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By Tim Hunt

Surprise, surprise--train backers need more $s

Uploaded: Apr 4, 2013

Was anyone surprised that the state high-speed rail authority was back seeking more money this week.
The authority announced that it will take another $97 million to pay for consultants and additional staff to keep the first segment of the slow rail moving forward. The 90-mile initial segment will not, as built, be capable of carrying high-speed trains, so declares former high-speed rail chair and original backer, retired Judge Quentin Kopp. His is one of several declarations due to be argued in court about whether the authority is acting lawfully to build the first segment it has chosen.
In addition, the state, has filed an unusual validation action that basically says sue us now or forget ever having standing to sue again. It is an unusual legal maneuver, one designed to give the authority cover.
The authority directors, last month, authorized the sale of bonds, even though they are tapping a separate state fund for the extra $97 million.
The feds also are being remarkably flexible with the authority, advancing almost $1 billion for expenses without requiring the one-to-one match immediately. The agreement was modified to accommodate this questionable maneuver. You have seen no such flexibility from the president who decided that White House tours will be suspended as the result of the sequester instead of moving some money around to continue to accommodate visitors.
Of course, questionable tactics have been routine for the authority, which has a shortfall of nearly $60 billion to make up to construct the rail system that is supposed to cost $69 billion. It makes the twin tunnels in the Delta of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan seem small at $24 billion over 50 years. The high-speed choo-choo is $70 billion in round numbers before the inevitable construction cost over-runs and none of that is operating money. The BDCP has its basic funding stream established—user pays—while the rail authority still is dreaming of additional federal money and private investment.
The governor continues to jam both projects forward—one is necessary because the current situation in the Delta is worsening and must be resolved—while the other is part of his green pipe dream.
Notably, part of the governor's green agenda is one-third of power coming from renewable sources—not including hydro power. Californians already pay among the highest electrical power rates in the nation and the 33 percent renewable will only increase those costs. So, the high-speed rail, should it ever be built—will be running on very expensive electricity.