NYT: This high-speed rail thing is kinda’ becoming a disaster for Jerry Brown

posted at 9:01 pm on January 7, 2014 by Erika Johnsen

California’s ludicrously ambitious plan to build a high-speed railway connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco has been besieged with all kinds of problems from almost the moment of its official conception, but let that not restrain California Democrats from doubling down on what they seem to view as their iliadic quest to make high-speed rail happen. Back in August, a judge declared that the project had already violated the 2008 ballot initiative that first authorized the $10 billion in bonds for the 500-mile train, because the state didn’t actually having funding sources on the books for the $31 billion required to build even just the 290-mile “initial segment” — not to mention that the oh-so-green state had flouted the necessary environmental clearances. Governor Jerry Brown deemed the judge’s ruling a mere “setback,” ho hum, but the project has since encountered still more judicial “setbacks” and the calls for California to just cut its losses are getting louder. The NYT reports:

Gov. Jerry Brown of California is riding into an election year on a wave of popularity and an upturn in the state’s fortunes. But a project that has become a personal crusade for him over the past two years — a 520-mile high-speed train line from Los Angeles to San Francisco — is in trouble, reeling from a court ruling that undermined its financing, and from slipping public support and opponents’ rising calls to shut it down. …

“It’s time for the governor to pull up the tracks,” said Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, who is the majority whip in the House. “Everything he has said has not come to fruition. It’s time to scratch the project.” …

The ruling in November by a Superior Court judge in Sacramento blocked the state from using $8.6 billion in bond money to finance the first part of the train line, saying officials had failed to explain where they would find the remaining funds. That, in turn, jeopardized California’s access to more than $3 billion in federal matching funds, which are contingent on a state contribution. …

“I don’t see them getting any more money from the federal government,” Mr. McCarthy said. “I don’t see $9 billion to build it from California taxpayers, and I don’t see them getting any private investment.”

If Gov. Brown won’t abandon the endeavor himself, suggest opponents, he should at least put the struggling project back before voters, but even that is probably too much to hope for. The initial project outline didn’t even peg the project at completion by 2029, for goodness’ sake, to the tune of a $68 billion estimate that will surely increase even more as it encounters more “setbacks” and delays — and the NYT says that polls suggest putting the issue back before voters is a fight Brown wouldn’t win.


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Faster, please.

faraway on January 7, 2014 at 9:09 PM

Quagmire.

Murphy9 on January 7, 2014 at 9:11 PM

As someone stated in an earlier thread, it only took 40 years from the first steam locomotives through the completion of the transcontinental railroad.

Mohonri on January 7, 2014 at 9:12 PM

Liberalism sucks bandwidth….

Electrongod on January 7, 2014 at 9:14 PM

c’mon California, you can afford it! don’t be skeered

DanMan on January 7, 2014 at 9:15 PM

Glitch.

ShainS on January 7, 2014 at 9:15 PM

Remember the American Recovery Act? In particular, remember when it failed to drop unemployment at the rate Obama promised?

The defense of that disaster made by progressives was that the American Recovery Act failed because it didn’t spend enough.

That is the same sort of lesson the loony leftists who now run California will take away from the collapse of the rail boondoggle.

Court orders? Lack of funding? Pack the courts and raise taxes some more!

MidniteRambler on January 7, 2014 at 9:18 PM

government fails again.

SparkPlug on January 7, 2014 at 9:18 PM

another libtard debacle.

SparkPlug on January 7, 2014 at 9:19 PM

That, in turn, jeopardized California’s access to more than $3 billion in matching federal funds taken from taxpayers in all 50 states, which are contingent on a state contribution. …

Let’s use the right terms, shall we?

Charlemagne on January 7, 2014 at 9:23 PM

raise taxes on every last citizen in Silicon Valley and surrounds until this is paid for down to the last dime.

rickyricardo on January 7, 2014 at 9:24 PM

another libtard debacle.

SparkPlug on January 7, 2014 at 9:19 PM

Another poster said several months ago—”everything Dems touch turns to shit.”

