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Doug L.
Republican CA 1

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  • California High-Speed Rail Boondoggle

    by Representative Doug LaMalfa

    Posted on 2015-01-12

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    LaMALFA. Madam Speaker, today I once again will speak about California's high-speed rail system.

    Now, just this last week, they had a symbolic groundbreaking for this system in the context of getting started. California has been, since 2008, anticipating the start of high-speed rail. What do we have instead? Empty promises, a lot of waste, and a lot of money going down the tubes.

    What we see is that when the plan was first put in place, the voters of California approved a $33 billion link from Los Angeles to San Francisco. What they are now being given is something that has tripled in price. What they have now been given at this groundbreaking, which is symbolic, what you saw was a mound of dirt with about an 8-foot section of ties and rails on that. That is very symbolic for those doing the groundbreaking, but also for those of us that will be paying for it.

    What this high-speed rail system will turn into is several links of rail between north and south California that aren't linked up, that have no way to power them, and no trains will be running on them for several years.

    So instead of the $33 billion plan that they saw on the ballot in 2008--which, by the way, it was on the 2006 ballot and, before that, on the 2004 ballot, but those involved knew that they would have, politically, a hard time selling that to people in California--it has ballooned to a $100-billion plan until they revise it again downwards by taking away part of the high-speed system in San Francisco and L.A., where they will instead be using local transit to link to the center section that runs through central California.

    That is not even legal under Prop 1A. What Prop 1A spells out is that it has to be a high-speed system that will make it from San Francisco to L.A. or reverse in 2\1/2\ hours at speeds of 220 miles per hour. This promise will not be upheld.

    Now, why is this important to a national audience, to Members of Congress, and to people in other States? It is because, after the stimulus package was passed in 2009-2010, some of that Federal money is going to go for the high-speed rail system in California. Indeed, several other States were recipients of those initial grants. After they looked at their own ideas for high-speed rail and saw the costs involved and the infeasibility, they turned that money back into that pot of money. California, of course, stepped forward and said: Hey, give us all of that money. So they have received, at this point, about $3.5 billion that they can spend, dollar for dollar, for the bond money they spend themselves, the State money.

    So what that means for Americans is that we know Californians will be back at the Federal well once again trying to get more money for their high-speed plan. What we see is that their down-sized plan will still cost $68 billion. They only have identified $13 billion for the whole system. No private sector money--which is what we were told when the ballot measure passed--has stepped forward to be part of this. The plan is $55 billion short. The Federal Government, so far, has offered about 3\1/2\. Did they think they would get the other 52 from the Federal Government since no private sector money wants to come forward for this? Will they get it out of the California taxpayers? Nobody knows.

    Indeed, the Governor, at the groundbreaking the other day, said: Don't worry about the money; we will get it. Well, part of their measure has been to impose a cap-and-trade program on the people of California which so far has generated about $250 million per year. At that rate, it will be how many centuries before they can catch up and get enough money just to pay for high-speed rail which cap-and-trade wasn't even intended for anyway? Folks, we have a giant problem here. High-speed rail in California should not be the Federal taxpayers' burden. It shouldn't even be the people of California's burden. They barely passed it by 52-48 percent on that 2008 ballot after two previous ballot delays. Delay, delay, delay is what you see with this system.

    So what really needs to happen is the people of California need to step forward, put this back on the ballot, and have a vote once again on this. And the Federal Government doesn't need to be giving signals that they are going to send even more money for this boondoggle which has been failed, flawed, and deceptive since day one.

    Madam Speaker, it is a massively flawed project that leaves taxpayers at all levels on the hook for many, many years to come for something that may not even run in our lifetime. So we, as Federal legislators, need to put a stop to any idea--as my colleagues have been doing--for more money to go forward for high-speed rail. And we need the people of California to wake up to that idea and demand that it be placed back on the ballot, this money go instead for other projects that could be helpful for their transportation corridors, for their highway system, and for the normal mode of rail which can be made to be enhanced to drive 125 miles per hour, which would be beneficial.

    Madam Speaker, we need to get on the ball and get back to reality on what high-speed rail will really cost Californians and the American taxpayer and urge that it be placed back on the ballot and give the people that choice once again.


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