Longtime local pol-turned-mass-transit-fanboy Rod Diridon suddenly has a fight on his hands. His pet project, the California High Speed Rail Authority, has come under attack from U.S. Rep. Jerry Lewis, soon-to-be head of the House Appropriations Committee. It’s not that Lewis doesn’t like trains—this is purely political gamesmanship.
The fast-train project, which is slated to turn San Jose’s Diridon Station into a futuristic mass-transit depot by the end of the decade, would connect San Francisco and Los Angeles at a cost of some $43 billion, and result in upward of 100,000 jobs. It’s the biggest public works project in the nation, and a centerpiece of Pres. Barack Obama’s back-to-work stimulus program. Lewis has threatened to pull $2 billion in already-dedicated money from High Speed Rail with his ballyhooed American Recovery and Reinvestment Rescission Act—a mirror image of the health-care repeal planned in other corners of the House.
Diridon, who sits on the High Speed Rail board, also helped finagle $2 billion in matching state funds for the project—money that would vanish if the federal money dries up.
Coincidentally, Lewis came under attack this week from the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch for his “unapologetic advocacy and abuse of earmarks.” The group says he steered hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of federal projects to family and friends in exchange for campaign contributions.