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California Should Halt High-Speed Rail

Sacramento Bee


By Rep. Kevin McCarthy and Jon Coupal


Here’s a New Year’s resolution for Sacramento: Don’t waste taxpayer money on projects that are doomed to fail. We can start by scrapping California’s high-speed rail plan.

Despite the headlines when Gov. Jerry Brown and other officials finally broke ground Tuesday, no amount of political theater can hide the enormous flaws that plague this massive project and that will only burden California taxpayers for decades to come.

The current plan for high-speed rail is nearly twice as expensive as promised to California taxpayers. The projected travel times and fares have nearly doubled. The plan bears no resemblance to the one put before voters in 2008. One analysis after another has raised these red flags, but supporters in Sacramento refuse to admit that fundamental flaws exist and continue to press on, no matter the cost.

These objective reviews expose a business plan flawed at its core – unrealistic ridership numbers, a ballooning price tag (just last year, the California High-Speed Rail Authority increased its cost estimate for a Central Valley segment by $1 billion) and private investment that is still nowhere to be found.

And now Californians will pay at the pump under cap and trade as supporters try to salvage a grossly underfunded project. This is not what voters envisioned when Proposition 1A was presented to them. It is now clear that this project remains wholly unviable and is a monumental waste of precious transportation dollars that would be far better spent on roads, light rail and traditional heavy rail.

Supporters of high-speed rail claim that these concerns are unfounded and that those of us who raise them are “declinists” who lack vision. To the contrary, even strong advocates of rail transportation are raising red flags about this boondoggle. Even the former chairman of the High-Speed Rail Authority, respected independent Quentin Kopp, has excoriated the project as it has morphed into something wholly unrecognizable from what the voters approved.

Moreover, this project is now so poorly planned that Congress decided that no more federal money will be spent on such a wasteful project. We will continue to work to ensure that no more federal taxpayer dollars are directed to this project. And organizations such as the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association will continue to fight to protect our precious taxpayer dollars.

With no federal money and no current private sector investment, this project is now California taxpayers’ worst nightmare as they are left holding the bag. While this week’s groundbreaking may serve as a political maneuver to gloss over the very real risks that could affect the quality of life of every Californian, we remain committed to fighting this boondoggle and protecting taxpayers.

Kevin McCarthy, a Bakersfield Republican, is the House majority leader and represents the 23rd Congressional District. Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.


California High-Speed Rail Still Flawed at its Core

Flash Report

Posted by Rep. Kevin McCarthy

[Publisher’s Note: As part of an ongoing effort to bring original, thoughtful commentary to you here at the FlashReport, we are pleased to present this column from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.]


For years now, Governor Brown and the High-Speed Rail Authority have turned the idea of high-speed rail into a public albatross far beyond what Californians envisioned or voted for.

Flashback to 2008: Californians supported Proposition 1A, which explicitly limited the financial obligation that taxpayers would assume to pay for the high-speed rail project. In return, Californians were promised a truly high-speed rail.

However, as the years went on, the costs continued to rise and many of the promised benefits began to unravel. Consequently, even some of the project’s ardent supporters are now opposed to it. Now Sacramento is forcing the people to write a blank check for a project that has already failed to meet its promised speed and that may never get done.

The project’s business plan is flawed at its core. As the price tag ballooned, private investment was—and still is—nowhere to be found. That should be the first sign that something is wrong. Even in the heartland of technological innovation, private companies are balking at the project. If they don’t think it will succeed, why should we trust the government’s judgment to risk our money alone for this project?

This is exactly what the American people have had enough of.

After the Obama Administration’s unaccountable spending in the early years of his presidency, the American people spoke loudly and ushered in a new Republican Congress to stop the waste. As a result, my colleagues in the House and I decided that no federal money would be spent on this unworkable project.

With no private or federal money, the Governor and legislature are undeterred and want to support this boondoggle by raising the price Californians will pay at the pump under cap and trade and issuing even more debt. But even this still leaves the project grossly underfunded, which means more pain for no gain.

And no matter what, Californians alone are stuck with the bill.

In return for the Governor’s inauspicious project, California will face reduced government services and major disruptions to our communities. The state’s use of eminent domain will force families from their homes and put train tracks through our backyards. Farmland will be cut up, churches will be razed, and businesses will be unsettled all for a staggering price and what some of the brightest minds in engineering call anything but ‘high-speed.’

We can’t afford such a fundamentally flawed plan sold on deception.

Sadly, this week’s groundbreaking was a political maneuver. Supporters of the railroad in Sacramento are too proud to admit that their project is deeply flawed, and they won’t give up on it despite the cost. But these political tricks are exactly what the American people are tired of and what the new Republican Congress is committed to ending.

As Majority Leader of the House, I will make sure that that Congress continues to stop Federal taxpayer dollars from being directed to this project. Now, Governor Brown should listen to the people of California, scrap this high-speed rail plan, and protect California taxpayers.

Kevin McCarthy is the House Majority Leader and represents the 23rd Congressional District.