Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Is California High Speed Rail Stuck At The Station

While it has become very obvious that my blogging has slowed to a crawl it doesn't mean that I haven't been out there keeping up to speed with all the goings on in the world.

One of my favorite targets has been the California High Speed Rail attempts to link Southern Cali with the Bay Area. You can get the details by reading my other posts on this subject. But a snapshot is this very expensive construction project started out with an estimate in the $10B range, nearly all taxpayer funded (no reputable private would touch this boondoogle with a ten foot pole AND HEAVY tax subsidies). Over the life of the project (hardly any actual construction) the estimates have increased 350% to $35B, still with little to no private money. And something else to consider, this money was to be used to build a small section of the entire project.

As mentioned, there has been some minor construction between two communities that have no need for, or the ability to afford the price of a ticket. Names escape me at the moment. Other than the lack of money for this project there have been other stumbling blocks. Right-A-Way acquisitions have proven troublesome. Some folks out there don't want to sell their lands for a railroad and lawyers are fighting eminent domain attempts.. Interestingly, while this project has been a gleam in some enviro- fascist eyes eco-nutjobs have also put up some road blocks. Apparently the is some sort of bird in the hills between the Bay Area and the San Joaquin Valley that would be in trouble if tracks and tunnels were built through this area.

Interesting side note on that last sentence. The media is practically stumbling over itself trying to shine a harsh light on the supposed rift between the conservative and old guard factions within the Republican party. But very little has ever been mentioned (this blog excepted) how different factions of the eco-nutjob movement are opposing each other on many supposed green earth projects. Solar projects in California and Arizona have been either shutdown or slowed to a crawl over habitat destruction concerns. Wind turbines are now killing birds and bats by the millions and some want them shut down.

As usual, I'm rambling.

Anyway, on the reason for this post. It seems that a California Superior Court Judge has ruled that the state of California cannot move forward with this project. It seems that California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) has not met the requirements to sell that bonds that are needed to fund the project. Mind you, this project was actually approved by the California public back in 2008. But also note that back then, the estimate was $10B, not the current $35B. Hence the reason for the ruling. The voter approved measure has a provision that requires that for funding to begin there must be money to complete the section of the project voted on. I might not be really good at math, but I'm smart enough to know that $10B approved can't cover the $35B needed.

As most of my readers are aware, I have been opposed to this project form the word go. I have real issues throwing good taxpayer money after bad projects. Some have pointed out that America has dived into huge public works projects in the past. The inter-state highway system and dam building come to mind. That was a different day and age though. These projects help build the USA. Goods and people move on the freeways, giving a boost to manufacturing and tourism. Power generation and the huge growth in agriculture has been a boon to the USA.

But what does the HSR have to offer other than rapid movement between LA and the Bay Area that really only the elites will be able to afford on a regular basis. And shouldn't that be the final arbiter of the worthiness of a public works project? If taxpayer money is going to be used for these kinds of projects shouldn't it give benefit to the most number of people. Dams and freeways met this very simple (and demanding) litmus test. The California HSR doesn't.

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