Costa, Lofgren, Richardson Call for Comprehensive GAO Review of California High-Speed Rail

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Reps. Jim Costa (CA-20), Zoe Lofgren (CA-16), and Laura Richardson (CA-37), co-chairs of the California High-Speed Rail Caucus, sent a letter Tuesday to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in support of conducting a study on the long-term feasibility of the California high-speed rail project requested by House Republicans in December.

The letter urges GAO to provide transparency and oversight of California’s high-speed rail project by consulting with an array of expert witnesses whose views were left out of previous reviews, like the one conducted by the California Legislature’s Legislative Analyst’s Office in May. The lawmakers requested that in reviewing high-speed rail’s feasibility, GAO include a comprehensive review of the ability of California’s current transportation system to accommodate its booming population and the comparable cost of updating other modes of transportation.

Costa, Lofgren and Richardson were joined in sending the letter by two top Democrats on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee as well six additional California Democrats.  Costa, Lofgren and Richardson released the following statements:

Rep. Jim Costa- “We all agree that transparency and oversight are critical to any major infrastructure project. This letter simply asks that the Government Accountability Office conduct a comprehensive analysis that puts the facts, not politics, first.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren- “The investment in California High-Speed Rail will provide immense benefits to the state of California.  This project should be treated like any other infrastructure project and we welcome a comprehensive review by the GAO.  We look forward to a thorough review that includes input from many individuals and stakeholders and looks at all aspects of the project.”

Rep. Laura Richardson- “A project of this scale deserves a thorough and open review process to ensure accountability and fairness for all parties involved. Our request reiterates the need for an extensive review by consulting the experts that are knowledgeable on every aspect of this project.”


Complete text of the letter:

January 3, 2012

The Honorable Gene L. Dodaro

Comptroller General of the United States

United States Government Accountability Office

441 G Street, NW

Washington, D.C. 20548

Dear Mr. Dodaro:

It has come to our attention that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has received a request to conduct a study of the California high-speed rail project. We agree that transparency and oversight of this important infrastructure project is necessary and appropriate.

It is incumbent upon GAO to utilize all of the expert information available as it examines the project.  We believe a thorough review of the California high-speed rail project should include close consultation with a range of experts on critical aspects of the project. These should include, but not be limited to, the following individuals:

  • Dr. Frank Koppelman, chairman of the independent Ridership Peer Review Panel, which was commissioned to review the preparation of the updated ridership and revenue forecasts included in the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s (Authority) draft business plan.
  • California Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani, the author of Proposition 1A, the $9.95 billion bond measure that California voters approved in 2008.
  • U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Railroad Administration Administrator Joseph C. Szabo, whose staff worked closely with the Authority in drafting the draft business plan.

Furthermore, in order to prepare a comprehensive review of the project, we request the study include:

  • The use of the federal definition of high-speed rail (“nonhighway ground transportation…which is reasonably expected to reach sustained speeds of more than 125 miles per hour” [49 USC Sec. 26105]) when comparing the California high-speed rail project costs and viability to other high speed rail projects in the United States.
  • An assessment of California’s ability to accommodate the expected population growth over the next 40 years on existing transportation systems.
  • A comparison of the federal, state and local government subsidies required for the operation and maintenance of other modes of transportation, including by locomotive, airplane, and car, available to travelers in California.
  • A review of federal, state and local government efforts to construct a true high-speed rail system in the Northeast Corridor. This review should compare total cost in year-of-expenditure dollars, dedicated funding from states and municipalities, and expected private investment in the Northeast Corridor to those of the California high-speed rail project. 

Thank you for your consideration of our request. Please do not hesitate to contact Andy Flick with Congressman Jim Costa’s office should you need further information.


Rep. Jim Costa

Member of Congress

Rep. Zoe Lofgren

Member of Congress

Rep. Laura Richardson

Member of Congress

Rep. Nick Rahall

Member of Congress

Rep. Corrine Brown

Member of Congress

Rep. Dennis Cardoza

Member of Congress

Rep. Barbara Lee

Member of Congress

Rep. Bob Filner

Member of Congress

Rep. Karen Bass

Member of Congress

Rep. Mike Honda

Member of Congress

Rep. Adam Schiff

Member of Congress