Legislative Analyst's Office

Analysis of the 2001-02 Budget Bill

High-Speed Rail Authority (2665)

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (HSRA) is responsible for developing and implementing an intercity high-speed rail service that is fully integrated with the state's existing mass transportation network. The California High-Speed Rail Act of 1996 (Chapter 796, Statutes of 1996 [SB 1420, Kopp]), established HSRA as an independent authority consisting of nine members appointed by the Legislature and Governor. The HSRA is required to develop and submit a plan to the Legislature and Governor to finance, construct, and operate a statewide intercity high-speed rail network. Chapter 796 scheduled HSRA to sunset at the end of 2000-01.

Chapter 791, Statutes of 2000 (AB 1703, Florez) extended the sunset date until December 31, 2003, reconstituted the authority's membership, and required that the authority continue planning for the proposed 700-mile long train system.

The budget proposes expenditures of $1 million for support of HSRA in 2001-02 to continue administering environmental planning contracts awarded in the current year.

Preliminary Environmental Review Initiated

We recommend that the High-Speed Rail Authority provide estimates on costs to continue contracting for environmental assessments of the proposed rail corridors at budget hearings. Based on that information, the Legislature should provide the amount needed to fund the preliminary environmental assessment work.

Environmental Review Funding. As required by Chapter 796, the authority submitted a business plan to the Legislature and Governor for the construction and operation of a high-speed rail system in 1999-00. In the current year, with $5 million provided in the 2000 Transportation Congestion Relief Program, HSRA has entered into several contracts with engineering firms to begin environmental impact reviews of the rail system alignments proposed in the plan. According to HSRA staff, the total cost, including the current-year amount, to complete all preliminary environmental impact reports is estimated at $25 million. The authority also expects the environmental reports to be complete by 2002-03. The budget, however, provides no funds in the budget year to continue the contracts.

Recommendation. In order to allow the environmental assessments begun in the current year to continue in 2001-02, we recommend that (1) HSRA provide the Legislature at budget hearings with cost estimates of the budget-year costs for the environmental assessment work, and (2) the Legislature provide the requisite funding in the budget.

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