OC Republicans Propose Bill to Halt Funding for High-Speed Rail Project

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Republican Assemblywoman Diane Harkey of Dana Point, backed by other GOP members of the Legislature including state Sen. Mimi Walters, introduced a bill Tuesday to halt state funding for the proposed $98-billion high-speed rail project.

“Lack of future federal funding, oversight, accountability and inconsistency in route and planning, should sound a strong signal to pull the plug,” Harkey asserted in a news release. “California does not need a shiny new heavily subsidized toy with no confirmed ridership, when we have real shovel-ready infrastructure jobs in every community awaiting funding.”

Harkey held a news conference in Sacramento to discuss her bill, according to the Los Angeles Times.

From the Times article:

Walters (R-Laguna Niguel) called out Gov. Jerry Brown for proposing to cut billions of dollars in health and human services and public education while promoting the bullet-train project. “High-speed rail is not important enough to prioritize over our children’s future or the most vulnerable populations of our state,” she said.

Gil Duran, a spokesman for Brown, said the Republicans “are grandstanding as usual and not getting anything done as we’ve come to expect,” according to the Times.

Brown is a supporter of the planned California High-Speed Rail Authority’s Anaheim-to-San Francisco rail project. The Sacramento Bee reported on his budget proposal last week.

From the Bee article:

[Brown] proposed folding the rail authority into a new transportation agency, which would also include the state departments of Transportation and Motor Vehicles. Democratic [U.S.] Sen. Dianne Feinstein praised the proposal in a letter on Monday, and she urged Brown to use Caltrans resources for the project.

Earlier this month, the rail authority’s peer review group declared the project wasn’t ready to start receiving funds to build the first stage in the Central Valley.

The peer review report was the most recent in a steady stream of oversight reports that have concluded the planned system has been poorly managed, failed to work with local governments and groups that would be damaged by construction, didn’t carefully handle billings and payments and other problems.

The rail authority’s board meets Thursday to discuss a possible route change between Bakersfield and Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley. The board will discuss sending the trains through Palmdale and Lancaster instead of using a shorter route over the Grapevine adjacent to Interstate 5.

Rail leaders have said they could pick up more passengers by going through the growing Palmdale area and avoid landowner opposition that is likely from the I-5 route. But the Palmdale connection would involve more expensive tunneling and make the trip to San Francisco somewhat longer.

— TRACY WOOD

 

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