High-speed rail: "Delusional"
|Graphic from the Antiplanner|
San Jose Mercury News editorial
There is a fine line between visionary and delusional. California's high-speed rail project whizzed across that line long ago and now is chugging toward the monorail station at Fantasyland.
The latest end-run tactic by the train's chief engineer, Gov. Jerry Brown, would have California's Legislature suspend its tough environmental laws so the state could put this pet project on the---pardon the pun---fast track.
Never mind that every independent analysis has been highly critical of it.
Never mind that the High-Speed Rail Authority's own peer review group said it was terribly flawed.
Never mind that the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office said even the new, new, new and improved incarnation still is not nearly "strong enough" and relies on "highly speculative" funding sources. That is bureaucratese for "not a snowball's chance in hell of finding the money to pay for it."
Never mind that the state's projected budget shortfall is now greater than the total budget of 39 states and that the debt service on the sale of these rail bonds would create another fiscal chasm to be filled by another cockamamie budget gimmick.
Never mind that the new, new, new plan bears so little resemblance to the one voters approved that going ahead with it now borders on ballot fraud.
Never mind that poll after poll---including a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll released June 2---has shown that a strong and growing majority of voters does not want the state to proceed with the project.
Nope, none of that matters. Casey Jones is at the controls of his legacy project, so reason and fiscal prudence have been abandoned on the far side of the turnstile.
We say all this despite having supported high-speed rail when it was on the ballot in 2008. Rail is important to America's future, and we know the first steps toward any visionary plan face hurdles and may require leaps of faith.
But back then nobody foresaw the economic plunge that still leaves California mired in budget deficits. We lost faith in the original board and its planning and construction team. Then last year an updated plan with wildly higher costs for a smaller system sent us leaping to the sidetrack. (Oopsie, did we say $45 billion? We meant $98 billion. No, no, wait, $68 billion. Well, you know, around there. Did we say San Diego and Sacramento would be included? Um, our bad, they're not.)
How can anyone believe a word of what comes from the High-Speed Rail Authority now? As to Brown's legacy, he still has to get his tax plan approved in the fall. If voters perceive high-speed rail as a waste of money, they will be more dubious of taxes.
This is like a family that is deeply in debt choosing to finance a $120,000 new Tesla because it runs on electricity and will create jobs for a time at the Fremont plant. Besides, you know, the bank gave us a really good interest rate.
That makes no sense. Neither does going ahead with high-speed rail in California. The Legislature needs to stop it if the governor won't.
On High-Speed Train Talk, Martin Engel methodically monitors the high-speed rail project.
For in-depth analysis of every aspect of the boondoggle, the Community Coalition on High Speed Rail is best.
Mark Powell does good work on Against California High Speed Rail.
Labels: High-Speed Rail