Late Night FDL: Taking the Train to Nowhere Fast
Okay, so maybe part of me just wanted to post a video of a long-lost favorite song from my youthful days seeing local bands in L.A. clubs… but, as someone who spent several years living in Los Angeles and then just across the bay from San Francisco, I’ve long wondered if I would live long enough to see high-speed rail make it to the Golden State.
TPM today reports that the answer is still extremely uncertain:
… the project, which is projected to be able to take riders from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 2 hours and 40 minutes, traveling at up to a peak of 220 miles-per-hour in some sections, costs an estimated $68 billion and is backed vociferously by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, has run into heavy interference recently.
The California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), an independent state budget watchdog agency, on Tuesday released a cautionary report on the project proposal, recommending that legislators vote down the Governor’s plan to fund the initial phase of the project — which would connect Madera, just north of Fresno, to north of Bakersfield — by selling $2.6 billion worth of state bonds.
If the sale doesn’t go through, the high-speed rail project will effectively be stuck in limbo for the foreseeable future, as the bond sale is necessary to raise enough money to begin construction and to receive $3.3 billion in federal matching funds. In total, federal funding is supposed to pay for 61 percent of the project. Only 4 percent of these funds have been secured so far, according to the LAO, and it’s that uncertainty that has the agency urging caution.
Part of the problem, the TPM report goes on to say, is that the current proposal — even if it provides an attractive alternative to driving over the Grapevine — doesn’t really address California’s real highway congestion problems, which are local to L.A. and San Francisco. In addition, David Kurtz at TPM muses:
Have proponents stripped the project down so far to make it politically palatable that they’ve doomed it with unworkable practical, technical, or economic constraints?
… I don’t know the answer. But it seems like the ingredients — or more specifically, the pressures — are there to create that kind of result.
If that reminds you of the 2009 economic-stimulus package, or Obamacare, in the sense of “It started as a reasonable idea, but wow, did it get turned into unappetizing sausage as the legislative process ground it up”… well, me too. Seems to happen far too often whenever remotely progressive ideas try to cross the gulf of politics into becoming reality.