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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