U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) made a statement regarding the California High Speed Rail Authority groundbreaking ceremony in Fresno.
Denham has stood as a vocal opponent to the California High Speed Rail project, speaking out against it as well as supporting legislation to stop related federal funding.
The project was originally was put on ballot in 2008 under Proposition 1A, “The Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century,” and was approved by voters authorizing the California Transportation Commission (CTC), upon appropriation by the State legislature, to allocate funds for capital improvements to various elements relating to the high-speed rail.
The project has been altered over time, so much so, that now many argue that it does not accurately reflect what voters had originally approved.
“California voters were promised jobs, ridership numbers, speeds and costs that look nothing like the current proposal,” said Denham. “The Authority promised taxpayers a shovel-ready project when it took more than $3 billion in federal tax dollars. There is simply no way the Authority will meet the 2017 deadline to spend the stimulus funding, a failure 10 years in the making.”
On Dec. 5, Denham sent a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers and Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey requesting that end-of-year appropriations measures include provisions to prohibit federal spending on CA HSR.
“California’s high-speed rail plan is light-years removed from what voters approved in 2008 with Prop 1A,” said Denham in December. “The California High Speed Rail Authority is trying to spend money it doesn’t have on the false assumption that more federal funds are coming. No taxpayer should have to spend any further money on skyrocketing expenses they never supported.”
The letter explained that project costs have significantly increased, originally starting at $33 billion, and over time increased to over $100 billion; the current figure now stands at $68 billion.
The authors of the letter argued that the CA HSR Authority has failed to keep the project off of agricultural land and has failed to offer a viable business plan. They state that there is no explanation of where project funds will come from, and the assumption that federal taxpayers will be expected to absorb costs.
The bill, HR 4745, the “Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2015” was passed in the House and sent to the Senate for approval; the measure to block funding was not included in the Fiscal Year 2015 omnibus funding bill, HR 83, that was signed into law by President Obama on Dec. 16, 2014.
Remarks on the measure were made in the Statement of Administration Policy regarding HR 4745.
In the memo it was stated that the “Administration strongly objects to prohibiting the Surface Transportation Board from taking any action to approve subsequent phases of the California High Speed Rail project between Los Angeles and San Francisco.”
According to the Executive Office of the President, the “Administration believes passenger rail can play an important role in addressing transportation needs and opposes any attempts to limit state and local choices to enhance passenger rail.”
“It’s hard to celebrate breaking ground on what is likely to become abandoned pieces of track that never connect to a useable segment,” concluded Denham regarding the Fresno ceremony.