California lawmakers grill leaders of the high-speed rail project


In Sacramento state lawmakers grilled leaders of the high-speed rail project.

Wednesday’s hearing comes after the rail authority updated lawmakers on the rail’s progress.

“What on earth is your contingency plan?” asked assemblymember Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield). “Are we going to still do San Francisco to Anaheim as Prop 1A originally envisioned?”

Leaders of the high-speed rail project were bombarded with critical questions from Central Valley republicans.

The legislative analyst office tells lawmakers it has half a dozen major concerns with the current state of the project, saying there may not be enough money to complete the Bakersfield to Merced line without federal funds.

“We are hitting a tough stretch right now and our performance is below what our expectations are. When we went to the board to ask for the board back for a budget increase of $1.8 billion we did highlight it was a very aggressive budget and a very aggressive schedule,” says Russell Fong, high-speed rail authority CFO.

Lawmakers pressing the project’s leadership for a plan b. The state auditor recommended the authority have it ready by this month.

“What we’re proposing is what we believe is the optimal use of the funds we have available to complete the best high-speed rail segment that can be achieved with the funding,” says Brian Annis, transportation secretary.

Annis acknowledged there is no funding to connect San Francisco to Anaheim, but maintains it’s still part of the grand plan.

“In my mind there’s really no doubt that we’ll continue building,” he says.

Central Valley lawmakers want to hit the brakes on the bullet train “At this point in time, this project has got to stop,” says assemblymember Jim Patterson (R-Fresno).

“I think the next update that follows that will basically be the admittance they can’t make it work,” Patterson says.

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