Proposition wins enough voter support
High-speed rail transit approved on Nov. 4 ballot
Published: Thursday, November 6, 2008
Updated: Wednesday, November 12, 2008 00:11
A majority of Californians marked "yes" on the 2008 state ballot for a $19.5 billion proposal providing high-speed transit from the Bay Area to Los Angeles and beyond.
According to the California Secretary of State Web site, Proposition 1A, the Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act, was passed by voters with a 52.2 percent victory and 5,072,778 votes.
The plan calls for a high-speed train traveling at a maximum of 220 mph across the state, California Alliance for Jobs Director of Government Affairs Joseph Cruz said.
The "vital transportation link" is set to provide an alternative to the problem of the high price of transportation.
According to smartvoter.org, the base cost to build the project is an estimated $9.95 billion with an additional $9.5 billion for 30 years of interest, feeding nearly $647 million yearly to the rail.
"This means a better transportation network (and) more jobs," said Alex Pugh, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce senior public policy manager.
The system also calls for a change to delayed highway travel across the state.
The Bay Area carries a congested population, Jim Lazarus, vice president of public policy of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, said.
"Prop. 1A is going to have a huge positive impact on San Francisco," Lazarus said.
According to Section 185033 of the California Public Utilities Code, the High-Speed Rail Authority was to submit a revised business plan by Sept. 1.
The authority, however, failed to do so until Nov. 7, three days after the election.
According to the plan, the rail system will generate over $1 billion in surplus revenue each year by 2030.
It is also estimated to return three times the value of the system's cost over a span of 40 years. The plan also calls for 160,000 construction jobs over the next 20 years and 450,000 permanent jobs by 2035.
The business plan would contain information on yearly costs, an estimated completion date and information on average fare costs, Eric Eisenhammer, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association legal assistant, said.
"We feel that voters had to vote blind because the High-Speed Rail Authority never answered questions that they were supposed to," Eisenhammer said.
Opponents of the act believe that it will backfire on taxpayers' pockets.
"If riders don't materialize, rather than deriving (funds) from fares, they could wind up needing more money from taxpayers," Eisenhammer said. "The rider-ship projections are widely over optimistic."
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association also believes that there is a chance that there may not be any follow-up action.
"It still may never be built," Eisenhammer said. "Over a million dollars could be spent and not a mile of high-speed rail could be built."
Some also considered the status of the economy when the act was set on the ballot.
"I think people had good intentions when they voted for it, (but) I think the last thing we wanted to do was spend tens of billions of dollars when we are going into an economic recession," said Adam Summers, policy analyst for the Reason Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to limited government.
"I think we're going to pour tens of thousands of dollars into a system that a very small percentage of Californians could use. That money could be better spent elsewhere, (such as the) decaying highway network."
Contact Sam Attal at email@example.com.