High-Speed Rail Strategy: Build Now, Hope for Money Later

High-Speed Rail Strategy: Build Now, Hope for Money Later

Advocates for the projected bullet train running from San Francisco to Los Angeles argued at the Public Policy Institute’s all-day State of Change conference last week that simply getting the project started would catalyze the federal government to pour more money into the $67.6 billion boondoggle. The California High-Speed Rail Authority offered the $67.6 million figure in February 2014, according to the Fresno Bee

Joel Fox, President of the Small Business Action Committee, writes in foxandhoundsdaily.com that Nancy McFadden, Executive Secretary to Governor Jerry Brown, told attendees that litigation over the project was going well; she was optimistic because the federal government had anted up funds and the state had started funding the beginning of the project. She was supported by Jeff Morales, chief executive officer of the High Speed Rail project, who asserted that once the project was up and running, funding would increase. He asserted that officials at the High Speed Rail authority told Washington to “leave us alone” for two years, implying the initial success of the project would elicit more funding. 

Morales continued by appealing to small businesses, averring that 30% of the contracts for the project would be captured by small businesses in the area. He attested that regional chambers of commerce and all large city mayors backed the high-speed train. Morales added that the rail line would replace 2500 highway lane miles. 

But as Fox points out, Morales assumes the projections for future ridership are accurate, and experts have questioned the estimates, projected costs for riders and the supposed rapidity of the train. As Reason Magazine recently reported, “The CHSRA April 2012 Business Plan is so deficient that it is inconceivable that policymakers would continue to rely on its assertions to evaluate the program.”