Top Calif. High-Speed Rail Mastermind Turns Against the Monster It Has Become

Boondoggle no longer resembles what Californians voted for


Everything in this image is subsidized. Even the clouds.

Former State Senator Quentin Kopp founded the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) years ago, once served as its chairman, and pushed for the passage of the ballot initiative in 2008 that gave the state authority to issue about $10 billion in bonds to build it.

Now he's trying to stop it.

Kopp is serving as an expert witness in one of the lawsuits against California's rail projects, arguing that the train the state is actually attempting to build bears little resemblance to what the ballot initiative authorized. It's a truth that everybody knows, but CHSRA seems intent on trying to ignore. Dan Walters at the Sacramento Bee explains how two recent decisions by the rail agency may be in violation of the initiative voters passed:

The authority's five-member board voted unanimously to approve an agreement with the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board to design a "blended" system in which local commuter trains and the bullet train would share rails on the San Francisco Peninsula.

Merging the two services is designed to placate project opponents in the high-income neighborhoods on the peninsula. But opposition remains and critics say that a blended system cannot meet the bond measure's requirement that the bullet train carry passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles in two hours and 40 minutes.

The board also approved a request to state financial officials to issue up to $8.6 billion in bonds to provide construction money for the 130-mile San Joaquin Valley segment and future construction as needed. But that project, critics also allege, would not meet the bond measure's requirement that any construction be a "usable segment."

Kopp described to FOX LA the money being gobbled up to improve commuter rail as a "great train robbery":

These two commuter systems in the LA basin and on the San Francisco peninsula simply seized a billion dollars each. And they're using it to improve commuter systems. That's not high-speed rail.

Followers of the rail politics may recall that without the additional commuter rail money Gov. Jerry Brown dangled in front of resistant Senate Democrats, the project would likely have died last July. As it was, it squeaked through the State Senate by a single vote.

For rail opponents, it seems as though the courts are the last chance to actually stop the project from actually breaking ground. There's no sign that any more funding is going to materialize to build more than the first leg at this point, but there's also little sign that either the governor or the legislature are changing their minds about the whole thing.

A disclosure: Adrian Moore, vice president of policy for the Reason Foundation (the non-profit organization that publishes this site), is also providing expert testimony in the lawsuit, contradicting CHSRA's claims that the project complies with the intent of the voters who approved the bond.

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  1. I am beginning to think my $200 billion projection on the cost of this thing – should it ever be built – is a gross underestimate.

    1. I’m still predicting $15-20 billion for The Big Dig II, the Big Dig goes to Washington.

  2. Yeah – fuck Cali.

  3. Who’s left in California to ride the damn train?

  4. Former State Senator Victor Frankenstein…

  5. Former State Senator Quentin


    Yeah, Drink.

    You know what would be really fucking divine? If CURRENT Senator Quentin Kopp, right before submitting the paperwork, in a fit of tears while lying on a hotel lobby floor in the fetal position,had asked forgiveness for the folly of his ways and retracted the entire process. Nope, it’s always after they’re no longer concerned with power or re-election.

  6. Lets see the state is some 20 billion in the red. If we don’t build the train that would put us half way back in the black, or is all the over expense monies that are already spent. who know the way the state accounts work.

    1. A state budget is not like a household budget. Or something.

  7. Notice that Kopp isn’t against Moonbeam’s choo-choo. He’s against the money being spent on commuter infrastructure.

  8. “But if we don’t go forward with this hopelessly doomed project, we’ll be a laughingstock!”

    1. There’s a local (SF) politico name of Willie Brown. He was a power in the state until termed out; came back to SF as mayor and taught all sorts of low-lifes how to fix contracts and stick their fingers in the till without enough evidence to get arrested.
      He was interviewed recently and he claims Moonbeam can do no other. Yes, it’s a boondoggle; yes, it’ll never get the number of riders projected, yes, yes, yes…
      But Moonbeam must have a legacy!

      1. Power is for power’s sake.

  9. Oh, and the image cries out for some alt text.
    Notice how the train is shown with wind turbines in the damn right-of-way, for pete’s sake. Not like they could have propagandized ‘green’ in an subtle manner.
    And where are all the dead hawks?

  10. I hope Ray laHood will be available to offer his expert opinion.

  11. I can take a plane from any of three airports in the SF area to any of four airports in the LA area, in less than 2 hours and 40 minutes. Including the mandatory wait in the TSA line. And I can do it cheaper. There is absolutely no sense for this project. None at all.

    1. Yeah, it seems nuts. Where is the advantage? Flying is faster, even with the extra security theater. Either way you have to park your car or get a ride on one side, and then get a car or a ride on the other. It doesn’t save money. So what good is it?

      1. Some people will do anything to not have to turn off their phone for an hour.

      2. High-speed choo-choo!
        Taking you from where you aren’t to where you don’t want to go slower and more expensively than flying!
        What more could you ask?

        1. Trains are romantic, you heartless motherfucker!

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