Looking to Trump the Cost of the Bullet Train

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

It is more than a coincidence that Gov. Brown invited President Trump to see where the high-speed rail is being built days after a new business report states the cost of the train has soared.

Prior to President Trump making his first presidential visit to California to inspect prototypes of the border wall near San Diego and attend a fundraiser in Beverly Hills, Gov. Brown sent Trump a letter inviting the president to the Central Valley to view areas were “a dozen bridges and viaducts are being built for the nation’s first and only High-Speed rail line.”

Brown is hoping to attach to the president’s expressed desire to improve the nation’s infrastructure. More importantly, he needs the money for a project that is financially spiraling out of control.

The recently released business plan tagged the price of the bullet train at $77 billion, over a 20% increase from just a few months ago. But that’s not all. The plan said the final cost could be $98 billion. If that number sounds familiar to those who follow the financial machinations with the bullet train, recall we have been in that rarified atmosphere near $100-billion before prior to public outcry causing the rail authority to do some re-jiggering of the numbers and drop it down to $64 billion. It is climbing again.

The business plan also adds a new delay to the completion of the train to 2033. We could see Elon Musk’s hyperloop and autonomous cars dominating the state’s transportation needs well before then.

We should not forget that the original promise made to the taxpayers in seeking their votes to back a bond to help finance the bullet train was $33 billion. As I wrote on this site Friday, that ballot promise is just another example of “strategic misrepresentation” by under budgeting to secure voter acceptance of a major spending project.

The business plan makes it clear that the train does not have the money to be completed. Originally, (at $33 billion) the state was to provide a third of the revenues, the federal government a third, and private investors the remainder.

Since private investors have not stepped up and the federal government has come forth with just $3.5 billion in grants (money that can be recalled if a number of requirements are not met), the train is in a financial hole. It has only moved forward because the governor was able to convince the legislature to spend cap-and-trade revenue on the project.

Thus, Brown needs Trump to okay more funding.

Brown’s rhetoric against the president has run hot and cold. While at times he has offered the president softer words than other California politicians, unfortunate timing for Brown, the rhetoric was searing hot just last week when the administration announced its lawsuit against California’s immigration moves.

But this is politics. A weekend has passed and Brown suggests a visit to the Central Valley so that the federal government and the state can work together on a project that Brown believes is part of the president’s agenda.

Brown continues to push forward on his dream project despite the increased costs cited in the new business plan, the opposition from powerful congress members like Kevin McCarthy, who has the president’s ear, and overall skepticism from the general public.

Brown keeps saying “I think I can,” hoping to emulate the Little Train That Could.

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