GOP congressmen want high-speed rail project audited

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A dozen Republican congressman have asked the nonpartisan U.S. Government Accountability Office to study California’s controversial high-speed rail project, citing “questionable ridership and cost projections.”

The request, spearheaded by House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, of Bakersfield, comes less than a week after a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meeting, where “concerns were expressed over the management of the project and its exploding costs,” McCarthy wrote in a letter signed by 11 other Republicans.

“Good stewardship of taxpayer dollars is a priority for us, and allowing the money of hard-working Americans to be wasted on a questionable project with many unanswered questions would be an abdication of our responsibilities as election officials of the American people,” McCarthy wrote.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has faced increased criticism after new cost estimates more than doubled previous predictions to almost $100 billion.

The project, for which voters approved roughly $9 billion in bonds in 2008, won’t be completed until 2033, a delay of roughly a decade.

A recent Field Poll also showed roughly two-thirds of California voters want the project to go back on the ballot, with a two-to-one margin saying they would shoot it down if given the chance.

Rail leaders said last month they have enough money to begin construction on the project next year between Bakersfield and Fresno, but after that, they’ll be dependent on federal and state funding streams that don’t current exist.

Project proponents have maintained the cost of building a high-speed rail system would be less than constructing new highways and airport runways to keep up with California’s increasing population.

Tuesday’s Republican-led request asks the Government Accountability Office to assess the accuracy of already dwindling ridership estimates, amount of federal or state funding needed and cost comparisons between the proposed rail line and other modes of transportation.

Gilroy is one of 24 station locations along the proposed 800 miles of track.

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