Friday, April 15, 2011

California high-speed rail: Outlook is "bleak"

Yesterday in the Chronicle, Andrew Ross called the outlook "bleak" for California's high-speed rail after the budget deal cut all funding for the rest of the fiscal year. But his comments showed that he apparently doesn't understand how bad the outlook was even before those cuts. Ross invokes the official $43 billion price tag to build the system, but a more realistic assessment puts the price between $66 and $115 billion.

And the "private sector"? There will be no private investors in the California HSR system without state guarantees of profitability, which is prohibited by Prop. 1A. That was one of the big selling points for California voters in 2008, that the system would be self-sustaining and not subsidized by the state's taxpayers. The whole project was always a fantasy based on inflating future ridership numbers and minimizing both the construction costs and the operating expenses after the system was built.
It's time for California---Governor Brown should take the lead---to let this boondoggle die a dignified death rather than go through all of the five stages of grief. We're in denial now, but let's skip anger, bargaining, and depression and go directly to acceptance. The high-speed rail project is dead, and, in retrospect, it never should have been born.

See also yesterday's editorial in the Contra Costa Times. Thanks to Streetsblog for the link.