The open primary for the California governor’s race is coming up in a couple of weeks and there’s a packed field of no less than 27 candidates on the ballot. At the moment, the two top contenders appear to be the former mayors of Los Angeles and San Francisco, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa. There’s one Republican within spitting distance of making it into the general election, John Cox, but he remains a long-shot at best.
These folks are all out on the campaign trail and the Democrats are all competing to demonstrate which one of them hates President Trump the most and will be the best leader of the #RESIST movement. On top of that, they all have to figure out how to deal with a housing crisis, disastrous roads in need of repair, an ongoing drought, wildfires, mudslides and a state economy which is somehow still in the black for the moment but is predicted to hit a wall by 2020. But there’s one thing you aren’t hearing about from any of them. Nobody is talking about the long-delayed and massively over budget bullet train. Why do you suppose that is? (LA Times)
It’s the biggest infrastructure project in state history, but the California bullet train gets hardly any attention on the campaign trail.
The leading candidates for governor have said little, if anything, publicly about how they would fix dire problems in the $77-billion mega-project that has already overrun its initial cost estimate by $44 billion.
The next governor, as well as the state Senate and Assembly, will inherit a financial storm and face the tasks of finding money to bore tunnels under three mountain ranges, develop complex passages through the state’s biggest urban regions and avoid further political compromises that would slow travel along the route.
Jerry Brown largely got them into this mess and he’s getting ready to skate off into either retirement or a presidential run, leaving a massive mess behind him for somebody else to clean up. The bullet train has hit one delay after another. Some were caused by construction problems which should have been foreseeable, but most were self-inflicted wounds of a political nature. Still, the delays continue, and experts are projecting that every month that ticks by is driving up the final cost overruns by a huge amount.
The state transportation authority is now saying that the project won’t be completed until 2033. In the meantime, by their own estimates, they’re running up costs of $4.6 billion per year, money which does not exist in any current budget forecast. That works out to nearly $13 million per calendar day, a figure which the LA Times describes as a staggering construction rate never approached in U.S. history. And that’s only if they meet the 2033 deadline first suggested by Jerry Brown. People with experience in projects of this scale are dubious of that timetable, to say the least.
So how is it that the state is preparing to elect a new governor and nobody is insisting that the candidates actually tell them what they plan to do about it? The voters will apparently elect yet another Democratic governor who will follow in Brown’s footsteps and keep repeating the same mistakes. And if they can’t figure out how to make another nearly five billion dollars per year appear out of thin air, the project may collapse entirely. How much more will they have to raise taxes to pull that miracle off?
There’s a show I’ve been watching running on the Science Channel these days called Mysteries of the Abandoned. It’s really quite interesting. They investigate all sorts of man-made boondoggles around the world which now sit overgrown with plants and inhabited by wildlife, each a monument to just how wrong we humans can get things when we put our minds to it. I have to wonder if the completed sections of the California bullet train won’t be joining their ranks in the next couple of years.