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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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No surprise in latest soaring cost estimate for high-speed rail

Uploaded: Mar 22, 2018
Was any thinking person surprised that the latest iteration of the high-speed rail business plan shows costs soaring, competition dates extended far into the future and more changes to conditions in the ballot measure voters approved way back in 2008?

Here’s believing most Californians would love a do-over on what was a bad plan initially and has gotten nothing but worse. And, sadly, there’s a portion of the line in the San Joaquin Valley under construction as proponents perhaps hope that if enough money is spent, people will accept throwing additional money at the project.

As is, the funding plan is again a house of cards with hopes of private investors (none have emerged to date) necessary to deal with the toughest segment of tunneling and bridging through the mountains between the San Joaquin Valley and the L.A. basin.

Propping this disastrous project up is the mis-use of the state’s cap-and-trade funds. The latest deal between Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature allocates 25 percent of funds from these auctions to the high-speed rail. Given that, if it is ever completed, it will have a minimal positive benefit on climate change—it’s arguably an inappropriate use of those funds, but one that allows the governor to keep the bad project under construction. To secure loans for construction, the Legislature would have to extend the program until 2050.

The business plan shows costs growing by $13 billion to $77.3, an increase of as much as 35 percent in just two years. Voters approved a $9.95 billion bond for what was advertised as a $40 billion rail system with a travel time between San Francisco and Los Angeles of under three hours.

The updated plan also includes diminishing service levels, so some route is open by 2029. It calls for 224 miles of track in two segments: one from Madera to Bakersfield (imagine how many riders on that route) and the other from Gilroy to San Francisco. These trains would run on existing rail lines (Amtrak and CalTrain) and operate a normal train speeds—not the promised high-speed rail. The plan also postpones a costly 13-mile tunnel under Pacheco Pass that is necessary for high-speed operations.

Bay Area high-speed backers and business groups likely will continue to push for the train because the plan includes the expensive exercise of electrifying CalTrain along the Peninsula—a long sought improvement that may (if you believe in fairies) someday be used for high-speed trains.

Gov. Brown has brought an adult’s mentality to Sacramento, particularly when it comes to the budget—much less so on social issues. The absurd rail line is one of the exceptions—throwing away money on a system that will not work (the transit connections that make high-speed rail work in Europe are missing in California) and will be a sinkhole swallowing taxpayers’ funds.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Doug Miller, a resident of Country Fair,
on Mar 22, 2018 at 9:40 pm

Doug Miller is a registered user.

Every time I read another update on our high speed rail project, the situation is worse. Imagine what this same money could do to mitigate congestion for every day commuters in the Bay Area and LA basin. High speed rail might work from the Bay Area to Sacramento and from San Diego to Los Angeles but the current project needs to be stopped. Make the few miles of completed roadbed into a high speed amusement park. And name it after Jerry Brown.

Posted by Chris, a resident of another community,
on Mar 23, 2018 at 9:36 am

You talk as if this thing is going to develop in isolation, That transit systems would not be developed to meet high speed rail in the future, that current rail use between Madera and Bakersfield is the only indicator of what the future ridership will be. As a member of the GOP who doesn't live in LA or SF, count me in and use my tax dollars to build high-speed rail.

Posted by Tom T, a resident of Danville,
on Mar 23, 2018 at 11:43 am

High Speed rail is a joke and not at all a viable solution.
This is what happens when any state allows one party to have total control.
We the people vote for bad props and boondoggles like this.
We allow sanctuary status and the risk of lives and taxpayer dollars.
This state is insane.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Mar 23, 2018 at 4:21 pm

I find it waaaaaaay silly willy to make reference to"sanctuary status" when the topic is "high speed rail"...duh

People have been walking and dashing across borders for centuries...grow up!

Posted by FrequentWalkerMiles, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Mar 24, 2018 at 2:08 am

FrequentWalkerMiles is a registered user.

I never stayed in Holiday Inn but even I knew back in 2008, Prop 1A promised a cost of 30 billion total, 10 from the state, that it was BS.

But clearly most CA voters had no idea how much this kind of projects can cost, yet they voted for it anyway.

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