High speed rail folly – California edition

More on the High Speed Rail lunacy front (more here) from the People’s Republic of California. Facing a $24+B budget deficit and businesses fleeing the state (more here), the “geniuses” in California are getting another $624M for their fantasy of building a HSR line running the length of the state. This brings the total of “stimulus” seed money to $1.15B for the Golden State (more here).

So, flush with “stimulus” money, where do we start? Well, I guess this probably not the best place (story here).

There are a lot of critics when it comes to high-speed rail. So what does California do? They approve the first section of HSR rail to be built without trains or electricity. This has bad idea written all over it.California has plans for an 800-mile high-speed rail system running the length of the Golden State, and initial estimates place the cost somewhere around $45 billion (though I wouldn’t be surprised if it cost twice that by the time it is finished). Even a 800 mile journey begins with the first step, and California has been trying to find the area most receptive to the idea of a high-speed rail line. They found that place in the Central Valley, between Borden and Bakersfield, with stations to be built in Fresno and the Hanford area of Kings County. In total, the plan calls for 65 miles of track and stations at a cost of about $4 billion.

Sounds good, right? That is, until you realize that this section will be completely un-powered and un-supported until more lines are built. No trains, no maintenance facilities, just empty tracks and stations. Que?

This is a very, very bad idea. From an engineering standpoint, I guess it makes sense to lay the infrastructure first in an area receptive to HSR. But why is it they can’t put even a single train on this line, to give people a chance to try HSR out before committing a few billion bucks to it?  Build a word-of-mouth campaign from the people who get to use it regularly. Instead, it’ll be just empty tracks and stations, not exactly the best way to build support for a massive project like this.

Instead of quieting skeptics, this plan will give them more fuel for the fire. “Look at all the empty stations your tax dollars paid for!” They’ll say. Then there is the distinct possibility that politicians in either California or Washington could cut funding (this project is only possible with the Fed’s help after all). $45 billion isn’t exactly chump change, especially for a state that can’t even balance its budget. If funding gets cut after the first 54 miles are finished, well, what then? You’ve got a few billion dollars worth of HSR track that can’t even be used between a few small towns.

Sounds like a plan to me. Any bets on what will happen with this?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: