News

Assembly passes bill to fund high-speed rail

Proposal to pay for controversial system up for Senate vote Friday

A proposal to fund California's controversial high-speed-rail system rolled through the state Assembly late Thursday afternoon and now heads to the state Senate for possible approval Friday.

The bill, which was the subject of intense criticism and negotiations in the weeks leading up to this week's vote, was unveiled late Tuesday and includes the necessary funding to begin construction on the opening segment of the line in Central Valley as well as improve both ends of the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles system. The vote was 51-27 and fell largely along party lines, with Democrats supporting the project and Republicans opposing it.

Among the proponents were Peninsula lawmakers Rich Gordon, Jerry Hill and Paul Fong, all Democrats. Though Gordon and Hill had both criticized the project in the past, they ultimately sided with the majority and voted in favor of the budget-trailer bill.

The bill includes $5.8 billion for the "initial operating segment" in the Central Valley and another $1.1 billion for the "bookend" segments, which include the Peninsula.

Gordon lauded the changes that the California High-Speed Rail Authority made to the project in recent months, including the adoption in its April plan of the "blended" approach that Gordon championed along with state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, and U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto. The approach calls for high-speed rail to share two tracks with Caltrain and would involve electrifying the Caltrain tracks -- a project that the cash-strapped commuter-rail agency has been pursuing for more than a decade.

"The bookends and investments in the Los Angeles and Northern California regions, I think, are very appropriate," Gordon said at the Assembly hearing. "There's also connectivity funds that will help the existing train system.

"I rise in support for this bill and encourage you to vote 'Aye.'"

Other legislators echoed similar sentiments and praised the project for bringing much-needed jobs to California, particularly to the Central Valley region that has been hit particularly hard by unemployment. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Tracy, a leading proponent of high-speed rail, alluded to the "tens of thousands of workers who are sitting at home collecting unemployment."

"I say we put California on a fast-track to recovery and pass this measure," Galgiani said.

Galgiani also said that without high-speed rail, California would have to build 12 new highway lanes to meet the state's traffic demand.

Assembly Republicans rejected this view and characterized the project as a badly botched endeavor that the state can ill afford. Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, argued that the 130-mile opening stretch of the line would replace farms, businesses and homes with tracks that wouldn't even be electrified. Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, said the legislators "lied to the voters," who approved a $9.95 billion bond for high-speed rail in 2008. At that time, the project's estimated price tag was less than $40 billion. Today, it stands at about $68 billion.

"You lied, and the voters know it," Grove said. "I hope you'll give the voters an opportunity to re-approve this disastrous project when they were lied to in the beginning."

The Assembly's vote is a small victory for Gov. Jerry Brown, a major supporter of the high-speed rail project. The larger obstacle, however, is the Senate, where several Democratic members have expressed reservations about the project. Though the project is unlikely to get any Republican support in the Senate, supporters of high-speed rail have been working hard behind the scenes to secure all the Democratic votes, Palo Alto's high-speed-rail lobbyist John Garamendi, Jr., told the city's Rail Committee Thursday morning.

Palo Alto, which supported the concept of high-speed rail in 2008, has turned against the project in recent years because of an escalating price tag and uncertainty over ridership projections. The city adopted in December as its official stance a call for the project's termination.

Related story:

Bill to fund high-speed rail hangs in the balance (July 5)

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 6, 2012 at 7:45 am

Still a boondoggle. It will always require substantial subsidies from an already broke state. If Caltrain ridership is marginal, why would this be much different. I don't plan to use it.

Disappointed that Mr. Gordon voted in favor of it given that Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton don't favor it. But I guess he joined his fellow democrats.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 6, 2012 at 7:52 am

Rich Gordon is bought and paid for by the labor unions. that's why he voted for it. That's why all of those that voted for it did so.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 6, 2012 at 8:03 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This project will never be built - the only question is how much will be wasted on consultants and lobbyists before it dies.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 6, 2012 at 11:04 am

At this point at least $7.9 billion will be pissed away before it dies.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Carol
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 6, 2012 at 12:43 pm

This is a terrible misuse of taxpayer money. There is a huge difference between the need for local area commute service & long-distance transit to major cities, which is what high-speed is supposed to be about.

The construction crews in the central valley will go mainly to undocumented non-citizens.

