Congressional Transportation Committee Debates CA High Speed Rail

The stage moved to D.C. from Sacramento for the latest debate on the pros and cons of California's embattled HSR plan. The more vocal detractors from the Central Valley and Peninsula testified before the few members of the committee who attended.
December 18, 2011, 7am PST | Irvin Dawid
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The chair of the committee did not mince his words

"The California project appears to be a disaster," said Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. "The project seems to be imploding".

Yet the four-hour meeting was largely presided by Central Valley Republican Congressman Jeff Denham, perhaps because only four of the 59-member-committee chose to attend. For the most part, it was a partisan show, not unlike the debates in Sacramento. The Republicans major reservation will undoubtedly be repeated - that "the public shouldn't subsidize an unproven project in which the private sector has not yet invested."

[The HSRA maintains that the private sector will invest after they see the trains in operation].

"We'd love to support it," said Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Atwater, but "my concern is, where's the (other) money going to come from?"

To date, the CA High Speed Rail Authority has secured $3.4 billion for its project - but the well will be dry next year due to Republican House skepticism on Obama's entire HSR program.

From SF Chronicle: California high-speed rail plan panned, praised. The hearing was not entirely partisan, as Democrats have their concerns as well. " Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Norwalk (Los Angeles County), said her urban constituents need money for mass transit, not pricey intercity trains.

On the Peninsula, where Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, had strongly opposed an early plan to plow new rail lines through neighborhoods, Dan Richard, Gov. Jerry Brown's appointee to the California High-Speed Rail Authority board said the rail authority has accepted suggestions to use existing Caltrain rights of way. " [See Caltrain: Blended System Concept aka 'blended rail'].

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Published on Friday, December 16, 2011 in The Sacramento Bee - Transportation
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