High-speed rail issue as "a test of character"
Paul Krugman considers how those writing about public affairs should deal with it when they've been wrong on an issue:
This begs the essential question: How much does the state really "need" this project? Good place to start finding out is by reading this study. Yes, the project must follow the law in the legislation 2704.8 (J) that accompanied the project. And, just as important, it must adhere to the promises made during the campaign to pass Proposition 1A in 2008, which, by the way, only passed with 52% of the vote.
What happens next will be critical, not only for the 500-mile line connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles but for the future of high-speed rail. The world of 200-mph trains has taken hold in Europe and Asia, where the ultra-fast systems flourish.
The judge also told the rail authority to come up with a fuller picture on how it plans to find billions in private money to complete the plan along with full environmental approvals.
"Private money"? Why would anyone invest in the California high-speed rail project? Why has there been no private investment in this project so far? Because investors require a return on their investment. Of course companies---and even governments---are willing to sell California train cars and bullet train technology, but Prop. 1A prohibits any government subsidy to operate the system once it's built, unlike systems in Europe and Asia, which are built with public money and subsidized with public money after they're built. Collecting interest on the bonds authorized by Prop. 1A is the only profitable role that can now be played by private money.
Federal Grants: $17-19 billion
State Grants (Prop. 1A bonds): $9.95 billion
Local Grants: $4-5 billion
Private Funding: $10-12 billion
Some critics are determined to send the project back for another statewide vote, noting that it has changed in some respects, such as adjusting the Peninsula stretch to use Caltrain tracks...The northern end will also take shape using a "blended" approach that will put high-speed trains on Caltrain commuter tracks to save money...But it would be a mistake to start over---any plan of this magnitude is going to require adaptation.
The "blended" system was proposed to get political support in northern and southern California by spreading the money around to local governments. The problem is that sharing tracks with other systems results in a slower system that no longer qualifies as the high-speed rail promised to state voters in 2008, not exactly a minor "adaptation" in the project. This is why previous supporter Quentin Kopp turned against the project. (See also Kopp's later declaration in support of the successful litigation against the project.)
High-speed rail must go forward, judiciously and expeditiously.
Onward "expeditiously" to state bankruptcy!
The high-speed rail project is also a test of Governor Brown's integrity.
Labels: High-Speed Rail