|7:38 PM EST||
Doug LaMalfa, R-CA 1st
Mr. LaMALFA. So, indeed, the investors that were supposed to come in, private investment for what had been billed to voters as a $33 billion project, up to $45 billion if you built the San Diego and Sacramento link, they have not materialized. When you see that the price for a time went up to $98.5 billion--hence California's Senate bill 985--it scared everybody away from this.
You see, in a Baltimore to Washington proposal to do a maglev project here locally that has outside investors that want to come in on that, nobody is touching California's high-speed rail.
So in the absence of this outside investment, California has moved in many different ways to try and find other pots of money. The Governor plans on diverting truck weight fees that are collected from commercial truckers away from repairing California's aging roads.
Just try and drive in the right-hand lane of any freeway--I get to enjoy Interstate 5 a lot--and see what the condition of that road is. Some areas have been repaired. Caltrans had a pretty good year last year. Other areas it is still pretty rough. Interstate 80, near Sacramento, they are doing repairs now; but the potholes on that were pretty bad.
Yet we are seeing the effort by the State to shift funding away from repairing roads that everybody uses versus a project that maybe few can afford to actually use. My colleagues from the Valley here would probably tell you that there is not going to be a whole lot of people that jump on high-speed rail to ride from Bakersfield to Fresno because it doesn't make any sense for them.
The promise of a low-cost ticket being 85 percent initially of an airline ticket from L.A. to San Francisco or vice versa, how can that be met without having the tickets subsidized at these costs? $85 we were told, $90. It was revised later maybe $120 when we had a hearing about it. Try $300 if it is not going to be underwritten by the taxpayers for ridership on this.
How many people are going to spend $300 on that trip? Other than those that might do it for the novelty of the train ride from north to south or south to north. We saw pie-in-the-sky numbers on what the amount of ridership would be, numbers that at one time were greater than the entirety of Amtrak across the 48 continental States. They have had to revise them down to some other vague number.
So there is not a lot of trust in anything being put forward by the California High-Speed Rail Authority on costs, on ridership, on impact, promises made or not made to those that are impacted in the line of many different proposals of where the route is. Yet they are still trying to move forward and start condemning people's property, at who-knows-what price of reimbursement, in order to spend as quickly as they can this $3 billion-plus of Federal stimulus money put in place almost 5 years ago.
It is really looking more like a fraudulent enterprise from what the voters saw in 2008 to now. Indeed, polling out there shows that now that people have heard about this the last couple of years and what it really means and the other choices they have to make on schools, on water, on their actual highways, that they have a whole lot of different opinion on it. A lot of editorial pages around the State are saying at the very least if you are not going to stop it, you should put it back on the
I attempted that in 2012. The mood wasn't there in the State legislature to do that. My former colleague there that I served with, Assemblyman Jeff Gorell from the Santa Barbara area, he is putting forward legislation to put it back on the ballot and re-vote the rail. So I hope that catches fire and that the legislature will look at this project and decide maybe that would be worth a vote of the people of California to decide if this is still a priority at these prices.
So Assemblyman Gorell has got a pretty big task to put that in front of the legislature and achieve the votes. But interestingly--still talking State politics here--but in the State Senate, to put forward the first segment of funding in late 2012, it received the bare majority of votes to fund that. In our California State Senate, there are 40 Members. They have got a vote of 21-19. All the Republicans voted ``no'' and four of the Democrats, who up to that point had been pretty favorable on high-speed
rail. It barely got out of the State Senate floor.
I think that is saying a lot, that the opinions have changed, certainly amongst the voters. Now we just have to put the State legislature in a figurative headlock and get them to think about it and do that.
So I hope Assemblyman Gorell is successful in this measure because it would be proper to put this back in front of the voters and ask them again: would you rather have this or water projects, highway projects, school projects, any number of things that could be done to help move California forward instead of this boondoggle that has no way of paying for itself or sustaining itself?
We see, again, with the court handing down a ruling, that the plan is diverted so far from what was initially voted on and approved by the voters that it is now illegal. Why should State government be doing things that are illegal? Because they are right now in such a hurry to get the money spent, the Federal money. If the Federal money was to stop, the State money also has to. They both have to have a match with each other; but if there is not the match happening, then there are giant legal
Congressman Denham mentioned a while ago: What is the payback procedure if Federal money is misspent, improperly spent? Because California had the capacity to do that if it doesn't meet its timelines, it doesn't meet the goals, it doesn't meet the tenets laid out in proposition 1(a). It would be in a true high-speed rail system all the way from San Francisco to Los Angeles, which so far that plan is not. You have to ride three different train types to accomplish that under this current
Now we know the folks in the Bay Area and parts of Los Angeles are interested in seeing some of their tracks electrified as beneficiaries of some of the money that will be coming from this. I get that, I understand that. That probably would be a benefit for them, some upgrades in their local infrastructure. I don't know why you could not support that separately from this. If it helps to get Caltrain in the Bay Area electrified, then that should be a separate question, a separate set of funding,
because right now this is illegal.
The people in the Bay Area do not want to be part of an illegal project, likely, and maybe perhaps lose that funding they are depending on to electrify and upgrade their system. I don't think so. That is a lot of money when it gets around to doing that above what is going on in the valley, with the condemnation of the land, and building in an area where they said would have the least amount of resistance for the project, let alone the Bay Area and perhaps parts of north L.A. County.
So it is very problematic. It is really time, as I proposed back in my senate days, to slow down the project and really get some real numbers. That was my first bill in the State Senate, SB 22. It was a no spending, no doing anything, until we have fully vetted and thought out a plan.
Honestly, this reminds me of ObamaCare. I have been calling this around my neighbors ObamaCare, Jr., because it is so poorly thought out; and the plan for funding it looks largely the same, pie in the sky. Investors won't touch it. Federal Government, are they going to come in and bridge the gap of the other $55 billion that is missing, if we believe a $68 billion plan, or on up to the approximately 100, let alone the inflation things that might drive a real project all the way to $150 billion?
All for what? [Page: H222]
What could really be seen as an outdated technology and something that a lot of people can't afford to assess, nor even make sense for them to use in short segments within the valley. Yes, it may make sense possibly if you had a fast train that could go all the way from San Francisco to L.A. and complete that.
One of the things brought up is that in order for the project to be technically legal, they would only have to send one train per day in each direction at full, nonstop length. They would have other trains perhaps that are making all these stops, stopping at every little burg along the way. That is not high-speed rail. That is glorified Amtrak, glorified local commuters. That is not the intent of voters or anybody on this measure, or for that funding which is scarce money these days in California.
The huge problems we have in trying to get a budget done and move eventually towards the balance in our Federal budget, it isn't a priority that we should be doing.
So, Mr. Speaker, I just want to note that again Congressman Denham will be having a hearing tomorrow in his Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on rail that will be at 10 a.m. in Washington time, developing more on this situation. So I would invite you to participate, or watch that, and expose what really needs to happen with Federal funding as well as maybe perhaps the people in California have an opportunity to weigh in on Assemblyman Gorell's proposal to have this back
on the ballot and maybe perhaps shift our scarce funds to other things.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the time here tonight, and I yield back the balance of my time.