As even more California cities consider bankruptcy, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a funding bill that cleared the way for the first part of the $68 billion high-speed bullet train project to be built.
There are legitimate fears that the rail project may be blocked in the courts or for lack of funding for the project. The rail project is not guaranteed on the back end and will dry up before it is completed. The Associated Press described it as a “train to nowhere” in Central California.
The AP reported that the bill allows for the issuance of $2.6 billion in state bonds that also unlocks “$3.2 billion in federal funds for construction of track in the Central Valley” and “approves spending over $2 billion in federal, state and local funds on rail projects in urban areas to prepare to link them to a statewide system.”
“This legislation will help put thousands of people in California back to work,” Brown said. “By improving regional transportation systems, we are investing in the future of our state and making California a better place to live and work.”
But a recent UCLA study of Japan’s bullet train system found that the economic impact of such projects was “marginal” at best, undercutting Brown’s primary reason for going forward with high-speed rail. In addition, Californians across the board have expressed regret about having voted for the high-speed rail project in the first place, telling pollsters they would not vote for the project if given a do-over.
Further, farmers in the central valley have sued to stop the project, Republicans have vowed to block taxpayer monies from being used to fund future lines, and Democrats have expressed concerns about the feasibility of the projects. The rail lines also have pass environmental reviews, which could take another two years.
To make matters worse, officials overseeing the implementation of the high-speed rail projects could not identify guaranteed sources of private funding for future lines, making the project even more dependent on money from a state government that is going broke.