GOP Sen. Doug LaMalfa wants to send California's high-speed rail project back to the ballot in light of revised cost estimates.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority today released a revised business plan projecting that the total cost of the proposed bullet train could be $98.5 billion over 20 years, far exceeding previous estimates.
LaMalfa, a vocal critic of the project, blasted the authority's earlier cost projections and pledges for federal and private dollars for the project, saying authority members and supporters "have known all along that these targets would not be met."
The Richvale Republican said he plans to introduce legislation that would ask California voters to reconsider the $9 billion in bonds approved for the project in 2008. The bill would likely require two-thirds legislative approval.
"The voters were deceived in the original go-around with highly optimistic ridership and cost numbers that have not been born out," LaMalfa said in an interview, adding that the larger figures ""should have been in front of the voters to begin with so they would have the truth."
LaMalfa also plans to push Senate Bill 22, legislation he introduced last year to freeze spending on the rail line. While that bill failed this year to make it to a full floor vote in the Democratic-controlled Legislature, LaMalfa said he believes public outrage over the latest figures will give both of his measures a better shot when the legislators return to work in January.
"The more people that learn about this, the more pressure they'll put on the Legislature to say we'd rather have money for cops, for schools, for things that would actually create jobs," he said.
Agency officials defended the project at a press conference held today to unveil the new report, saying the current plan is within the confines of the voter-approved initiative authorizing funding for the project. Dan Richard, a member of the rail authority board, said the cost will be "worth it for the citizens of California."