Prop 6 Proponents Introduce Anti-High Speed Rail Initiative

DeMaio also wants to shift all responsibility for state highways to local governments

Carl DeMaio next to John Cox on the Capitol steps during the 2018 campaign. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog
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 After the trouncing of his Proposition 6, which would have repealed the recent increase in gas taxes and caused other mayhem with California’s transportation funding, DeMaio is back with another attempt to screw up the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.

  • Joe_Diego

    Local government already gets 75% of California STIP dollars. Caltrans gets 25%. Sending maintenance monies to some unknown non-government companies? Are you kidding me? This is the dumbest idea ever and will get crushed. DeMaio just looking to keep his face in the news.

  • Kevin Withers

    Your position is ‘denial’.
    Simply put.

    Most anyone with a concern for what words mean in legal documents, and how stewards of state fiscal matters should behave… there’s your opposition. And that includes Newsom. Stay tuned.

  • robo94117

    Don’t republicans travel, or at least read up on the success of HSR in most countries of the developed world? In France, all the main lines are being converted to HSR. In Japan, the HSR network is continuously expanding.
    Come on, Republicans, you need a vacation. And, like Bob said: “don’t criticize what you don’t understand.”

  • robo94117

    They’re there. Go to Fresno and have a look.

  • robo94117

    We already validated it. This is just another ploy by the right to drag rabidly anti infrastructure republican voters to the polls. The opposition is mostly people without passports who are mostly republicans.

  • robo94117

    Brought to you by the party that tried to rescind SB-1 and would still be complaining about potholes. Just go away.

  • robo94117

    Ever heard dof SB-1? SOS offering from the irrelevant right.

  • Melanie Curry

    Moderator here: Warning to both of you. Please limit comments to issues related to the post and avoid personal attacks. That goes for everyone visiting our comments section

  • Jack Bobby Lou Mulreavy

    Anytime the phrase “the Left” is used by someone, it immediately signifies a point of view based not upon facts but upon feelings. A point of view based upon ignorance not knowledge, and upon ideology not reality. Your talking points-style responses to anyone who points out the obvious flaws in your scheme is very revealing. Folks like you, who never ride mass transit and view any and all projects like this as a boondoggle, are a clear danger to society. We need solutions that work to solve problems. What we don’t need are loud-mouthed naysayers who just do not get the message from the rest of society. That message is: gridlock traffic was brought on by the lack of transportation options available to travelers and we are SICK of it. We WILL solve these problems and you need to either get the f**k out of the way or shut the f**k up! OR….you can revel in being one of the three or four conservatives left in the state of California..as the last election so dramatically showed.

  • aarond

    It’s not so much “far right” as it is just a dying breed of conservationism. Even honest Tea Partiers are ok with highway tolling – a situation that leads to increased transit utilization. California’s GOP is just stuck in the past (1992 specifically), and they refuse to live in the present.

    California isn’t a majority of quiet suburbs anymore, it’s 1/3rd suburbs + 1/3rd gentrified cities. A party setup for suburban flight has no place in a predominately urban society. And again, even Tea Partiers and Ron Paul types recognize this but the CA GOP does not.

  • Edward

    If you want a pure vote on HSR, this isn’t it. It is mainly designed to gut the California Department of Transportation. You know, the highway people.

  • crazyvag

    It’s feasible. It’s been buikb around the world at similar distances. The problem is oro funding comes with unrealistic deadlines that were the main cause of extra expenses.

    Can you explain what is different in design for her than what was approved? It’s same cities, route between Burbank and Palmdale had finally been agreed upon. And 171 miles are under construction using all funds that have been delivered.

  • Grew up in PA. Can confirm: PA roads are some of the worst in the nation.

  • Richard

    Pennsylvania puts the planning, construction of maintenance of state highways onto cities and counties.

    It’s a disaster.

  • You really can’t blame CA for the HSR debacle. It happens all over our country. Take the 2nd Avenue subway in NYC, for example. Or any other massive infrastructure project. I think many Californians are getting sick of paying higher taxes for projects that under perform and go over budget. I, for one, am tired of footing the bill for ill-conceived road and transit projects. I really can’t wait for the Central Subway boondoggle to open up in SF.

  • Kevin Withers

    Let’s vote. Currently, HSR is both unfeasible financially, and bears little resemblance to what was approved earlier by voters.

    If you support HSR, don’t you want a public validation? Likewise, if the “deal” is now a “no-deal”, let’s move on.

  • calwatch

    It’s mostly a union gutting measure since it also prevents Project Labor Agreements from being used, in addition to taking the work away from Caltrans. Rather than having transparent pay practices, we end up giving it to contractors who often collude as to what bids they end up taking, or in the case of engineering is only on a “best value” measurement with cost minimized as a factor. (This is to ensure public safety by not having engineers compete on low bid, but good consultants are not inexpensive.)

  • Get to Work People

    Some morons like you are happy paying higher taxes that are simply blown by out of control crazy politicians?

    Taxes just keep going up, up, up. If we weren’t spending billions of dollars caring for the flood of illegal aliens taking over our state, we would have the money to fix our roads.

  • Get to Work People

    OMG, how stupid to keep cheering on more taxes ….. the stupidity of the left is truly never ending.

  • DrunkEngineer

    Not a great example. Placer/Nevada counties would presumably get larger gas-tax revenues (which would have gone to Caltrans for that purpose).

    Also, don’t underestimate the gullibility of voters to fund road projects that benefit pass-thru drivers. When San Mateo widens its portion of 101, the main beneficiary is SF-Santa Clara drivers, not so much San Mateo. Or when Alameda county widens 580/680, the main beneficiary is Central Valley-Santa Clara drivers. It is mind-blowing that ‘self-help’ counties all the time put up these transportation sales tax measures that don’t benefit the voters paying for it.

  • Pretty high now that this measure is filed.

  • thielges

    It would be interesting to see how Placer and Nevada counties prioritize keeping I-80 clear of snow and ice if they had to fund that enormous maintenance task on their own versus spending those funds on issues that directly affect their counties. Sure, I-80 is a major corridor for those counties but the traffic that freeway carries mostly originates and terminates in other counties and states. Most Sierra residents are already comfortable with hunkering down for a few days and/or relying on serious 4WD vehicles while the snow clears or melts. But interstate trucking on I-80 can’t wait that long.

  • crazyvag

    Well, I hope they pile a few more laws to the measure. Might be easier to vote it down.

    Also will be good for HSR to have something to show for the money they spent. What’s the chance of at least seeing some rails laid down through Fresno by then?

  • Steven T. Jones

    DeMaio and his dying breed of far-right Californians are totally irrelevant in the 21st Century Golden State. This idiot is just looking to stay interesting to his shrinking base of right-wing radio listeners. He lost big on Prop. 6 and he’ll lose even bigger on this ridiculous measure.

  • Joe Linton

    Ugh… don’t sign this!

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