House rail subcommittee discusses California high-speed rail

(Photo: Mike Renlund / Flickr)(Photo: Mike Renlund / Flickr)

The House Transportation Committee’s Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, on May 28 held a field hearing on California’s $68.4 billion high-speed rail project, according to AASHTO Journal.

The hearing, “Oversight of California High-Speed Rail,” featured such witnesses as California High-Speed Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard, Preserve Our Heritage Vice President Kole Upton, Kings County Board of Supervisors Chairman Doug Verboon, Madera County Farm Bureau Executive Director Anja Raudabaugh, California High-Speed Rail Project Peer Review Group Chairman Louis Thompson, and Fresno Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Al Smith.

Chairman Jeff Denham (R-CA) originally supported the project. At the hearing, however, he expressed concerns with the project such as cost increases (the project began at $33 billion), funding, location of the proposed track and project transparency.

Denham noted that he was most concerned with how different the project is now from what California voters passed in 2008.

Thompson said the Peer Review Group still supports the concept but has concerns about the project’s funding, proposals, demand forecasting, capital costs, operating and maintenance cost models and control/management resources.

Richard pointed out the successes the 2012 Business Plan brought to the project.

According to Richard, the plan developed a more clear and focused vision; created partnerships with regional agencies and other states; built an executive team; obtained approval and appropriation from the California State Legislature to start construction on the project; received the Record of Decision from the Federal Railroad Administration on the first section, allowing construction to begin; received in a Government Accountability Office report top marks for cost, revenue, ridership, and economic impact analysis for the project; and allowed for bids on the project’s first design-build contract to be received, evaluated and opened.

For more information about the hearing, visit