Congressional Democrats Join Republicans’ Call for GAO Investigation into California High-Speed Rail Boondoggle

In a letter sent Tuesday to the Government Accountability Office, 11 House Democrats called on the watchdog agency to investigate California’s high-speed rail program. The rail system has faced increasingly harsh criticism as costs have ballooned, leading many to suspect misconduct on the part of California officials and the project’s supporters in the Obama administration.

The Democrats joined their Republican colleagues, who had sent the original request [PDF] to the GAO in December.

Also on Tuesday, the state-appointed California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group recommended [PDF] that the Legislature refuse to issue $2.7 billion in bonds due to major funding concerns, management problems, and failure to disclose key details of demand forecasting models. Long-term federal funding no longer seems likely and the estimated construction costs have nearly tripled since 2008 to $98.5 billion. The panel concluded that moving forward without addressing these concerns would “represent[] an immense financial risk on the part of the State of California.”

The Obama administration has been strongly supportive of passenger rail boondoggles and had originally made it one of its infrastructure centerpieces. But now all of it seems to be going down in flames. Of the new corridors backed by Obama, only two would allow trains to travel at fast enough speeds to actually qualify as high-speed rail: California and Florida. Florida has since scuttled the project, and California’s may soon be killed as well due to growing opposition in the Legislature and public. In addition, Wisconsin and Ohio rejected medium-speed Obamarail, and the proposed Midwestern network is on life support.

This past summer, CEI filed two Freedom of Information Act requests with the federal Department of Transportation seeking information related to California’s proposed “train to nowhere” in the Central Valley. The two DOT agencies — the Federal Railroad Administration and the Office of the Secretary of Transportation — have yet to comply. So much for Obama’s lackeys being “the most transparent administration in the history of our country.”