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High-Speed Denial

Predictably, officials at the California High-Speed Rail Authority reacted as they always do, with high-speed denial

Jan 06, 2012


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Denis Prosperi
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High-Speed Denial

A group commissioned to analyze the feasibility of building and financing California's high-speed rail system came to the same conclusion that any independent and common sense group would come to: the legislature should refuse to authorize billions of dollars in bond spending for the first bullet train phase. Predictably, officials at the California High-Speed Rail Authority reacted as they always do, with high-speed denial. It's about the only thing high-speed in this entire project.

Thomas Umberg, chairman of the rail authority board, said, "What is most unfortunate about this report is not its analytical deficiency, but that it would create a cloud over the program that threatens not only federal support but also the confidence of the private sector necessary for them to invest their dollars."
To review: Tuesday's report adds to a string of negative assessments from the state auditor, the state inspector general, the legislative analyst, the UC Berkeley Institute of Transportation Studies, as well as the transportation committee in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Why any elected official would want to hitch their star on this high-speed track to political oblivion is beyond us.

Wall Street Journal

Solyndra on Rails

California's high-speed rail project 'is not financially feasible.'

California Governor Jerry Brown has a big dream about a very expensive train—$98.5 billion to be precise, running from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Neither the ballooning cost of building it, nor growing public opposition, nor a string of negative expert assessments have cooled the Governor's ardor. So that leaves the California legislature to derail this boondoggle.

The case for the bullet train was iffy from the start and is now beyond salvation. A withering report this week from a state-appointed panel ought to drive the last nail in. The California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group, asked to judge the project, declared it "not financially feasible." It said the rail route's first leg, in the Central Valley between Merced and Bakersfield, would be especially noneconomic. And it asked the legislature not to approve Governor Brown's plans to issue the first $2.7 billion batch of bonds this month to start construction on the 520-mile network.

The panel blew up just about every assumption offered about California's answer to the French TGV. The current cost estimate, already triple what was sold to voters in 2008, will likely come in even higher. Federal, much less private, financing won't be forthcoming. Projections for passenger traffic and revenues are unrealistic. The state auditor, the inspector general, California's watchdog Legislative Analyst's Office, the U.S. House Transportation Committee, among others, arrived at similar conclusions.

Four years ago, when they approved a $9 billion bond issue, California's voters backed the project based on false advertising. If the referendum were held today, according to a Field poll last month, they'd vote it down by a two-to-one margin. Two-thirds of Californians want another say. The Golden State seems to flirt with bankruptcy every year, and voters appear to understand better than their politicians that a huge infrastructure project of dubious value may not be a good idea.

Governor Brown won't hear of such fiscal realities. His spokesman said the peer review study "does not appear to add any arguments that are new or compelling enough to suggest a change in course."

Let's not forget that his supporters in the s, who picked up the tab for the 2008 bond campaign, love this Solyndra on rails. So does the Obama Administration, which wants to make an high-speed rail example out of California. The Golden State would merely burnish an unfortunate reputation for fiscal lunacy unless legislators, who are at last starting to raise doubts, get off this ride

More Stories:

LAT: Lawmaker proposes revote on high-speed rail funds






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