Saturday, March 16, 2013

Your California high-speed choo-choo update*

* sort of

While being introduced on Silvio Canto’s podcast last August, our “sponsor” Leslie of Temple of Mut was kind enough to note that one of the things she loved about Beers with Demo is how it stayed on topics of interest and provided regular “updates” and commentary on issues like the auto bailouts, Fast and Furious, ObamaCare and one of our favorites, California’s high-speed rail project.

With that said, we have nothing new to report with California’s high-speed choo-choos so just consider this particular “update” a friendly little reminder.

From the L.A. Times on January 27th:

Construction of California's high-speed rail network is supposed to start in just six months, but the state hasn't acquired a single acre along the route and faces what officials are calling a challenging schedule to assemble hundreds of parcels needed in the Central Valley.

The complexity of getting federal, state and local regulatory approvals for the massive $68-billion project has already pushed back the start of construction to July from late last year. Even with that additional time, however, the state is facing a risk of not having the property to start major construction work near Fresno as now planned.

It hopes to begin making purchase offers for land in the next several weeks. But that's only the first step in a convoluted legal process that will give farmers, businesses and homeowners leverage to delay the project by weeks, if not months, and drive up sales prices, legal experts say.

One major stumbling block could be valuing agricultural land in a region where prices have been soaring, raising property owners' expectations far above what the state expects to pay.

"The reality is that they are not going to start in July," said Anthony Leones, a Bay Area attorney who has represented government agencies as well as property owners in eminent domain cases.

State high-speed rail officials say it won't be easy, but they can acquire needed property and begin the project on time.
"It is a challenge," said Jeff Morales, the rail agency's chief executive. "It is not unlike virtually any project. The difference is the scale of it."

Reminder: Back in 2008, when California’s voter were asked to approve the choo-choo project via the sale of bonds in a ballot proposition, the project was estimated to cost $32 billion.
Reminder: Estimates for how much this project will actually cost have ranged from as high as $100 to $120 billion.

Reminder: How the official estimate of $68 billion came to be was that Governor Brown essentially gutted the project. There is no money for the electrical infrastructure to power the choo-choos and there is yet no money for the actual choo-choos. As far as we can tell, that $68 billion is simply for the tracks and not much else.

Reminder: the project is now facing a legal challenge because of the aforementioned gutting which was forbidden in the language of the ballot measure

Reminder: there have been no private investors that have stepped forward to operate the system once it is up and running as per the ballot language. And no wonder, rail systems are notorious money-losers that only stay afloat with substantial public subsidies.

Reminder: the project will lose out on billions of federal money if they don’t have the first 130 miles of the track completed in the Central Valley by 2018 which will require a burn rate of $3.2 million/day.
Reminder: they’re starting in the easy location. Can’t wait to see what that burn rate will be as they negotiate the mountains north of Los Angeles.

Reminder: for you voters here in San Diego that liked the idea of high-speed choo-choos, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Fresno and Bakersfield thank you for your scratch as the high-speed choo-choos will not be making it down here.

It's an unholy mess that is driven by an alliance of Sacramento Democrats, big California city pols, big labor and the Obama administration. We're stuck with it so our only amusement is to point out the folly of this project from time to time.


K T Cat said...

Congrats on becoming a radio talk show star! As for the train, this shows one of the beauties of low-information voters. Because numbers are hard, details are hard to remember and a growing government creates a mountain of both, all the voters need to remember is that choo-choos are green. Vote green, everybody!

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