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“A slew of delays and higher-than-expected costs are driving the anticipated price of high-speed rail construction in the central San Joaquin Valley by more than one-third, to about $10.6 billion,” writes Tim Sheehan in the Fresno Bee. “That’s a $2.8 billion jump from the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s estimate in 2016 of $7.8 billion for the 119-mile section of the route from Madera to Bakersfield.” High-Speed Rail board member Ernest Camacho told Sheehan “It’s horrifying when you look at the amount of money we’re going to have to reinvest to make this program work.” Taxpayers might note the use of “reinvest” for “spend,” but the “program” is already working for bureaucrats. As Sheehan reports, the same day they announced the $2.8 billion hike, High-Speed Rail hired Brian Kelley, secretary of the California State Transportation Agency, as the new CEO, at a salary of “nearly $385,000.” In truth, this “program” has been all about spending from the start.
As we noted, the bullet train doesn’t go anywhere but High-Speed Rail has established a Sacramento headquarters and three regional offices. So the Authority works well as a comfy sinecure for ruling-class retreads like board member Lynn Schenk, a former congresswoman and chief of staff for governor Gray Davis. High-Speed rail has also been handing out no-bid contracts, one for $3 million, part of a similar noncompetitive pattern in state government. The land the rail project needs remains in the hands of the rightful owners and the train will require the most elaborate tunneling project in U.S. history, certain to incur massive cost overruns. And of course, few commuters were panting for a 19th century form of transportation slower and more expensive than air travel. This is all about expanding government and spending taxpayers’ money.
On January 17, the High-Speed Rail newsroom had nothing about the $2.8 billion in additional costs and no estimate of the project’s total cost. The newsroom did have a press release explaining that the Authority “continues to move from the planning phase to full construction of the nation’s first high-speed rail system” and announcing new boss Brian Kelly. According to governor Jerry Brown, Brian “is uniquely qualified to move the nation’s first high-speed rail project forward.”