Gov. Jerry Brown, alongside a number of lawmakers, continues the push to build the nation’s first high-speed rail, despite a hefty $68-98 billion price tag, an immediate negative environmental impact, and widespread opposition to the project.
In 2008, voters were promised a rail system that would “link all of the state’s major population centers, including Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, the Central Valley, Los Angeles, the Inland Empire, Orange County, and San Diego,” as written in the original legislation AB 3034 in Section 8(b). The estimated cost for the entire project was $45 billion, and was guaranteed to operate at a profit, requiring no “local, state, or federal operating subsidy.”
Instead, Californians are getting a half-baked project, far different than the original terms spelled out in the 2008 high-speed rail initiative. The current plan only connects Los Angeles and San Francisco via the Central Valley, with high-speed trains fully operational not until sometime between 2028 and 2033. Expenditures will surpass the original $45 billion, at some value between $68 and $98 billion. The revised plan utilizes all rail bonds, sells all operating profits to investors, and virtually guarantees that a high-speed rail to Sacramento and San Diego will never be built.
In addition to all the broken promises and modified plans, community leaders, business owners, and famers in the Central Valley are stepping up to protest this monstrous boondoggle, citing direct impact to businesses, orchards, dairies, farmland, and more. Kole Upton, a farmer in Merced County, stated that the proposed rail route was “devastating” to the agriculture in the area. “It goes through diagonally through farmland and it cuts up the water system like canals, deep-well pumps and our ability to service our farms,” said Upton.
Thus, it’s no wonder that 59% of Californians said that they would oppose the plan if given another chance to vote on it, as reported in a June 2012 poll conducted by USC Dornsife and the Los Angeles Times. The Legislative Analyst’s Office in April 2012 submitted a report stating that the High-Speed Rail Authority had not “provided sufficient detail and justification to the Legislature regarding its plan to build a high-speed train system” and recommended the Legislature not to “approve the Governor’s various budget proposals to provide additional funding for the project.” State Auditor Elaine M. Howle, CPA, said the project’s overall funding situation has become “increasingly risky” due to a lack of “viable funding alternatives in the event that its planned funding does not materialize.”
An initiative has been launched to put the high-speed rail back on the ballot, since California voters are clearly not getting what they were promised back in 2008. The Revote High-Speed Rail committee has a proposal to stop the nearly $100 billion high-speed train and stop the boondoggle outright. The petition would force the issue back on the ballot where California’s electorate would reconsider whether or not the project should chug along. Given how costs have ballooned and the project has been so badly mismanaged, such a ballot measure might finally stop the train in its tracks.
Editor’s Note: For Orange County voters, John and Ken will be live, on-location at the Ayres Hotel in Anaheim on June 27th from 3-7PM. They will have petitions to pick up and sign to get the initiative on the ballot. Petitions cannot be downloaded; they must be picked up in person and turned in. Visit the Revote High-Speed Rail website for more information.
(Josephine Djuhana is Assistant Editor for the California Political Review.)