Californians to try to kill high-speed rail project by referendum

Remember that high-speed rail project that was going to bring California’s infrastructure into the 21st century? The last we really heard about it was back in April when an audit was scheduled to take stock of just how far in the hole they were and if it could ever be finished. Of course, that’s been the story of this project from the beginning. One delay after another compounded by flawed budget estimates and construction schedules. Mix in a bit of political incompetence and malfeasance and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

This running boondoggle has been dragging on for ages, creating a black pit of despair where Californians’ tax dollars go to die. But now that may be about to change. Fresh off their advances in attempting to recall the recent gas tax package, one group is now working on a referendum plan to stop the entire mess and redirect the money to fixing their roads. (LA Times)

Backers of a November initiative to repeal the gas-tax increase said Monday they will also ask voters to approve a measure in 2020 that would provide funds to fix roads without charging Californians more at the pump, and would halt the state’s $77-billion high-speed rail project.

The ballot measure was announced on the same day the campaign against Proposition 6 launched television ads saying the repeal will jeopardize funds needed to make California roads and bridges safe.

Supporters of the new initiative to be filed Tuesday say it addresses a criticism of Proposition 6 by Gov. Jerry Brown and others who warn that elimination of the higher gas tax and vehicle fees approved last year will leave the state billions of dollars short of what is needed to repair its deteriorating transportation network.

The debates over repealing the gas tax and the floundering bullet train have a significant intersection. As the Times reports, state representatives have recently suggested that some funds from the new gas taxes may eventually need to go into funding the rail project. None of these proposals are sitting well with the groups who feel that they’ve been overly taxed already with little to show for it. The total cost of the high-speed rail project had already doubled yet again from the 2013 projection of $33B to $77B. The completion date has already been stretched out to 2033 and nobody knows how high the total cost could go by then.

At the same time, the state needs an estimated $177B over the next ten years to try to bring their roads and bridges up to some reasonable measure of safety and repair. California’s state government currently has no idea where that money is going to come from unless they go back to the well yet again and raise taxes even more. This appears to be prompting some fiscal sanity among a growing number of residents who are pushing back against their liberal stronghold leadership.

Here’s one question to consider. Let’s just say that they manage to kill off the rail project. Several large sections of it, including raised platforms and trestles, have already been built. What happens to all of that construction? I’ve recently been watching a Science Channel show called Mysteries of the Abandoned. They investigate massive structures around the world which were once beehives of human activity but now sit silent, being slowly reclaimed by nature. What will the remnants of California’s high-speed rail project look like when they are overgorwn with shrubs and trees, providing habitat for birds or the occasional coyote?

David Strom 6:41 PM on September 26, 2022