A review board charged with analyzing the way that the high speed rail system in California will be funded is recommending to the legislature that issuance of bonds for the $98 billion project be denied because of uncertainty over future funding from the feds.
Wall Street Journal:
California's ambitious plan for a high-speed rail system hit a big roadblock Tuesday, as an independent panel urged lawmakers to deny authorizing the issuance of $2.7 billion in bonds to kick off the $98.5 billion project.
The California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group-which the state legislature appointed to analyze funding for the rail system-questioned the California High-Speed Rail Authority's plan to start construction without any assurance of future funding from the federal government, among other factors.
Moving ahead "represents an immense financial risk" for California, the group said in its report, echoing concerns from critics who say the project could leave state taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars in future costs. The panel appeared to leave the door open to supporting state funding in the future, if the rail authority addresses its concerns. While the report isn't binding, it puts pressure on California lawmakers as they decide whether to release billions of dollars in state bonds for the project.
Mark DeSaulnier, chairman of the California State Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, said the report is "not good news" for the high-speed rail plan.
"I definitely think the state needs a very robust but realistic rail plan, and high-speed rail will hopefully be part of it, but the way we're going now it looks like it's not going to happen," the Democrat said in an interview, adding that if the decision to appropriate funds for the current plan "came in front of us right at this moment, I would most likely vote against it."
The proposed plan, which has attracted the support of Gov. Jerry Brown, called for breaking ground this year by spending $6 billion in federal and state funds to lay track for high-speed trains in the rural Central Valley, as an initial step in a broader project for a bullet train linking San Francisco to Southern California.
The proposed $98 billion for the project is a joke. The project was originally pegged at $43 billion to be completed by 2020. The current cost is for more than $98 billion through 2033. And those costs are likely to rise as well.
Where is the federal government going to get that kind of money? Thank goodness a little common sense still exists in California.