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Friday, November 18, 2011

Joe Simitian Could Do Us a Big Favor

State Sen. Joe Simitian will be wrapping up his career in Sacramento in 2012. The legislator who represents a portion of San Mateo County is being termed out of office. As a parting gift to his constituents, and to everyone in California, he might want to consider doing the brave and correct thing. He ought to defy his Democratic Party overlords and tell the truth about high-speed rail and what that project means for the financial future of the state. So far, Simitian, a seemingly bright fellow, has been unable to absorb the full fiscal impact of what awaits the state if HSR plans proceed as planned. There have been plenty of dire warnings, not the least of which came from the fast-train folks themselves earlier this month when it was predicted that a San Francisco to Anaheim high-speed line would cost close to $100 billion (and that doesn't include lines to Sacramento and San Diego which had been promised originally). That's nearly triple what the HSR gurus had estimated prior to a 2008 state election that provided close to $10 billion in high-speed bond seed money. Not only that, a steady stream of unbiased experts have come forward to sound the alarm bell about high-speed construction costs and, in the end, onerous operating deficits. Simitian knows all of this. In spite of that, he has balked at coming out against the plan. He continues to lean toward favoring it and touts a "blended" rail arrangement along the Peninsula. In that scenario, high-speed trains, for the most part, would use Caltrain's tracks in order to minimize the impact of HSR through Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. But even that doesn't wash. Fast-train officials offer that such an arrangement would be only temporary until they could find the cash to build separate tracks for their system. Why doesn't Simitian take the bold step and oppose HSR altogether. Maybe it's because he's got his eyes on a seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. Yep, it looks like more of the same.

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