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Getting It Right ... with Prop 1A
Getting It Rightę - Oct 12 2008
by Regina Seppi : regina@portervillepost.com

Proposition 1A High Speed Rail Bond -- VOTE NO :

First in a series on California Ballot Propositions for the November 2008 election.

Nov. 4 Californians have the option to subsidize high speed rail through the heart of the state. Prop 1A would deliver 9.95 billion in bonds for a plan to be constructed in the next 10-20 years.

The rail is repeatedly described as a solution to (presumably human caused) Global Warming, but 31,000 American scientists have signed a petition stating that there is no "convincing scientific evidence" that human release of greenhouse gasses is causing the earth's surface to heat. {Read}

Critics question whether tax money should be apportioned when California's budget is in crisis.

Sponsored by Nicole Parra (D) Bakersfield and Rep Davis, (D) Los Angeles, the project requires not only nearly 10 billion in bonds, but matching funds from the federal and privat e sector, to cover the initial $32 billion price tag.

The proposed rail would span 800 miles, connecting LA, the Central Valley and the Bay Area, with future additions to include Sand Diego and Riverside County. Traveling at 220 mph, travelers reportedly could get from San Francisco to Los Angeles in less than three hours.

California trains, however, are unlikely to meet peak speeds because trains will have to be heavier to meet California's unique safety standards and use old tracks, already in place.

Pros and Cons

Prop 1A is supported by Congressman Jim Costa, (D) Hanford, who has sponsored legislation to form a national High Speed Rail (HSR) authority, along with business and environmental groups.

Costa claims that the project will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and bring in twice what it costs.

Spokesman Greg Larsen of yesonprop1a.com, says HSR will relieve congestion, cutting the need to expand freeways and airports. "If you add a lane to the freeway today that's a short fix. Installing a high-speed rail throughout California is a long-term investment for California for today and for generations to come." He told the Post.

The proposition's opponents include California Chamber of Commerce and Taxpayers organizations, who say this is unaffordable for a state mired in financial crisis. Jon Coupal, President of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assoc. says the rail is destined to cost far more than advertised. "Proponents themselves admit this is a minimum of a $40 billion project." Coupal told the Porterville Post.

Coupal points out that 1A proponents have already missed the September 1 deadline for having a business plan. "So voters are being asked to spend, in essence $20 billion, (with bond interest) on a project that doesn't even have a business plan yet."

Howard Jarvis Assoc. released a study along with the Reason Foundation to analyze the true cost of Prop 1A. The 200 page report, available at Reason.org, was created in part by a past president of The American High-Speed Rail Association. The conclusion: This particular project is not ready for prime time.

"We are not necessarily opposed all high-speed rail proposals," Coupal stated, "but this one is lacking on the details of how much it's going to cost" A Reason Foundation press release warns that, "The final price tag for the complete high-speed rail system will actually be $65 to $81 billion, according to the Reason Foundation report."

The projected savings are based on optimum amount of riders. But the HSR line in the nation's most heavily populated area; New York - Boston - Washington has a far lower use than was projected. One Brooklyn filmmaker told me last week that he prefers to ride the train, but flies because it is cheaper.

The Post recommends you vote NO on Prop 1A.

I would be glad to hear your questions or comments regarding this column. regina@portervillepost.com

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