California’s bullet train money pit doesn’t deserve a single cent of taxpayer money. But last week, the federal government restored $1 billion in federal funding for the project the Trump administration attempted to pull back.
The decision was a settlement between the United States Department of Transportation and the state of California, which filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration’s efforts.
“This settlement is an important step in advancing an economically transformational project in California,” said Amit Bose, a deputy administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, in a statement.
Evidently, it’s considered economically transformational for government to squander billions of dollars on a wasteful, historically mismanaged project that can’t stick to a reliable timeline.
Let’s recall that, at the outset of the project over a decade ago, Californians were told the bullet train would cost a fraction of what it is now projected to cost and could’ve been operational by now.
In 2008, Californians were presented with Proposition 1A, which carried a $9.95 billion bond to help finance construction of the project.
In their voter guides, Californians were informed of an estimate from the California High-Speed Rail Authority estimating that, “the total cost to develop and construct the entire high-speed train system would be about $45 billion.”
Current estimates place the possible cost as high as around $100 billion.
Assembly Bill 3034, which placed Prop 1A on the ballot, stated, “It is the intent of the Legislature that the entire high-speed train system shall be constructed as quickly as possible in order to maximize ridership and the mobility of Californians, and that it be completed no later than 2020.”
It’s 2021 and instead of having a completed high-speed rail system linking Northern and Southern California at roughly $45 billion, the project is a decade away at best and at considerably higher cost.
The worst part of all of this is that over the last decade, failure and incompetence have been the hallmarks of the project.
In 2010, the California state auditor issued a report warning that the High Speed Rail Authority “risks delays or an incomplete system because of inadequate planning, weak oversight, and lax contract management.”
In 2018, the auditor said of the authority that, “its flawed decision making and poor contract management have contributed to billions in cost overruns and delays in the system’s construction.”
And yet, it persists, with enthusiastic federal support.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, in his first State of the State address, acknowledged that, “The current project, as planned, would cost too much and, respectfully, take too long.”
Unfortunately, rather than show leadership and call for an end to the project, Newsom instead pushed for a focus on completing a Bakersfield to Merced segment that’s many years away.
Congressional representatives from California have taken dueling positions. Earlier this year, Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, introduced legislation providing $32 billion in funding to high-speed rail projects throughout the country, including California’s. Meanwhile, Rep. Michelle Steel, R-Costa Mesa, joined by other California representatives, proposed cutting off the California project from federal funding.
Steel has the right idea.
The project may have superficially sounded appealing at the beginning, but the reality of the project has been and will continue to be nothing short of a colossal waste of taxpayer money.