OK, Maybe HSR Did Get Screwed Even Worse Than We Thought
You go to sleep one night thinking “it could have been worse” only to wake up the next morning and learn that, in fact, it IS worse.
The HSR cuts in last Friday night’s budget deal appear worse than we had thought just last night. The total cut is now reported at $2.9 billion, with FY 2011 funding eliminated and unallocated FY 2010 funding reduced. From the House Appropriations Committee document, we can see the details – ALL $2.5 billion in FY 2011 HSR funding is gone (not just the extra $1.5 billion that the House Democrats had added last year on top of Obama’s $1 billion request) and $400 million in FY 2010 funding is rescinded, which presumably comes out of the leftovers from Florida.
This will hurt California’s plans to build, as Quentin Kopp pointed out – and his comments came before this latest news broke:
“And you’re only going to get a part of the billion (in California). Boy, oh boy,” said Quentin Kopp, former chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. Officials are relying on federal funds to extend construction beyond the Central Valley, slated to start next year. “The totality of the effect could be a delay in building the section after Merced to Bakersfield,” and into the Bay Area and Southern California, Kopp said.
The big question now is whether the loss of the additional $1.4 billion, on top of the $1.5 billion we knew we lost, will hurt the Merced to Bakersfield plans as well.
There’s no doubt now; Obama has totally caved to the extremists on the right in the fight over high speed rail. HSR was a signature program of this president, but he’s thrown it overboard in a futile attempt to appease his Republican opponents. Future funding is therefore very much in jeopardy under a Republican Congress – or even a Republican House.
While I know some readers dislike what they claim as “partisan” comments, the fact of the matter is that when it comes to Congress, HSR does well when Democrats control both houses of Congress and the White House, and does poorly when they don’t. There is some hope on the horizon, with PPP reporting polling that shows Dems could retake the House in 2012. Of course, for the sake of HSR, that would also require Dems to keep the Senate and the White House. If that happened, these crippling HSR funding cuts might just be a temporary nuisance and not a serious blow.
It’s not just about elections, however. We need to work hard to maintain and grow public support for HSR. As gas prices rise above $4 a gallon, the public will continue to demand alternatives. HSR advocates must be there to help show that there are choices, and to sustain and build the already-strong support out there for high speed rail.