WH: You bet we’re gung-ho on that boondoggle that’s tripled in cost before it’s begun!

posted at 11:10 am on December 17, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

The projected cost of the California high-speed rail project has tripled from the $33 billion estimate the state used to get voter approval for the necessary bonds — borrowing, in other words — in 2008, just three short years ago.  The state hasn’t even broken ground on the project, and even its former supporters are questioning the wisdom of putting a state that’s already sinking in red ink on the hook for a boondoggle that will require them to borrow almost all of the $99 billion cost and not have any service to show for it for more than a decade.

Don’t expect the Obama administration to show that kind of critical thinking, however:

The Obama administration vowed Thursday at a House committee meeting in Washington that it would not back down from its support of California’s bullet train project despite attacks from critics who alleged it is tainted by political corruption.

“We are not going to flinch on that support,” said Joseph Szabo, chief of the Federal Railroad Administration.

Szabo said that his agency had committed itself to provide $3.3 billion for a construction start next year in the Central Valley and that federal law prohibits any change of mind about where to begin building the first segment of the state’s high-speed rail system.

“The worst thing we could do is make obligations to folks and start to renege on our word,” Szabo told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Er, no.  The worst thing they could do is to waste taxpayer money on a boondoggle that, at least at this point, actually has no realistic final price.  The new estimate includes a risk of a 20% increase from the new $99 billion estimate based on “route options,” and that’s before any work has even been started.  Once ground breaks, the project will undoubtedly face unexpected setbacks and need for new cash infusions, a pattern seen on every public works project in memory.

What will this project deliver in the end?  A fixed-rail transport system that takes longer to deliver people between two points than air travel — with multiple service providers — takes now.  As with all public-transport systems, taxpayers will have to heavily subsidize the service to make it price competitive with the other options of driving or flying, and unlike the tradeoff cities make in that calculus to relieve congestion, there is no public detriment that the rail system will relieve in exchange for those billions in subsidies that will have to flow into the California Choo-Choo.  No one has proposed how California even plans to power the train system, since California is a net importer of electricity now.  The only realistic options for generating as much power as will be needed on a reliable basis are fossil fuels and nuclear power, neither of which improves on cars or planes, at least in the eyes of Californians and Democrats supporting this project.

And don’t forget that this fixed-track system, which for passenger service is a relic of the 19th century, will necessarily sit astride and parallel one of the largest fault lines in the US — the San Andreas fault, where most people believe California’s next big earthquake will originate.

The worst thing that the federal government can do is to be a poor steward of public capital, and that’s exactly the choice that the Obama administration and Jerry Brown are making by continuing this embarrassment of a boondoggle.


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Powerful proof of the stupidity of O’Baahma and the fiscal insanity of Democrats. They are simply too stupid to be trusted with anyone’s money.

Jaibones on December 17, 2011 at 10:07 PM

When it’s finished, am I going to be able to use my Park Hopper Pass to get over to the Magic Kingdom?

red villain on December 17, 2011 at 10:43 PM

The “embarrassed to be a native Californian” episodes are increasing in frequency. Crikey!

BubbaCluck on December 17, 2011 at 1:49 PM

I know that feel, bro. Voting for sanity seems to get you yelled at here.

FontanaConservative on December 17, 2011 at 10:58 PM

I blame the voters. As long they elect fools, they get what the deserve.

Kaffa on December 17, 2011 at 11:25 AM

Couldn’t agree more. The voters in CA also don’t understand what a ‘bond’ is. They vote for all of them without regard for what it does to the state’s finances.

Cali Hampshire on December 17, 2011 at 11:18 PM

I listen to four hours of Armstrong and Getty (SF & Sacramento) and another four of John and Ken (LA) daily. Both shows often discuss the state government. To understand the level of corruption in California is to give up much of your hope for humans’ ability to govern themselves.

Many of the state legislators represent Mexico – literally. Recently Jerry Brown passed the CA “Dream Act” which gives $60 million/year to illegals so that they can take a seat away from a citizen who pays the taxes subsidizing the college. Win win.

They just passed a law allowing legislators to receive gifts from lobbyists as long as they are dating. IOW – they legalized prostitution…for themselves.

It is rapidly becoming third world. In Venice, RV owners (homesless with a van) are allowed to squat on the city streets for 72 hours before moving to a new spot. Approx. 700 homeless campers are in the town at any time. When it’s time to move, they dump their blackwater as they drive away. There’s no storm sewers by the way.

