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Prop 6 Proponents Introduce Anti-High Speed Rail Initiative

12:46 PM PST on December 3, 2018

Carl DeMaio next to John Cox on the Capitol steps during the 2018 campaign. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Carl DeMaio just won't go away quietly. After the trouncing of his Proposition 6, which would have repealed the recent increase in gas taxes and caused other mayhem with California's transportation funding, DeMaio is back with another attempt to screw up the transportation system and end what little progress has been made.

His new initiative, just cleared by the California Secretary of the State to begin collecting signatures, would “remove responsibility and funding for state highway construction and maintenance from the state” and put it in the hands of local governments.

Oh, also: the initiative would kill the California High Speed Rail Project by terminating its funding.

It's no secret that DeMaio has it out for Caltrans, and would love to take away the department's funding, but this initiative is ridiculous. Sure, local governments would appreciate the boost in funding, but does any city want to take on the responsibility of maintaining the state highway system? Local agencies also absolutely do not have the capacity to take on the extra work--but DeMaio has the solution to that. The initiative would require that highway construction work be done “by private, non-governmental entities.”

Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) has been putting forward these same ideas since he got into office several years ago. Caltrans is inefficient, and therefore its work should be done by private contractors, he says. High-speed rail is a boondoggle and ought to be killed, according to Moorlach. Luckily, his legislative attempts to gut Caltrans and high-speed rail never got anywhere.

Moorlach and DeMaio and their ilk don't really care about efficiency or improving transportation or any of the things Californians actually care about. What they want is no-strings-attached money going to fatter, faster highways unimpeded by state concerns. They want to get rid of transit because “nobody rides it” and they want to ensure that the only way to get anywhere is by private vehicle, thus guaranteeing that the congestion they say they are worried about grows exponentially into the future.

Imagine what a patchwork the state highway system would become if all planning and maintenance work were the responsibility of local governments. Imagine the crush of future congestion if no one could choose to take transit anywhere, because what little of it exists is even slower and more disconnected than it is today. Imagine a future without a world-class rail line, where the only way to get anywhere in California is via ever-increasingly congested highways of varying widths and conditions.

That's a big nope.

DeMaio has until May to collect enough signatures to put this on the 2020 ballot. Because it proposes a constitutional amendment, it needs more signatures than a regular initiative--in this case, 585,407 signatures of registered voters--to qualify. Once on the ballot, it would only need a simple majority vote to pass.

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