Beyond Grassroots and Into Congress: California High-Speed Rail

While most of the substantial opposition to high-speed rail in California previously came from local government leaders and citizens, primarily in the Bay Area, Congressmen are now taking the issue to the entire country for debate. House Representative Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, introduced H.R. 6403, also entitled the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Rescission Act,” which would allot the remaining $12 billion in uncommitted stimulus money to the US Treasury to help relieve the national deficit of $1.3 trillion. At least half of that $12 billion is set to go to various high-speed rail projects across the country.

Although the divergence of money to the US Treasury would not have a significant impact on the national deficit, it would greatly affect California’s high-speed rail plans. The project, now estimated to cost $43 billion, relies heavily on federal money because it will only receive voter-approved state bonds on a matching basis. No federal money, no bond money. So far, it has gotten $2.25 billion from Washington, $200 million of which has already been spent on planning. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Rescission Act would halt the development of the largest high-speed rail project in the country.

Lewis and 27 other Republicans in the House are pushing for this bill, not necessarily because they think the Democratic Senate or President Obama will let it pass, but because they want to start a movement to stop wasteful government spending. Whether or not anything comes of Lewis’ efforts, he is forcing his fellow members in Congress to consider how high-speed rail fits into national economic priorities.

President Obama will not abandon high-speed rail anytime soon- he has invested too much into it at this point. Therefore, if the federal government is going to put any kind of controls on funding poorly planned projects like California’s high-speed rail, it will have to come from Congress.