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A high-speed rail line from Los Angeles to San Francisco could have been built privately. That remarkable admission comes from none other than Jeff Morales, CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, in an interview with Allen Young of the Sacramento Business Journal. The article, titled “Why Does California’s High-Speed Rail Need Public Money?”, notes that a new rail line from Houston to Dallas will be privately financed. So why isn’t California’s?
Morales claims that this plan would bypass “population centers” in the central valley. But as Allen points out, those centers are home to less than 10 percent of the state’s population. Even so, the government bullet train, originally sold as a conduit from Los Angeles to the Bay Area, aims to start somewhere near Fresno. These cities have vacant land “perfect for sprawl development,” Allen says, so the project “has morphed into crony capitalism with generous government support.”
In reality, high-speed rail is designed to shore up the prospects of California congressmen by spending money in their districts. That’s why the first stretch of the system is slated for the boondocks. The High Speed Rail Authority also serves as a soft landing spot for washed-up politicians such as board member Lynn Schenck, a former congresswoman and chief of staff for governor Gray Davis. The bullet train also rewards politicians’ support networks. All the work will go to union contractors, even though more than 90 percent of workers in the private sector are not union members.
High Speed Rail may serve as a legacy project for Governor Jerry Brown, but it won’t take people where they want to go or get “old people” out of their cars, as Brown says. But there’s more to it still. Politicians love to spend other people’s money. As bullet train boss Jeff Morales notes, they do so even when they know full well that an independent, privately funded project would be better. That’s why the bullet train railroads taxpayers.