To the Editor:
The North Coast RR Authority (NCRA) is an independent state entity in charge of the 310-mile freight rail line between American Canyon and Humboldt Bay. NCRA’s board members are appointed by local boards of supervisors and do not answer to any authority.
Virtually all of its funds come from taxpayers, including $60+ million it recently spent rehabilitating the southern 61 miles of line to Windsor.
NCRA does not have a comprehensive strategic plan with measurable goals and objectives. Its management is badly in need of an outside review, before it follows in Vallejo’s footsteps and declares bankruptcy:
o Due to NCRA’s past actions, Caltrans considers NCRA as a High Risk Agency and does not let NCRA touch public funds under Caltrans? jurisdiction without proof that the funds are properly spent. This has continued for the last decade and caused NCRA to incur over $500,000 in extra expenses.
o NCRA has had substantial budget deficits for years. Its financial situation is precarious, at best, yet its private freight operator (NWP) uses the line without paying a trackage fee.
o NCRA gave NWP a "no bid" $1 million contract to do repair work outside Caltrans’ purview that was to take five months. It ended up costing over $2.5 million and was finished a year late.
o NCRA’s lease with NWP can last a century, without meaningful oversight, conceivably without trackage payments, while taxpayers underwrite much of the risk.
o There is no indication that the NCRA/NWP relationship is, or will be, fiscally prudent.
A prompt, comprehensive, outside evaluation/audit is required for the good of the taxpayers and to properly revive freight rail in northern California. Otherwise a viable freight rail service envisioned when taxpayers purchased the line out of bankruptcy might never be.