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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

House oversight committee to examine CHSRA spending, compliance

Last month, the Government Accountability Office announced it was in the midst of reviewing California’s high-speed rail project to examine the accuracy of cost projections, ridership estimates and ticket prices. Now, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is preparing to conduct a review of its own.

On Monday, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the committee’s chairman, issued a letter to California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) Chairman Dan Richard stating the committee plans to examine the authority’s operations and use of federal funds.

Committee members are concerned about how CHSRA has spent or plans to spend the nearly $4 billion in federal funds authorized for the project, as well as the authority’s ridership model, project route and compliance with ballot initiative language that authorized the project and its publicly backed finances, according to the letter.

“Understanding these factors, as well as assessing the potential risk CHSRA activities might pose for overall federal transportation investment is essential for Congress as it works to manage competing budget interests and spending needs,” Issa wrote.

In addition, allegations of conflicts of interest regarding board members have surfaced since 2010, according to the letter. The conflicts “may have contributed to a pattern of weak oversight and mismanagement of the project,” Issa wrote.

Congress also is seeking to understand how state-led efforts meet national transportation goals, and the appropriate role of financiers, consultants, board members and other state officials in crafting and implementing an infrastructure plan of CHSRA’s magnitude.

The committee is requesting that CHSRA officials preserve all documents and communications that could be relevant to the investigation, and exercise a “reasonable” effort to ask former employees, contractors, sub-contractors and consultants to preserve relevant documents, as well.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/11/2012