A new business plan has been issued for California’s high-speed rail and the only thing that is moving fast is the bullet train moving away from the promises made to voters when the bond supporting the train was on the ballot. The promises made to California taxpayers and voters in 2008 about costs and completion date have been broken.
Completed by 2020? Not even the shorter rail from Bakersfield to Merced is finished. The new HSR business plan now says the rail will be completed in 2033, thirteen years late and more than twice the time it would take to build as promised in 2008 when the bond was on the ballot as Proposition 1A. Given the the train’s (ahem) track record, even completion by 2033 should be taken lightly.
Money from private sources? From the ballot argument in favor of Proposition 1A: “Matching private and federal funding to be identified BEFORE state bond funds are spent.” (Emphasis in the original document.)
Didn’t happen. No major private funds in matching dollars have been close to be identified. Some federal funds have come to California for the train, but the Trump Administration wants to send no more since the high-speed rail has not progressed as promised.
Cost of the rail? It was supposed to take $33 billion to complete the project. Then it rose and kept on rising until the latest business plan declared the cost of the rail would be $80.3 billion.
Interestingly, the argument made against the ballot measure in the information booklet sent to all voters said the cost could be $90 billion. Opponents of the bullet train were almost right on. They may be exactly correct before the job is finished.
A trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2.5 hours, taking 70 million passengers at a cost of $50 per passenger? That’s what the pro argument promised. Too soon to see if the rail lives up to those promises, but it’s a safe wager that those promises won’t be met, especially the per passenger ticket cost, since all the other financial estimates have been so wrong.
Yet, the Rail Authority speaks optimistically of accomplishing the task of building the rail. Most likely, they are following a strategy once clearly explained by Willie Brown, the former Mayor of San Francisco and former Assembly Speaker wrote in a commentary about some Bay Area projects: “In the world of civic projects, the first budget is really just a down payment. If people knew the real cost from the start, nothing would ever be approved. The idea is to get going. Start digging a hole and make it so big, there’s no alternative to coming up with the money to fill it in.”
So now we have a big hole called the high-speed rail and the cost continues to rise.
Where does that leave the voters and the taxpayers? Distrusting government to an even greater degree—and paying for the mistakes and miscalculations.