Tough House hearing for high-speed rail project

It looks like supporters of the California High Speed Rail project took a verbal beating Tuesday as the U.S. House Transportation Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials held a field hearing in Madera.

“Since Prop 1A was approved by California voters in 2008, the project has more than doubled in cost, and, after more than $3 billion from the federal tax payer, not one shovel has hit the ground,” subcommittee chairman Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, said afterward. “Until I see a viable business plan for high speed rail in California that is fiscally sound and supported by private dollars, I will continue to hold the rail authority accountable to the voters and ensure their taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.”

Here’s some of the questioning:

The panel, also including Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, and Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, grilled witnesses including California High Speed Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard; Preserve Our Heritage Chairman Kole Upton; Kings County Board of Supervisors Chairman Doug Verboon; Madera County Farm Bureau Executive Director Anja Raudabaugh; Lou Thompson, chairman of the Peer Review Group for the California High-Speed Rail Project; and Greater Fresno Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Al Smith.

The witnesses’ prepared testimony, and Denham’s opening statement, are available on Denham’s website.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • GV Haste

    One thing about the HSR project, that you can take to the bank, is that the revenue and ridership projections are wildly overstated.

    The project not only will not pay back the construction costs, it will never even run at a break-even basis when counting ongoing costs of labor, maintenance, and equipment replacement (like new BART trains etc.).

    It is nothing more than a construction jobs project.
    California is NOT Japan or Europe. We are also NOT China where you will never have widespread ownership of cars. Where rail has been the primary transport for decades.
    Call me when Canada, Australia, Russia, and Brazil have HSR systems that cover operating costs.

  • Elwood

    @ 1

    I think you’re being unduly harsh.

    If everyone in CA rides it four times a day at an average ticket cost of $500 it should just about break even.

  • JohnW

    Proud to say I voted against this. This project is like that train disaster movie starring Denzel Washington, aptly named “Unstoppable.”

  • Common Tater

    A glimmer of conscience in congress? Wonderful!

  • Publius

    This was a “verbal beating”? I watched the clip and couldn’t see a confrontation resembling any type of beat down. All I saw was “bi-partisan spirit” and political courtesy. Very little substance.

    California HSR is one of the biggest boondoggles in history and deserves a true beat down.


    You may have voted against this project, but as self proclaimed Democrat you support those politicians that are pushing this piece of crap. This job will be under a PLA (Project Labor Agreement) which requires all construction to be performed by Union workers. Your party can’t visit the restroom with out permission from organized labor. This project is another glaring example that the Democrats are owned and operated by the Unions.

  • RR senile columnist

    Can anyone trace this project back to 2007 or earlier? If so, protesters could chant: “Bush ‘n’ Cheney u can’t hide! U can’t take us fer no ride!”