Someone put California's high-speed rail out of its misery, please

California's idiotic high-speed rail fantasy is dead. Or it's not.

Gov. Gavin Newsom in his State of the State address declared, "Let’s be real. The project, as currently planned, would cost too much and take too long.” 

Then Newsom got unreal by saying a 110-mile Central Valley segment already under construction between Bakersfield and Merced (population 376,380 and 82,594 respectively) would proceed. In other words, a bullet train to nowhere. 

screen-shot-2019-02-18-at-11-56-50-amOriginally sold to voters who narrowly approved the idea in a 2008 referendum, the "bullet train" was to run the 500 miles between San Francisco to San Diego and was to cost about $10 billion. Today the price has risen to $70 billion and its completion is 2033. At least.

In other words the Central Valley leg already has gobbled up the entire $10 billion that was to pay for the full project. And it is still being built, so who knows when and how much?

Thus, Newsom said the project will be dramatically scaled back from the original link between Los Angeles and San Francisco to the 110-mile Central Valley segment already under construction. 

And, by the way, the federal government already has given California $3.5 billion for the project, money that Newsom proudly says he won't give back. Your money and my money, in other words, already sunk into perhaps the biggest public works boondoggle in American history.

screen-shot-2019-02-18-at-12-02-09-pmStill, Newsom believes that we should keep coughing up more billions. He believes that further federal funding and unspecified private investment will complete the project.

The Los Angles Times, for one, is aghast as its editorial board proclaimed, "It boggles the mind that California cannot get the bullet train moving." No, it boggles the mind that $70-billion-plus should be picked from our pockets for in idea initially floated by former Gov. Jerry (Moonbeam) Brown.

What common good is served by spending $70 billion or more to get people from San Francisco to San Diego a few minutes, or even an hour sooner? Rail fans believe that the California project will essentially serve as a prototype, demonstrating the workability of linking cities throughout America with European-and Japanese-style bullet trains. And that's important, they say, because it will reduce auto and air travel that pollutes the air and leads to global warming. And eliminates the need for cars and airplanes.

But, if anything, the project should scare away any jurisdiction that takes seriously a cost-benefit analysis. Part of the equation has to be the contribution that the construction and all its heavy equipment contributes to CO2 production.

Rigorous and objective analysis is a stranger to the corner of the body politic that has persuaded itself that America can afford every ultra-expensive or whacky idea.

San Diego City Councilman Mark Kersey displayed a rare moment of reason in the Land of Delusion when he said, “The so-called bullet train is a solution in search of a problem that is plagued by billions of dollars in cost overruns and fiscal mismanagement.

There's a lesson here for folks who believe that building costly "infrastructure" projects like this always are a good job-creation, economy-swelling idea. Politicians from both parties share this conviction, contractors and government workers applaud it. The rest of us pay for it, whether good or bad.

dennis@dennisbyrne.net

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