Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Your (California) high-speed choo-choo update


It's almost getting too easy but when you make a committment to cover perhaps the greatest public works boondoggle in history, you soldier on oblivious to the repetitive drumbeat of redundant bad news. Ah, but this is a little different because not only is the primary usage of California's high-speed rail system an all-time bad idea, the alternate plan for the system is an atrociously criminal waste of tax-payer dollars as well. Yes, folks, it's a two-fer.

When the Obama administration gave California $3.4 billion in startup money for a high-speed rail system, it insisted on a guarantee that the project would not become a white elephant -- something critics could brand as a train to nowhere.

The first section of track had to run down the spine of the Central Valley and have another use, should the rest of the bullet train project collapse.
Those requirements are now at the center of an intensifying political battle, waged by critics who say the state's fallback plan to use a 130-mile stretch of track for slower Amtrak service is a sham because there's no guarantee the national rail service will ever use it.

Amtrak said it has no agreement to operate on the track and has not analyzed the possible negative effects on one of its most successful rail lines. Still, the California High Speed Rail Authority has estimated 45 minutes could be shaved off Amtrak's current service between Bakersfield and Merced.

Wait, what?

There is already an existing Amtrak line?

Why, yes there is...

(please click to enlarge in case you can't make out that blue line running through the middle of the state)

So, when the train to nowhere doesn't get up and rolling, using Amtrak choo-choos on the high-speed rail line... when they have existing tracks was the alternative plan? That was the big idea?

And what of this 45 minute time saved? We're not rail engineers
but what of these high-speed rail tracks? Are they magic tracks?

And dig this:

Officials note that the state has invested millions of dollars to improve the San Joaquin Valley line and build ridership (ed. note: read: subsidies) , which now ranks among Amtrak's five most traveled routes.

One would not be mistaken if one felt that this alternate plan was not too well thought out.

If you think we are being a tad too critical, you are probably correct. After all, how much flexibility towards alternatives and other uses can you have when you go all $120 billion in on 19th-century technology. We totally get it.

There's much, much more to this article upon which we want to comment but we think we are all at our digestible limit for the time being.

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