Train Wreck Keeps Rolling

Katy Grimes: With the Legislature’s ongoing guaranteed votes to allow California’s High Speed Rail Authority project to continue without financial analysis or ridership studies,  it is apparent that High Speed Rail has become the latest New Deal-styled WPA project for California Democrats.

Today in the Assembly, another roadblock in the high speed rail nightmare was overcome – a bill was passed which “aligns the authority of the California High-Speed Rail Authority for the purchase of property, easements, and other property rights consistent with the authorities of other state entities.”

AB 615, authored by Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, will allow the rail authority to acquire the land it needs to begin construction – through eminent domain “purchases.”

AB 615 was strongly opposed by Republican Assemblywoman Diane Harkey (Dana Point), who has repeatedly asked for an accounting of the project, as well as a ridership study. “This train wreck keeps rolling down the track,” said Harkey. “The train has no cost estimate, and now plans to rip through prime farmland – these are the types of deals that got this state in trouble.”

Statements of support were weak at best with Democratic Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani (Tracy) calling the bill a “common sense measure.” Galgiani was the author of the original High Speed Rail legislation, and continues to defend the project, with the ardent support of fellow Democrats.

“The biggest problem was AB 3034, the bill which created the High Speed Rail Authority,” said Harkey. The High Speed Rail Authority appears to have little or no accountability, and now Harkey says, billions of dollars of funding will come from the general fund – something voters were promised would not happen.

“There is no ridership study until 2013, but construction begins in 2012,” said Harkey, pointing out the obvious irony.

Tipping her hand during her closing comments, Lowenthal said, “We have an opportunity here to have the largest public works project ever in California,” proving that the project is not necessarily about rail or transportation, and instead about a state-controlled project of magnitude proportions.

“If you care about the future of the state,” said Harkey, “it’s time to take a look at the multi-billion dollars it will cost to operate this project.”

If the state’s climate change legislation doesn’t destroy California’s economy, High Speed Rail surely will.

JUNE 1, 2011

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