Bay Area officials are rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of tens of billions of dollars in tax subsidies for a high-speed rail line from Oakland to Los Angeles. This is so wrong on so many levels. Can anyone say “High-Speed Rail to Nowhere?”
With the economy in recession, California’s plan to ask the federal government for billions of dollars to help build the nation’s first high-speed rail system might seem like wishful thinking rather than a feasible financial strategy.
But transportation officials say that California’s high-speed rail project seems to be on a fast track to a hefty federal contribution – perhaps as much as $15 billion to $20 billion.
That optimism in the face of a dire economic outlook is the product of the priorities of President-elect Barack Obama’s administration; the likelihood of a big federal infrastructure investment; growing concern over climate change; the volatility of gas prices; Californians’ backing of the $10 billion high-speed rail bond measure and strong support for the project from the state’s potent congressional delegation, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“It seems like the stars are aligned,” said Rod Diridon of San Jose, a member of the High Speed Rail Authority.
Building the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles and Anaheim line that will be the spine of the system will cost between $32.8 billion and $33.6 billion, according to the High Speed Rail Authority’s business report. Extensions built later would cost another $12 billion. In addition to the $10 billion from state bond sales, the authority is counting on $12 billion to $16 billion in federal funds plus $6.5 billion to $7.5 billion in private investment and $2 billion to $3 billion in local contributions.
Okay, where to begin? It currently costs $49 one-way to fly Southwest from Oakland to Los Angeles. That flight takes about an hour and fifteen minutes. How much ya think it’ll cost to ride the high-speed line from O-town to L.A.? For comparison’s sake, government-funded Amtrak trips from Washington to New York’s Penn Station cost about $133 one-way on the Joe Biden-endorsed Acela (if they’re running). That trip takes about two hours and 45 minutes.
More data for you: It’ll take you about six-seven hours to drive from Oakland to Los Angeles on the I-5– and at current gas prices, it’ll cost you a mere $25 (with a few more bucks if you stop by In-N-Out!)
Bottom line: Who in their right mind would take this high-speed rail line? And why should people in Des Moines and Miami and Chicago pay for California commuters to ride it?
The bureaucrats say it’ll cost $30 billion, plus $12 billion for every extension — which means you should triple the asking price. There’s no need to guess whether this thing will be a money pit. Just look at the Los Angeles MTA black hole.
One last point: Who will get all the vaunted jobs the high-speed rail line boondoggle promises to deliver? Bloated unions.
The more things change…
Reader Terry adds: “I don’t know just how much you know about California topography, but the High Speed Train will be doing about 30 mph when it is going over the mountains outside Bakersfield. Someone should do a story on this issue by itself. It is a joke without a punchline.”
On a related note from the WSJ: Bridges to everywhere!
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