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Time to stop the High Speed Rail boondoggle

By: Assemblyman Kevin Kiley
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Never in the history of California, and perhaps the United States, have we seen a project with as little upside at as much cost as High Speed Rail.

Inspired by the bullet trains of Europe and Japan, the project was always an odd fit for California. Most high-speed rail lines lose money, surviving off a blend of political patronage and creative accounting. In the few places worldwide where they do turn a profit, like the Tokyo-Osaka corridor, population density is roughly twice that of California. Factor in several additional challenges unique to our state – such as the rugged terrain, or environmental regulations that stymie even the most deserving projects – and you have the makings of a train wreck.

It should be no surprise that, after nearly a decade, only a few miles of track have been laid, and cost estimates have soared to a staggering $68 billion.

And things keep getting worse. Just over the last few months, projected costs for construction in the Central Valley have risen by another $1.7 billion; engineers have cast doubt on the technical feasibility of blasting through California mountain ranges; and the Rail Authority has announced that, yet again, it would miss by two years the deadline to complete the project’s environmental impact reports. Investors are fleeing. Exasperated executives are tendering their resignations. Yet legislative leaders continue pouring billions into a project that, if ever operational, would be both the world’s slowest and its most expensive “high-speed” rail service.

Meanwhile, these same lawmakers have just imposed the largest gas tax increase in state history. All of the road work this massive tax is supposed to pay for could easily be funded, without new taxes, if the money for High Speed Rail were cut off and redirected. In fact, billions would be left over to either return to taxpayers or invest in real transportation improvements that could reduce local commute times, improve safety and better integrate regional economies.

That’s why I adamantly opposed the gas tax, why I fully support its repeal, and why I have co-authored legislation to instead fund desperately needed road repair by terminating High Speed Rail. With the mounting controversy surrounding the bullet train, and with Governor Brown, its chief advocate, nearing the end of his term, it is time for legislators from both parties to come together and finally get our state on the right track.

Assemblyman Kevin Kiley represents the California 6th Assembly District, which includes parts of El Dorado, Placer and Sacramento counties.