In Opposition to California High-Speed Rail

Floor Speech

Date: Jan. 14, 2014
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Transportation

Mr. NUNES. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to record a few observations about the California high-speed rail project.

It's no surprise that high-speed rail has become a boondoggle even before any track has been installed. This was a political project from the beginning, backed by local politicians who thought it would raise their political fortunes. For example, as noted by Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters, a planned route between Merced and Bakersfield was the direct result of President Obama's effort to help an endangered Democrat lawmaker, whose district received $700 million of stimulus funding just before the 2010 elections.

Californians were deceived about the most fundamental aspects of this project, whose price tag has already doubled to $68 billion. With independent estimates routinely exceeding $100 billion, it's hard to believe the initial estimates were put forward in good faith, or that voters would have approved the project if they had known its true cost. Recently, Governor Brown has even proposed raiding the state's cap-and-trade program to help finance the ballooning costs.

Make no mistake, this railway will never operate without massive taxpayer subsidies. To make it appear financially sustainable, planners estimated that the line from San Francisco to Los Angeles will carry more than twice as many riders and cost half the price compared to a trip from Washington to New York on the existing high-speed rail line there. This is a preposterous estimate for a region which, compared to the Northeast Corridor, has a smaller population base, lower population density, and less extensive mass transit system to connect everyone.

Furthermore, nonpartisan reports as well as research by the State Auditor and Legislative Analyst have cast doubt on the project's basic assumptions, and these misgivings were reinforced recently when a state judge found that the state had no valid financial plan for the project.

In light of this stunning level of waste and deception, California high-speed rail has already proved itself to be a monumental failure. Californians are being forcibly evicted from their homes and businesses to make way for an extravagant train to nowhere. The only reasonable course of action is to spare our communities further misfortune by ending this project once and for all.