Gov. Brown Seals CA Crash with High-Speed Rail Bill

Even though high-speed rail has become nothing more than a pipeline project for grabbing big money and a big lie, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the rail bill Wednesday, sealing California’s economic fate. Because of the illegitimacy of the project’s intent, California taxpayers will be left holding the bill.

The bill authorizes $5.8 billion to start construction of only one high-speed rail line in the Central Valley, and includes $2.6 billion in state rail bond funds, along with $3.2 billion in federal funds.

But California will have to borrow every dime of that state money to build the high-speed boondoggle.

And that’s the only federal funding the state will receive for the entire $68-$135 billion project. The newest revised business plan claims to have reduced the cost  of the project to $68 billion from $98.6 billion by expanding the 130-mile line from Fresno to Bakersfield, to Merced to San Fernando Valley, for a 300-mile segment. But many economists and rail experts project that the project could cost as much as $135 billion.

Rail Plan Incomplete, Voters Deceived

The plan has gone from bad, to just slightly bad, is still incomplete and even is inaccurate.

Even if state lawmakers and officials are sincere about making the high-speed rail system work, they don’t seem to know what they are doing. The California High-Speed Rail Authority doesn’t even have a project management team in place. They are treating the largest public works project in the state’s history as if it’s a design-as-you-go bathroom remodel.

Voters were deceived by the original ballot summary and language in Proposition 1A from 2008, but the state’s lawmakers seem to find that fact inconvenient. And, the entire project is lacking in private, public and debt funding to complete even the most minor operating segment.

But Brown signed the bill anyway.

Despite the cheerleading by state Democrats, polls show that voters want a re-do, and would vote to kill high-speed rail if given the chance.

“You have to take the bull by the horns and start spending and investing in things that male sense,” Brown said, proving how deaf he is to voters.

California already is running endemic budget deficits. And Gov. Jerry Brown is pushing his tax increase ballot initiative which will raise income and sales taxes. In addition, the mandatory Environmental Impact Report for the system is not complete. Yet the law calls for certified EIR’s for each segment of the system. Instead of dealing with the environmental issues, Brown tried to suspend the California Environmental Quality Act guidelines for the project. But that move brought about several lawsuits, which could hold up the entire project.

State officials have been ignoring the state’s infrastructure needs and massive maintenance and repair.

But Brown signed the bill anyway.

Gifts to Friends

For the bill signing, Brown was joined by Dan Richard, chairman of the rail authority board, and by labor leaders and local officials and flanked by construction workers in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Ironically, Brown made several stops yesterday to celebrate the bill signing, but managed to avoid the Central Valley.

Big labor has been lobbying hard for the bill’s passage because the only jobs the project will support are union jobs. It’s a gift from Brown and Democrats to their union supporters.

“A year from now, dirt will be flying in the Central Valley, as these fine men and women in the hard hats have opportunities to start building the spine of America’s first high-speed rail tracks,” Richard said, the Sacramento Bee reported.

But the fine men and women in the Central Valley don’t want high-speed rail. They want their farm land, and they want the water turned back on.

Violating the Law

Prop. 1A states, “The high-speed train system shall be planned and constructed in a manner that minimizes urban sprawl and impacts on the natural environment.”  But the impact of the rail system may actually create suburban communities around train stations within reasonable distances from urban areas and higher employment areas.

The train system will dissect both urban and rural communities which will be problematic, as well as a serious violation of the “natural environment.” The trains will travel through densely populated cities, but also through sensitive agricultural and natural areas in the state.

Other areas of the high-speed rail law are being violated as well:
  • The California High-Speed Rail Authority must have all of the the funding ahead of time, before any construction starts on a new segment.
  • The high-speed train system must operate on its own entirely, and in the black. That means operating profitably, and includes caveats of no government subsidy. The plan relies heavily on a projection of 100 million users by 2030, a notion that was created with manipulated data, and is absurd.
  • Prop. 1A stipulates 11 requirements that must be met before funds can be released for the construction of a “corridor” or “usable segment.”  Specifically, some of these requirements include actual high-speed train service, ridership, revenue projections and planned passenger service.
  • The success of any legitimate transportation system must be based on connectivity. “For each corridor described in subdivision (b), passengers shall have the capability of traveling from any station on that corridor to any other station on that corridor without being required to change trains,” the law states. “Stations shall be located in areas with good access to local mass transit or other modes of transportation.”  This means that, unless there are extensive connecting rail systems already in place in the high-speed rail destinations, cab companies, limo services and car rental companies should be lining up to rent space in the train stations. Commuters will not have the necessary train and bus systems to transfer to with the existing plan.

Declinists or Realists?

“What this is all about is investing in the future,” Brown said. “I know there are some fearful men — I call them declinists — who want to put their head in a hole and hope reality changes. I don’t see it that way. This is a time to invest, to create thousands of jobs.”

As is typical of liberal theory, Brown believes if you build it they will come. High-speed rail is not about transportation. But Brown signed the bill anyway.
(Katy Grimes is a longtime political analyst, writer and journalist, and CalWatchdog’s news reporter. Originally posted on CalWatchdog.)