Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Your California high-speed choo-choo update


Just last week when we reported out on cost estimates for California's high speed rail essentially tripling from the original estimate of $33 billion, when the bond measure was on the ballot exactly 3 years ago, to $98 billion we asked the following question:

Any takers that $100 billion price estimate is going to hold steady?

We knew we wouldn't have to wait long for our answer but one week?

Buried all the way at the bottom of an L.A. Times high-speed choo-choo article on its continuing funding, right-of-way and eminent domain travails, reads the following:

A bullet train business plan released Tuesday notes that the system cost of $98 billion could jump an additional $19 billion depending on the route and construction features.

Dude. We don't think we'd be out of line in thinking that (yet another) projected cost overrun of nearly 20% might rise, in importance, above the very last line of the article.

But, no matter... let's see what other good news this article on California's Central Valley choo-choo held in store:

The California High Speed Rail Authority board adopted a funding plan, which seeks to tap $3.3 billion in federal grants and $2.7 billion in state bonds to begin building an initial 140-mile segment of track through the Central Valley. That non-operational segment would run mostly through farmland from Chowchilla to Bakersfield.

The request now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown's administration and then the Legislature, where it will face tough scrutiny by lawmakers concerned about where they will find more than $90 billion to finish the system — described as the largest infrastructure project in the nation.

In a new business plan announced Tuesday, the authority said it hopes to get billions in private investments, additional federal funding and proceeds from a new U.S. bond program that will require congressional approval. Critics note that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has vowed to stop all federal funding for the project.

Maybe Ralph Vartabedian, the co-author of the article linked above, may want to check out his own stuff because here is what he said about private investors and California's high speed rail.

Investors may not be willing to back the state's bullet train project until after it begins operating, the California High-Speed Rail Authority said in a letter to key legislators, an acknowledgment that again raises serious questions about how the $43-billion construction cost will be paid over the next decade.

$43 billion? Yeah, because that particular article was so October 18 of... this year.

Given the current budgetary trend, we can't imagine that list of potential investors is likely to grow.

And you know those evil Republicans in Congress aren't going to give up any coin for what is the most expensive boondoggle infrastructure project in the history of this country.

Alas, all this may of be no consequence as Governor Jerry Brown and the power elite in Sacramento fully intend on building this tax dollar black hole because, after all, who doesn't love choo-choos?

Because we got so caught up in the numbers and because we have turned into such number-crunching technocrats, we leave you with this, a more human element of this whole mess:

Glen Parsons of Hanford said his family stood to lose five homes and a farm. Other mostly negative comments continued for close to two hours and came from Democrats, Republicans, tea party activists, county officials, school board members and others.

Voters approved the project in 2008, but critics say the ranks of opponents are growing, particularly with cost estimates for the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco leg of the system now three times original estimates.

The authority's chairman, Tom Umberg, said he would carefully consider the public's concerns but gave speakers just 90 seconds and then cut the limit to 60 seconds, irking some audience members who came long distances. Many demanded that the project be halted immediately, arguing that the state could not afford the rail system when it is laying off teachers and setting criminals free from prison to save money.

We're broke as a country, we're broke as a state but by dammed, this thing is going to get built one way or another because it's about fidelity to an ideology of green energy/transportation so you can take that fiscal responsibility and quaint notion of property rights and shove 'em up where the sun don't shine.




Doo Doo Econ said...

AMC's Hell On Wheels deals with a similar railroad project in 1865:
"In case you haven't heard, this enormous undertaking is being financed by the enormous teat of the federal government," he tells one of his planners, forcing the man's face into a map. "This never-ending, money-gushing nipple pays me $16,000 per mile. Yet you build my road straight!"

Anonymous said...

By the way, That cost estimate DOES NOT include San Diego, or Sacremento, according to the planners plan even though those cities were in originally. And about that 140 mile stretch, That will not be 'High Speed'. This Sucks!