Unfortunately, Governor Jerry Brown has let his lust to continue the High Speed Rail project go completely overboard and gave his signature of approval to AB 1889.
As I have previously written, this bill erases many of the restrictions, which were included in the voter approved Prop 1A bond measure of 2008. These restrictions were included precisely to see that neither the Rail Authority nor the Legislature could take funds from Prop 1A and use them for “regional” or “pet” projects that would not result in a usable high-speed rail line.
This legislation, sponsored by Caltrain, was introduced to help free up funding for the Caltrain “modernization” project. The funding for this project includes $600 million of high-speed rail construction funds to be taken from the sale of Prop 1A bonds.
Prop 1A states that upon completion of a segment, the segment must be “suitable and ready for high-speed train operation.” Streets & highways Code Sect. 2704.08(2)(H). Neither the Authority nor Caltrain claim that upon completion of the Caltrain electrification project, the segment would be ready for HSR. With the amendment that AB-1889 introduces, the segment might be eligible for Prop 1A funding. since the amendment would allow future modifications to be made, which might then make the segment HSR ready.
The net result for Caltrain electrification is obvious. The Authority is over $45 billion short of funding to complete phase 1 of the project. Until such time, if ever, that the completion of the needed future modifications are constructed, Caltrain electrification has simply become a “regional” conventional rail improvement project.
As amended and passed, AB-1889, could apply to many projects other than Caltrain electrification. The Authority has committed to using Prop 1A funds to fund a grade separation in Southern California. Southern California interests also have their eyes on many other projects that clearly don’t meet Prop 1A restrictions and are not even HSR projects. Under the amendment which AB-1889 makes to Prop. 1A’s requirements, many such projects would become eligible to take Prop 1A funds. Bottom line — AB-1889 is nothing more than a legislative “money grab” from Prop 1A funds to fund projects regardless of whether they are HSR related or not.
Clearly AB-1889 is unconstitutional. Voter approved bond measures have protection from being amended without voter approval under the California constitution. ( AB-1889 violates Article XVI, Section 1 of the California Constitution). The Governor and the Legislature don’t care to recognize this protection. Litigation will be forthcoming.
Advanced notice of such impending litigation has already been sent to affected parties. See more here.