Green monster: California abandons high-speed rail line between LA and San Francisco

I can’t believe the new, very progressive governor of California decided to drop the axe on Cali’s great green boondoggle the same week that 2020 candidates are talking up the Green New Deal. The balance sheet Newsom is looking at must be completely radioactive.

I mean, we knew it was radioactive. But it must be Fukushima-level radioactive for him to pull the plug at this highly inopportune moment, knowing how the GOP will use this to prosecute the case against the GND.

Don’t get excited, though. You know the rule: When socialist ambitions fail, the solution is more socialism. Somehow this will be folded into the case *for*, not against, the Green New Deal.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom says he’s ending the state’s effort to build a high-speed rail line between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Newsom said Tuesday in his State of the State address it “would cost too much and take too long” to build the line long championed by his predecessor, Jerry Brown. Latest estimates pin the cost at $77 billion and completion in 2033.

Newsom says he wants to continue construction of the high-speed link from Merced to Bakersfield in California’s Central Valley. He says building the line could bring economic transformation to the agricultural region.

Originally the project was expected to cost $33 billion and to be completed next year. It ended up reaching $77 billion and, per one projection made last March, could have ended up growing to $98 billion. Canceling the SF-LA route must seem to Newsom like a massive savings at this stage of the sunk-cost dilemma.

AP reporter Nick Ricciardi sees a GOP narrative coming together:

Yeah, you might hear that on the presidential trail a time or two next year. As noted in the excerpt, Newsom intends to finish part of the line, making this some sort of partial success for HSR fans. But that may come back to haunt him. Critics both here and elsewhere have wondered what use the state will really have for a line that doesn’t actually connect L.A. and San Francisco. If California finally spears the white whale by linking Merced and Bakersfield and the service ends up being underutilized, what sort of argument is that for other high-speed rail projects elsewhere?

As I said above, there’s no problem posed by government boondoggles that can’t be solved by even bigger boondoggles. I think Jeff Blehar’s right in anticipating the pro-GND reaction to this: California’s failure proves that this can only be solved at the national level, by a government with the power to print its own money. If Californians can’t afford to pay for high-speed rail themselves, they’ll be able to afford it once the Green New Deal passes, Uncle Sam starts farting out cash, and new taxes compel flyover-country residents to pitch in. That spin will come with the complementary spin that California’s failure in this case is specific to California, driven by esoteric local issues that certainly won’t recur elsewhere in the U.S. as a thousand HSR flowers bloom.

Those arguments will ease doubts among soft GND fans but for most of the public today’s news will be hard evidence of the proposal’s infeasibility. Expect Trump to demand that California return the $3.5 billion the feds gave them for the project too. Newsom will argue that the partial line he’s working on justifies that grant, but it can only help Trump politically to sue over it. Exit quotation via Dan McLaughlin: “If something is too expensive to build once, why not build it everywhere in the country instead?”