Fresno Bee: After hearing, Denham remains skeptical of CA high-speed rail plans

May 28, 2013 Issues: Transportation

By Tim Sheehan - The Fresno Bee

Tuesday, May. 28, 2013


MADERA -- Rep. Jeff Denham came to Madera on Tuesday with plenty of questions about the California High-Speed Rail Authority's plans to start building a high-speed train system in the San Joaquin Valley.

The Republican from Turlock, who is the chairman of the House subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, left just as skeptical as he arrived, decrying the lack of private investment in the state's proposed bullet train and declaring his intention to continue blocking any additional federal money for the state's proposed bullet train.

"I'm going to work with my colleagues to make sure that money is held up until there's a full business plan and a private investor," Denham said after he and Reps. David Valadeo, R-Hanford, and Jim Costa, D-Fresno, listened to a panel of six witnesses for two hours Tuesday.

Denham pointed to the gap that has evolved between Prop. 1A, a $9.9 billion bond measure approved by California voters in 2008, and the project's current incarnation.

"What was sold to voters was a $33 billion project that would receive equally as far as financing from the state and federal government and private investors," Denham said. "The project has changed significantly since 2008, so much so that it is unclear if it conforms to the requirements of Prop. 1A."

Denham's concerns include not only the inflated cost of statewide project -- now estimated at $68.4 billion to connect San Francisco and Los Angeles -- but uncertainty about other issues: where the money will come from, how many farms and businesses will be affected, how much money it will cost to acquire property for the right of way, and how frequently the state will have to resort to eminent domain or condemnation to get the property it needs.

"Here on the local level, we need to make sure that property rights are not trampled upon and that local ag farmers, local ag businesses and local community businesses in Fresno are not upended without a full business plan and a full project completion," Denham said.

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