Meanwhile businesses are harassed for having a sign 1″ too large.

The marxist-leaning unions control the government, and they likely will until a fiscal collapse. It’s coming.

Kungfoochimp on December 18, 2011 at 3:03 AM

I’ll bet a lot of politicians just happen to own real estate in the right places. Just sayin’.

nraendowment on December 18, 2011 at 7:59 AM

No one has proposed how California even plans to power the train system, since California is a net importer of electricity now.

another example on the ignorance of the dems….I can see it now the train has been built now they are waiting on another 100B to build wind farms and solar arrays to power the thing…..

DiabloAzure on December 18, 2011 at 8:57 AM

I gave up. Closed my business, put 3 people out of work and moved from Kalifornia to Texas this past year. They truly make life untenable there. The unions have an iron grip on Kalifornia state government, and the sheeple just keep putting them back in power at every election. It is the most pathetic riches to rags story in history. Geez, the state used to be such a great place to live 50 years ago and look what they’ve done. Sad sad sad.

NOMOBO on December 18, 2011 at 9:47 AM

Will they name it the San Sebastian Line?

iurockhead on December 18, 2011 at 10:45 AM

I gave up. Closed my business, put 3 people out of work and moved from Kalifornia to Texas this past year.

A friend of mine is about to do the same…

CorporatePiggy on December 18, 2011 at 10:51 AM

California is a tragedy of its own making. By rights it should be the richest most powerful state in the union. It has every natural advantage going for it. But liberals have taken that gift and destroyed it.

CorporatePiggy on December 18, 2011 at 10:52 AM

It’s mind bogling that the Obama administration is still behind this coming into an election year. When California finally does go into default, it will be interesting to see how it plays out. If Obama is still president, I’m sure he’ll make taxpayers from the other 56 states bail them out. But if he’s not…then what?

Tomolena1 on December 18, 2011 at 11:41 AM

A while back, when our kids were in grade school, we were planning a vacation – going to Dallas to 6 Flags. We lived in Albuquerque at the time and I got the bright idea that we could ride the train. The kids were really excited at the idea, they’d be the only people they knew who’d ever done that. I was a hero and a genius. For a day.

I called Amtrack. Actually I called them three times because I kept getting dropped out of their voicemail system. When I finally got a rep, I was told that it would be a three day trip – Alb to Flagstaff, AZ, off the train in Flag at 1:30am, bus to Phoenix, get on a new train at 7:00am (or something like that), train to LA. In LA we switch trains again and go to Dallas. Three full days. Price, sitting up, not in a sleeper compartment, was almost three times the air fare which got us there in about an hour and a half.

My wife and the boys agreed it had been a good idea and we flew.

mbecker908 on December 18, 2011 at 11:50 AM

I had a similar illuminating experience, mbecker, except aimed at Disneyland. Why trap the kids in car seats for 6 hours when we could roam a train! The joy was shortlived. We would have to go from Oakland to Bakersfield in one train, then SWITCH to a BUS to LA, then switch to another train from LA to Anaheim. Oh, and no baggage on the last leg of that epic journey. We could do the Magic Kingdom nekkid, I guess.

Hello, I-5!

Javahog on December 18, 2011 at 12:23 PM

2 biz’s closed shop in Kalif. an moved here to Warsaw, Mo. in the heart of the Lake of The Ozarks, Ferrell Industries, an Burr King.

This happened about 5 or 6 years back an probably cost about 100 people their jobs out there.

Vodkanockers on December 18, 2011 at 1:54 PM

Actually, this is just part of the Dems’ master plan: drive California into the absolute depths of bankruptcy, then give it back to Mexico.

Moose Drool on December 18, 2011 at 2:05 PM

Calihorrific, used to be my home state. So glad I moved to AZ in 1989. When dead people, ex-cons & illegals vote, it’s always for a Democrat. Jerry Brown will continue to pander and Cali will continue to go into deeper debt.

samazf on December 18, 2011 at 3:33 PM

mbecker908 on December 18, 2011 at 11:50 AM

Actually, mbecker, the very very sad part of it is that Amtrak really used to be pretty darned good. About 25 years ago the wife and kids and I took the train from downtown LA, up the west coast, over to Chicago, on to Boston, then NY City, then to New Orleans and then on home to LA. It was a wonderful trip. Wife and I had a deluxe sleeper compartment with queen bed, rest room, sitting room, very deluxe. Kids had a bunk sleeping compartment. This whole trip, including meals, hotels in Chicago, Boston, New York and New Orleans was about $1300. Booked with Amtrak in a phone call that lasted about 20 minutes.

