Bullet Train Bosses Rush to Cover Their Tracks
As this column has noted for several years, even if built according to plan, California’s vaunted high-speed rail project would be slower and more expensive than air travel. The so-called bullet train has yet to carry a single passenger but the High Speed Rail Authority (HSRA) did succeed maintaining a Sacramento headquarters, three regional offices, and providing a soft landing spot for former congresswoman Lynn Schenk. In 2019, after the original Los Angeles to San Francisco plan has been effectively killed off, bullet train bosses are rushing to cover their tracks.
“Thousands of pages of public records were removed from the California High Speed Rail Authority website in June,” Katy Grimes of the California Globe reports. “The HSRA has taken down business plans, documents, reports and financials from 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, and on,” assemblyman Jim Patterson told the Globe. Bullet train bosses also took down board meeting minutes and change orders, and claimed that the deletions were to make the HSRA compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
As Grimes notes, California State Auditor Elaine Howle’s audit uncovered conflicts of interest with HSRA employees and contractors. The auditor titled her report California High-Speed Rail Authority: Its Flawed Decision Making and Poor Contract Management Have Contributed to Billions in Cost Overruns and Delays in the System’s Construction. The auditor could continue inquiries, and Patterson believes that the Federal Rail Authority, the Department of Justice, and even the FBI could be looking into the matter. That could have prompted the recent deletions from the HSRA website.
As Katy Grimes notes, members of the media and anyone seeking information about rail authority spending will only be able to access detailed information on spending, board meetings and business plans, “through a time consuming and unreliable California Public Records Act request.”