PERSPECTIVE--Governor Brown is making an appeal to the Trump administration to transfer oversight of environmental reviews of the high-speed rail project from the federal government to the state.
If this strategy sounds familiar, it is. The City of Los Angeles allows developers to arrange their own EIRs.
Brown has a vested personal interest in pushing HSR. It’s his vanity project. It will probably put the state in a position where it will have to subsidize the system, in direct violation of Proposition 1A, as approved by the voters in 2008.
He and his colleagues, along with other politically connected interest groups who stand to benefit from the most expensive folly in history, are hell-bent to complete the project, regardless of the cost and the diversion of funds from far more critical needs. Do not think for one moment that the state will take an unbiased approach in evaluating the results of an EIR under its control.
There is no private investor interest in the project. That is unlikely to change even if an initial segment, constructed over the easiest terrain and serving markets with the least possible need, were to be completed. The risks of tunneling through faults in the San Gabriel Mountains, essential for fulfilling the promise of service between San Francisco and Los Angeles, will be too risky to attract sensible investors unless the state were to offer substantial guarantees and establish reserve funds. Such a move would put California on the hook for losses. Like a subsidy, that would contradict taxpayer protections in 1A.
CAHSR will collapse under its own weight and from voter frustration with pouring more money in what will be a system which grossly underdelivers for the costs.
There is no scenario where it can be built and operated within the limits of Prop 1A. The sooner the governor and legislature put aside their personal ambition and admit it will be a fiscal failure, the more likely the state will be able to afford far more pressing capital improvements.
There is much work to do; we do not have endless sources of affordable debt and tax revenue. Choices have to be made, and HSR is near the bottom.
(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and serves as President of the Valley Village Homeowners Association. He blogs at Village to Village and contributes to CityWatch. The views presented are those of Mr. Hatfield and his alone and do not represent the opinions of Valley Village Homeowners Association or CityWatch. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.)