Galgiani attacks Bay Area state senator's 'Great Train Robbery'

SACRAMENTO - Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani, author of California's voter-approved $10 billion high speed rail bond, today strongly condemned efforts to redirect the bond funds to non-voter-approved projects.

She specifically criticized State Sen. Joe Simitian, who represents California's 11th Senate District in Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Santa Cruz counties.

"This amounts to a bait-and-switch effort by certain interests to take money away from the high-speed rail system, and use it to cover shortfalls in funding the Caltrain commuter rail system on the San Francisco Peninsula." Galgiani said in a news release "It is highly suspect that the same few wealthy communities on the San Francisco Peninsula who want to stop the High Speed Rail project, would cynically work to divert the money to meet their existing obligations to the Caltrain system.

California was the first state in the nation to pass a high-speed rail bond, which authorizes the state to sell $9 billion dollars in bond funds to build a system that connects the major metropolitan areas of San Francisco, Sacramento, through the Central Valley, into Los Angeles, Orange County, the Inland Empire and San Diego. Unlike other states, California’s project is protected by the voter mandate of Proposition 1A, the news release said.

“Mr. Simitian is trying to syphon $1 billion of high-speed rail bond money for the Caltrain system in his district and proposes to make it legal under Proposition 1A by running one High Speed Train. This is the Great Train Robbery,” Galgiani said in the release. Californians voted for a high-speed rail system from Los Angeles to San Francisco, not a piggy bank for legislators.”

The San Mateo Transit District last year cut their contribution to Caltrain by 70 percent. San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority also reduced their contributions to Caltrain last year, forcing it into bankruptcy and reorganization. The communities on the peninsula want to take California high speed rail bond money to subsidize their struggling system, according to the news release. A few of California's wealthiest communities would use funds, which are intended to benefit the entire state, for their own needs, the release added.

Yesterday, in a Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee No. 2 hearing on the bond allocation to match federal funds for the first segment of High Speed Rail, Simitian told the executive director of the High Speed Rail Authority, “I don’t want to see an EIR completed for a project that will never be built.”

“Senator Simitian has continually criticized the High-Speed Rail Authority while failing to recognize the shortcomings of the rail system in his own back yard. Simitian should fix his own system, not tell the HSRA how to build theirs,” Galgiani said in the news release.

When talking about the authority’s proposed phased system, Simitian, chair of the Subcommittee, also said, “We’re saying there is a (one) phase and then you’re done.” He added, “If we run one High Speed Train from San Jose to San Francisco, at any time of day, we will comply with Prop. 1A”

Galgiani responded in the news release, “Senator Simitian essentially put a gun to the Authority’s head and said, do it my way or no way. Well, I’ve got news for him. This is not Florida, this is California. Proposition 1A is a voter mandate, and if we have to, we’ll sue.”