The Legislature should not authorize the issuance of $2.7 billion in bonds to start building California’s $98.5-billion bullet train project, a state-appointed review panel says in a key report to be released later Tuesday.
The conclusion by the California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group is a serious blow to the project as it is currently designed because state law specifically empowered the group to make recommendation before any serious money on the train could be spent.
Gov. Jerry Brown has said he intends to ask the Legislature this month to appropriate and sell bonds to raise billions of dollars to start construction of the project.
But that plan is facing an increasingly skeptical Legislature and general public. And now, lawmakers would have to disregard the recommendation of the very group it directed to guide it on the project if they decide to approve the bond issue.
Voters authorized $9 billion in bonds for the bullet train project in 2008, but the measure required that the Peer Review Group sign off on the feasibility and reasonableness of the plan to build the rail system before the state issues the bonds.
A recent poll indicates a sharp drop in public support for the project.
The report was expected to be issued Tuesday afternoon, but the overall conclusions were described to The Times by members of the group.
The panel concludes that the plan to start building a $6-billion initial segment of the project in the Central Valley without any assurance of additional federal funding for many years is not sound. It cites a lack of clarity in the business plan that was unveiled in November.