Thursday, January 5, 2012

Train In Vain: California High Speed Rail Declared "Not Financially Feasible"

A blue-ribbon panel of, natch, "experts" has released a study on the financial feasibility of California's high speed rail project. Incredibly, this study group actually appears to have done some studying. Rather than take safe "full speed ahead!" position, they have declared the project to be financially and technologically impossible as presently conceived. 
In a scathing critique that could further jeopardize political support for California's proposed $98.5-billion bullet train, a key independent review panel is recommending that state officials postpone borrowing billions of dollars to start building the first section of track this year  
But in a report Tuesday, a panel of experts created by state law to help safeguard the public's interest raised serious doubts about almost every aspect of the project and concluded that the current plan "is not financially feasible." As a result, the panel said, it "cannot at this time recommend that the Legislature approve the appropriation of bond proceeds for this project."
Although the panel has no legal power to stop the project, its strong criticism, coupled with recent polls showing public opinion has shifted against the proposal, is giving some key political leaders pause. 
"The peer review group report raises important issues for the Legislature to weigh as we consider any appropriation for the project during this year's budget process," said the leader of the state SenateDarrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), a longtime supporter of the program.
Gov. Brown, who ought to be thanking God for this sort of cover to dump the project, instead said we're going to build this thing, even if it kills us. 
Gov. Jerry Brown has said he will ask the Legislature in the coming months to issue the first batch of $9 billion in voter-approved bonds for a high-speed rail network that backers say will create jobs, help the environment and transform the state's economy.
What's funny is that everybody (or at least every adult) knows - or should know - that the astronomical $98 billion figure for constructing this thing is a low-ball estimate that won't survive its first contact with an endangered species review. I'm not saying that because I'm an evil conservative. I'm saying that as a statement of fact based on experience. 

Adding to the comedy is that the whole raison d'etre of high speed rail is environmental: we were going to stop "climate change" with a choo-choo train. But, everybody (or at least every adult) knows - or should know - that global warming/climate change is bogus, unproven, and ultimately unknowable. Not only that, high speed rail as it exists in Japan and France is heavily subsidized. And high speed rail in China has been the locus of corruption and corner-cutting, as well as being spectacularly accident-prone. 

We all know this, even high speed rail's proponents know this, but for the enlightened progressives pushing this thing, reality simply need not apply. 

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