High-speed rail advocates are on the alert as the governor and the state legislature argue over where to spend the remaining bond money from the high-speed rail project.
Advocates say funding delays are fueling the idea that the project is taking too long and hurting public support. They are right to be concerned. A recent poll by Goodwin Simon Strategic Research showed that more Californians support stopping construction than continuing.
But defenders have it upside down. It is not the uncertainty of funding that is decreasing support, it is that Californians are aware of the scale of the scam.
Let’s sum up.
In 2008, voters approved nearly $ 10 billion in general bonds, including $ 9 billion for the initial planning and construction of an 800-mile high-speed rail system that would travel between San Francisco and Los Angeles in a little over two hours.
A 2008 study sponsored by the Reason Foundation and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation predicted that the total promised cost of $ 45 billion would quickly turn into $ 100 billion or more. “There are no real financial projections that indicate that there will be sufficient funds,” the authors wrote.
However, the campaign for the move focused on the promise of this Los Angeles-San Francisco getaway, making the project look like a Ferrari at the price of a used Ford Pinto.
We hate to say, “We told you so,” but exactly what we predicted has happened. After voters approved the project, the cost estimate was revised up to $ 95 billion. Voters were told that private investors would bear a share of the costs, but no private investor was interested in investing their money in the bullet train.
Then-Gov. Jerry Brown responded to the public outrage by pressuring the High-Speed Rail Authority to scale back its plans and switch to a “mixed” approach, meaning that part of the system would be at large. speed and part would be conventional rail.
Governor Gavin Newsom took office in 2019 and appeared to acknowledge that the project could not be built as promised. But it still doubled, and now taxpayers are funding the construction of a high-speed rail line between Merced and Bakersfield. Current plans are for passengers to take the conventional train from the Bay Area to Merced, and a bus from Bakersfield to Southern California.
But not all the money voters have allowed has yet been allocated by the legislature. Talks between the governor and legislative leaders derailed in September over how to spend the remaining $ 4.2 billion from the 2008 Bonds Act.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority was seeking to have the remaining bond funds allocated to the high-speed rail segment in the San Joaquin Valley. Governor Newsom backed the request, but legislators in the Assembly hoped to divert some of the funding to projects in Southern California and the Bay Area. No deal was reached, paving the way for the two sides to fight again over this in January.
The original vision of a true high-speed passenger train traveling eight hundred miles at 220 mph to San Francisco from Los Angeles is now a convoluted journey consisting of a bus ride from LA to Bakersfield, 171 miles at high speed ( maybe) from Bakersfield to Merced and a conventional train from Merced to San Francisco – and Californians are told that satisfies voters’ intentions when they approved the 2008 bond measure. It’s not the delay in l issuance of $ 4.2 billion of remaining bond money that slows the speed of the bullet train. It’s the lies.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.