At least we have republicans that are nice enough to help stir and add sugar flavor.

arnold ziffel on January 7, 2014 at 9:24 PM

Pssst! Wanna get in on the high speed rail in Illinois?

Fallon on January 7, 2014 at 9:29 PM

NYT: This high-speed rail thing is kinda’ becoming a disaster for Jerry Brown

This would be disastrous for TV. What would they do without those stupid California car chases in LA on slow news days?

I guess some crooks could hijack a high-speed train…but, it just wouldn’t be the same.

Dr. ZhivBlago on January 7, 2014 at 9:29 PM

Math (and Economics) is Hard for Liberals.

ProfShadow on January 7, 2014 at 9:34 PM

A bridge to nowhere…a rail way to nowhere

jaywemm on January 7, 2014 at 9:39 PM

Get your illegal alien lawyer to help you, Moon Beam.
California Uber Alles.

AllahsNippleHair on January 7, 2014 at 9:44 PM

The section they are proposing to build – assuming they find the money and manage to survive the environmental lawsuits – is through the most sparsely populated area of the route. There is not even a proposal for a plan to acquire the densely occupied and developed property closer to LA and Frisco which would be needed to compete the rail line. They don’t even want to estimate the costs of that.

Bottom line: it was always a pipe dream. Liberals just can’t conceive there are any limits to what they can do with others’ money if they really, really want it enough.

Adjoran on January 7, 2014 at 9:48 PM

Another poster said several months ago—”everything Dems touch turns to shit.”

At least we have republicans that are nice enough to help stir and add sugar flavor.

arnold ziffel on January 7, 2014 at 9:24 PM

Sugarcoating still doesn’t do much for the taste.

nemesis443 on January 7, 2014 at 9:54 PM

raise taxes on every last citizen in Silicon Valley and surrounds until this is paid for down to the last dime.

rickyricardo on January 7, 2014 at 9:24 PM

and hollywood …. do not forget all those liberal film makers/actors/directors/etc pay THEIR fair share ….

conservative tarheel on January 7, 2014 at 10:01 PM

Another poster said several months ago—”everything Dems touch turns to shit.”

AKA: “The Obama Touch”

myiq2xu on January 7, 2014 at 10:02 PM

In Walker’s Wisconsin, Act 10 was reining in the Public Employee unions. Steve E can confirm that Act 1 was killing the high speed rail from Madison to Milwaukee approved by outgoing proggie Gov Doyle (laughingly called the “train to no-where”…by the time you parked your car at either end and got on the train you could have driven the distance).

teejk on January 7, 2014 at 10:07 PM

Americans en masse, will never make a transition to the European mindset, as regards passenger railroading … period.
.
In the U.S., freight railroading genuinely keeps America functioning , with a profit, to boot.

If Amtrak altogether ceased operations tomorrow, there are a blessed few Americans whose lives would suffer an extreme negative impact.
I didn’t say ‘zero’, I said “blessed few.” … Right, JOE ? !
.
If all Freight rail ceased operations tomorrow, the impact would be immediate, and affect everyone.
“Steel wheel on steel rail” will be the most cost efficient means of moving manufactured goods, grain, produce, and minerals in large bulk quantities, for some time to come. Without subsidy.
Passenger rail in America cannot survive, without subsidy.

listens2glenn on January 7, 2014 at 10:08 PM

I worked on the Big Dig in Boston for 10 years (1990-2000), and I thought THAT was a money-sucking Charlie Foxtrot. That’s small change compared to the rough-hewn 2-by-4 of Hopenchange the taxpayers in California are getting with this “man-caused disaster”.

Bruce MacMahon on January 7, 2014 at 10:09 PM

One of the first things Scott Walker did when he became Wisconsin’s governor was to nix a similar plane for our state.

Thanks Scott!!!!

PackerBronco on January 7, 2014 at 10:51 PM

He should cancel it. It will cost too much and then lose money every year.

The train tunnels that Christy canceled were actually more useful than this. The productivity gains from that probably would have paid for itself eventually – but it was incredibly expensive – so Christy was justified in making that decision.

