California’s high speed rail program was in danger before
the debt ceiling debate in Washington. Given the desire to cut trillions of
dollars from federal spending that both sides of the debate advocate, seeing a
$20 billion payment to California’s questionable high speed rail system is
If the federal money fails to appear, private investors are
unlikely to kick in with their expected share of the project. That leaves
Californians on the hook. Voters authorized $10-billion dollars in bond revenue
for the project when they passed Proposition1A in 2008 (Disclosure: I was a
member of the No campaign.)
Since that time, reviews and studies on the proposed rail
system have criticized the project.
Projected ridership numbers that were attacked during the campaign have
been continually challenged many times since the measure passed. The lack of a
business plan has been cited. Costs
estimates have grown — no surprise there.
Proponents of the plan say, "Don’t worry," money is not
always lined up immediately for big infrastructure projects that have become a
reality. The plan is needed, they say, because California’s projected
population growth will demand alternative transportation systems.
But, if the money is not there to build the system, how does
it get built? If only pieces of the system are put in place, how does it
continually get funded if the original cost projections are low and the
ridership projections are high?
Maybe the real question to ask is: Would the voters
reconsider their decision on authorizing the bond sale?
Frankly, it probably doesn’t take a vote of the people to
rescind the authorization. It might be possible that legislative action could
stop funding. But, it would be wise for the people to weigh in. If voters
initially approved the bond for the rail system, it would be their place to
undo that action.
How’s this sound: Resolved, being made aware with new
information from current studies and projections that the high speed rail plan
is unsustainable, we rescind the bond authorization.
Given the situation with the state budget, the dollars designated
for the bond could be used elsewhere. Something like the above resolution is