HIGH SPEED RAIL Time to pull the plug

Cameron Smyth Commentary, Right Here Right Now

Ok, I admit it….there was a time when I thought the High-Speed Rail project was a good idea. In fact, I had even testified before the Rail Authority in support of a route that took the train through the Antelope and Santa Clarita Valley. But I did I mention that occurred in the late 1990s, and I was the Deputy Chief of Staff for Senator Pete Knight?

Fast forward nearly 20 years and the High-Speed Rail is still decades from completion, and the Board continues making decisions which give Californians no confidence in their ability to complete the project without billions of dollars in budget overruns and operation failures. In fact, the HSR has been an abject failure by any measure and yet the CEO continues to make over $300k – only in government is such poor performance rewarded.

Last Monday, Santa Claritians once again turned out in force to speak with one voice and make there is no ambiguity – it is time for the High-Speed Rail (HSR) has passed, but if the State is unwilling to see what the majority of Californians see, then the route through Santa Clarita must be altered. One of the reasons I was so proud to represent this community for a dozen years is our steadfast willingness to engage outside forces attempting to impact our quality of life. Whether it be Elsmere Canyon, CEMEX, deep well injections or the High-Speed Rail, Santa Clarita will not go quietly into the night and be run over.

Recent actions (or frankly inactions) by the Legislature makes it clear that the voters of the state will have to take matters in our hands if we want to stop this project that will leave the State with nothing but debt. The $8 billion approved by the voters in 2008 was done prior to the economic recession to really kick in and with the belief that A) the total cost was $33 Billion B) the Federal Government and private investors would also split the cost and C) fares would hover around $50 per person and D) travel time from San Francisco to Los Angeles would take roughly 2.5 hours. However, now cost projections are pushing $80 Billion, Federal and private dollars have not materialized, estimated fares continue to climb, the S.F. to L. A. route is now estimated to be a 4-hour odyssey and continual lawsuits threaten even greater delays.

Assemblyman Wilk presented a creative way to capitalize still on the $8 billion in voter-approved revenue, by allowing the voters the chance to shift HSR dollars to facility improvements at our schools and universities. Predictably the Democrats on the Assembly Transportation Committee killed this plan.

I applaud previous Governor who was willing to think big and try to tackle the many infrastructure needs we face…..but sometimes the obligation of leadership is to know when it’s time to follow a new path, and I believe the HSR has reached that point. Billions of dollars have been wasted, and billions more are threatened. I hope Governor Brown and the Legislature rise to the occasion and either make the decision himself or let the voters decide. This train has run out of steam…….