Thursday, November 3, 2011

Train To Nowhere Getting Pricier

Another pet project of President Obama's is getting more expensive by the day. Utilizing what is estimated to be 80% taxpayer money, the California high speed rail project has more than doubled in cost without a single rail being laid. Sold to the public as costing $43 billion, the revised estimate is now $98.5 billion (assuming 3% inflation during the 20 years of the project).

With delays, revisions, hearings, lawsuits and EIRs, it seems highly-unlikely that the project will find sane investors to come up with the 20% of the funding currently projected for the private sector. So far, the California legislature has shown no sign of simply canceling the project before it gets even more expensive. Cities from the green weenie belt of the San Francisco Peninsula to farmers and adjoining residents in the Central Valley have become ever more vocal in opposing the project. The segment in the Central Valley, scheduled to be constructed first, is a 130 mile stretch from Bakersfield to nowhere, and will cost $8.8 billion. Full disclosure: I now live in the vicinity of the first phase.

Your tax dollars at work: The project is a joint effort of the State of California and the federal government. High speed public transit is a hallmark of the Obama administration in Washington DC and the Brown administration in Sacramento. There was never a public outcry for such a project. Californians, who love their cars and the state's vastness, didn't rise up and demand that Uncle Sugar provide them with a high speed train from San Diego to San Francisco. But neither did they rise up in anger when the project was initially approved. Hmmmm. Bullet trains in California? Cool!

The NIMNYD (not in my neighborhood you don't) green weenies in Silicon Valley were the first to complain, not about cost, but the environmental damage which will be done to their toney neighborhoods by trains roaring past at 200 MPH. In the Central Valley where the first work will be done, the government attempted to bribe unemployed workers who were out of jobs because of other governmental meddling. "Look at all the jobs this will create!" If the project created 1000 jobs, it wouldn't even be a single-digit percentage of the jobs the government has destroyed in the former food basket of America. They also tried to sell the project as a green initiative public project, but still largely private enterprise. Remember that 80% figure.

Like all projects run by and funded by government, it isn't only the budget that has been revised. The project was originally scheduled to be complete and fully-operational by 2020. It is now expected to be finished by 2033. One successful lawsuit could raise the price and extend the date even farther. Even in the Central Valley, where they expected us hicks to take this without a murmur, the opposition has grown to epic proportions.

What would happen if the state did just cancel the project? Well, first of all the only jobs lost would be those who prepared and pushed the project. It would also mean that California would have to give up the $3.5 billion in federal stimulus funds set aside for the project so far. But since the first segment to nowhere will cost $8.8 billion, that's a net savings of $5.3 billion immediately. So why the rush? The $3.5 billion will be lost automatically if ground isn't broken for the project by October 1 of 2012. Kevin McCarthy, Republican House Whip from California's Kern County has introduced legislation to de-fund the project, but so far his bill is languishing in committee.

None of this stops the project proponents and management from pushing to start the Bakersfield phase, as Obama puts it, "right away." And what will we get for it? A nearly $9 billion (today) bill, and a 45 minute shortcut for Amtrak riders on the San Joaquin (Central Valley) line who will de-train, get on the bullet train, then get off again and get back on the slower Amtrak trains to complete the trip to San Francisco or Los Angeles.

And speaking of Amtrak, the high speed rail proponents insist that no matter what the cost, ridership alone will pay off the debt and keep the bullet trains running. In other words, exactly the same thing they said about Amtrak, which costs the American taxpayers billions of dollars annually in government subsidies to keep the trains rolling. From the get-go, analysts not employed by the project have said that the projected ridership on the high speed trains has been wildly overestimated.

"Boondoggle" doesn't begin to describe this latest big government change-your-lifestyle project. It's a financial mess. It's an environmental mess. And it's a mess that creates rather than vitiates human misery. Instead of forcing high speed trains on car-loving Californians, the government should be opening the valves on the California Water Project, revitalizing the greatest agricultural area in the world, and holding a massive farewell ceremony for the Delta smelt.

14 comments:

Scott said...

The dams are being bombed as we speak!

Tennessee Jed said...

Oh Hawk, I can think of no better example of government waste. This is just, for lack of a better term, simply dreadful.

T-Rav said...

LawHawk, I have a solution. Make up a study showing that this new rail line will somehow endanger the Delta Smelt population, and they'll cancel the whole project within the hour.

AndrewPrice said...

So it's a non-green, non-jobs initiative. Nice. That sounds a lot like Democratic thinking!

LawHawkRFD said...

Scott: Geronimo!

LawHawkRFD said...

Tennessee: A couple billion here, a couple billion there, and pretty soon you're talking serious money. This project is unnecessary, outrageously expensive, won't do anything to reduce carbon emissions (one of its selling points) and is nothing more than a pretty showpiece for dreamers. "Dreadful" is a good word to describe it.

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: Save the smelt! Bullet trains are bad for iddy biddy fiddies! We've got our rallying cries.

Knowing the bureaucrats, though, they'll just suggest an alternate route to the coast which will only cost another $100 billion and twenty-five years or so.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: That's the ticket! The Democratic ticket.

T-Rav said...

LawHawk, I remember a humor columnist once laying out the different steps of road construction. I don't recall any of the actual steps except the last one, which was "Highway is finally completed. Unfortunately, that's 17 million years from now and the only ones left to enjoy it are cockroaches." Sounds about like this high-speed rail project.

LL said...

A train from Bakersfield to nowhere...

I hate to knock Bakersfield but I fear that the new (soon to be trillion dollar) train line will begin and end nowhere...

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: No such luck. The Delta smelt will eat the cockroaches.

LawHawkRFD said...

LL: I'm forwarding your comment to the Goons for Bakersfield Committee of Vigilance. How can you be so mean to a city that has a major street named Buck Owens Boulevard but doesn't have one named after Cesar Chavez? For shame! LOL

LawHawkRFD said...

Off Topic: The Occupy Oakland movement that called for a general strike didn't work out too well. About the only "workers" who stayed away from work were the members of the teachers unions. But never fear, Oakland is Oakland after all. So the mob turned violent around midnight last night and committed major mayhem and property damage in the main business district and brought the Port of Oakland (5th largest in America) to a temporary standstill. The lefty-loony mayor is still too busy praising the occupiers and chiding the police to do anything much about it. Windows were broken out at downtown banks and businesses set on fire in the main business area. But gee, it's just young folks expressing themselves. Some of the leaders took note of the violence, but blamed it on "a few anarchists."

Joel Farnham said...

LawHawk,

I am glad I don't live in California.

The Oakland police must be tempted to shoot up a few of those "anarchists". I bet there are a few snipers ready to go if these "peaceful fun-loving innocence-betrayed they-are-just-college-kids" pull out actual guns and start shooting at people.

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