Buttigieg Boosts Prospects of California’s Bullet Train Boondoggle
Federal Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is on record that California’s High-Speed Rail project could “potentially” be funded by the pending $2.3 trillion infrastructure program. State rail bosses were pleased but in his Sacramento Bee report, Tim Sheehan outlines some problems with the bullet-train project.
It began in 2013, but more than 500 pieces of property have yet to be acquired, and “contractors cannot build on land that the state does not yet own.” As with Hedley Lamarr’s railroad in Blazing Saddles, the “rightful owners” stand in the way, and land is hardly the only problem facing the rail project.
Politicians initially promised 800 miles connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles, at a cost of $35 billion. The route has since been scaled back, with costs soaring to “more than $98 billion.” After a 2012 redesign costs were down to $68 billion, nearly double the original estimate, for a smaller project. The latest plan under Gov. Gavin Newsom charts 171 miles between Merced and Bakersfield, at an expected of $21-23 billion.
Not a single passenger has taken a ride but the rail project boasts a Sacramento headquarters and three regional offices. So the bullet train works well as a sinecure for ruling-class retreads such as board member Lynn Schenk, a former congresswoman and chief of staff for Governor Gray Davis. As taxpayers might note, few commuters were panting for a 19th-century form of transportation slower and more expensive than air travel, and which doesn’t really get you where you want to go.
As Adam Summers explains, California’s high-speed rail project is the very definition of a boondoggle. For Pete Buttigieg, on the other hand, the infrastructure deal is all about “lifting our game as a country.” Embattled taxpayers should not be surprised if congressional spendthrifts are soon all aboard.