September 8, 2008
APTA welcomes you to the first electronic Passenger Transport!
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California High-Speed Rail Bonds on November Ballot
A statewide measure on the Nov. 4 California ballot—amended Aug. 26 by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger—will authorize the sale of $9.95 billion in general obligation bonds, with $9 billion funding pre-construction activities and construction of a high-speed passenger rail system and the remainder paying for capital improvements to passenger rail systems in the state.
The governor’s signature on Assembly Bill 3034 means that Proposition 1, the Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century, will be replaced on the ballot by Proposition 1A. The new proposition includes fiscal controls for taxpayer protection, such as requiring a peer-reviewed financial plan before bond money can be spent; enables public-private partnership financing; and limits the amount of bond money that can be spent on non-construction items.
“Californians deserve the opportunity to vote on a high-speed rail proposition that includes taxpayer protections and financial guidelines,” the governor said at the bill signing. “With these technical changes, voters can now be assured that, if the bond is approved, high-speed rail would be built as planned and with fiscal controls ensuring financial accountability.”
State Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani, sponsor of AB 3034, called herself “a strong supporter of high-speed rail” who introduced the legislation because of concerns about two potential routes for the line within her district, and to ensure that the “bond measure placed on the ballot would establish oversight criteria and financial accountability.”
The state legislature will have to appropriate funding for the bonds. General obligation bonds are backed by the state, meaning that the state is required to pay the principal and interest costs on these bonds.
The state created the California High-Speed Rail Authority in 1996 to develop an intercity rail system that can operate at speeds of 200 miles per hour or faster to connect the major metropolitan areas of California, originating in San Francisco and operating from Sacramento through the Central Valley into Los Angeles, Orange County, the Inland Empire (San Bernardino and Riverside counties), and San Diego. The $9 billion would be used, along with available federal money and funds from other sources, to develop and construct a segment of the high-speed train system from the San Francisco Transbay Terminal to Los Angeles Union Station. After construction of the San Francisco to Los Angeles segment is fully funded, any remaining bond funds may be used to plan and construct any of five additional segments.