Pulling the Plug On A Boondoggle of Epic Proportions!
In the 10 years since the high-speed rail project has been “alive”, I have often mused as to why Sacramento pushed for it so hard. Their claims that our airports were at capacity and roads were bottle-necked to the breaking point, although there is some truth to both, did not totally explain to me the need for a high-speed rail from the San Francisco Bay Area to the Los Angeles area.
Yesterday, in his State of the State address, new Governor Gavin Newsom declared the high-speed rail project was being “scaled back” dramatically. Apparently, Governor Newsom is only supporting completing the rail project from Merced to Bakersfield. The reasons the Governor cited were that the overall project had experienced delays and cost overruns and a lack of transparency along with the overall project revised estimate of costs being too expensive. Newsom vowed to quickly replace the head of the state board that oversees the project and pledged more accountability for contractors that run over on costs.
Yours truly was never in favor of this ridiculous project and I always took the position that it would not get built as the voters approved because it was physically impossible to maintain the promised speeds over the terrain and corners it needed to follow. If it did get built, my point was that the voters approved a high-speed train and it was going to be anything but “high-speed”.
How did this (in my humble opinion) boondoggle ever get to this point?
The California High-Speed Rail Authority was established in 1996 after decades of discussion about high speed rail system in California. In 2008, Proposition 1A was passed by the voters and that was quickly followed by the award of “federal stimulus” funds in 2010. The federal stimulus funds were the initial funding source and the California High-Speed Rail System was “on its way”. Construction contracts were awarded in 2013 and ground-breaking was held on January 6, 2015.
The “original” financing for the first construction segment (Madera to Bakersfield) was $6.302 billion ($2.6 billion from Prop 1A, $3.2 billion in federal stimulus money, $252 million for designing and planning Phase 1 and Phase 2-this money was coming from Prop 1A and Federal stimulus money, and $250 million was added in 2014 from “Cap and Trade” funds.
In 2008, the original estimate of the route from Anaheim to San Francisco was $33 billion-that was in 2006 dollars but was actually $65 billion in “year of expenditure” dollars. Upon further investigation, the Authority revised their estimate for an exclusive trackage along its entire length to $96 billion. They thought this was a bit of a stretch, so they “morphed” the design into a “blended” shared track route that would not require as expensive construction costs as a single new trackage. That revised and “blended” design was estimated to cost $91.4 billion with a completion date of 2033.
All of these estimates failed to take into account the difficulty of tunneling and the Authority never has received qualified estimates for the needed tunneling to get over the Tehachapi Pass. Some experts believe the tunneling alone would have increased costs by another $50 billion from the bogus estimated costs the Authority has been reporting on.
This might be the first and last time I compliment Gavin Newsom. Good job pulling the plug.
A match made in heaven! Thank you, Governor, for pulling the plug on this crazy idea that Schwarzenegger and Brown backed. Brown’s legacy should be how much money he wasted on this crappy concept. It is a lot.
That’s All Folks!: