Thursday, February 17, 2011

Valley Republicans Seek Options for High Speed Rail Money


Today, I joined my colleagues in the House, Kevin McCarthy (CA-22) and Jeff Denham (CA-19), in the introduction of legislation that will allow the State of California to redirect federal high speed rail funding to finance long overdue and urgently needed road repairs along the State Route 99 corridor.

If state and local leaders choose to support this legislation, they will have sufficient funding to establish a six-lane freeway from Sacramento to Bakersfield while vastly improving the heavily congested corridor’s safety and enhancing the region’s air quality.

The economic and environmental benefits of SR 99 improvements are strongly contrasted by the uncertainty of California’s now infamous bullet train, which has been described by the national press as “the train to nowhere.” Providing the state the option to redirect high speed rail funding to SR 99 will give state and local leaders the opportunity to step-back from what is likely to become a bottomless pit of spending.

At this time, state leaders admit that California is poised to spend $58 billion – using ultra conservative state estimates – to build the phantom bullet train. However, the actual price tag is likely to exceed the combined federal highway spending in California for the 50 years from 1957-2007 (if it is ever completed). In addition, a host of independent watchdog groups, including the State Auditor, have raised serious questions about the project and question whether it is even viable. [State Auditor's Report, Legislative Analyst's Report, Transportation Studies at the University of California, Berkeley]

Meanwhile, nearly everyone agrees that the State Route 99 corridor – one of California’s most seriously congested and under-funded highways – is in need of major infrastructure improvements. For this reason, I and other Valley Republicans believe California should have the ability to transfer a portion or the entirety of the federal high-speed rail funds to improve Highway 99. [see bill text here]