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High Speed Rail Chair Downplays Financial Uncertainty

Dan Richard tells lawmakers it's not unusual to be unsure of funding sources

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Faced with new criticism about how to pay for California's $68 billion High Speed Rail project, the rail board's chair offered a novel explanation.

    Dan Richard, appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to shepherd the project through a jungle of hurdles, said it's not unusual to be unsure of funding sources for projects like this.

    "We didn't know where all the money was coming from," Richard said of projects that were approved by BART, the Bay Area Rapid Transit System, during his time on that board.

    Richard was pushing back at the non-partisan Legislative Analyst's Office, which released a report this week highlighting the risks of pursuing a project with unanswered questions about where to find billions of dollars.

    Richard told the Assembly Transportation Committee that there is also risk in not pursuing the project, including the loss of $3.3 billion in already-promised federal funding and the lack of planning for future transportation needs.

    The rail board chairman also insisted that the project has the ability to collect funding from the state's cap-and-trade program, which is meant to offset greenhouse gases.

    That has been disputed by the LAO. "We've been given by the governor...a legally dedicated revenue source," Richard said. That brought a sharp rejoinder from the committee chair.

    "The legislature is the one that makes the appropriations," said Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park.

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