This morning, the Department of Transportation should receive the two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests I submitted on behalf of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. The letters, which request communications and documents related to the proposed Central Valley HSR Corridor [PDF] from Borden to Corcoran, California, as well as congressional liaison records in the possession of both the Department’s Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
CEI has become increasingly concerned with the disregard for transparency the Obama administration has shown with respect to this $715 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) “stimulus” project. A week ago, President Obama issued Executive Order 13576, which called for “Delivering an Efficient, Effective, and Accountable Government.” In the executive order, the president claims that “[t]he implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111 5) (Recovery Act) has seen unprecedented transparency.” But in the case of the ARRA-funded Central Valley corridor, nothing could be further from the truth.
The grant was announced on October 25, 2010, a little over a week before the November election. Rep. Jim Costa (D) was able to hold a nice “bringing home the bacon” press conference. Convenient, eh? Furthermore, after harsh criticism from state politicians, citizens, and the press, the California High-Speed Rail Authority requested more flexibility from the U.S. Department of Transportation in order to potentially begin constructing the Phase 1 high-speed rail system on a different segment that might enjoy a greater chance of being somewhat more financially viable, such as Los Angeles-Anaheim or San Francisco-San Jose.
Transportation Undersecretary for Policy Roy Kienitz wrote back to California and essentially told them, “Tough titty!” “Once major construction is underway and approvals to complete other sections of the line have been obtained, the private sector will have compelling reasons to invest in further construction,” said Kienitz. Huh? The private sector has a “compelling reason” to invest in a rail segment in the rural Central Valley, and one that might not be operational unless California secures additional federal funding and private-sector support, as Proposition 1A and AB3034 forbid the use of California taxpayer dollars to subsidize operation [PDF]? I really don’t think so, and neither does CEI.
Here’s the press release we sent out today, and below are the scanned FOIA request letters: