Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Your (California) high-speed choo-choo update


It's going to be free! Just like health care...

Nah... just kidding. Wanted to sucker you into thinking there was some actual good news before letting you down gently.

Actually, this one falls under the category of, well, duh.

But before that, where do we stand?: We have a public works project that is projected to grow to potentially $120 billion making it, by far, the most expensive tax-payer funded program in the history of the brokest nation on the planet which is a tad higher than the original $33-$45 billion estimate given to the program when the project was voted on by Californians back in 2008.

Also, funding for the initial set of tracks to be laid down out in the Central Valley covers only that.... the tracks. No transmission lines, no crossing gates, no signals, no actual choo-choos.

So, with that, what are all the obstructionists bitching about now? Perhaps that the project doesn't meet the funding provisions spelled out in the ballot language?

The state's legislative analyst says California's plan for a $98 billion high-speed rail system to connect Northern and Southern California does not comply with some parts of the 2008 ballot measure voters approved to provide the seed money, providing the latest obstacle for the embattled project.

It says Proposition 1A required rail officials to identify all sources of committed funds for a usable segment of the line and to clear all environmental requirements before the $9 billion in bonds could be sold.

With federal funding for high-speed rail drying up and speculative financing for many of the rail authority's plans, the analyst's office said it is increasingly likely that the stand-alone, 130-mile stretch planned for the Central Valley "may be all that is ever built."

"It is highly uncertain if funding to complete the high-speed rail system will ever materialize," the report said.


High-speed rail authority officials have conceded that much of the funding for future segments remains speculative, but they hope to attract private investors after initial segments are built.

With cost estimates tripling and quadrupling in just 3 years time, what private investor is going to dump his money into this turkey?

"My fear is that with (an uncertain) price tag and no dedicated revenue stream, any money we do get will go to that project, to the detriment of the state's existing transportation systems," said Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach.

With so much political capital and standing riding on high-speed choo-choos, the rail system as an infrastructure black-hole, sucking up any and all money around it, is a shrewd observation by Lowenthal... but screw it, let's do it anyway.

Still, she said high-speed rail promises "extraordinary benefits such as jobs, private investment and economic growth that has to be considered," according to comments reported by the San Jose Mercury News. She is chairwoman of the Assembly Transportation Committee, which held a hearing on the rail project Tuesday.

And finally:

The high-speed rail commission had said in its report that while the $98 billion price tag is high, the state otherwise would need to spend more than $170 billion in upgrades to the state's transportation infrastructure to accommodate future population growth. That would include wider freeways, more airport gates and upgrades to commuter trains and tracks.

The analyst's report does not go into details but calls that comparison "very problematic." It notes that the state will still need to maintain its existing infrastructure, fund urban transit and increase capacity on freeways to address higher demand.

You know, infrastructure that people are actually going to use.

A complete lack of funding doesn't appear to be slowing this thing down so high are the stakes and the reputations both at the local and state as well as the federal level that are tied to this spectacularly ill-conceived and thus far, ill-executed project.


Harrison said...

Does it EVER get any better?

Foxfier said...

You might enjoy listening to Bryan Suits' new show on KOGO from noon to two. He mentioned the train... mess... the other day.

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