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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

California's Harkey calls for halting state debt funds for HSR project; Feinstein calls on governor for 'swift action' to get project on track

On Jan. 9, two California politicians spoke out about the state’s proposed high-speed rail project — one for, one against.

California Assemblywoman Diane Harkey (R-Dana Point) introduced a bill that would halt state debt funding for California’s high-speed rail project.

AB1455 calls for repealing the portion of the high-speed rail bond debt approved by voters in November 2008 that is not outstanding or contracted.

“Lack of future federal funding, oversight, accountability and inconsistency in route and planning should sound a strong signal to pull the plug,” Harkey said in a prepared statement.

Meanwhile, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) sent a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown urging him to “act swiftly” to improve the viability of California’s high-speed rail project by folding the California High-Speed Rail Authority into a new state transportation agency.

By involving the California Department of Transportation in the project, state officials could reassess the route, determine stages of construction and make substantial progress on acquiring right of way by fall, Feinstein said.

“Putting this project on a steady path to success would demonstrate that California remains capable of building big projects, putting thousands of citizens to work and leading the nation,” she wrote. “I am concerned that our state’s future would be greatly hindered if this project either failed to get off the ground or failed to be completed.”

Feinstein referred to a recent report issued by the California High Speed Rail Peer Review Group that called for further developing the business plan to address risk and cost issues, increasing project management capacity, involving the private sector in project design, subjecting demand forecasts to greater scrutiny and investing initial funding in segments that serve more riders, such as San Jose-San Francisco and Anaheim-Los Angeles.

“I find it very hard to debunk some of the group’s key conclusions,” she wrote. “But I also believe that many of the concerns could be addressed quickly with a concerted effort under your leadership.”

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/12/2012