I will actively campaign against any legislators who supported this. Very disappointing that Gordon & Hill sold out on this. Eshoo has had her last vote from me.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Michael G Stogner
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2012 at 2:03 pm

This is senate 3rd reading vote 15 to 27 for HSR, July 5th. Rich Gordon and Jerry Hill in favor.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Do Some Real Good
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 6, 2012 at 2:12 pm

We can't pay the bills we already have, let alone this ever-ballooning fiasco. There is only one way to make sure the ridiculous waste stops now. Write, call or email Senator Joe Simitian. And be sure NOT to vote for Rich Gordon and Jerry Hill.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2012 at 2:25 pm

GLAD IT PASSED. Hope it passes the Assembly too.

This website isn't representative, hope it passes this last hurdle.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ray of Sunshine
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Jul 6, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Ray of Sunshine is a registered user.

THE TRUTH ABOUT THIS ISSUE IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT
AND REFRESHING TO READ THAT AT LEAST SOMEONE IS SPEAKING OUT ABOUT!
(Thank you, Shannon)!

"Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, said the legislators "lied to the voters," who approved a $9.95 billion bond for high-speed rail in 2008. At that time, the project's estimated price tag was less than $40 billion. Today, it stands at about $68 billion.

"You lied, and the voters know it," Grove said. "I hope you'll give the voters an opportunity to re-approve this disastrous project when they were lied to in the beginning."

Now, WHAT CAN WE DO TO FORCE THE LIARS TO REMEDY THIS SITUATION? Everyone who has commented here so far are absolutely right! What can we do to fix this? I would think that the lies and all of the deception would be not only unjust, but punishable!!!!! Again, I will ask the same question.....Has anyone else seen the EMPTY trains? They are this way EACH & EVERY DAY!! All the money in the world WILL NOT increase ridership! Come on people, let's face the truth and be done wit this selfish, greedy & 100% political "wolf in sheeps clothing" boondoggle!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Belle Palm
a resident of Belle Haven Elementary
on Jul 6, 2012 at 4:44 pm

WHAT CAN WE DO TO FORCE THE LIARS TO REMEDY THIS SITUATION?

Ummm, start with yer caps lock?

Build it. America needs to get back to advanced infrastructure and leading the way.

Historically, California has always led the way for America.

Build it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Michael G Stogner
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2012 at 5:10 pm

HSR approved...What a mess.....Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 6, 2012 at 7:17 pm

For all of you who favor this project, can we send you the bills when it runs WAY over budget?

No project in this state, in the last 25+ years, has run on time and on budget and not have to be substantially subsidized.

All in a state that has no money.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Norman
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 6, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Just another stab in the back to the youth of California. The burdens that are being foisted on them are outrageous.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Roadie
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 6, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Don't see folks whining about the billions pissed away on widening 101.. Almost as expensive per mile to widen as per mile of 68B$ HSR. Hypocrites !


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 6, 2012 at 8:20 pm

Roadie:

you need to do your homework. the widening of 101 is nowhere near the cost per mile of HSR.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jul 7, 2012 at 8:08 am

This is just disgusting. I am disappointed but not surprised that Gordon voted in favor. Now, will there be anyone to challenge him? Or, are we too beholden to unions and political hacks in this town?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Michael G Stogner
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2012 at 8:42 am

Sen. Joe Simitian got it right and voted NO.

"One dissenter, Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, said public support had waned for the project, and there were too many questions about financing to complete it.

"Is there additional commitment of federal funds? There is not. Is there additional commitment of private funding? There is not. Is there a dedicated funding source that we can look to in the coming years? There is not," Simitian said."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 7, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Wrong Bob. Menlo Park DID approve of HSR.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Amen!
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Right you are, Belle Palm. California set the standard of going broke, yet still trying to spend money they don't have, and mortgaging our grandchildren's future, and the good old USA followed suit. Time for you and Jerry Hill and Rich Gordon and their colleagues to look in the mirror to find the cause of our doomed economy. You 3 stooges seem to be part of the very few people who still think this is a good idea. Good for Shannon Grove and Jioe Simitian for speaking up. I know where my votes will go, and where they will not.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ray of Sunshine
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Jul 7, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Ray of Sunshine is a registered user.

Very well put: Amen!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 7, 2012 at 4:59 pm

CA will continue to be in a financial mess until we stop voting for fiscally irresponsible people regardless of their party. But I don't see that happening any time soon.

If you were a family spending more than you have coming in, pretty soon the debt collectors are going to be knocking on your door.

Bottom line -- you should NOT spend more than you make; it always leads to trouble. The HSR decision is as much about finance as it is about transportation.


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