The True Nature of the California High Speed Rail Authority

Morris Brown
Founder of DERAIL, a grassroots effort against the California high-speed rail Project

A constant theme portrayed by the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) voiced by Board Chair Dan Richard and CEO Jeff Morales is that the California High Speed Rail is the most transparent of any public project.

Chair Richard would have you believe the CHSRA, is open, above board and constantly informs the Legislature and the public about all relevant issues facing the project.

Recent events reveal this hardly to be the case.  The Sunday Times Special Report, citing a “leaked” report from the Authority’s own contractor, Parsons Brinkerhoff, which pointed to a 31% cost projection increase in building the Initial Operation Segment from Merced to Burbank.  That is a projected increase of about $9 billion. This projected cost was intentionally omitted from the 2014 Business plan, which is the primary vehicle for the State Legislature to oversee the project.  Instead the 2014 Business Plan claimed the often cited $68 billion projected cost for the project had not changed from the 2012 Business plan.

When the Times requested a copy of the report, they were first told it didn’t exist. Only after the Times published the key findings of the report, and after a strong letter from the Republican Legislative caucus, did the Authority suddenly acknowledge and release the report.  CEO Morales first stated he was unaware of such a report.

At this time the State Attorney General is attempting to keep this report from becoming part of the Administrative record in a lawsuit against the Authority.

This is all too similar to what took place when requests were made to the Authority to release responses from 36 groups, who had replied to an invitation for Expressions of Interest.  Even though the responses were discussed in the open at the October 6th Board meeting, the Authority would not release them to the public, until much pressure was applied.  When read, none of the 36 responses indicated they were willing to invest in the project without major changes being made to the funding, such as guarantees their investments would be secure, or that operation of the rail would be subsidized.  Clearly not responses the Authority was hoping would be forthcoming.

Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design (CARRD),  just released a letter noting  the Authority  often denies access to certain documents and recent policy changes by the Authority has narrowed they types of documents that will be made public. They noted this change had taken place by decree of CEO Jeff Morales.

One certainly would not know the true state of the project from the glorious statements and articles the Authority produces.  What is reality is the project is about $50 billion short in funding.  Finally Chair Richard admits they will not meet the 2022 completion date for the Merced to Burbank section.

It is time to stop the project.

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