WASHINGTON — House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday denounced California’s current high-speed rail plans, further clouding the political future of an ambitious project running through his own Central Valley hometown.
McCarthy, who represents parts of San Luis Obispo County, said Tuesday that California and the federal government would both be wise to avoid spending billions of dollars on a train he predicted would become a money sink.
"In today’s world, is that the best place to put the money? The answer is no," McCarthy told reporters. "I don’t think it’s a smart investment."
Echoing other critics, McCarthy on Tuesday characterized the initial planned 123-mile route from Bakersfield to tiny Borden in rural Madera County as a "train to nowhere." He said the train would be poorly used and would inevitably leave taxpayers on the hook for endless subsidies.
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"Look at where California is (financially)," McCarthy said. "They don’t have enough money to build it now."
The California High-Speed Rail Authority has long-term plans to build an 800-mile system connecting Los Angeles with the San Francisco Bay Area. Trains are supposed to travel upward of 220 miles per hour, in some stretches.
California voters in 2008 approved a $9.9 billion bond measure to start the project, whose final cost will end up being much more.
The Obama administration has committed about $3.6 billion to boost California’s high-speed rail project. Additional money could soon become available, following Florida’s recent rejection of $2.4 billion in federal high-speed rail funds.