By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
High speed rail: Fast track to state's economic ruin
Placeholder Image
Why are we so patient with the California High Speed Rail Authority?

The only travel time they will succeed in slashing is the time it takes to drive California into bankruptcy and the state's economy into the ground.

The revelation - actually more like a confession - last week that the first 178-mile leg of the high-speed rail that will run between Merced and Bakersfield may double in cost is enough to pull the emergency brake cord.

Taxpayers will spend $14 billion and end up with a bullet train ferrying tourists from a city of 78,958 to the home of Buck Owens's Crystal Palace. That is $78 million per mile.

We are told by Roelof van Ark, the rail authority's chief executive, that planners anticipated the higher costs as more information about land acquisition and other details related to actual construction became known.

"We've had cost increases, but I believe the costs are now realistic and fair," Van Ark is quoted by Associated Press as saying.

Funny, but that's an entirely different tune than what boosters of high speed rail were singing back in 2008 when they obviously hoodwinked voters by low-balling the project. They said the entire 800-mile rail system would cost $43 billion. And that was back when real estate prices were a lot higher.

Keep in mind that the rail authority chose to do everything on the fast and dirty by building the cheapest segment - which they believed would also be the section of the system with the least local resistance - first.

Given the $78 million per mile cost in the middle of nowhere, it is reasonable to assume the remaining tracks will cost at least $150 million a mile and like $94 billion overall.

The rest of the money isn't coming from the government, we are told, but the private sector. Perhaps they'll get a loan from Washington Mutual.

Then rest there is the issue of ticket prices. If construction costs are doubling it is safe to assume ticket prices will easily double. Remember, these are the same people who lied about construction costs who said in 2008 that ticket prices will be less than the cost of an airline ticket. That obviously isn't going to happen.

The cost isn't the only Pollyanna approach the rail authority has taken.

They believe they can get through the environmental studies on one of the most complicated and far-reaching projects ever proposed in California in roughly a two-year period. It can often take developers trying to build homes twice that long to get through the process.

The folks in Kings County probably wouldn't call the high speed rail authority's approach "Pollyanna." They are likely to use terms such as "roughshod" and "to hell with local considerations."

What is more obscene than the price of the segment to nowhere is the fact the high-speed rail boosters have no problem laying waste to prime agricultural land in Kings County simply because it makes more economic sense for them to do so. They have refused to consider alignments that go along established urban areas such as the Highway 99 corridor in favor of slashing through prime farmland.

This is not an economic conduit that will raise the standard of living or improve the ability to move goods as an interstate freeway does. Instead it is a pie-in-the-sky plan to compete with air travel between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Only a snake oil salesman would try to argue that you will get people who can't afford to fly but who travel between those two cities out of their cars and onto high speed rail.

Studies failed to address one little detail: Once people reach Los Angeles or San Francisco they still have to get around. A family of four plunking down $500 or so for round-trip tickets would still have to rent cars at either end to get around. California isn't Europe of Japan with endless public transportation options even in the smallest suburb.

It's time to derail the $43 billion lie before statewide high speed rail puts California on a fast track to economic ruin.