Brown will be dead wrong if he doesn’t cancel this.

blink on January 7, 2014 at 10:10 PM

The other thing about the Hudson tunnels vs. this is the former was for day-to-day commuter rail, which means it would have been used by hundreds of thousands more people per year (albeit it the NYC station option chosen – a cave 15 stories under Macy’s with no connection whatsoever to the East River tunnels — was asinine in itself and deserved the death Christie gave it).

The California project, in contrast, would exclude high-volume commuter trains in its costly sections, but — because the same liberals who backed it don’t want to give up their land or quiet for the dedicated high-speed trackage through the San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles basin areas — would end up sharing tracks with commuter and freight rail lines in both areas. Which in turn would make the trains non-high speed rail for a significant part of their trips, and cause the promised L.A.-to-S.F. travel time to jump by over 50 percent. If everything else worked out as planned. Harry Reid’s equally bogus L.A. Victorville-to-Las Vegas high-speed rail would have had a better chance of meeting its timetable.

jon1979 on January 7, 2014 at 10:55 PM

…what?…we weren’t expecting a clusterphuck?

KOOLAID2 on January 7, 2014 at 11:07 PM

So, what happened to the $$$ Billions already raised via bonds? The money have been pilfered? Or simply spent on other financial holes in budgets? They already bought land under eminent domain and forced farmers off of it, will they now return the lands back to rightful owners?

There is so much FAIL on this already its not even funny.

riddick on January 7, 2014 at 11:14 PM

The most useful aspect of “high speed rail” is that it is an instant tip-off that anyone who talks about it seriously is a complete idiot.

Not just misinformed, not just dumb, but a complete, blithering idiot.

Adjoran on January 7, 2014 at 11:39 PM

Prop 1A also calls for the plan to include ALL land that will be used for the project to be identified BEFORE they can issue bonds. There is no provision for a ‘pilot project’.

The bond side of this project, prop 1A, is finished as they will NEVER admit where this train will be going as it gets closer to SF or LA. The costs will be too high and local resistance will be terminal.

Missing from this story is J Browns NEW funding plan. Brown is going to try to use the new California cap-n-trade cash to fund this bullet train fiasco. Which means Brown is going to try to ABANDON the global warming crusade and just turn trade side into tax revenue. This is likely to not make the enviro-whackoes happy.

This train to nowhere project is only going to continue until the state govt refuses to pay the high speed planners to sit and do NOTHING!

Freddy on January 8, 2014 at 12:08 AM

its ok folks…they still have more of other people’s money…

spectreMi on January 8, 2014 at 1:58 AM

Wowser.

No one could’ve seen this coming…

locomotivebreath1901 on January 8, 2014 at 6:55 AM

its ok folks…they still have more of other people’s money…

spectreMi on January 8, 2014 at 1:58 AM

Uh-huh. And who is raking it in as this boondoggle goes belly up?

HiJack on January 8, 2014 at 8:16 AM

Ohio’s experience with “high-speed light rail” bordered on the bizarre.

It began under ex-Gov (D) Ted Strickland. a supposed “moderate-conservative” when campaigning (he made a big thing about being a minster, not a lawyer), he morphed into a doctrinaire lefty as soon as he took the oath of office.

His big initiative was the “Three C Light Rail System”. It was to be a high-speed passenger train linking Cleveland (on Lake Erie), Columbus (the state capitol, almost dead-center of OH), and Cincinnati (on the Ohio River). The idea was to get Federal “matching funds” by first getting tax money from Ohioans- or maybe the matching funds came first. Strickland and his cronies told it both ways, but then-State Treasurer Richard Cordray (now head of The One’s “consumer protection” Tcheka)admitted that it was intended to be tax Buckeyes first.

The problems set in right from the start. The line was to use the existing Baltimore & Ohio/Chessie System right-of-way- until they concluded that its track was unsuitable for the high-speed rail’s speeds and travel times. (Too many grade crossings, etc.)

