The new California High-Speed Rail Authority business plan that was released last month went before the Assembly Transportation Committee this week. After the California Rail Authority failed to secure enough funds to connect Los Angeles to the future bullet train, the plan now calls for a cheaper segment, from San Jose to the Central Valley, to be built initially.
By the time the initial San Jose to Central Valley segment is built, all of the funds will have been exhausted, leaving a high level of uncertainty in the Authority’s ability to complete Phase 1. The lack of specificity is stirring some deep concerns among legislative analysts and the executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments, Hasan Ikhrata.
“You can’t say you can do something without saying how you are going to pay for it,” Ikhrata said, as quoted in the Sacramento Bee, when discussing the lack of funding. The plan relies on some uncertain sources of money — the authority still needs about $11 billion of the $21 billion estimated as necessary to build the northern segment.
The authority is counting on $3 billion in federal stimulus and transportations funds, another $3 billion from Proposition 1A, the $9.9 billion high-speed rail bond that was approved by voters in 2008, and an ongoing stream of $500 million to $600 million through 2050 from the greenhouse gas-reduction program. There are some serious concerns whether or not the greenhouse gas-reduction program will continue beyond 2020.
The authority will not be able to get most of the money from Prop. 1A until the authority comes up with a detailed funding plan that lives up to the bond’s stringent requirements. Such a financing plan will likely be subjected to a lawsuit that could take years to untangle.
“Some of us have a lot of concerns, but since we’re moving forward, we want to make sure that the funding will be available,” said Assemblywoman Young O. Kim, R-Fullerton.
The funding issues were not the only problems on which the committee focused. The committee also discussed how the proposed plan will delay the start date of passenger operations by three years, how the train will be constructed, and how it will operate.
The chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee said that the system will go forward, but that it needs more legislative oversight and better communication. A final version of the plan is due to the legislature by May 1 and requires ratification for construction — already underway between Madera and Shafter, north of Bakersfield — to continue.
We will continue to follow this project as plans evolve. If you think your property or business may be taken for the high speed rail project, you can learn more about your options by giving us a call at (866) EM-DOMAIN.