Request for emergency audit of bullet-train project is denied by Legislature leadership

A request for an emergency audit of the $64-billion California bullet train project was turned down Monday by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, the Torrance Democrat who chairs the joint audit committee.

In a letter to Assemblyman Jim Patterson (D-Fresno), who requested the audit, Muratsuchi said the request would deny the legislature and public an opportunity to review and discuss the issue in public.

Muratsuchi suggested he bring a regular request for an audit when the committee holds a hearing in January. Under Patterson’s request for an emergency audit, the chair and co-chair of the committee can authorize an audit by themselves. The project is facing a $1.7-billion increase in costs and a seven-year delay in just its segment in the Central Valley.

In 2016, the joint audit committee turned down a request for a regular audit by Sen. Andy Vidak (R-Hanford), who subsequently said the party’s leadership was afraid that potentially negative findings would jeopardize the project.

Patterson and Vidak, among most other Republican legislators and a few Democrats, oppose the project as it is currently planned and implemented. Patterson’s office released the letter from Muratsuchi.

The state auditor last reported on the bullet train five years ago, raising a wide range of concerns about its financial condition, ridership estimates and oversight.

ralph.vartabedian@latimes.com

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