American Elephants


Today’s $68 Billion Train to Nowhere to Be Finished in 80 Years? Splendid Idea. by The Elephant's Child

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On Monday, Governor Jerry Brown, Democrat, took an oath of government frugality in his fourth inaugural address. The next day he led the groundbreaking ceremony for  California’s $68 billion bullet train in Fresno.

Seven years ago, in 2008, voters approved $9 billion in state bonds to build a 500-mile train connecting San Francisco and Anaheim (current estimates suggest more than $100 billion). The feds have donated a mere $3.3 billion, which by law must be spent by October 2017. California’s high-speed rail authority can’t access the bond proceeds until it gets the right of way from the state courts, which are presiding over numerous legal challenges that may not be settled for several years.

The  authority has so far obtained less than a fifth of the parcels needed to complete the first 29-mile stretch in the Central Valley.

This does not matter to Mr. Brown and the rail authority who are frantically trying to burn through the federal funds to meet the White House’s spending deadline. The LA Times says that  “over the next 1,000 days, the state will have to  spend $3 to $4 million every single day to accomplish their goal.”

Bullet train supporters believe that state judges will be reluctant to block access to bond funds once construction starts. The more schools,  homes and businesses torn down, the better. The goal is to make the bullet train an accomplished fact, in order to convince the judiciary that it is. California’s record of starting and then abandoning freeways, and infrastructure projects meant the Legislature added provisions to ensure the train did not become a “stranded investment.”

Planners picked the flattest, straightest and most desolate stretch for the first segment. It gets more complicated crossing the 7,680′ high Tehachapi range, and tearing up densely populated areas in the Bay Area and Los Angeles Basin.

I have over 40 articles about California High-Speed Rail Authority. They uniformly think it’s nuts. Some estimates are 80 years till completion. Thinking back 80 years, to the changes in technology, population, culture, one must conclude that today’s plans are unlikely to fit 2094 transportation needs at all. And the federal $3.3 billion is all they have to work with at present since a state judge last year barred it from tapping the voter-approved $9 billion in bonds until it satisfies a quantity of requirements in the ballot initiative.

The Governor said that those who don’t support the bullet train are pusillanimous — “lacking in spirit” he said, but the actual definition is not so bland.


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