Even in Reverse, California’s Bullet Train Rips Off Landowners and Taxpayers

As we noted back in 2012, California’s high-speed rail bosses faced the same problems as the devious Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) in Blazing Saddles. He needed land for his railroad, but one thing stood between him and that property: “the rightful owners.” And the notorious Mongo (Alex Karras) said the raids on the town of Rock Ridge were all about “where choo-choo go.”

California’s “bullet train” was supposed to go from Los Angeles to San Francisco, but new governor Gavin Newsom says that would be too expensive. As Ralph Vartebedian of the Los Angeles Times notes, “the California bullet train project will probably run out of money before it can fulfill Gov. Gavin Newsom’s modest plan to build a high-speed operating segment between Bakersfield and Merced.” Trouble is, Central Valley farmers have yet to be compensated for land that high-speed rail has already appropriated.

As Fox News reports, “rail authority officials acknowledge they have not yet paid numerous landowners, but so far have not given a reason for the delay.” One attorney representing 70 farmers explained that rail authorities seem uncertain about the land they claim to need and keep changing the plan. While suffering farmers wait for promised compensation, they might note other rail realities.

The High-Speed Rail board includes Lynn Schenk, a former member of Congress and chief of staff for former California governor Gray Davis. So before it carries a single passenger, the project has provided comfy seating for a washed-up politician. But there’s more. California’s high-speed rail project has a Sacramento headquarters and, count ‘em, three regional offices. Unlike the farmers, these people are all getting paid, and according to Transparent California, the CEO is pulling down total compensation of more than $500,000.

Meanwhile, in Blazing Saddles, when governor William Lepetomane (Mel Brooks) gets word that Rock Ridge has been sacked, he exclaims, “we’ve got to protect our phony baloney jobs!” That’s what’s going on with California High-Speed Rail. It’s all about spending, expanding government, and ruling-class privilege. The approximately $4 billion wasted so far would have been better spent on a third lane for Interstate 5 through the Central Valley. Don’t look for that any time soon.

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
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