We've been rightly celebrating our victory on high speed rail and Prop 1A all week. But already there are reminders that the fight is by no means over, and that the HSR deniers who were rejected by the voters on Tuesday are regrouping in their effort to kill high speed rail.
One of them is the Contra Costa Times, which distinguished itself during the campaign by writing one of the most ridiculous anti-HSR editorials of the season. Today they have published an editorial calling on the state to delay the sale of Prop 1A bonds. This editorial is an excellent example of the strategy and framing that the HSR deniers will use to try and overturn our victory on Tuesday.
California has a huge budget deficit and a record high bonded indebtedness, which would increase by nearly $10 billion if the rail bonds are sold.
This state has far more pressing transportation needs, such as highway construction and maintenance, better metropolitan rail and bus service, and retrofitting bridges and overpasses.
Just because voters have authorized the sale of high-speed rail bonds does not require the state to sell them. At the very least a credible business plan and commitment of matching private and federal funds should be obtained before any Prop. 1A bonds are sold.
As usual the editorialists at the Contra Costa Times don't read the newspapers - if they did they'd know that federal money is on the way (unless they think Dianne Feinstein will be powerless in a Democratic Congress and with a Democratic President). The California High Speed Rail Authority has received letters of interest from over 40 private companies.
But what's really significant about this editorial is the way they set up their next line of attack. They trot out nearly every one of the zombie lies that have circulated about HSR - won't get enough riders, sure to soar in cost, not something that meets the state's transportation needs - and attached it to a political strategy of delaying the bond sale.
This flies in the face of economic reality. Numerous economists have called for the infrastructure bond sales to be accelerated in order to provide jobs and economic stimulus that the state badly needs. In particular, the $950 million in Prop 1A earmarked for non-HSR passenger rail ought to be sold immediately to provide increased passenger rail service. Gas prices will start to rise again in the spring, putting the screws to an already weak economy. Improved passenger rail provides jobs and cheaper commutes, putting more money in consumers' already stretched wallets.
Of course, it has always been the plan to spend Prop 1A money in concert with private and federal funds as they are secured. The Contra Costa Times again demonstrates its ignorance of just how this project will work when they frame it as a budget-busting boondoggle without plan or method. Unfortunately that has always been the M.O. of the HSR deniers, and this editorial should serve as a reminder that they haven't gone away, and will continue to try and derail this project at every opportunity.