- California Assemblyman Jim Patterson, along with other Republican legislators, have called for an investigation into the California High-Speed Rail Authority after a Los Angeles Times article revealed that, in 2013, a consultant provided the authority with a negative review of the costs and feasibility of the agency’s high-speed rail project. Patterson alleged that the authority hid the report from the California Legislature.
- The confidential Parsons-Brinckerhoff report, according to the LA Times, projected the cost of the Merced-Burbank line segment of a high-speed train from Los Angeles to San Francisco would reach $40 billion — $9 billion more than the authority’s official estimate of $31 billion.
- Patterson and other legislators sent a letter last week to Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins explaining their complaints and asking her to issue subpoenas for documents. They also want Atkins to appoint a special committee with subpoena power and the ability to require witnesses to testify under oath, according to the Fresno Bee.
The project, already under construction, requires tunneling 36 miles through the San Gabriel and Tehachapi mountain ranges and is already more than two years behind schedule. In addition, the authority, according to the LA Times, has not finalized all the necessary land purchases, financing or permit approvals, is facing several lawsuits, and is managing a project now twice the cost it was when voters approved the project seven years ago.
"We’re discovering that documents demonstrating the overruns would be $9 billion, and those documents were buried and remained secret," Patterson told The Bee. "And the High-Speed Rail Authority came to the Legislature with cooked books. You can’t conclude anything else."
Patterson also criticized the authority for not being forthcoming about the misgivings expressed by 36 private-sector industries as to the viability of the project. The authority solicited their opinions about how the project could draw investors and be more efficient.
"We now know that every single one of those private-sector firms raised serious doubts about the fact that they would get paid, serious doubts about how much public money is going to be in it, and those doubts were never made public," Patterson said in his letter to Atkins. "They are selective in the information they put out; they spin it in order to tell the story they want to tell."
Rail Authority CEO Jeff Morales, however, refuted the legislators' claims and said there was no need to make the "extreme" move to open an investigation into the project. He told the Fresno Bee he wasn't sure which Parsons-Brinckerhoff report the LA Times referenced in its article and said, "any suggestion that we’re hiding anything is just unfounded."