Monday, April 2, 2012

Your California high-speed choo-choo update



Conveniently enough, just ahead of asking the state legislature nearly $3 billion to begin construction of California's high-speed rail system, State transportation officials have cut the price tag for the project by $30 billion.

State transportation officials have slashed the price tag for California's controversial high-speed rail project by $30 billion and expanded the first stretch of track to run from Merced in the Central Valley south to the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles.

The California High Speed Rail Authority's revised business plan, which will be released Monday in Fresno, calls for those dramatic changes as the agency prepares to ask the Legislature to use $2.7 billion in state high-speed rail bonds to start construction by early next year.

The drastic revision, which puts the proposed cost of the system at $68.4 billion instead of the $98.5 billion estimated in November, intends to cool opposition to the project, which has been labeled a "train to nowhere" for its plans to start in the state's rural center, and criticized for its high costs and uncertain funding plan.

You will be pleased to know that the current $68.4 billion price tag is still a significant increase over the originally advertised $33-$40 billion tag when this turkey was put to vote back in 2008.

And how are they achieving the savings? In part, by potentially violating terms of the project which stated there would be no train-switching between San Fran and Los Angeles.

For the Bay Area, the new business plan means the authority will pay about half the $1.5 billion cost of electrifying the Caltrain system from San Jose to San Francisco. The long-planned electrification project, which will speed commuter trains and allow high-speed trains to share the tracks, could be completed by 2019. But the business plan's decision to head to Los Angeles first means high-speed trains won't arrive in the Bay Area until 2026 at the earliest.

The revised numbers also count on federal funding which is a non-starter in this Republican-held Congress as well as selling development rights around stations and along rail road lines. If we are to assume the property around the stations in metropolitan areas are mostly privately-held anyhow, how are they going to generate that additional revenue?

Standby for more egregious eminent domain abuses.

Like the state budget, the choo-choo officials can play with the numbers all they want, violating terms of the project while setting up a scenario for graft, favortism and corruption in selling land around the track and stations; this thing is every much the dog it was back in 2008.

Nice try, guys, were not buying it.



W.C. Varones said...

I might have a Sarah Sez for you:

Judicial review is unprecedented.

Dean said...

Thanks, W.C.!

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