Eric Christen

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Another View: Bullet train relies on distortions, flaky data

Published: Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 2E
Last Modified: Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 - 8:23 pm

The Bee's editorial "McCarthy's bid to kill high-speed rail is baffling" (Dec. 14) left me baffled that there are still those who consider this project anything other than a $68 billion catastrophe.

From its inception, high-speed rail was sold to Californians dishonestly. We were told it would cost $33 billion, yet now we are told it will be $68 billion. We were told it would have a certain level of ridership, but a UC Berkeley Institute of Transportation Studies report says the data used by the California High-Speed Rail Authority were so "unreliable" that it is impossible to predict whether the project will be successful or lead to "severe revenue shortfalls."

In January 2012, the peer review group commissioned under Proposition 1A to analyze high-speed rail for lawmakers recommended that the Legislature refuse to authorize the state bonds due to a lack of adequate funding, a definitive business model, appropriate management resources and other problems.

That same month, state Auditor Elaine Howell said the authority's November 2011 revised business plan relied on uncertain funding sources and that the project's "overall financial situation has become increasingly risky."

In November 2011, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office published an analysis of the authority's business plan that stated funding sources were "highly speculative." It said Congress has approved no funding for high-speed rail projects for 2012 and that the segment the authority wants to begin building is not a "usable segment" and therefore does not meet the legal requirements of Proposition 1A.

But now we have one more reason why this project is such a boondoggle. For months my association had been asking pointedly whether or not this project would be built using an exclusionary union-crafted Project Labor Agreement. A PLA essentially forces all construction workers to be union to work on the project, thereby reducing bidders and raising costs, at the same time removing many small-, women-, minority- and veteran-owned businesses, most of whom are nonunion, from being able to get any of this work.

Despite being told time and time again that a PLA would not be used, the authority's CEO Jeff Morales admitted at its last meeting that the five teams of contractors who have been invited to bid on the first portion of the project have already signed PLAs with labor unions.

Lies, distortions, inadequate business plans, uncertain funding sources and now Big Labor special interest schemes. Reasons enough why high-speed rail should be opposed by all California taxpayers, and those representing them in Congress.

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