Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Jim Costa: "Godfather" of high-speed rail losing re-election

It's still in some doubt, but Congressman Costa is now hoping that the count of mail-in and provisional ballots will win the election for him. 

The Wall Street Journal in 2012:

The project's godfather is Democratic Congressman Jim Costa, who as a state senator in the 1990s wrote legislation creating California's High-Speed Rail Authority and helped plan the 500-mile route between San Francisco and Anaheim. Before being elected to Congress (in 2004), he also authored a $10 billion state bond initiative to finance the project. Lawmakers in Sacramento postponed that initiative until 2008, fearing that California's recurring budget crises would make it a hard sell. But sell it they did. The rail authority promised voters that the train wouldn't require a subsidy and that the feds and private sector would pick up most of the $33 billion tab. Expecting a free ride, voters leapt on board and approved the initiative in November 2008. Not long afterward, the authority raised the price to $43 billion.

Recall that one of the first federal pork payments to the state for high-speed rail went to the Central Valley in 2010 to help re-elect Costa:

The federal government’s most recent $900 million grant to the California High-Speed Rail Authority came with a string attached: most of the money had to be spent, not in Los Angeles or San Francisco where most potential rail patrons are located, but in the central valley. Handed out just before the election, the grant was a blatant attempt to help the re-election effort of U.S. Representative Jim Costa. It might have made a difference, for despite the fact that Costa’s district leans heavily Democrat, he won over an unknown Republican candidate by a mere 3,000 votes.

Streetsblog thought that was terrific.

Costa's opponent made high-speed rail an issue:

The Secretary of State's close contests site.

The letter below shows that not all California members of Congress support this boondoggle. The California High Speed Rail Authority is trying to get the federal Surface Transportation Board to rule that federal law pre-empts state law and CEQA on the project.

See also Union Pacific's letter to the Surface Transportation Board warning that it still opposes allowing the high-speed rail to use its track in its proposed "blended" system with Caltrain. This is not a new stand by Union Pacific, since it sent a warning letter to the High Speed Rail Authority more than four years ago.