So, they changed to using the ROW to lay their own track. Small problem; B&O/CS didn’t want to have to give up one of their main trunk freight lines. Which they would have, because if you know Ohio terrain, the track runs along strongbacks on bedrock areas with softer soil either side. Good for farming, not so good for handling several thousand tons of rolling stock every day.

Strickland made noises about seizing the land through “eminent domain”. Meanwhile, well-connected Dem types (including a couple of unions) were busy “acquiring” land either side of the ROW, anticipating reselling it to the State of Ohio at a nice profit. (Their methods of “acquisition” didn’t quite reach the levels seen in the Sergio Leone movie Once Upon A Time In The West, but they came very close a couple of times. Death threats were used to “convince” some property owners.)

About this time, two bombshells dropped. First was a purely engineering one. The experts said that even with a new track, the highest safe speed on such a run would be about 45 MPH, not the 100+ Strickland & Co. had been touting. Strickland ordered two more studies (at taxpayers’ expense) that resulted in exactly the same thing. (Combination of necessary curve radii, terrain, roadbed stability, etc.)

Strickland’s response? “No problem. We’ll just restrict all other trains in the state to 25 MPH or less, to make our train look ‘high-speed’.”

Oops.

Interstate Commerce Commission regulations prohibit such stunts. Because in the 1800s, it was a common trick of such state governments to put speed limits on rail lines- except for ones that paid a special “excise fee”. Things like this were the reason ICC was created in the first place.

Next, came the economic studies commissioned by Strickland to show the state legislature that the line would pay for itself. They showed just the opposite. In fact, six such studies were paid for by taxpayers, because every time one said it was a money-loser, Strickland demanded another one that would tell him what he wanted to hear. It never worked. Mainly because all three cities are well served by airlines, buslines and the freeway system now. The rail lines mainly move… freight. (Big surprise.)

Then, the bizarre part began. Columbus mayor Michael Coleman, who is obsessed with having a streetcar system in Columbus to “grace ouah streets” (as he keeps saying, verbatim, unaware that he is playing to a stereotype), demanded that the rail system be linked to his streetcar proposal. I.e., the trains should be able to change to the streetcar track to deliver people right to Downtown by the city block.

Engineers said, “Forget it”. Strickland’s problem? Coleman has the ear of…The One.

The first Fed funds arrive in mid-2010. About half what were promised. Estimates for Ohio expenditures double.

Strickland holds fast, even when some of his cronies openly admit the main goal of the line is to squire big contributors back and forth to Reds and Bengals games while hitting them up for money. This doesn’t go over well with the average Ohioan.

Strickland loses to Kasich in November ’10. Kasich immediately says, “We’re cancelling this boondoggle and returning the Fed funds”.

Fed SecTrans Ray LaHood says, “Not so fast, kid. We want this built, because The One likes rail rather than cars, and so do I. And our ‘friends’ have already bought the land to resell to your state. So shut up and do as you’re told, capische? Or else we’ll take you to court to force you to do it.”

Kasich says, “Bring it on- we’ll see you in court.”

In the end, the Feds folded. The Fed money ended up being sent back- and now apparently is going to California to help fund Moonbeam’s toy train.

As for all those “progressive” thugs who bought all that bottomland to resell at a markup- they’re stuck with it.

My heart does not bleed for them.

Californians could learn a thing or two from us Buckeyes. But of course, they’re too “enlightened” to need any advice from us barbarians, aren’t they?

clear ether

eon

eon on January 8, 2014 at 8:22 AM

everyone likes to talk about how pass trains used to work, they never talk about how the parent company paid the loss that the pass trains had through the profit freight made.
freight works.
long distance pass always needs constant influx of support.
amtrak likes to say NEC is profitable but thats only because that one particular route uses accounting methods so different from all other routes that amtrak themselves can never give a correct assessment of costs and stuff.
when a captive unit enters NEC from another route its whole accounting structure changes instantly. its a friggin mess.
nobody ever likes to talk about the loss to track owners (freight railroads) whenever an amtrack unit hits the track and ties it up.
I’d love to see some of the class 1 try to kick amtrak off their tracks, the political posturing would be fun to watch.

