The newest High-Speed Rail Business plan contains many cost, ridership projection and ethical shortcomings, the Palo Alto City Council’s Rail Committee unanimously stated Monday afternoon.
At their special meeting, the Committee worked to revise a draft letter voicing their concerns against the project, decided on by California voters through Proposition 1A in 2008. They directed their criticism to the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s (CHSRA) newly released draft 2012 Business Plan, which shows the project will cost $98.1 billion rather than the original figure of $35 billion.
When complete, they plan to present it to CHSRA CEO Roelof van Ark. They also plan to present it to the full Council at the Dec. 19 meeting, and vote to officially take a stance against the project as a city.
“The position City's taken has had an impact,” said council member Pat Burt after the meeting. “We have studied this for three years and are more informed about it than most cities.”
The Committee’s main rationale against the project is fourfold: the cost of $100 billion is more than California can afford; the Authority has not been able to demonstrate a believable plan for funding the project; the ridership projects are flawed and unreliable; and the 2008 vote was not made fairly since the costs were misrepresented, the letter stated.
The Committee, however, decided to meet again on Dec. 8 before deciding on its final wording. They were divided about whether to make the letter’s central argument about what they felt were the project’s high costs, or voters being deceived Prop. 1A, since final costs are three times higher than what was originally presented.
“Cost is what really resonates with people,” said committee chairman Larry Klein.
Yet council member Nancy Shepard felt voters would feel more strongly about being mislead, she said.
“I’m respectful of the voting box and what’s scripted into it,” said Shepard. “When I see violations of that, it reads like a Nancy Boone novel.”
The High-Speed Rail Authority maintains, however, that it has devised a “fiscally sound project” that can attract private capital and reign in more funds for the state. It intends to create one million new jobs in the next five years and to reduce carbon emissions by three million tons annually.
“We have carefully constructed a business plan that is mindful of the economic and budgetary constraints facing both the state and the nation,” said Rail Authority Board Chairman Thomas J. Umberg in a press release about the plan, which will be provided to the State Legislature for final review in January.
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