Feb 1 2017
Wilk says build dams, not high-speed rail
PALMDALE - Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, said the cost of high-speed rail is prohibitive compared to other technology that could impact Antelope Valley commuters.
Wilk, who filled the seat previously occupied by former Lancaster Sen. Sharon Runner, said the train's entire system was supposed to cost only $45 billion, but the cost of the San Francisco to Los Angeles phase is pegged at $64 billion.
"High-speed rail is never going to happen," he said.
Wilk said he understood the need for cities to plan for the rail, but he would like to use unspent funds on reimbursing cities that spent local money on high-speed rail projects.
"There's $8 billion sitting there unspent on those high-speed rail funds that were approved with Proposition 1A that the rail authority can't spend because they're out of compliance with the initiative," he said. "They're never going to be in compliance with the initiative, so when the next governor or the court pulls the plug on high-speed rail, that money is still there. What I'd like to do is to tap into that money and reimburse all these local governments that had to spend funds to accommodate high-speed rail."
Wilk said he was skeptical about the projected ridership and that the cost wouldn't increase.
"We know it's going to cost more than that," he said, adding later, "Their projected ridership is higher than Amtrak has for the entire nation. "Those numbers don't align."
Wilk said he is interested in hyperloop technology instead of high-speed rail.
"(Elon Musk) believes these pods can travel as quickly as 700 mph so you can get from the San Fernando Valley to the Bay Area in 30 minutes," he said. "If we're going to be doing that kind of investment or partnering, let's do it on next-generation technology, not on something that's 150 years old."
Wilk said he also would consider driverless cars and said he has visited Google to see a demonstration of the technology.
"They claim that at a minimum, lane capacity will double because you have computers driving the cars, not people," he said. "We're going to have to depend on technology and that's why I always encourage innovation."
In the short-term, Wilk said his first bill he introduced was Senate Bill 57, which he hoped would end the possibility of the proposed Cemex mine in eastern Santa Clarita, and by extension, remove planned trucks off the freeway.
"If that Cemex mine comes online, at the apex of that contract, there'd be about 1,200 semi-trucks on the 14 (Freeway) every day," he said. "Obviously, the 14 is already overloaded."
Wilk said Gov. Jerry Brown said the state is $59 billion behind on road and bridge construction.
"There's no more road money coming," he said.
Wilk said he did not favor Measure M, because "they (Metro) don't spend any money north of Ventura Boulevard," and that he would want to expedite the build-out of the High Desert Corridor.
"Not only does it benefit the L.A. basin, but it'd be an economic boom for us," he said. "But if you look at their plan, when is that going to be built and finished? 2063. I will be dead."
While winter storms have helped the Antelope Valley, the area will likely remain in drought conditions. Wilk blamed state policymakers for not supplying water.
"The fact of the matter is, we've been in drought conditions, but we shouldn't even be in drought and the reason why we're in drought is because of the failure of Sacramento to act on a comprehensive water policy," he said. "We need to have more storage."
Wilk said part of Proposition 1, which voters approved in 2014, sets funds aside for dam construction, but said some groups are against the projects.
"One of the key provisions in that bill is that out of $7.5 billion, $1.75 billion was supposed to go towards building dams," he said. "There's two dams they're supposed to build. The California Water Commission has not moved, in fact they're trying to pass additional regulation that would delay possible construction of dams because environmentalists don't want dams."
"We allow 49% of our water to flow into the Pacific, 41% goes to agriculture, 10% goes to urban use, which is residential," he added.
Wilk said California could learn from Australia, who had 11 years of drought before recent weather changes, in terms of water management.
"I believe there is climate change and we already live in a desert," he said. "I think we need to be proactive on that."
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