California’s High-Speed Rail Continues to be a Trainwreck

“California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) officials said that another $100 billion would be needed to complete the high-speed rail network between San Francisco and Los Angeles,” the California Globe reports. That claim, from a March 12 Senate Transportation Committee hearing, would raise the total estimated cost to complete the rail service to “at least $135 billion.” 

As the Globe’s Evan Symon observes, the original 2008 estimate of $33 billion “ballooned to $98 billion,” dropped down to $68 billion, and then “went back to $113 billion.” Completion dates have been “continuously delayed” from the original goal of 2028 for the entire San Francisco to Los Angeles route and “well into the 2030s for a partial completion.” For California taxpayers, this should come as no surprise. As UCLA economist Lee Ohanian explained last year, “California’s high-speed rail was a fantasy from the beginning.” 

Fifteen years after the original bond issue and three years after the expected completion date, “not one train has left the station. Not one route has been completed, even though nearly all the $9.95 billion seed money has been spent.” The original $33 billion budget “is now inadequate to build just one route” from Bakersfield to Merced. 

The cost of just the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco route is estimated to be more than $100 billion, but Ohanian fails to see “how the HSR authority can come up with such a cost when they don’t even have a completion date.” This was “a dream, not a vetted project,” and “there is no path to completion for the fantasy rail system that was falsely sold to voters 15 years ago.” And there’s another way to look at it. 

“California’s HSR is perhaps the greatest infrastructure failure in the history of the country. And the reason it failed is because of a gross failure of state governance, one on such a grand scale that it is nothing short of a betrayal of Californians. … The only reasonable decision is to end a project that should never have begun.” 

Now, the High Speed Rail bosses want $100 billion more, further expanding California’s fathomless waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayers. As Ohanian says, “some things never change.”

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
Beacon Posts by K. Lloyd Billingsley | Full Biography and Publications
  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless