California’s ‘Boondoggle’ Report – I mean High Speed Rail Report
The term “Boondoggle” may be used to refer to protracted government or corporate projects involving large numbers of people and usually heavy expenditure, where at some point, the key operators, having realized that the project will never work, are still reluctant to bring this to the attention of their superiors.
Generally there is an aspect of “going through the motions” – for example, continuing to waste money on High-Speed Rail – as long as funds are available.
Obama’s inspiring vision of a nation crisscrossed by bullet trains, providing cleaner, safer and cheaper competition to airlines and reducing reliance on gas-guzzling automobiles, is in serious jeopardy as a new Republican majority in the House looks to slash his funding plans. In this environment, California is a test case for whether high-speed trains can succeed in the U.S. — and so far, the state is failing the test.
California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office forecasts a state budget deficit of $25.4 billion that the Legislature needs to plug before the next fiscal year begins. The LAO’s gloomy budget outlook is blamed in part on a $6 billion shortfall in the current fiscal year. California faces a $20 billion a year deficit through 2015-2016.
Seems California is in serious economic trouble, but yet they want to continue with Obama’s “Boondoggle” called high-speed rail?
Viewpoints: Case for high-speed rail grows only stronger. The last time many Californians thought about high-speed rail was in the voting booth. On that day, Nov. 4, 2008, more than 6 million voted to tell the state to get going, to build high-speed rail in California. Now, 2 ½ years later, the second guessing is in full swing. In recent weeks some have suggested that the project – High Speed Rail – be put on hold.
Most people I talk to have said this about high-speed rail – this is something the country ‘wants’ now, but it can’t afford it at the moment. The backers of high-speed rail are now using the “high Gas, cleaner environment issues” to their advantage – claiming that these HSR trains are cleaner and people will decide to pay to ride the train – instead of grid-locking the interstates with automobiles.
This of course is all speculation, because no where in the United States do we have an actual HSR service. The Legislative Analyst’s Office published a report calling for at least a ‘temporary halt’ to the project. The report alluded to a number of concerns about the project:
- The amount and timing of future federal funding are unclear.
- Spending state funds on rail will mean there is less money for other things.
- We do not yet know how much private investment the system can attract, or when it will come.
- Starting construction in the Central Valley is a “gamble.”
These “concerns” would make me cautious of this project too.
- They have no clue when or even if they will receive more federal funding.
- California is in real debt trouble – wasting states money on HSR – means less money for projects that are really needed.
- There is a “hint” of interest from private investments – but they have not seen any money from them yet – nor have the private investors 100% committed to investing.
- To qualify for the federal funds, planners had to agree to break ground by 2012. Federal officials deemed that the only segment that would be ready for construction so quickly was in the ‘sparsely’ populated Central Valley. As a result, the bulk of the $3.5 billion kicked in by the Obama administration must be spent on a train running between the tiny towns of Borden and Corcoran. Ridership on this initial segment would be slight, making it impossible to operate the train without taxpayer subsidies. Yet under the terms of Proposition 1A, the state can’t issue bonds to pay for the project unless it has been demonstrated to be self-sufficient. What’s more, if federal and other funds for further construction dry up, California could end up with an expensive train to nowhere.
So I can see why the Legislative Analyst’s Office has their concerns. I have my concerns as well, since I am helping to pay for it. California has a huge debt problem, my main concern is that Obama will want to help “bail” them out of debt forcing taxpayers to pay for California’s problems. Then we as taxpayers are obligated to pay for all these HSR Boondoggles too!
The train’s biggest problems can be laid at the feet of the California High Speed Rail Authority, which is overseeing its construction. Inexperienced board members appointed by the governor and Legislature on the basis of political patronage rather than expertise have made a host of poor decisions. The poor planning shows as the board plans to take a circuitous route from Los Angeles to Bakersfield by veering through Palmdale and Lancaster. This would add 30 miles to the trip plus $1 billion in construction costs, and make it all but impossible for the train to meet its promised travel time of 2 hours and 40 minutes from L.A. to San Francisco. Compared with the more direct route along Interstate 5 through the Grapevine.
This country is in a real debt crisis with unemployment way up, high gas prices, higher food prices and such. Why are we allowing Obama to “gamble” with his HSR dream? This is something the country would like to have but it doesn’t necessarily need it at the moment. We need to get our priorities straight spend our money wisely on things we already have but are in severe need of improving. Instead of “gambling” away at projects most of us already know – won’t succeed.