When he was a boy, Jerry Brown must have asked Santa Claus for a toy train set but not gotten one. How else can one explain the California governor’s obsession with building a “high-speed” train other than it being compensation for an unmet childhood desire?
Initially, the train in question would run between two towns in the state’s San Joaquin Valley, the southern half of its huge Central Valley. It is supposed to be the first section of a 520-mile network that would connect that big metropolitan centers of Northern and Southern California.
In 2008, California voters, seduced by union-funded advertising, voted for a $9 billion bond issue as “seed money” to begin the system. Brown wants to use the first $2.7 billion of this to get construction under way. The Obama Administration has promised a $3.5 billion carrot for California along with a “stick” in the form of a demand to get construction of the toy train underway this year.
Since 2008 the cost of the network between the San Francisco Bay Area and Orange County has been put at between $98 billion and $117 billion. The completion date has gone from 2020 to as late as 2033. This phase of the network does not include either San Diego or Sacramento. The bipartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates service of the bond issues for this phase will amount to $700 million a year in a state that perpetually faces large annual deficits and cuts such things as rural school buses and in-home service for low-income seniors to deal with the problem.
To put it mildly, enthusiasm for the “bullet train” scheme has dimmed since 2008. A recent Field Poll found that by two-to-one, California voters would turn it down if it were on this year’s ballot.
Also, bad news for a Chinese high-speed rail line:
Last week, Little Miss Attila wrote about it at The Conservatory:
The intent is obviously to go forward with this boondoggle regardless of its feasibility. [Ed] Morrissey points out, the board was intended to be a device to appease critics and to rubber stamp the project. The fact that it hasn’t worked out that way is inconvenient, but is not going to stop something that they really want. The fact that the voters voted to do a project with a $33 billion dollar price tag in 2008 and has now seen that estimate triple should provide more than enough of an argument whether “new” or not, to stop the California equivalent of the “Big Dig”.
There is no silver bullet for California’s economy.