President Obama’s controversial plan for a high-speed rail system took a hit Tuesday as the top California member of Congress, House majority whip Kevin McCarthy, voiced strong opposition to building a new rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Though the line would run through his hometown of Bakersfield, McCarthy insisted it would be a bad investment, especially now with government debt soaring.
In California, the high-speed rail system would cost at least $60 billion just to build, then require a subsidy to operate, McCarthy said at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “You would not invest your own money in it,” he told reporters.
He described himself as the “the first publicly elected official [in California] to come out opposed to it.” In Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida, Republican governors have turned down federal money to construct high-speed rail lines in their states.
McCarthy said the rail proposal is shaky because there’s no guarantee either that it would ultimately be built or that it would achieve the optimistic goals for ridership set by its proponents. In the Central Valley of California, he said, the rail plan calls for 14 million rider trips annually, compared with only 750,000 rail or plane trips taken there now each year.
Funds obligated today for the rail line fall far short of its expected overall cost. The state is supposed to spend $9 billion, but none of that money has been spent so far. The Obama administration has set aside $2 billion and more may come from high-speed funds that Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida have chosen to forego.
McCarthy, who was Republican leader in the lower house of the California legislature before his election to Congress in 2006, said he favors high-speed between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. “But the private sector should pay for that,” he added.