uring an extraordinary session of the California legislature on transportation and infrastructure issues, Senator Any Vidak (R-Hanford) introduced bipartisan legislation to allow Californians to vote again on the controversial high speed rail (HSR) project.
“The high speed rail of today is not what the voters approved in 2008. Californians deserve the right to re-vote on this massive transportation project that could end up costing hundreds of billions of dollars if it is ever completed. The money would be better spent on local roads and highways,” said Vidak.
Vidak’s measure would allow Californians to vote on whether they want to continue funding the HSR project, which is estimated to cost $100 billion to complete, and would immediately freeze any further spending on the project until after a vote on June 7, 2016. If approved by voters, any unspent HSR dollars would be redirected to repair and construct new state highways and local streets and roads.
The former chairman of State Senate Transportation Committee, Democrat Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, said the huge transportation project could really cost taxpayers as much as $300 billion to complete. The High Speed Rail authority has failed to obtain private investment as promised to the voters, and is now relying on California’s controversial cap-and-trade program to help fund the project.
There is $500 million earmarked for the HSR in the 2015-16 state budget, in addition there is a questionable $400 million “sluch fund” of cap-and-trade money that is set aside for the HSR authority to use whenever it is needed.
Quentin Kopp, a past high speed rail authority chairman, now opposes the project and has said that the HSR authority is committing “the great train robbery…if they can get away with it.”
Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) is a co-author of the bill.