That was Dan Richard, chairman of California’s high-speed rail authority, at a May 28 congressional hearing at Madera in California’s central valley. Richard’s non-promise was in vain because as rail subcommittee chairman Jeff Denham noted, enormous cost growth is already evident.
Promoters of the project told voters it would cost $33 billion and be running by 2020. Now costs are up to $68 billion—more than double—with a start date of 2028. As such, Denham said, it is out of compliance with the 2008 bond measure voters approved. Meanwhile, the federal government has sunk more than $3 billion into the rail project, which as George Will observed was “spending for the purpose of committing Sacramento to much greater spending.” And Sacramento got the signal.
As high-speed rail bosses recently explained, it will cost an extra $97 million in office and field work to design the railroad. Then there’s an extra $38 million just to clear state and federal bureaucratic hurdles so construction can begin, and $631,000 for office space. The rail project has a funding shortfall of $50 billion but governor Jerry Brown wants another $4.8 million for 44 new railroad staff positions, along with $826,000 to raise the salaries of current staffers. The governor, who once sought a California space program, did not explain what the staffers might have done to merit a salary increase.
California legislator Diane Harkey has solid grounds for her belief that “I think we’re just going to burn through the money without ever really seeing a project. The money is burning a hole in our pocket and we’re just spending it, and everybody is taking a piece of the pie.” Everybody except taxpayers, that is. Their role is to fund this boondoggle “bullet train,” despite its financial, environmental and existential problems. This does not matter to government, which appraises any project by the way it redistributes taxpayer money to cronies, politicos and government employees. That’s why high-speed spending is always on track.