Rail editorial challenged By Judge Quentin L. Kopp
Your recent (Dec. 30) editorial entitled “Highspeed 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.
Judge Kopp ignores facts; not the Almanac Editor.
The voters of California were convinced to pass Prop 1A in Nov 2008 because of distorted claims made by Kopp and others.
Kopp continued to forecast 117 - 120 million passengers per year for ridership and a ticket price of $55.00 for a trip from LA to SF. He stated California voters would only be obligated for the 9.95 billion dollars of bonds, and the rest of the funding would come from other sources. He personally promised to deliver an updated business plan before the election, but failed to produce one. Keeping the voters in the dark about the true nature of the project was a primary strategy for getting the bond measure passed, and even then it got only a 52.5% affirmative vote. The predicted cost of the SF to LA segment was to be $32 billion dollars.
Now as the true nature of the project emerges we see:
1. Ridership forecast in now down to 42 million passengers per year in 2035, rather than the 120 million by 2030.
2. Price of a ticket now pegged at about $105.00, not $55.00.
3. Local communities are expected to fund stations and other expenses to the tune of 4 to 5 billion dollars
4. Estimated cost now has risen to $43 billion from $32 billion.
5. Over a year later, we get this different picture from a new business plan, which is still inadequate as evidenced by the severe criticism from the State's own Legislative Analyst Office.
It is no wonder that this project is described as the worst planned High Speed Rail project he has ever seen (quote from Joe Vranich --- HSR expert)
Of course Judge Kopp is pretty well known in Menlo Park. His arbitration decision some years ago involving neighbors and proposed plans for utilization of the Allied Arts facilities was overturned when taken to court.
Finally, he was a major force in promoting the Bart to Airport extension, which has become such a debacle with its cost over-runs and very low ridership.
So it isn't the Almanac with its head in the sand, but rather the High Speed Rail board, by promoting such a boondoggle.