Bullet train: Denial is a river in Sacramento

by Chris Reed | December 6, 2013 12:00 pm

high-speed-rail-map-320The meeting Thursday of the board of the California High-Speed Rail Authority was a laugh riot, with authority officials dismissing[1] state and federal setbacks as much ado about nothing. This is from the Mercury-News:

“SACRAMENTO — Critics and many political observers might see California’s bullet train project as nearly dead, but state officials made clear Thursday that the train is still heading down the rails at full speed.

“Under siege following court rulings, Dan Richard, the chairman of the state’s High-Speed Rail Authority, said the state still plans to break ground as early as next month on the largest public works project in California history.

“Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny decided last week that nearly $8.6 billion in bond money California needs to construct the first section of the rail line are off limits until the state proves it can pay for the $68.4 billion project. The only other cash the state has to finance the project is $3.3 billion in federal funds that are also at risk because of the rulings.

“But Richards insisted to reporters Thursday that ‘nothing in those rulings changes our ability to move forward. We’re ready to build this project.'”

Authority had three months to fix financing plan, but couldn’t

While the Merc-News’ coverage was easily the best among state media outlets, it left out a key point. This is from what I wrote last week[2] about the Sacramento Bee’s editorial that anticipated (pre-echoed?) the rail authority’s talking points:

“Kenny first ruled the business plan was illegal on Aug. 16. The rail authority had nearly three months to come up with a legal business plan before the “remedies” hearing was held [in early November]. It couldn’t do so. Instead, the state was left to argue that it could still spend federal funds for now on moving the project forward.

“But now the Bee would have us believe that the project will be back on track within ‘months’ because suddenly [authority CEO Jeff] Morales will be able to pinpoint the $25 billion he couldn’t from Aug. 16 to Nov. 8.”

As AP reported[3], Morales and the rail authority were at it again Thursday. Authority officials say “they will not have trouble complying with the judge’s order to file a new funding plan.”

Then why didn’t they do so the first time the judge asked? They had 12 weeks.

Because the state is $25 billion shy of the $31 billion it needs to have a legal business plan — one in which solid financing is in place to build the first 300 miles of the project, as is required by state law.

And $25 billion is a big number that can’t be finessed. Dan Richard’s and Jeff Morales’ spin is laughable in more than one sense of the word. It’s funny as evidence of the extremes of their denial, and it’s funny for its sheer stinking dishonesty.

Thanks, Dan, thanks, Jeff. You’re good for something.

  1. dismissing: http://www.mercurynews.com/california-high-speed-rail/ci_24662778/high-speed-rail-authority-try-again-get-bond?source=rss
  2. wrote last week: http://calwatchdog.com/2013/11/29/bee-says-bullet-train-to-be-on-track-in-months-wheres-25b-coming-from/
  3. AP reported: http://www.fresnobee.com/2013/12/05/3649154/feds-deny-early-approval-of-ca.html

Source URL: https://calwatchdog.com/2013/12/06/bullet-train-denial-is-a-river-in-sacramento/