Acosta blasts ballooning cost of high-speed rail project

Assemblyman Dante Acosta poses for a picture at his Santa Clarita office on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

Assemblyman Dante Acosta, R-Santa Clarita, said Wednesday the high-speed rail being built in the Central Valley and linking Anaheim to San Francisco has derailed further than previously thought.

“The report of skyrocketing cost estimates around the first small section of high speed rail comes as no surprise,” he said. “The only element of this project that can be predicted with any confidence is that the costs will continue to rise.”

Acosta’s comments came after a Los Angeles Times report noting the estimated cost of building the high-speed rail in the Central Valley — a 119-mile stretch — has jumped from $6 to $10.6 billion.

Assembly Republicans have long criticized the project and Santa Clarita officials have been opposed to the rail project. Mayor Laurene Weste wrote in August that the rail project had “been held at bay” due to actions taken by the City Council and city staff.

Acosta said the money could be spent on other priorities that would have a more lasting impact on communities.

“Every dollar wasted on this project, and there are billions being wasted, is another dollar in taxes out of a family’s budget, one more dollar in student loans, one less dollar put toward addressing homelessness, and on and on and on,” he said. “There are huge problems with the high speed rail project. It won’t perform at the speeds initially promised. There are huge concerns with the lack of potential riders. Also, it comes before we have solved our local rail and mass transit challenges both in cost, convenience and accessibility. It is putting the cart before the horse in the most egregious manner possible.”

Calls to Sens. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, and Henry Stern, D-Calabasas, seeking comment were not returned.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority said Tuesday its board of directors named Brian Kelly as its new chief executive officer starting Feb. 1.

“Brian Kelly is a proven problem-solver and the leading expert on California’s transportation sector. He has been a dynamic Transportation Secretary, leading strategic approaches to modernize the state’s passenger and freight rail systems, and effectively dealing with natural disaster impacts on roads, bridges and highways,” Chairman Dan Richard said. “Brian has been a keen advocate for the development of high-speed rail as a core component of California’s future transportation networks. As a respected leader and skilled manager he will provide the right leadership as the project moves into the delivery and commercialization phase.”

Kelly was previously the secretary of the California State Transportation Agency and pushed for the passage of Senate Bill 1, the gas tax increase passed by the state legislature last year, and implementing Assembly Bill 60, which provided the opportunity to apply for drivers’ licenses to nearly 1.5 million undocumented immigrants.

The compensation is $384,984 for this position, according to the rail authority.

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