The “good money” is $929 million of our tax dollars.
The “bad money” is $100 billion of our tax dollars.
That’s not just California taxpayer dollars.
It’s federal tax dollars, too.
It’s all money for California’s High-Speed Rail System, and it’s all wasted money.
It didn’t start out that way.
Back in 2008, we in California had visions of a high-speed rail system dancing through our heads.
The artist’s renderings of what our high-speed rail would look like were enticing, and so was the sales pitch:
“Los Angeles to San Francisco in three hours!” They told us.
“Yes, yes!” we voted in 2008.
“No more congested freeways and jammed airports and crowded airplanes – just a quiet, comfortable, fast ride!”
“Yes, yes!” we voted.
“Ready for you in 2020, and just $33 billion!”
Well, plenty of us hesitated a bit at that $33 billion price tag.
But the idea of, in just 12 years, we’d be zipping through the California countryside on a high-speed train, just like other people were already doing in a number of other countries, skipping the automobiles and gasoline pollution and freeways with rush hour traffic…
The people of California voted “Yes!”
Today the cost, originally estimated at $33 billion, has risen to $100 billion.
And no one in California is anywhere close to zipping through the California countryside – or anywhere else – on a high-speed train.
Years ago we started calling it the “Bullet Train to Nowhere”:
Years ago we started calling it a “boondoggle”:
This financial fiasco has been going on for so long that stories about the high-speed train have become background noise. The cost keeps going up. The start date keeps getting further away.
And we’d regularly see articles like this, from 2018:
Then, in February 2019, came this:
It’s about the only decision that came out of the Trump administration that I agreed with.
The article said,
“If the funds are lost or tied up in a long legal battle, the state would probably have to either make up the money elsewhere or further curtail the project.”
“Further curtail the project” sounded good to me.
“Pull the plug” sounded even better:
Especially since the project had already been drastically scaled back.
Remember that zip-zip trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco?
That became the zip-zip trip from Merced to Bakersfield:
Also known as the trip from “Where?” to “Why bother?”
With all due respect to the denizens of Merced and Bakersfield, the two cities are not what you’d call population centers.
Or vacation destinations.
Seriously, I’ve lived in California a long time, and I’ve never once heard someone say, “I’m going to Merced for vacation!” Or, “We’re honeymooning in Bakersfield!”
Both cities are located in the Central Valley:
In California, when you think of population centers, industries, tech companies, and lots of riders for high-speed rail – you think San Francisco and Los Angeles. Sacramento and San Diego.
In Bakersfield the #2 employer is a produce business. In Merced, Walmart is on the Top Ten list of employers.
But the big brains at the California High-Speed Rail Authority who make the big decisions apparently decided, “Well, high-speed rail between Los Angeles and San Francisco turned out to be a lot more difficult than Merced to Bakersfield, so let’s do that instead! Then we can say, ‘See? We’ve completed something! Now can we have more money?’”
So now, when we see high-speed rail stories, it’s mostly about the delays and cost increases to build that Merced to Bakersfield line.
And what was once going to be a two-track corridor has now been reduced to a single track:
Then, on June 11, we learned that the Biden administration was reinstating that $929 million – the good money – to the bullet train to nowhere:
I call it “good money” because until now, it hadn’t yet been
pissed away spent on a wasteful project.
That almost-billion in our tax dollars was still intact.
Give it to the bullet train and it instantly becomes bad money.
Good money thrown in after bad.
So far, it’s the only decision from the Biden administration I disagree with.
I think this editorial from the San Diego Union-Tribune…
…summed it up regarding the return of the $929 million:
“…that will still leave the state $79 billion short of what it needs to link the state’s biggest population centers, now estimated at as much as $100 billion.”
Now, it’s a fact that many countries have successfully built and are operating high-speed rail systems.
Even Uzbekistan – which is tough to spell and even tougher to point to on a map – has high-speed rail:
But not California.
But…but…to be fair – in 2016, California’s high-speed rail was the recipient of an award.
And the award was the first of its kind.
And here it is: