Saturday, April 21, 2012

California High Speed Rail Chairman Urges $2.6 Billion Bond Approval

On April 18, High Speed Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard urged two California legislative committees to approve $2.6 billion in state bond issues to start construction of high speed train tracks across the state’s Central Valley this year. This first phase of a proposed Los Angeles to San Francisco high speed rail line would cost a total of $5.9 billion, with the remaining $3.3 billion coming from the federal government. In 2008, California voters conditionally approved a total of $10 billion in state bond issues to finance the bullet trains.

Though no action was taken at Wednesday’s hearings, California legislators are vetting the possibility of budgeting for a total of $7 billion in state and federal high speed rail projects in their 2012-2013 budget. The pending proposal for the LA to Frisco bullet trains has a total projected cost of $68 billion, and has state lawmakers wondering whether a cash strapped federal Treasury can come up with the remaining $39 billion Chairman Richard’s plan is counting on from Washington to pay for construction.

At the hearings, Chairman Richard acknowledged that there are certain financial uncertaities in his proposal. “It’s just part and parcel of the transportation world that people don’t know these things now. The key then is, as you build, knowing you don’t know what you’ll be able to build next, can you build something of value?” he remarked. Long Beach State Senator Alan Lowenthal responded to Richard’s sentiments, “Don’t you think this is kind of a high risk strategy?” Lowenthal and other opponents  of potentially building a “bullet train to nowhere” oppose the concept of Governor Jerry Brown’s administration for using greenhouse gas emissions revenues from the 2006 California cap and trade program to pay for any portion of high speed rail construction not covered by the $10 billion in potential state bond issues, should the anticipated additional $39 billion in federal funds fail to materialize.

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