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No bonds for high-speed rail

Vote no on Prop. 1A

The Orange County Register

Proposition 1A on the November ballot would authorize the issuance of $9.95 billion in general-obligation bonds as a small down payment for a high-speed passenger train between Los Angeles and San Francisco. To call this project a boondoggle would be an understatement. At a time when California state government is operating at a substantial deficit — despite the Band-aids recently applied that may or may not reduce it much — it would be irresponsible to take on a debt of this magnitude, especially given that the total cost of the train would be many tens of billions of dollars more.

It is not difficult to understand the romantic appeal of a high-speed train that would make traveling up and down the state easy and fast. But a remotely realistic set of projections for this project indicates that California taxpayers would be on the hook for decades to come, for benefits that would be much less than advertised.

If a high-speed train were economically feasible — that is, if revenue from anticipated operations were projected to be higher than capital and operating costs — private investors would be lining up to put money into it. The fact that our legislators want taxpayers to pony up means that even the project's supporters know it is an economic dog. General-obligation bonds are backed by the willingness to tax rather than anticipated revenue.
The Los Angeles-based Reason Foundation (www.reason.org) has issued what it calls a due diligence report on the California High Speed Rail Authority projections.

In 1999 the CHSRA estimated that it would cost $30.3 billion to build a much more extensive high-speed system. By 2008 the cost projection just for a Los Angeles-San Francisco train had risen to $45.4 billion. Since construction costs almost always increase after construction begins, the foundation projects that a realistic cost would be upward of $80 billion.

A high-speed rail system connecting Northern and Southern California is a nice dream, but the proposed project ventures into fantasyland territory.

Please, vote NO on Prop. 1A.


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