dmacleo on January 8, 2014 at 8:56 AM

If all Freight rail ceased operations tomorrow, the impact would be immediate, and affect everyone.
“Steel wheel on steel rail” will be the most cost efficient means of moving manufactured goods, grain, produce, and minerals in large bulk quantities, for some time to come. Without subsidy.
Passenger rail in America cannot survive, without subsidy.

listens2glenn on January 7, 2014 at 10:08 PM

well said.
and, as far as I can tell, whenever there was a public/private method involved (like NS Heartland project, etc) for capital improvements there has always been correct repayments done on time per the terms.
while I am not a huge fan of these deals I can accept people of a state entering into agreements like these. just make sure to always keep a watchful eye open.

dmacleo on January 8, 2014 at 9:00 AM

A project destined for failure in the hands of the worse managed state. What could go wrong.

RdLake on January 8, 2014 at 9:07 AM

Brown will be dead wrong if he doesn’t cancel this.

blink on January 7, 2014 at 10:10 PM

He’s also likely to be dead long before it even starts construction. He’s unlikely to care about the consequences.

makattak on January 8, 2014 at 9:57 AM

Maybe they could spend a couple of billion on a website about high-speed trains…

Nah. It’ll never work.

trigon on January 8, 2014 at 11:32 AM

Gov. Jerry Brown of California is riding into an election year on a wave of popularity and an upturn in the state’s fortunes.

As a small business owner her in So. Cal I’d like to know where this upturn in the “state’s fortunes” is occurring. My guess is that it’s on the tax collecting side only, because business stinks.

skeneogden on January 8, 2014 at 11:38 AM

A project destined for failure in the hands of the worse managed state. What could go wrong.

RdLake on January 8, 2014 at 9:07 AM

It is a public project which was and still is destined to divert government revenue into the hands of well connected political and corporate cronies under the guise of responding to “needed” future state wide public transportation. Whether or not the public really wanted or needed such a system in California was always secondary to the needs of the people getting rich in being a party to this scheme.

hawkeye54 on January 8, 2014 at 12:55 PM

The initial project outline didn’t even peg the project at completion by 2029, for goodness’ sake, to the tune of a $68 billion estimate that will surely increase even more as it encounters more “setbacks” and delays

The project went before the voters with a cost estimate of about $37B. After the thing passed then an estimate came out at $100B to $120B without ANY work having been done other than bureaucratic stuff. This estimate caused such commotion that they then whittled it BACK to just $68B. They did this by slowing the speeds to use existing track inside the Bay area and LA. The estimate in time for a SF to LA trip now sits somewhere in the 3-4 hour range which is much less than originally promised.

This thing has been a train wreck (pun intended) of dishonesty since its inception.

mrveritas on January 8, 2014 at 1:46 PM

time for a SF to LA trip now sits somewhere in the 3-4 hour range which is much less than originally promised.

Sorry, make that much SLOWER than originally promised.

mrveritas on January 8, 2014 at 1:47 PM

The High Speed Rail is a government project. Probably the biggest reason why it will have troubles.

If it had made sense as a private railroad without subsidies then it would have likely been built already over time. It didn’t, so nobody whose money was on the line would consent to funding something that was going to fail economically.

OTOH HSR will have a life of its own because the principals, consultants, and advocates don’t have a stake in whether it actually would be a success. Politicians want to be in the forefront because they think it makes them look good. Watch what happens as or if the project begins to unravel and sanity starts to impose itself. They will run for the hills and point fingers.

Russ808 on January 8, 2014 at 3:06 PM

California has a long, long history of public mass transit failures.

How many decades did it take to get BART on-line (this project dates back to the mid 1960′s)? And is BART actually solvent today…and has it EVER been?

NO!!!

landlines on January 8, 2014 at 8:07 PM

I’m a California resident who voted for the high speed rail project because it would reduce traffic. But now I agree with the opponents because if the project is going to cost $68 billion and the state only has $10 billion to spend for it then that’s a big problem.

SoulGlo on January 8, 2014 at 8:30 PM