As Trains Derail in Washington, California Moves Full Speed Ahead on a Costly and Impossibly Ineffective “Bullet Train” Project

By Robert Carbery

“My high-speed rail proposal will lead to innovations that change the way we travel in America,” Obama boldly proclaimed during his first year of his first term. A recent Investor’s Business Daily article pointed out that the recent Amtrak train derailment near Tacoma, Washington, was on a stretch of track that was the direct result of President Obama’s pie in the sky vision of high-speed rail under his stimulus plan.
 
Monday’s crash of the Amtrak train, which killed three and injured many more, was remarkable in that this was the very first route of this line on a new track that went over an existing rail line. I was supposed to go on this very train for New Year’s Eve when I will be travelling from Seattle to Portland for a friend’s wedding. Not going to be doing that now. Though the train was going 80 mph in a 30 mph zone, it is inexcusable that this kind of thing still happens today.
 
But liberals like President Obama still push their unobtainable and crazy costly transportation programs onto us whenever they get the chance.
 
The stretch of track where the crash happened was paid for by Obama’s 2009 $787 billion stimulus package, $8 billion of which was sent to almost a dozen rail projects across the U.S. But safety was not a priority, resulting in tragedy for many.
 
The bypass where the train fell off the tracks has faced criticism from local officials in the past who warned that the route and speeds created glaring safety vulnerabilities. But those warnings fell on deaf ears. The town of Lakewood tried to sue the state in 2013 to stop the project, but that failed. Just days before the crash, the mayor of Lakewood specifically warned us of the safety hazard this new line posed, saying “this project was never needed and endangers our citizens.” You got that right. Finally a left coast politician making some sense.  
 
We don’t need to spend more money on these kind of boondoggle infrastructure and transportation programs. We need to spend less and we need to spend more wisely on projects that will actually work and can actually be funded. Obama’s errors are still haunting us today.

In California, things are just as bad, if not worse. The San Diego Tribune’s Editorial Board just wrote a breathtaking piece on California’s plowing forward with a ridiculous high speed rail project, titled, “California’s bullet train: No CEO, no funds, no future.” It shows how California lawmakers are ripping off the taxpayer by continuing this project which is nowhere near what was approved by the voters.
 
Nine years ago, California voters gave its blessing to a $9.95 billion bond to start the $43 billion bullet train project. While Governor Jerry Brown and the California High-Speed Rail Authority continue to tout the advances of the project, the truth is much more devastating.
 
The piece begins, “the project not only is seven years behind schedule, it has exploded in cost — to $64 billion — while shrinking in scope.” The rail authority is irresponsibly and horrifically not honoring a key promise made nine years ago that construction on the first segment would not commence until the state had enough funding for a self-sustaining segment. The state is still proceeding to build the first segment from San Jose to … an almond orchard in rural Kern County. This is a joke and surprise, surprise, those in power are lying to its people.
 
The rail authority in charge of this massively overpriced and underfunded project has been flailing lately because it has been without a CEO for six months. Right before he left in June, the Los Angeles Times story shined a light on the disarray at the rail authority. Last time the rail authority was without its chief executive, it took four months to find a replacement. It’s not shocking to find no qualified individual signing quickly up for this position.
 
Also of note, a new Legislative Analyst’s Office report reveals the riskiness of relying so heavily on funding from the state’s cap-and-trade program. An October Los Angeles Times analysis found that the state expected to eventually get $5.2 billion from bonds to be paid with proceeds from cap-and-trade fees. But, the LAO also warns that it was “highly uncertain” how much cap-and-trade might generate for the state and that the amounts could vary wildly from year to year. With this kind of information out there, what rational investor would ever buy these bonds?
 
It is confounding as to why the rail authority would propose to rely on such a hard to guess revenue stream to keep this project going. Why would they do this? The San Diego Tribune’s Editorial Board thinks, “Because of desperation stemming from its core problem: It has never plausibly explained how the project will be built. After $10 billion in available state and federal funds are gone, the authority has no funds it can count on besides cap-and-trade revenue, so it wants to leverage those dollars. As for attracting outside investors, that can’t happen without the state offering ridership or revenue guarantees — which, as the LAO pointed out way back in 2010, appears illegal.”
 
This is a travesty that cannot continue in California. There is no saving this shitshow of a rail project. The time is now for the 2018 candidates for governor to make their case as to why they think this choo choo train to nowhere should continue. We cannot keep listening to these coastal liberal elites like Barack and Jerry telling us how we should get around.
 
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