Californians have always thought of themselves as trailblazers for the rest of the country. As the biggest state in the Union that is home to the gems of Hollywood, Silicon Valley and the world’s most productive agricultural land in the Central Valley, our state has proven time and time again to be ahead of the nation.
When it comes to High Speed Rail, California will again be a trailblazer. However, this time, it’s a trail to the biggest boondoggle in the history of the United States—and I am not exaggerating. All Californians would agree that we need to do more to encourage public transportation. But the question we must ask ourselves is: at what cost?
When Californians voted to approve the project in 2008, they were given a price tag of $45 billion. Unfortunately, they were sold a false bill of goods. The full price of the system has now been estimated between $68 and $98 billion. The cost of tickets will almost be equal to flying, and there are no signs of private investors to ensure that taxpayers are not endlessly subsidizing this project.
Furthermore, only a fraction of the funding needed to complete the project is available and no source of future funding has been identified. Despite these facts, the California Legislature mindlessly approved the project this month.
The first section, slated to begin construction toward the beginning of next year, has rightly been identified as the “Train to Nowhere”. In order for California to receive $3 billion in federal funding, it must build the track somewhere between Merced and Bakersfield.
This section of track will cost $6 billion and will not even run a High Speed Train because the track will not be electrified or constructed with positive train controls required for high speed service. If constructed, the route will displace thousands of acres of prime farmland, numerous businesses and homes. It is pure insanity to displace productive businesses to make way for a track that may never be expanded to offer High Speed Trains or linked to the remainder of the state.
Californians have realized that the bullet train is not what they were promised, and every survey indicates they would now vote to stop the project. I sincerely believe California can still do great things. But this project is not one of them, and it could surely drive our state to bankruptcy.
California desperately needs jobs, but creating them will not come from High Speed Rail. It will come from reforming burdensome government policies to make our state a place where businesses are given the freedom to thrive again. That’s what California needs to start focusing on.