaheim, or San Jose to San Francisco. And she urged the OCTA board to demand a new and independent ridership study.
But Harkey also warned the OCTA that if they agreed to support the High-Speed Rail deal, there wouldnt be any money for local transportation. One of the funding sources the rail authority is counting on in the future is cost sharing with local agencies.
The other worry Harkey has is that the Legislature is not making any moves to take money away from the rail authority. Its the governor who wants this, said Harkey. I hope he will eventually realize that its got to stop.
Many suspect that Gov. Jerry Brown is looking ahead with an eye toward Central Valley votes if he brings jobs to the region. But the untold story about High-Speed Rail jobs creation is that any construction jobs created by the rail project will be paid with borrowed money. The net effect will be financially negative.
The state has no extra money for a brand new infrastructure project costing more than $100 billion before completion. California is facing a structural deficit of $35 billion.
The state ended last fiscal year with a cash deficit of $8.2 billion. And by next month, California will be facing an estimated $12 billion cash-flow deficit.
Long-term borrowing is even worse, and has grown from $60 billion to $90 billion over just the past four years. Harkey said that California is nearly maxed out of borrowing capacity and facing a credit downgrade.
A recent report by the Legislative Analyst found that future High-Speed Rail funding sources are highly speculative, and the economic impact analysis included in the rail authoritys plan may be incomplete and imbalanced, and therefore portrays the project more favorably than may be warranted.
And, congressional Republicans have refused to appropriate rail funds. Private investors, wherever they may be, are said to be demanding a revenue guarantee, which is yet another violation of the 2008 ballot measure.
Stating that its plan for the Central Valley portion of the rail line violates sections of Proposition 1A, a lawsuit filed against the High-Speed Rail plan contends that an operating subsidy will be needed for construction of the Central Valley segment. But an operating subsidy is outlawed under Prop. 1A. Complicating matters, the first segment of the rail system wont even run high-speed trains until the entire system is build. The initiative required the train to be only high-speed.
At the hearing before Congress last week, LaHood said that Californias High-Speed Rail is not a cheap project but the people in California want this. But thats not accurate given the recent Field poll results that found that 37 percent of voters who supported the High-Speed Rail bond measure in 2008 would vote against it today.
Calling the plan a high-speed spending path, Harkey said, We cant afford to accept the match funding from the federal government match funds that will be repaid with tax bond dollars by our children. We dont have a plan, we dont have a route, and we dont have the money to repay the costs.
(Katy Grimes is CalWatchdogs news reporter. Grimes is a longtime political analyst, writer and journalist. This article was first posted on CalWatchdog.)
The point you miss is that, much like privately owned railroads, the interstate highway system is self sustaining; Government run passenger trains are not.
Like I said, I’d prefer privately run HSR but our good friends at Southwest Airlines have spent millions lobbying politicians to make sure that no such thing ever happens. Yet there’s still a demand for HSR thus a majority of California voters voted it in.
California is not going to get any item of major infrastructure built, public or private, until the law is changed to shift the burden of proof on permit approvals of known-good, standard technology from the builders to the opposition. If the liberals can;t build high-speed raill their own favorite project, then what hope is there of building new power plants or highways?
California is not going to get any item of major infrastructure built, public or private, until the law is changed to shift the burden of proof on permit approvals of known-good, standard technology from the builders to the opposition. If the liberals can;t build high-speed rail, their own favorite project, then what hope is there of building new power plants or highways?
You made the case that the interstates linked existing local expressways. Thank you, because I did not know that.
Let long distance HSR link local HSR.
HSR works the best in Italy. The link between Rome-Naples-Florence-Venice-Milan is a good model.
I think the LA basin is a good candidate. Irvine-Riverside-Simi Valley-LAX South Bay-San Diego etc. You already have 20 million people there.
But the fact that it is illegal to compete with Amtrak is hardly proof that private railroads would be incapable of providing high speed service; rather, it's proof that the government cannot tolerate free people risking their own capital in a private enterprise which would show socialism to be the horribly ineffecient economic/social order that we all know it to be.
Seems to me critics of it don't want it built at all. Or am I missing something?
And where do you get your history of the interstates?
The same argument is still solidly valid about the Bay Area Rapid Transit System.
It runs deep in the red, and only carries 50% at most of what the same amount of realestate could carry with highway vehicles. Its also a huge cultural disaster.
The shifting of highway taxes is the proximate cause of all transportation difficulties in all of California.
Had the mid-bay crossing been built when it was proposed, the Loma Prieta quake would have been of little relevance to transpoetation. Your socialism is the $h!ts!
Thank God for SWA!
>> “Seems to me critics of it don’t want it built at all. Or am I missing something?” <<
You are absolutely right! HSR would destroy the state.
Another "Big Dig" waiting to happen. Originally said to cost about four billion, it's now up to twenty two billion [and not done yet]. Projects like this are ripe for all kinds of mischief.
Sorry, suckers, but your masters know better.
“Seems to me critics of it don’t want it built at all. Or am I missing something?”
Yes, some of the critics who can’t find the means to stop HSR go to their fall back option as a means of trying to make sure it fails.
“And where do you get your history of the interstates?”
First, the mandates to build in rural areas first are a component of the 1956 FIHA, second, the failures of the US Route system are self evident as most of those routes were obviated by obsolescence.
“The shifting of highway taxes is the proximate cause of all transportation difficulties in all of California.”
I agree. However rail transit and even local mass transit are not the principle beneficiaries of the shifting of State Highway funds. The Legislature, in all their liberal wisdom, have moved most revenues from gas taxes to the General Fund and a few of them, led by Darrell Steinberg in the state Senate, have proposed selling the $10 billion in rail bonds and then ‘borrowing’ the money to the General Fund.
It does not matter a whit that Californians have voted three times to instruct their solons to leave highway funds alone, they always find a way to steal the money to keep their welfare constitutencies happy.