Californians have been promised a high-speed rail project connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco for most of their lives. When the state voted ten years ago to finally begin building it, the project was touted as the future for travel within the state.
But, now, after years of skyrocketing costs, delays and downgrades to the initial high-speed rail plans, California's high-speed rail project and the people organizing it are being separately audited to find out what is happening to the taxpayer money funding the project.
Assemblyman Jim Patterson says he originally requested the audit on the High-Speed Rail Authority because of dramatic cost increases and a lack of assurances that the rail line would be safe to travel.
"Many of us think that the High Speed Rail Authority has attempted to downplay or deny. And yet, we see more and more evidence of these areas that need to be looked at," Patterson said.
The U.S. Department of Transportation will begin a federal audit on the project in April. Patterson says the audit will look at safety issues, the Authortity's business plans, and mitigation efforts.
"It's going to take a good hard look at what they're doing and level of risk for completion," Patterson said.
But the threat of an audit hasn't stopped the Authority from trying to fund the high-speed rail. At one point, the Rail Authority made a request to change the state constitution to made more funds available.
"They only have one-third of the funds necessary to complete the project. And then they outline a wishlist of very unusual, and unlikely sources of funding."
Patterson says the Authority failed to assure legislators about safety concerns, and whether or not they were being addressed. He says the original package that voters agreed to has greatly increased and would likely require another vote.
"Many of us have called for the absolute necessity that the state of California re-vote this entire project. It is nothing like what the voters approved."
At this rate, it could be 2050 before the rail has finished construction and Patterson says he's not sure it will even be high-speed.
Photo: Getty Images