Bill to de-fund California’s high speed rail dies in committee

A bill to de-fund a high-speed rail system in California was “killed” Monday.

"Put really simply this bill would kill high speed rail in California we believe that’s against the will of the people who voted for the project," said Jeff Barker, deputy executive director of the High Speed Rail Authority.

Long Beach Democrat Bonnie Lowenthal, who chairs the transportation committee, told Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, who sponsored the bill, that she would vote against the bill.

"I think you and I are going to disagree about the merits of high speed rail because I believe there is a possible success story out there," Lowenthal said. "So for that reason I am going to oppose your bill."

California’s High Speed Rail Authority estimated that the project would cost $45 billion to complete.

In 2008, voters approved $10 billion in bonds to kick-start the project.

The federal government’s committed $3 billion in matching funds and the High-Speed Rail Authority recently applied for a couple billion more.

Private investors are expected to pitch in too.

But Harkey says California’s taking on a big liability.

"What are the risks of the project? We don’t even know," Harkey said. "It could be 66- to- 100-billion dollars and that’s without the train sets and without the operating expenses."

The Dana Point Republican has introduced a bill that would require California’s High-Speed Rail Authority to submit to a state auditor’s analysis of the project’s costs.

Harkey’s behind a second bill that would defund the voter-approved bonds for the project. At a state hearing on the bills, a spokesman for the California High Speed Rail Authority warned that Harkey’s bill would “kill high-speed rail in California."

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