Washington, DC – Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) issued the following statement after introducing H.R. 1515, the High-Speed Refund Act. This legislation requires that any discretionary grant funds provided by the Department of Transportation (DOT) for high-speed rail (HSR) development in California be reimbursed to the Federal Government.
The funds will then be used to significantly increase spending on important freight and highway projects.
LaMalfa said: “After countless blunders, skyrocketing costs, and more uncertainty than ever, it’s time to cut our losses and kill California’s misguided high-speed rail project. This project was doomed from the start. The total projected cost has now ballooned to around $100 billion, more than double the initial estimate. American taxpayers should not be on the hook for California’s inability to undertake such an enormous, yet unnecessary project. That’s why I’ve introduced the High-Speed Refund Act, which would require California to refund all federal funding for HSR and repurpose it to freight and highway projects that would actually be both beneficial and economically viable, such as the widening of Highway 70 in Northern California. Undertaking the HSR project was a huge mistake, and taxpayers deserve a refund.”
To reclaim the inappropriately given taxpayer funding, and ensure no more of it can be wasted on this failure, H.R. 1515 directs the Secretary of Transportation to take “such action as is necessary to require “to get all discretionary funds provided to California for high-speed rail corridor development back and returned to the general fund of the Treasury. The High-Speed Refund Act will also increase the authorization for the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant program by $3.5 billion, the amount of money California owes to federal taxpayers, to ensure it can be reinvested in worthwhile infrastructure projects.
H.R. 1515 also recognizes the continued failures of the California High-Speed Rail Authority to present, plan, and construct its project, including the following:
- When presented to voters in 2008, California’s high-speed rail system was projected to cost $33.6 billion for a line from San Francisco to Anaheim, increasing $40 billion to add lines to Sacramento and San Diego. The expanded project’s cost swelled to more than $100 billion, with the San Francisco to Anaheim line costing more than $77 billion, and now the State of California’s high-speed rail plan no longer includes any stops in Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Anaheim, or San Diego.
- When presented to voters in 2008, California claimed the Federal Government would pay between a quarter and a third of the cost of the rail system. The Federal Government had no such grant program at the time, and the $4 billion invested in the project represents less than 5 percent of the updated cost projections.
- At the current level of project employment it would take nearly 400 years to accomplish the 1,000,000 job-years promised by the California High-Speed Rail Authority.
- No significant private companies have invested in the California high-speed rail project.
- The grant creation and award process for the California high-speed rail project did not incorporate the best practices of Government funding.
- The grant agreement between the Federal Government and California did not require a feasible funding package to be prepared before awarding funds, which similar mass transit programs require.
- The grant agreement between the Federal Government and California did not require a minimum operable segment before awarding funds, which similar mass transit programs require.
- The grant agreement between the Federal Government and California did not require new high-speed trains to run on the new high-speed rail system.
- The Department of Transportation inappropriately allowed the State of California to spend Federal money without a required State funding match.
- The California High-Speed Rail Authority repeatedly failed to meet deadlines and underestimated costs.
- The Federal Rail Administration, having recognized the failure of California to build even a small fraction of the originally approved high-speed rail system, has announced they will deobligate nearly $1 billion in Federal funding.
- There are dozens of worthy infrastructure projects that would improve the quality of life for every day Americans and could easily have been designed, approved, built, and have benefitted local economies in the time it took for California’s high-speed rail proposal to fail.
Congressman Doug LaMalfa is a lifelong farmer representing California’s First Congressional District, including Butte, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou and Tehama Counties.