The Rise and Fall of Hope and Change

The Rise and Fall of Hope and Change

Alexis de Toqueville

The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money.
Alexis de Tocqueville

The United States Capitol Building

The United States Capitol Building

The Constitutional Convention

The Constitutional Convention

The Continental Congress

The Continental Congress

George Washington at Valley Forge

George Washington at Valley Forge

Friday, March 2, 2012

JW Investigates California's "Train to Nowhere"

From Judicial Watch:

JW Investigates California's "Train to Nowhere"

You've probably heard of the "Bridge to Nowhere," a proposed $223 million project that would have connected Alaska's Gravina Island to the "metropolis" of Ketchikan (pop. 8,000). Thankfully Congress defunded the project, which came via a crafty piece of earmarking by the "prince of pork," Rep. Don Young (R-AK).

Well if you thought that was colossal waste of tax dollars, wait until you hear about the "Train to Nowhere," a high-speed rail system currently planned for California that will cost somewhere between $45-117 billion. (That's billion with a "b.") And yes, federal tax dollars will once again be footing the bill to the tune of $3.3 billion.

As we have done with the Obama administration's questionable bailouts, Judicial Watch is now trying to get to truth behind how and why the Obama administration is so eager to fund yet another failing "green energy" initiative.

On February 29, 2012 we filed a lawsuit against the Obama Department of Transportation (DOT) to obtain records concerning the construction of the California High Speed Rail.  We're specifically interested in the route alternatives currently under consideration, as California citizens are extremely concerned their property might be seized by the government through eminent domain to make way for this transportation budget-buster.

Here's what we're after pursuant to our FOIA request filed on January 4, 2012 with the Federal Railroad Administration ("FRA"), a component of DOT:

All documents, communications and correspondence (including electronic email) transmitted between the Federal Railroad Administration and the California High Speed Rail Authority addressing or relating to the route alternatives under consideration for the proposed California High Speed Rail within Madera County and Merced County, California.

The FRA acknowledged receipt of our request by letter dated January 5, 2012 and was required by law to respond by February 3, 2012.  However, as of the date of Judicial Watch's lawsuit, the FRA has neither provided documents nor given any indication as to why the documents sought by Judicial Watch should be withheld. The agency has also failed to indicate when a response is forthcoming. 

Now in 2008, California voters did pass a referendum irresponsibly authorizing nearly $10 billion in high speed rail bonds to seed this project, at a time when construction costs were estimated to be much lower.

Ever on the look-out for failing green energy projects to support with federal tax dollars, the Obama administration announced that it would contribute $3.3 billion in federal "stimulus" and transportation funds to aid in the construction of the first 130-mile stretch of the rail. The administration had two conditions. 

First, construction must begin by September 2012. And second, the first segment of the rail must be constructed in California's sparsely populated Central Valley, an area hit hard by the failing economy.

However, from the start, the project has been beset with delays and controversy due to the ballooning projected costs of constructing and operating the rail. On January 3, 2012, a Peer Review Group established by the 2008 California referendum authorizing the initial seed funding, issued a report criticizing the fiscal solvency of the project and refused to recommend authorizing the legislature to approve the appropriation of the bond proceeds:  

"moving ahead . . . without credible sources of adequate funding, without a definitive business model, without a strategy to maximize the independent utility and value to the State, and without the appropriate management resources, represents an immense financial risk on the part of the State of California."

Officials now say construction on the project will not start until 2013. However, as reported by the Fresno Bee, this delay "isn't expected to endanger the funds." 

California taxpayers, meanwhile, are rightly concerned that if the project commences with the assistance of the Obama administration's funding, but without assurances of future funding, the end result would be an incomplete "train to nowhere."

Affected communities and residents in California have challenged the controversial project in court, including whether the U.S. and California laws related to the project's funding are being violated. 

In our view this California High Speed Rail "train to nowhere" is nothing more than another multi-billion stimulus boondoggle. The residents of the Central Valley could pay an especially high price for this wasteful project as the first segment will go right through their backyards and farmland.  

Instead of stonewalling the release of records, the Obama administration needs to follow the FOIA law so taxpayers can follow the massive amounts of tax money to this risky enterprise.  The California High Speed Rail project is set to make the Solyndra scandal seem inconsequential.

No comments:

Post a Comment