“Bullet Train to Nowhere” looks like it’s not going anywhere

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As you’ll recall, one of the Obama administration’s major pushes for a place in the history books was the promotion of high speed rail. They offered billions to states to take up the gauntlet and build high speed rail corridors.

M4Of course, California was at the top of the list with their hands out for “free” federal money that would create jobs and help save the environment. Or something.

The Democrats who run the state determined that they needed high speed rail from San Francisco to Los Angeles and they put a measure on the ballot to raise bond money to fund their portion. The original estimate was something like $30 billion or so to build the project.

Within a few months of the measure passing, a new estimate came in at about $100 billion. Then there was the fight over the route. It certainly wasn’t going down the coast – the most direct route – because it would go through the heart of progressivism, so they routed it down through the Central Valley. Nobody needs agriculture land after all.

The Democrats thought they had the bull by the horns. They did, but they didn’t realize that you shouldn’t be standing in front of the bull when you grab it by the horns.

Conservatives started filing lawsuits to stop construction. Environmental impact suits of all things. And then they filed a suit to stop construction because the current plan doesn’t conform to the promises made in the 2008 initiative that authorized the $10 billion bond issue. A judge ruled that the lawsuit could move forward.

Sacramento County Superior Court judge Michael Kenny ruled last year in the first phase of the lawsuit, rejecting a request from the High-Speed Rail Authority to sell $8 billion in bullet train bonds. Kenny said state bullet train planners were wrong to determine it was “necessary and desirable” to start selling the bonds because they failed to adequately describe future funding sources for the $68 billion project.

We’re not going to go through all the issues, but quickly, the $30 billion project that turned into a $100 billion project is now a $68 billion project. (If you believe that one we’ve got some swamp land in Phoenix you’d love.) Where the money is going to come from is undefined. (Read increased taxes.) The project doesn’t look anything like the original proposal, and it won’t be all that “high speed.”

The latest problem for the rock train – it’s really more like a thrown rock that a fired bullet – came when a Democrat who heads the California Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing said, in effect, “WTF????”

In a snapshot of a coming legislative debate that could prove fatal for the bullet train, the chair of a Senate transportation committee pressed the California High-Speed Rail Authority on Thursday on how the agency intended to come up with necessary funding to keep the project viable.

“You couldn’t get a business loan for a small business based on what we’re assuming here,” said state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, a Democrat from Concord who chairs the Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing.

“The question is,” DeSaulnier later asked rail authority CEO Jeff Morales, “Where is the other money going to come from?”

The authority is relying on two high-risk bets in order to stay operable.

The first hurdle is winning the lawsuit. That’s not a sure bet, even in California. The second is finding $250 million per year to dump into the rock rail project and then finding significant private sector funding to make up the enormous difference.

DeSaulnier replied that he thought selling the Legislature on the cap-and-trade funding plan for high-speed rail would be a “huge challenge” and he suggested the authority be as specific as possible about how more state dollars would trigger private funding.

“I think a business plan requires much more specificity as to where money is going to come from,” the senator later told the Business Journal on Thursday. “They need to show us the money.”

When you’ve lost the ability to sell smoke and mirrors to the top Democrats, you’re most likely gonna end up toast.

Oh, and why-oh-why, in an anti-gun state like California would they name this project the “bullet train?”



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