California's state Republicans failed in efforts to stop the funding for the initial leg of Gov. Jerry Brown's $68 billion high-speed rail project. Not that they didn't try, but Brown and legislative leaders sweetened the pot for skeptical Democrats with light rail upgrade funds for Los Angeles and the Bay area.
But because California currently has absolutely no money to pay for the project beyond the first phase, the battle shifts over to Congress and the Republican-dominated House of Representatives. Only $3.3 billion of federal funds have been committed to the project, and clearly, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood wants more. But Congress has blocked any additional federal money from being spent to support California's high-speed rail.
At a House hearing Thursday, LaHood squared off with California Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Fresno). Of note, after LaHood keeps complaining about the block on federal funding, Denham takes great pains to explain to LaHood how the House has not seen any sign of any private investors interested in the project. And much like a bank providing a loan, he wants a real, workable business plan for the train before the House authorizes more funds:
As we noted earlier this week, the "business plan" formulating to get private investment for the train involves courting pension funds and endowments. That doesn't appear to be evidence that the business world has much faith in the train's success.