Almanac

Viewpoint - February 3, 2010

Rail editorial challenged

by Judge Quentin L. Kopp

Your recent (Dec. 30) editorial entitled "High-speed rail running off track"demonstrates a continuing bias and ignorance of facts concerning a project approved by the Legislature, three governors and just 14 months ago by California voters.

A business plan changes with changing circumstances, and as even you pointed out, "...it's virtually impossible these days for economists to predict even five years out." Our Dec. 15, 2009, business plan represents the best plan currently conceivable, including estimated costs based not on 2009, but on the future years in which such construction, engineering and associated cost will be incurred.

You wrongly imply that the entire $9.95 billion in bonds will be sold immediately. That is spuriously not true. The voter-approved general obligation bonds will be sold on an "as needed" basis, meaning, for example, our current fiscal year budget emanates from a small portion of such general obligation bonds sold by the state treasurer last summer. (We are no longer funded by a state general fund appropriation.)

Finally, your head continues to be in the sand, ignoring the estimated 2030 California population of not 38.2 million, as it is today, but 50 million, whose transportation needs would require 3,000 new freeway lanes, together with five or more major airport runways and 92 more airport gates at an estimated cost in 2009 dollars of $100 billion.

I'm thankful you weren't around in the 1930s to purvey your views over the building of the Golden Gate or Bay bridges, or in the 1950s over the building of the interstate highway system and the state water project. California would be another third world country.

Quentin L. Kopp is a retired Superior Court judge and a member of the California High-Speed Rail Authority board of directors.

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