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Lawmaker wants more financial disclosure on bullet train project

April 27, 2012 |  5:00 pm

California high-speed train
A Bay Area assemblyman proposed legislation Friday that would require certain private consultants working for the state high-speed rail project to disclose their income sources and business relationships.

Jerry Hill, a San Mateo Democrat, said the measure targets consultants who sit on peer review panels set up by the California High Speed Rail Authority, which is planning to build a $68-billion bullet train connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The review panels evaluate important aspects of the project and make recommendations related to such issues as ridership forecasts, revenue projections, financing proposals and business plans.

In the past, the authority has not asked consultants hired for such oversight duties to fill out statements of economic interests that are typically required for officials and bureaucrats in key decision-making positions.

Hill said his measure was prompted by a Los Angeles Times article earlier this month about Frank S. Koppelman, a transportation expert, hired by the rail authority to head an independent review of the project’s ridership and revenue projections.

The paper reported that Koppelman had worked for the consulting firm that prepared the agency's forecasts and maintained a close relationship with a top executive of the firm.  Koppelman said there is nothing improper in his service for the state. 

Hill said the proposed requirement will become part of a pending bill he introduced that would close a loophole that has allowed rail authority board members to receive thousands of dollars from special interests while voting on matters that affect those interests. The bill would require the authority to comply with the same conflict-of-interest rules as other state bodies, such as the Coastal Commission and Public Utilities Commission.


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Image: Rendering of proposed California bullet train. Credit: California High Speed Rail Authority