On Monday the State Assembly’s Committee on Transportation will address AB 953, the latest attempt in the California legislature to kill the state’s high-speed rail project. The bill as proposed strips bond funding from HSR until the authority contracts with the University of California Institute of Transportation Studies for a new ridership study – it then requires that the new analysis be used for new environmental impact studies and that the authority re-evaluate the entire route based on this data.
The UC Institute of Transportation Studies is the same group that authored this flawed analysis last year attacking the original ridership study performed by Cambridge Systematics. Requiring an entirely new ridership study and the subsequent environmental reports at this stage of the project could effectively kill California High-Speed Rail, going against the will of the voters who approved bonds for HSR with the passage of 2008′s Prop 1A. Federal funds awarded to California would likely have to be sent back to Washington as the state would miss critical deadlines.
That, of course, is the object of this bill – to inflict damage via bureaucracy to a project that the majority of California voters support. It is clear that the bill has very little to do with projected ridership when you look at the list of sponsors – three Peninsula cities that have been leaders in the NIMBY movement to derail California HSR (Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Atherton) as well as the city of Pico Rivera in Southern California.
The bill was introduced by freshman Assemblyman Brian Jones of Santee, who last month stated he thinks that the federal government will provide little or no money for California HSR going forward. He also has said that the voters are not getting what they voted for with California High-Speed Rail, but it’s quite clear that Mr. Jones’s bill is an attempt to deny them just that.