You know a measure was written by a politician when it’s titled the “Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century.” Indeed, this measure is the product of former State Senator Jim Costa, and was actually orginally signed by then-Governor Gray Davis. Clearly, the vote on this issue has been a long time coming. Originally scheduled to appear on the November 2004 ballot, it has in fact been delayed 4 times.
Prop. 1 asks voters to approve $9.95 billion in general obligation bonds to (partially) fund a $40 billion, 800-mile high speed train. The train would run, at least initially, from San Francisco to Anaheim. Estimates are that the train system would be completed in 2030, and that it would take passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles in about 2 hours and 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, about $950 million of the bond proceeds would be available for capital projects on other passenger rail lines to provide connectivity to the high-speed train system and for capacity enhancements and safety improvements to those lines.
In late August, Assembly Bill 3034 removed Prop. 1 from the ballot and replaced it with Proposition 1A. Governor Schwarzenegger thought so highly of the revisions in AB 3034 that he broke his pledge to veto any legislation until a state budget was in place. The bill updated the rules under which projects could compete for funding authorized by the bonds, making the process in the eyes of many a more competitive and transparent one.
As revised, Prop 1A is supported by the California High-Speed Rail Authority (the folks who would oversee the project should it be endorsed by the voters) as well as the Planning and Conservation League, Governor Schwarzenegger, a number of legislative Democrats and the Transportation and Land Use Coalition.
While there is no organized opposition to the measure, it is opposed by a number of groups who believe the system would impact parklands and wildlife sanctuaries. Wendell Cox, a former member of Los Angeles County Transportation commission, has also been a vocal opponent.
Key Arguments Supporting Prop 1A:
- It will reduce California's reliance on foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gases.
- The high speed train network proposed in the initiative will reduce highway traffic congestion without raising taxes.
- It will expand transportation options.
- It will remove 12 billion pounds of CO(2) emissions.
- The ridership and revenue forecasts in the project's plan were subjected to "tough peer review".
- Federal funds and private grants that amount to as much as 9 billion dollars will match the debt incurred if this proposal passes.
Key Arguments Against:
- There is no guarantee the project will ever be completed.
- It is a political boondoggle.
- If politicians can't fix the budget crisis, healthcare or the schools, why think they can build this project competently?
- Proposition 1 is a creature of special interests who are notorious for their cost overruns and stand to "make billions off this scam".
- Existing transit systems should be expanded instead of starting from scratch.
A July Field poll showed Proposition 1 with 56% support and 30% opposition. As revised, Prop 1A is likely garnering even higher support.