It’s not often that this drafting committee agrees with the leaders of the California Legislative Assembly, but it’s clear that legislative leaders are rightly skeptical of the high-speed rail project, a fact confirmed by a recent report from CalMatters.
“There’s no confidence in the project,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon told CalMatters freelancer Ralph Vartabedian. “We had an end date of 2020 and now we don’t have an end date.”
It was a project that was supposed to cost $33 billion and be operational now. It is now expected to cost more than three times the price and there are still years to go. Even the line from Bakersfield to Merced is years away.
Clearly, that’s not what the Californians had in mind when they approved bonds to launch this project.
“The project is not proceeding according to a solid plan, leading to waste and other inefficiencies,” Bent Flyvbjerg of Saïd Business School in Oxford and Computer University of Copenhagen told Vartabedian. “Given political divisions, rising costs, schedule delays and the lack of a solid future revenue stream, this project is going to the graveyard of the notorious boondoggles.”
Vartabedian notes that proponents of high-speed rail point to the well-paying jobs created by the construction of the project. But that is obviously not the purpose of the high-speed rail project as it was offered to voters more than a decade ago.
Californians expected a quickly built high-speed rail project linking the northern and southern parts of the state for a large but relatively defensible sum of money.
What they get is a project way behind schedule at multiples of the cost – tens of billions of dollars that objectively could serve better purposes than a project that has essentially become a money pit. .
“The idea that you would spend all your money on a train that doesn’t connect to anything and just hope you get more money, I find a really scary business proposition,” Assembly Member Laura Friedman said. D-Glendale, says CalMatters.
Californians deserve better than that.
Three years ago, Governor Gavin Newsom had the opportunity to prove he could be a competent leader. On his very first State of the Address, he sounded like this editorial board when he talked about the bullet train. “Let’s be real,” Newsom said. “The current project, as planned, would cost too much and, respectfully, take too long. There has been too little oversight and not enough transparency.
He was right about that, but then he just doubled the Bakersfield-Merced line, which, respectfully, isn’t exactly what anyone would consider a necessary project.
While Assembly Democrats don’t go as far as we do in calling for an end to the high-speed rail project, we are heartened by their willingness to be openly skeptical of the project. Since Newsom won’t be the adult in the room, legislative leaders must continue to resist calls to fund the project as Newsom wants.