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Bullet Train Railroads Property Rights, Taxpayers

Wednesday August 10th, 2016   •   Posted by K. Lloyd Billingsley at 9:35am PDT   •  

43626212 - seaside railwayAs we noted, in Blazing Saddles the devious Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) plots to build a railroad and has his eye on the land he needs. “Unfortunately,” he laments, “there is one thing standing between me and that property – the rightful owners.” As Ralph Vartebarian notes in the Los Angeles Times, California’s bullet train bosses faces the same obstacle.

The high-speed rail project aims to move a 2.5 mile stretch of Highway 99 in Fresno. Unfortunately, “work has been held up by litigation over obtaining rights to private property, the same issue that has contributed to a more than a two-year delay in building the first 29 miles of rail in the Central Valley.” The land acquisitions, writes Vartebarian, “have proved to be far more contentious than the rail authority ever considered. The Central Valley was touted as the easiest place to start construction, but wealthy farmers were more prepared, more passionate and tougher in resisting state demands.” California High-Speed Rail Authority now seeks “a $35-million increase in state funding from the original $226 million, which was granted to Caltrans in 2013.”

Disrespect for respect property rights is not the only reason the bullet train is certain to cost more than the 2012 estimate of $68 billion. The plan calls for 36 miles of tunnels through mountains north of Los Angeles, the most ambitious tunneling project in the nation’s history. Besides the costly tunnel vision, high-speed rail bosses are merging local commuter rail links with the larger bullet train project. This means that the local rail links also share the financial challenges of the larger project, and those are considerable.

As Mongo (Alex Karras) said in Blazing Saddles, it all has to do with “where choo-choo go,” and there is some truth to that. On the other hand, taxpayers and “rightful owners” of property have grounds to believe that California’s bullet train is more about spending than transportation.

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August 2016