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We have been keeping track, so to speak, of California’s vaunted “Bullet Train,” officially the state’s High-Speed Rail project. But as it turns out, “high speed” is something of a misnomer, as William Bigelow notes on Breitbart.
The first actual construction on the project is a viaduct over the Fresno River, nowhere near the Bay Area to Los Angeles route politicians used to sell the $69 billion project. This construction “will start three years after the date initially estimated by the rail authority.” The project faces financial obstacles, including “$2.2 billion in federal stimulus money that can only be used by the rail authority if it is spent before Sept. 30, 2017 on construction in the San Joaquin Valley. Any funds left unspent must be returned to the Federal Railroad Administration.” As taxpayers know, government agencies never leave funds unspent, and they will have to spend more.
As in Blazing Saddles, one thing stands in the way of the land they need: the rightful owners. As Bigelow observes, the state rail authority recently acknowledged legal possession “of only 257 of 1,079 properties that it requires for the first two construction sections.” The process has been so slow that actual construction has been delayed. And California High-Speed Rail Authority boss Jeff Morales admitted that this problem could bring about, yes, a “cost increase.” Morales is also on record that a high-speed rail line from the Bay Area to Los Angeles could have been built privately. That is something of a giveaway.
The bullet train is more about spending than transportation. California congressmen see it as a way to shore up their fortunes by spending money in their districts. That’s why the first stretch of the boondoggle is slated for the boondocks. The bullet train also gives politicians a way to expand government. So no surprise that the California High Speed Rail Authority serves as a soft landing spot for washed-up politicians such as board member Lynn Schenk, a former congresswoman and chief of staff for governor Gray Davis. California governor Jerry Brown, who appointed Schenk, sees the train as a legacy project, like the $25 billion tunnels he wants to build under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
The bullet train, meanwhile, is supposed to be fully operational by 2028. California’s embattled taxpayers might ponder what high-tech advancements in transportation might occur before that time.