Tuesday, March 19, 2013

High-speed rail: Dead project walking

From highspeedboondoggle.com

Channel 7 reported yesterday that the High-Speed Rail board voted unanimously to ask the legislature to authorize $8.6 billion in bonds to begin building the California high-speed rail project. Board Chairman Dan Richard informed state taxpayers that they will already have to pay $175 million a year in interest for 35 years to service the $3 billion in bonds already authorized by the legislature!

Richard also told Channel 7 that the state hasn't acquired a single piece of property in the Central Valley to begin building the system, which they are supposedly going to start this summer.

Quentin Kopp's declaration for the Kings County litigation against the current version of the high-speed rail project is particularly devastating. Kopp was so involved at every stage of the process that he can be rightly called one of the Founding Fathers of high-speed rail in California.

Kopp has a lot of experience with transportation issues. He served in the state senate from 1986 to 1998, where he was a member and Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. He was a member of the Metropolitan Transportation Committee from 1977 until 1986; a member of the Bay Area Rapid Transit board; and on the Golden Gate Bridge board from 1976 to 1986.

In 1992 Kopp initiated the legislation---vetoed by Governor Wilson---to create a high-speed rail commission to study whether the system was desirable and feasible for California. The legislation passed in 1994, and the commission duly reported in 1996 that it was both desirable and feasible. Kopp then introduced legislation to create the present High-Speed Rail Authority, serving as Chairman of the Board of Directors from 2008 to 2009.

As Authority Chairman, Kopp helped the state legislature write both the statutory language of AB 3034. He was "familiar with the concerns of various legislators" and how those concerns were satisfied about "the Authority's ability to fulfill promises that would be made and were made to California voters in the November 4, 2008, General Election."
All of that makes his verdict rejecting the present version of the project powerful:

In my opinion, the HSR project, as it evolved in the 2012 Authority's Business Plan, is no longer a genuine HSR system, as covenanted to California voters and the Legislature. Instead, it has been distorted in a way directly contrary to the high speed rail plan the Authority attempted to implement while I was Chairman, namely, a true HSR system containing all the features, terms and protections desired by the Legislature. Accordingly, it is my opinion the project is not lawfully eligible to receive Proposition 1A bond funds.

The judge hearing this case---there's a May 31 hearing date---will surely find Kopp's testimony convincing, especially considering that he was also a Superior Court judge in San Mateo County from 1998 to 2004.

More on the Kings County litigation here and here. All the declarations are here.
Dan Walter today on the latest developments.

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