The California High Speed Rail project is way over budget and way short on funding. Even the High Speed Rail Authority concedes the current funding plan will fall short.
The non-partisan Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) says there is “no complete funding plan” and the burden would likely fall on the backs of California taxpayers.
The costs for the project are out of control. In 2008, voters were told the project would cost $40 billion. Taxpayers approved $10 billion in bond money and private investors and the federal government were supposed to pay the remainder.
But the bullet train is now projected to cost at least $77.3 billion, with the possibility of further escalation to $98 billion. The skyrocketing costs of the project have private investors running for the hills, and the federal government isn’t funding the project either.
To make matters worse, voters aren’t getting what they voted for in 2008. The estimated fare has risen to $86 per ride, with more increases almost certain to come, and the train is no longer high-speed for over a quarter of the proposed track.
Simply put, our taxpayer dollars can be put to better use. We have massive infrastructure needs, including highways and bridges, energy supply, and water supply. Consider water supply: it is estimated that California needs $44.5 billion to upgrade aging infrastructure. It is estimated that the state has a $130-billion backlog in highway projects, and, according to the federal government, nearly 1,400 of our state’s bridges are structurally deficient.
Our state is projected to have billions in school facility needs, and we need a plan to replace nine percent of our statewide energy grid after Diablo Canyon closes in 2025. We should prioritize these critical infrastructure needs.
Many California voters who originally approved of high-speed rail have lost their patience. According to a recent survey, only 31 percent of voters want to keep funding the project. California taxpayers are footing the entire bill, with costs escalating every year.
It is time to stop the train. We should conduct a full and complete audit, and then give voters accurate cost figures and another chance to vote on whether to fund the project. It’s the responsible thing to do.
Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham represents the 35th District.