Against California High Speed Rail by Mark R. Powell

Top 10 Reasons to Defund California High Speed Rail

There are a hundred reasons to defund California HSR. I only list ten.

10.  The Authority shouldn’t start spending Billions on a project without a complete funding plan in place.
The complete Statewide HSR system proposed to the voters in November 2008 had a list price of $45 billion.  The Authority’s NOW 14 month old estimate said that $45 billion would only do SF to LA/Ana.  Most non-biased experts now put that cost at between $100 and $200 billion.  Cost alone will prevent the system from being built and we should therefore not waste money on a small 115 mile segment from Fresno to Bakersfield.

9. Cost escalations show no sign of abating. 
Fresno to Bakersfield was estimated at $3.6 billion in the Authority’s December 2009 Report to the Legislature.  Now the Authority needs $5.5 billion for essentially the same segment.

8.  Any phase or segment built will operate at a loss.
Whatever portion is built will no doubt operate at a loss and after destroying billions of dollars in human and financial capital will continue to suck this state dry for years to come.  

7. Ridership is at best an unknown.
 Ridership estimates are a joke.  It includes MORE riders than currently fly out of LA to SF coupled with ALL the automobile traffic along Interstate 5 and Hwy 99 measured at points situated longitudinally between Bakersfield and Fresno.  The high speed rail ridership forecast touted by the Authority amounts to EVERY person in the STATE  traveling on the train round trip between LA and SF once every two years.

6.  HSR Infrastructure capital offsets are a joke.
The Authority’s list of infrastructure costs (airport and freeway expansions) that can be avoided if HSR is built is nothing more than a laundry list of every state departments’ infrastructure wish-lists.  For example it includes offsets for expansion of the LA/Palmdale Regional Airport… airport that has been CLOSED for nearly five years due to lack of ridership.  Unlike government subsidized Amtrak, airlines can’t operate routes at a loss. 

5.  The Authority stretches the definition of “independent utility” for its first segment beyond reason.
The Fresno to Bakersfield segment dead-ends at Bakersfield as there is currently no passenger rail south from Bakersfield to either Palmdale or Los Angeles.  Riders going south of Bakersfield need to take an “Amtrak California” BUS (how fitting) from Bakersfield to Lancaster/Palmdale following Hwy 58 or a BUS to LA following Interstate 5 to LA to make a rail connection.

4. The Bakersfield to Fresno segment would involve land takings from 1000 private individuals.
High Speed Rail Authority CEO Van Ark is on the record at the February 3 Board Meeting as saying this will include 800 partial takings of land and 200 complete takings of land.

3. The Authority is on pace to spend all Prop. 1A Bonds on non-electrified rail connecting Gilroy to Palmdale…at best.
The state has no financing plan and with $2.7 billion in Prop 1A bonds going to the first segment it will be on track to use ALL the bonds building a non-electrified rail from Palmdale to Gilroy (south of San Jose).  Where the money for actual trains will come from is anyone’s guess.

2.  The State Treasurer is on record as stating “there is no market for Prop 1A bonds”.
Selling them at a deep discount will devalue ALL outstanding California Municipal Bonds
Of course they could only be sold as high interest junk bonds but this would result in a corresponding drop in value of ALL previously issued California Municipal Bonds.  All Senior citizens who own California Muni’s would be “taken for a ride” by this train before a single rail was in place.

1.  The Rail Authority asked for about a million dollars per day to fund Parsons-Brinkerhoff work this year.  The state is broke and needs this same amount of money to fund Cal-Works, government subsidized daycare, so that the working poor can afford to go to work each day.

Write to your legislators in Sacramento and Washington and tell them the results are in.  California HSR is a bad idea.  It needs to be defunded and all work stopped.  Don’t forget to include Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairman of the House Budget Committee, John Mica, Chairman of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Jeff Dunham, California member of House Transportation and Infrastructue Committee in your correspondence.

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2 Responses to Top 10 Reasons to Defund California High Speed Rail

  1. Dram45 says:

    If California built a Maglev train connection between LA and San Francisco you could travel from LA to SF in under two hours (a nonstop train would take 1H30M). A Maglev corridor could also be built right over freeways and interstate highways, not taking any other land than what is already used for the roads. Maglevs are also operating with much less sound pollution than regular high speed rail. Maglev also uses 30-40% less energy, are much cheaper to operate and maintain. A Maglev train grips the track making it virtually de-rail safe, important in earthquake areas. California should reject the regular high speed proposal that is on the table in favor the hyper modern Maglev technology.

    • Mark says:

      Any project will become less attractive the more we learn about it. Since almost nothing is currently known about your proposed Maglev train, you find it quite attractive. I will not dispute something that I know little about. However, I think any project should be approached with a healthy dose of skepticism.

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