State Analyst: Drop High Speed Rail Funding

Legislative Analyst's Office finds new business plan to be long on promises, short on secure funding.

The California Legislature should halt any additional funding for the high-speed rail project, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office.

“We find that HSRA has not provided sufficient detail and justification to the Legislature regarding its plan to build a high-speed train system,” according to the report by analyst Mac Taylor. “Specifically, funding for the project remains highly speculative and important details have not been sorted out. We recommend the Legislature not approve the Governor’s various budget proposals to provide additional funding for the project.”

The report does recommend, however, that some additional funding be provided to the California High Speed Rail Authority by the Legislature in order to continue planning efforts. And, in the event that Sacramento legislators do green-light the project, the LAO is suggesting a number of steps “to increase the chance of the project being successfully completed.”

The requirement that the federal government pony up tens of billions of dollars to complete the rail project was also of particular concern to the LAO.

“Given the federal government’s current financial situation and the current focus in Washington on reducing federal spending, it is uncertain if any further funding for the high-speed rail program will become available,” according to the report.

The finding comes on the heels of in San Francisco last week.

The revised plan lowered projections of the project’s total cost by at least $30 billion, in part because the Authority decided to scrap running the train all the way to Anaheim.

The LAO points out in their analysis, however, that the Anaheim leg is back on the table, and may again increase the project’s cost.

In addition to questionable federal funding, the LAO also took issue with the Authority’s potential reliance on money from the State’s cap-and-trade revenues, which are projected to be in the tens of billions of dollars once the auctions begin in November of this year.

Calling these revenues “highly speculative,” the LAO says in its report that in order for the Rail Authority to use any of that money, it has to be used for the express purpose of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.

The LAO is concerned, therefore, that the rail project will not help the state reach its goal of reducing carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, because the first leg of the train system won’t be completed until 2021.

“While the high-speed rail project could eventually help reduce GHG emissions somewhat in the very long run, given the project’s timeline, it would not help achieve AB 32’s primary goal of reducing GHG emissions by 2020,” according to the report.

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