Progressives Fight Civil War over California’s High-Speed Train to Nowhere

The Associated Press
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

Jerry Brown’s choo-choo, er, high-speed train was already going nowhere fast even at an astronomical cost, but now the California governor is finding out that his “bullet train” might be going nowhere, period.

Brown’s latest opposition, ironically, came from his own side of the political spectrum–California’s well-funded and ultra-aggressive environmentalists. They won a federal court decision on Wednesday that barred Brown and the high-speed rail authority to circumvent the state’s environmental laws to expedite the construction of the rail line.

The high-speed rail project was already massively in disarray and behind schedule even before Wednesday’s court ruling, but now it appears that Brown’s boondoggle should be abandoned once and for all before it costs California (and American) taxpayers another dime.

When California’s voters were snookered into approving Proposition 1A in 2008 for a $9 billion bond for the rail project, they were promised that the train would travel at a minimum of 200 mph, go between San Francisco and Los Angeles in no more than 2 hours and 40 minutes, be completed in 2024, and financially self-sustaining, with operation and maintenance costs fully covered by revenue.

None of those conditions will ever be met even if the rail project is ever completed–chances are, mankind will land on Mars before this pipe dream is realized. The project is already seven years behind schedule with an estimated cost now escalating to over $68 billion. The Obama administration had diverted $4 billion in federal funding to the project but after the Republican takeover of congress in 2014, there is little chance that California will be getting any more money from Capitol Hill anytime soon.

To further illustrate the dysfunction surrounding the project, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday that the bullet train’s chief executive apparently is still in office and getting paid two months after he was supposed to depart. Just as Gov. Brown could find no takers from private enterprises to invest in his pet project, apparently nobody wants the $400,000-a-year job to replace the outgoing Jeff Morales, either.

To sum up the comedy-cum-tragedy, Morales was feted at a going-away party at a Sacramento restaurant in June—when most of the staff had expected him to leave. One executive at the authority, who requested anonymity when discussing state matters, told the Times that nobody has been able to figure out what Morales has been doing since.

Maybe he’s been hanging out with Milton in the basement, looking for the red stapler.

Follow Samuel Chi on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru.


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