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California high speed rail plans derailed yet again

Credit: californiastaterailplan.dot.ca.gov

Credit: californiastaterailplan.dot.ca.gov

This is so predictable. California makes perky lowball estimates on massive projects only to find, quelle surprise, that reality does not agree with them.

“Shovel-ready” California high speed rail construction in the Central Valley has been delayed yet again. Seems that engineers somehow underestimated the technical challenges of the project, deep pockets ranchers are resisting having their land grabbed, and – I know you’ll be a shocked by this as I am – projected costs are rising sharply. Construction was supposed to start in 2012 and now won’t start until at least 2014.

The state needs hundreds of parcels of land to build the first 130 miles of rail bed from Madera to Bakersfield by 2017. So far, it has made 106 offers to buy land and has “taken possession” of one parcel.

Right of way access has not yet been negotiated with railways and environmental permits have yet to be issued. What a clown show.

High speed rail train in France does 356 mph!

Click to watch video

Click to watch video

The video shows a high speed rail train in France being clocked at a stunning 356 mph. The US still has no HSR, mostly due to the staggering cost of building such a network across our 3,000 mile wide country. HSR cannot be run on existing tracks, new ones must be built, and they can’t haul freight. This makes it harder from HSR to be financially viable. Plus, in urban areas, their high speed requires that dedicated overpasses or tunnels be built for them as a crash between a car crossing a track and getting hit by a train doing 300 mph would be catastrophic.

High speed rail. Never underestimate stupidity of California govt

The California legislature has approved spending billions for a high speed rail line from nowhere to nowhere in the Central Valley but postponed yet again putting a water bond on the ballot to save the Sacramento Delta.

Gosh, makes perfect sense to me. Spend billions on a rail line that cannot possibly ever be fully funded and which will never be profitable rather than fix an aging water infrastructure so millions of people will continue to get water.

California now gets $3.2 billion from the federal government. Don’t assume it will go to high speed rail.

Just passing the bill, gives California a $3.2 billion federal bailout while the actual use of funds may or may not ever appear (our money is on the latter). If still confused think Greece and Germany, because Federal tax collections were just used to give California a very fungible cash injection. Where the money ends up now is anyone’s guess.

Thus the stupidity of all of this is heightened by the usual pretend-and-extend desperation attempts to balance the California budget. I would not be at all surprised if the $3.2 billion went into the general fund with California promising to pay it back once construction starts. But they won’t have the money thus the whole charade will start over again.

Meanwhile, California politicians continue to ignore the Sacramento Delta, which is where most of the state gets its water from.

California High Speed Rail zombie lurches on


"Trains, I must have trains." (Credit: laughingsquid.com)

It’s time to put the shambling California High Speed Rail zombie out of its misery. By most estimates the cost will be triple the original estimate, at $100 billion. The High Speed Rail Authority, in a desperation ploy, just announced it would only cost $68.4 billion. Somehow, $30 billion in costs magically vanished. But even with that, no one has a clue where funding would come from and their new plan may not even be legal.

More on the California High Speed Rail zombie at the Independent Voter Network.

Calif. Gov. Brown scaling back support for high speed rail

Even though he strongly supported high speed rail in his recent State of the State speech, Gov. Jerry Brown is now hedging that support. He says the cost will not be anywhere near $100 billion and that alternative forms of funding can be found. However, he’s not given much in the way of details as to how this might be accomplished.

The proposed HSR line between southern California and San Francisco was initially funded by a state bond initiative in 2008 for $9.95 billion. Construction has yet to start as determined NIMBYs, skeptical city councils, a blistering report from the state auditor, and more have all made the future of the project doubtful. However the biggest problem by far is the cost. The original estimate was $33 billion. The current estimate is $100 billion.

The federal government was expected to fund much of it, but that’s almost certainly not going to happen. Federal funding for HSR has already been decimated and a California Republican member of the House plans to file an amendment to a transportation bill to specifically block any federal money being used for California HSR.

So, how does Gov. Brown plan to resuscitate HSR? First off, he says the cost won’t be $100 billion because that’s way too high. Second, he wants to use cap-and-trade revenue to repay HSR bonds. Third, speed up the construction to save on inflationary costs.

Inquiring minds want to know, just how does Brown propose to slash costs when everyone who has looked at the project says it’ll cost $100 billion? He’s not saying. But hoping something will be so does not make it so. Also, have you ever known a big public construction project to be completed on time and at budget? I didn’t think so. It’s a given that the final cost will be over $100 billion.

California’s new cap-and-trade program, whereby those who generate greenhouse gases pay a fee for doing so, is expected to raise substantial amounts of money, maybe billions. But as seemingly is always true of rosy projections of revenue in California, no one is quite sure if the money is actually there. Also, cap-and-trade is a tax by another name and could raise costs for goods. Even worse, cap-and-trade has expected revenues of $500 million a year for the next three years. That’s hardly enough to finance high speed rail.

Speeding up construction would certainly save money in the long-term. But it means more money has to be spent now. California simply doesn’t have the money and has no apparent way to raise it, especially since public opinion has shifted sharply against the project and financial projections say it will never make money.

California can’t borrow the tens of billions needed to finance HSR. It already has a crushing debt load. Any attempts to borrow that much would be at steep interest rates too, adding to the burden. Most of all, given California’s creaky infrastructure of roads, bridges, and water delivery plus an educational system which badly needs revitalizing, California needs to put the money there and not into high speed rail.

(crossposted from IVN)