California Gov. Jerry Brown’s magical bullet train may not come to fruition after all. According to reports on Tuesday, Brown’s $100 billion vanity project may meet its demise at the hands of the federal government. So far, the California High-Speed Rail Authority has drawn no interest from private funders, who cannot be assured of profit from the enterprise.
Problems bedevil the white elephant project. The High-Speed Rail Authority needs to buy land in order to build the railroad, but it has received no contractual authority to build from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company, which owns a freight line that occupies the space for the new bullet train. Federal grants are contingent on the project having contracts that guarantee the possibility of building. At the same time, the feds are trying to assert authority over the project via the Surface Transportation Board.
Meanwhile, it now turns out that the California Senate Transportation Committee is investigating the bidding process behind the first segment of the railroad. The review process for bidding was changed to allow bidders who had not met technical specs. The winning bid came from a firm with the lowest technical score in the field. The company that won the bid, Tutor Perini Corp., has done work with the state for years. The losers, it has been suggested, will be forced to keep quiet in order to receive reimbursement for their bidding costs.
That’s not the only problem with the bidding process. The High-Speed Rail Authority, behind closed doors, authorized a process that would require bidders to consent to a massive union giveaway in order to be considered. The board did not vote on the relevant Project Labor Agreement, and the Federal Railroad Administration may not have approved it. As the Modesto Bee points out, “A cynic would suggest that the presence of the head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California on the HSR board might have encouraged the project labor agreement. Nevertheless, state union leaders knew how the bread was buttered. Union-affiliated organizations comprised seven of the top 10 donors, including the top five, to pass Proposition 1A in 2008.”
Building of the fantasy choo choo has now been delayed for over six months.
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the New York Times bestseller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).