The top two Democrat candidates for California governor have been silent about the High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSR), even as its costs continue to rise.
Democrat and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa made headlines late last year when he attacked fellow Democrat Lt. Gov Gavin Newsom for flip-flopping on the bullet train project.
Once a top Democrats campaign issue, the bullet train has faded from headlines even as the “Base-Case” budget estimate to complete just the first 500-mile network from Los Angeles to San Francisco has more than doubled from $37 billion in 2019, to $77.3 billion in 2033 –over $150 million per mile.
The CHSR board approved the budget on May 15. But for the first time, CHSR included a “High-Case“ cost that would spike the cost to $98.1 billion, or $196 million per mile.
The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) March poll asked the question, “Thinking ahead, how important is the high-speed rail system for the future quality of life and economic vitality of California?”. It found that only 32 percent of likely voters view the high-speed rail system as “very important” for the future of California, and 26 percent “somewhat important.” But the “important” percentage had fallen from 42 percent in 2017.
PPIC also asked the question: “California voters passed a $10 billion state bond in 2008 for planning and construction of a high-speed rail system from Southern California to the Central Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area. The estimated costs associated with the high-speed rail system are about $70 billion over the next 20 years. Do you favor or oppose building a high-speed rail system in California?”
The only regions favoring HSR at the higher cost factor are Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Under the $70 billion cost estimate, about 67 percent of Democrats favor the project; but independents are split at 48 percent for and against; and 69 percent of Republicans oppose it.
The Los Angeles Times reported that to complete HSR by 2033 would require another $4.6 billion in funding each year. Every six-month HSR construction delay would require hundreds of millions of dollars more to offset the cost of inflation.
The Times commented that minor Democrat gubernatorial candidate Michael Shellenberger is now opposed to high-speed rail, because autonomous (self-driving) vehicles will drastically reduce transportation road congestion to increase effective speeds on freeways. Shellenberger says he would rather spend the CHSR’s $100 billion on programs to address the housing crisis, attract more middle-class jobs, and fund education.