A marathon 6-hour joint Senate hearing on high-speed rail was held yesterday, May 15, with a surprise visit by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. The LAO, State Auditor, and 3 members of the Peer Review Group attended. Topics included the lack of a management team, federal strings and unstable funding sources. Although the Senators continued, through this series of hearings, to try to draw answers from the HSRA to determine whether and how to get the project on a better track, Senator Steinberg pushed to make a $6 billion funding decision next month, saying that “all the facts are pretty well known”. (At approximately 4:42:00 of the video link below.)
CEQA was discussed (4:14:00). In response to Sen. Simitian’s question, “Is there going to be a proposal in the foreseeable future to provide some sort of environmental adjustment in an effort to accommodate the project, and if so, will I be hearing about it now and not after budget actions have been taken?” HSRA Chair Dan Richard said, “It’s possible. It will depend on the outcome of the discussions that we have with the environmental community.”
The OCTA Board also discussed high-speed rail at their board meeting on Monday, May 14. Their discussion revolved around the lack of a credible funding source and whether the state should accept the limited federal funds which dictate a poorly located initial operating segment which does not provide connectivity compared to filling the Bakersfield-Southern California gap. They agreed unanimously to draft a letter to the appropriate authorities which captures their discussion.
CARRD transcribed this important meeting; their thought-provoking discussion is a must-read.
HSR agenda item #27 starts at 1:49:30.
For reference, the Governor’s May Revise budget for the HSRA can be found at http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/Revised/StateAgencyBudgets/2000/2665/department.html.