Against California High Speed Rail by Mark R. Powell

Burning Through California High Speed Rail Bonds

California High Speed Rail Authority Set to Use ALL Proposition 1A Funds to Build Non-Electrified Gilroy to Palmdale System

The California High Speed Rail Authority (the “Authority”) announced on December 20, 2010 that with $616 million in newly acquired federal stimulus funds and associated state matching funds they now had $5.5 billion in available construction funds.  The “train to nowhere” announced a few weeks earlier could now go somewhere…..from south of Madera to somewhere near Bakersfield.  It might stretch, depending on final design, 120 miles in length.  The Authority’s announcement omitted the following critical information.

$2.6 billion of the $5.5 billion in available construction funds are slated to come from the $9.0 billion of Proposition 1A State General Obligation Bonds approved by the voters in November 2008 for an 800 mile high speed rail system connecting San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Anaheim with spurs to Sacramento and San Diego. 

The south of Madera to “somewhere near Bakersfield” segment will be at most 120 miles long closely matching the Fresno to Bakersfield segment (115 miles) mentioned in the Authority’s December 2009 Report to the Legislature [Note 1].  According to that same report, the Fresno to Bakersfield segment costs will amount to  $3.6 billion or 28% of the total costs of the San Jose to Merced, Fresno to Bakersfield, and Bakersfield to Palmdale segments then estimated to cost $12.8 billion.  In other words, at the current rate of state bond allocation,  $9.3 billion in state bonds ($2.6/.28) will be needed for just these three segmentsThis is more than the $9 billion available for the entire statewide system.  Almost lost in this paragraph is that costs for the Fresno to Bakersfield segment have escalated from $3.6 billion to $5.5 billion in little over a year.

The Authority also omits the word “electrification” from its recent press releases.  In announcing the initial point of construction on December 2, 2010 [Note 2] the Authority provided the following description of the work:

65-mile stretch of track in the Central Valley. It would start north of Fresno near Madera, include the construction of two new stations – one in downtown Fresno and the other east of Hanford – and continue to Corcoran, north of Bakersfield.”

Later in that same press release the following words describe the initial work:

“build two new stations, acquire rights of way, construct viaducts, prepare the site, grade, restore vegetation, build rail bridges, realign roadways and relocate existing railways and utilities.”

The Authority’s December 20, 2010 press release [Note 3] announcing the additional track toward Bakersfield contained no description of the work to be completed.

In fact, the word “electrification” cannot be found in recent descriptions of the proposed initial segment.  Moreover, electrification costs which were included with construction costs in the Authority’s 2008 Business Plan [Note 4] were shown as a separate line item in the December 2009 Report to the Legislature.  This blogger can only conclude that the Authority is on track to commit all Proposition 1A Bond Funds in building a glorified non-electrified Amtrak through the Central Valley from south of San Jose (Gilroy) through Fresno and Bakersfield to Palmdale.  Such a track could then connect with the furthest outreaches of the Los Angeles Metrolink and Bay Area Caltrain systems. 

The voters of California would never have approved $9.0 billion in state bonds for such a system.  We were promised much more and the Authority has no way to deliver on their promise.  As detailed in a previous article posted on this blog, the statewide system,  as proposed in Proposition 1A, would cost in excess of $100 billion (and require nearly a year’s worth of state revenue in matching funds).  The Authority knows this sad truth and now so do you.  Write to our new governor, your state legislators [Note 5], and federal elected officials [Note 6], and tell them to kill this project now!!!

Footnotes supporting what is said in this article are shown below.

Note 1 Authority’s December 2009 Report to the Legislature
           page 85 Table 1 Capital Costs by Segment

Note 2 Authority’s December 2, 2010 Press Release

Note 3 Authority’s December 20, 2010 Press Release

Note 4  2008 CHSRA Business Plan
             page 19 Figure 21 Capital Costs by Segment
Note 5 Website to contact California Legislative Representatives

Note 6 Website to contact Congressional Representatives

One Response to Burning Through California High Speed Rail Bonds

  1. Loretta A. Estrella says:

    Wow, what a typical government disaster….but I don’t think your going to have to worry much longer because your politicians have bankrupted your state and the citizens of the rest of the Country will not allow a bailout……I’m sorry to see such incompetance on the part of so-called politicians. Great article.

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