To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at email@example.com
Saturday, December 14, 2013
Foes of bullet train are gaining momentum
In recent weeks, the $68.4-billion project has been dealt major blows by a state court judge and federal regulators.
In a recent ruling, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny
indefinitely blocked the sale and use of $9 billion in state
high-speed rail bonds.
The state's strategy of tapping $3.2 billion in federal money to
begin construction of an ambitious bullet train project may be legally
flawed and could put the state in financial jeopardy, key lawmakers say.
After recent legal
rulings that bar the use of state money for the project, legislators
from both political parties say that even the use of federal funds is
questionable and the entire project needs to be reassessed.
U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), the chairman of the House rail subcommittee, and Rep. Tom Latham
(R-Iowa), chairman of the appropriations panel for transportation, have
asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate the issue.
"It has been a colossal failure," Denham said. "They are trying to make up the rules as they go along."
California lawmakers worry that the state is trying to push the
project through with a financing plan that risks leaving it with
billions of dollars in losses.
If the state cannot eventually match the federal funds, it may have
to repay the money and be left with a partially built rail system.
"I am concerned about the state's risks," said state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), chairman of the state's transportation committee. "We should take a long, hard look."
Dan Richard, chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority,
countered that the recent setbacks to the bullet train — connecting Los
Angeles and San Francisco with 220 mph trains — represent normal
challenges encountered by giant, visionary public works projects.
In a recent debate on public radio, he characterized the legal
problems as largely procedural and suggested that "crossing the Ts and
dotting the I's" would resolve the issues.
Claims of a "major setback are wildly overstated," he said.
Two major legal blows in recent weeks have put the bullet train project at a crossroads.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny indefinitely blocked
the sale and use of $9 billion in state high-speed rail bonds.
Kenny ruled the rail agency failed to meet legal requirements that it
identify the source of the money needed to complete an initial
$31-billion segment between Merced and the San Fernando Valley.
The state has identified only the $3.2 billion in federal grants and that $9 billion in bonds.
The legal setback was foreshadowed three years ago by the rail
authority's own lawyer. George Spanos told the rail board its plans to
begin construction in the Central Valley did not comply with the
requirements of the bond measure.
A second administrative decision, by the federal Surface
Transportation Board, has stalled the state's ability to execute its
plan for the first 29 miles of construction.
The board rejected a request by the rail agency to delay an
environmental review of the project. The review could significantly push
back any construction.
Despite the setbacks, the rail authority chief said he could start construction with the federal grants.
He pointed to a December 2012 modification of the grant agreement
that allowed the state to spend federal grants first and match them with
state money later.
"The political key for us is getting dirt moved," said one authority
source who asked not to be on the record discussing strategy.