The Failed Promise of High Speed Rail

Morris Brown
Founder of DERAIL, a grassroots effort against the California high-speed rail Project

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!“ should be the cry from the voters of California when thinking about the High Speed Rail project.

In 2008, now 10 years ago, voters passed the 10 billion dollar Prop 1A bond measure to fund a High Speed Rail project that would, in phase one, connect San Francisco to Los Angeles, promising passengers a one-seat ride between these cites in 2 hours and 40 minutes.

The train was to run on dedicated tracks and was to be up and running by 2020. The projected cost of $33 billion was to be funded one-third by Prop 1A funds, one-third by Federal funds and one-third by private investment. The voters of California were promised that the $10 billions from Prop 1A bonds would be all the funding required from the State’s residents. Importantly the train was promised to run without any operational subsidy. 

Now 10 years later, here is the reality. The train won’t be operational until well beyond 2030. The projected initial costs and timelines have been proven completely bogus. Now the Authority admits to even more delays.  The last stated budget, now at $68 billion will climb again.  Expect to see well over $100 billion.

Federal funding stopped long ago, at a total of $3.3 billion.  Expected private investment despite multiple efforts, has failed to come forth at all.

Now California voters are in addition to Prop 1A funds, paying extra taxes because Cap and Trade revenues are being diverted to the Project. Expect to see funds diverted from the SB-1 law, advertised as being to fix pot holes in highways, to the project also.

The project now has been truncated to being a system connecting only north from near Bakersfield to San Jose.  It is being now touted as a commuter system to move workers from the Central Valley to Silicon Valley.  It cannot possibly operate without a subsidy.

Money has been diverted from Prop 1A to fund the Northern California Caltrain commuter train.  The project was to be a State wide project.  What are the voters in Southern California receiving?  They are receiving virtually nothing.

 Most of the news media in the state has now gotten the message.  The San Jose Mercury, formerly a supporter, is now campaigning to stop the project.  The LA Times, which had steadfastly supported the project, even while reporting extensively on its problems, finally changed its position and no long supports the project.

Yet to get the message are the Governor, and the Democrats in the State Legislature, who continue to support this disaster.

It is well past time to quit throwing more money into what is an almost bottomless pit.

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