The decline of Amtrak mimics the decline in just about everything else pleasurable in our society. Government is really only a reflection of the people. The people are of such diverse culture that they are culturally bereft in America. It is a sad state of affairs.

NOMOBO on December 18, 2011 at 5:11 PM

Take heart, Californians, and don’t feel so bad. We’ve got just as many Dembeciles here in the midwest on the shores of Lake Michigan. I’m betting our birdbrain politicians will find a way to outdo the incompetence of your birdbrain politicians and the nitwit automatons they call voters in Illinois will keep voting for the same dolts, dopes and clods who just keep stealing the money and don’t even pretend to be building anything.

stukinIL4now on December 18, 2011 at 8:28 PM

Why next thing you know you will see California governments kicking people off their land they own because they dare to not bother anyone and live off the grid… I am sure all of this is done in the name of ‘progress’.

ajacksonian on December 17, 2011 at 11:38 AM

Thanks so much for sharing this travesty/story.

GuitarMark on December 19, 2011 at 1:07 AM

Although I disagree with the Money being spent for this I do not necessarily agree with the premise that air travel is faster. I have this argument all the time with my coworkers about train versus plane from DC-NY. The flight from DC may only be :30 minutes but when you take into account airport parking, check in time, security lines etc. then getting out of the airport to a rental car etc.

On the train I can get to the parking structureright across the street 1 minute from the station. Then I walk up to the ticket kiosk which has no line and buy my ticket. Walk out to the platform adn get on the train. No wasted time.

Also most air travel time is non productive. You maybe get 15 to 30 minutes waiting for the flight to board where you can log into your lap top.

On the train once I sit down most cars have power plugs. I plug in my laptop and air card and work the whole trip. All in all much less stessful. In addition the train station is in downtown NYC. Hop a cab and your are pretty much anywhere in the city in :30.

huskerthom on December 19, 2011 at 7:31 AM

Although I disagree with the Money being spent for this I do not necessarily agree with the premise that air travel is faster. I have this argument all the time with my coworkers about train versus plane from DC-NY.

huskerthom on December 19, 2011 at 7:31 AM

huskerthom, you might be right about the deal with DC-NY, but neither DC nor NY is anything like CA. Find a cab anywhere but the airport? Good Luck. And if you do the cab fare to anywhere in CA will be six times the air/train fare. CA is a different animal altogether, one that is not at all conducive to rail travel.

NOMOBO on December 19, 2011 at 10:08 AM

Don’t forget to find the not-so-fine print. New cost estimate does not include San Diego to LA. New estimate is LA to No-Cal only.

sdbatboy on December 19, 2011 at 11:16 AM

It never fails to amaze me that folks will actively ignore the many disasterous examples of their folley. For example, the Acela which operates along the East Coast. It takes longer and costs almost as much to go by airplane from Washington, DC to New York City as it does to go by this high speed rail line. In fact, the Acela costs almost twice as much as the ‘local’ and only gets to New York 20-30 minutes earlier. And even though it is frequently over booked, it is going broke. So, let’s summarize; costs more, delivers less and despite healthy use is going broke. And still, California and those responsible ignore glaring examples such as this. “This time it will be different.” Um, nuh uh.

PorchDawg on December 19, 2011 at 11:53 AM

The source of these cost hikes wouldn’t have anything to do with Union labor would it?

Yakko77 on December 19, 2011 at 12:36 PM

I’m all for this plan.

What?

It costs the Feds 3-5 billion. Yeah, that seems like a lot, but this is priming the pump. We will need the House to hold the line and block further investment; but that was the original agreement.

This will cost California 116 billion at the current estimate, plus at least another 100 billion in cost overruns once it’s started (probably 2-3 times that), plus a minimum of a billion a year or more in operating expense subsidies.

If we’re putting California up as the poster child of liberal ideas and ideals… consider the way many people think Reagan won the cold war.

We force them to overspend so drastically that their economy collapses showing the idiocy of their ideas and forcing them to accept the reality that their plans weren’t workable or sustainable. And we force the world to look at what they tried so everyone knows for certain what doesn’t work.

Considering we probably can’t stop them from destroying their state’s economy regardless what we do. Why not make their failure so spectacularly bad that it makes people cringe from the thought of big government?

gekkobear on December 20, 2011 at 2:05 PM

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