Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Newsom on high-speed rail: Same old crap

SF Chronicle

Gavin Newsom has always liked to portray himself as a bold leader, which is what he's trying to do on the high-speed rail issue. 

He'll be pleased with a quotation in the LA Times story

“It is shocking,” said a senior executive at a major engineering firm in California who has worked on the bullet train project and asked not to be identified. “I didn’t think he was that bold.”

But Paul Dyson gets it right in the same story:

"It looks like he kicked the can down the road," said Paul Dyson, president of the Rail Passengers Association of California. "He hasn't stopped anything that was planned to be done. It will go on maybe until money runs out. It isn't a bold step in one direction or another."

The only thing Newsom has scrapped is a minor project to provide an electrified commuter train from Gilroy to San Jose.

Instead, good money has to be thrown after bad on the original project! 

From the transcript of Newsom's State of the State speech:

Look, we will continue to support our regional projects north and south. We’ll finish Phase 1 of the environmental work. We’ll connect the revitalized Central Valley to other parts of the state, and we will continue to push for more federal funding and private dollars. But let’s get something done, once and for all.

And for those of you, I know you’re out there, who want to throw away this whole project, walk away from this whole endeavor, I offer you this: Abandoning high speed rail entirely means we will have wasted billions of dollars with nothing but broken promises and lawsuits to show for it.

And with all due respect, I am not interested in sending $3.5 billion in federal funding that was allocated to this project back to Donald Trump. That fundamentally would have to happen if we just walked away.

This has always been the strategy of mega-project supporters: downplay costs and exaggerate the benefits of a project to get it started. When the costs inevitably balloon, they then warn that the money already invested shouldn't be wasted!

From a book all about this issue (Megaprojects and Risk):

Martin Wachs interviewed public officials, consultants and planners who had been involved in transit planning cases in the US. He found that a pattern of highly misleading forecasts of costs and patronage could not be explained by technical issues and were best explained by lying. In case after case, planners, engineers and economists told Wachs that they had to "cook" forecasts in order to produce numbers that would satisfy their superiors and get projects started, whether or not the numbers could be justified on technical grounds (page 47, emphasis added).

Though California's high-speed rail project isn't discussed in the book, it's a perfect example of how that process works.

In effect, Governor Newsom is now ratifying a long history of lies justifying this project.

Though I'm a liberal Democrat, I have to admit that Randal O'Toole said it best: "All you have to do is mention the words 'public transit' and progressives will fall over themselves to support you no matter how expensive and ridiculous your plans."

Not surprising to learn that an important part of the Democratic Party's base, the unions, like the project. After all even dumb projects create jobs for their members, which is all they care about.

What Newsom hopes: that in 2020 voters will elect a Democrat president and give Democrats control of the Senate, which will lead to federal money for this poorly conceived, ruinously expensive project.

Thanks to CALmatters for the transcript.

See also Gavin Newsom, gay marriage, high-speed rail and Democrats are dumb on high-speed rail.

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4 Comments:

At 3:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Border Wall compromise, HSR compromise, Same difference...politics as usual, save face and push the problem off to the next group in power.

Washington Post:
Why the US will never have high-speed rail

 
At 5:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post. I'm going through many of these issues as well..

 
At 7:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And with all due respect, I am not interested in sending $3.5 billion in federal funding that was allocated to this project back to Donald Trump. That fundamentally would have to happen if we just walked away"

Trying to feed on California liberal dislike for Trump. As if to be waiting for a crowd of people to stand up and yell screw Trump keep building! Wanting to sound like a governor that doesn't waste money on dumb projects while wanting to continue to waste money on dumb projects.
Well I guess you get the con(man) you voted for.

 
At 12:43 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The dumb high-speed rail project is the only issue you Repugs are right about. But it's an important issue because it's such a big project. Now you need to work on some other issues, like race, gender, sexual orientation, immigration, abortion, climate change, etc. and get back to me by 2020.

 

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