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Stimulus Boondoggle’s Problems Continue

RNC Communications - March 1, 2012

Despite Stimulus Program Mandate, California High Speed Bullet Train Construction Plagued By Delays, Cost Overruns:

In 2009, Obama Praised California’s Plans For High-Speed Rail That Would Link “Big Cities To Inland Towns” And Alleviate “Crippling Congestion.” OBAMA: “Or California, where voters have already chosen to move forward with their own high-speed rail system, a system of new stations and 220-mile-per-hour trains that links big cities to inland towns, that alleviates crippling congestion on highways and at airports, and that makes travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles possible in 2 1/2 hours.” (President Barack Obama, Remarks On A Vision For High-Speed Rail In America, Washington, D.C., 4/16/09)

  • The Washington Post: “The Obama Administration Has Made Clear That The State Will Lose $2.3 Billion In Federal Funds Unless It Starts Construction By October 2012.” (Editorial, “California’s High-Speed Rail System Is Going Nowhere Fast,” The Washington Post, 11/13/11)

Today, The Mercury News Reported The Controversial $100 Billion California High Speed Bullet Train, Funded In Part By Stimulus Money, Will Be Delayed, After “Obama Administration Eased The Target Date For Starting Construction.” “With a long-standing federal deadline breathing down its neck, California's polarizing $100 billion bullet train suddenly got a much-needed reprieve Wednesday when the Obama administration eased the target date for starting construction.” (Mike Rosenberg, “High-Speed Rail Construction Delayed,” Mercury News, 2/29/12)

  • “For Years, State High-Speed Rail Leaders Aimed For A September 2012 Groundbreaking To Meet The Assumed Deadline For The Federal Stimulus Program.” “For years, state high-speed rail leaders aimed for a September 2012 groundbreaking to meet the assumed deadline for the federal stimulus program, which funded about one-third of the $6 billion first leg of track.” (Mike Rosenberg, “High-Speed Rail Construction Delayed,” Mercury News, 2/29/12)

The Washington Post: The Cost Of California’s High Speed Rail System Has Skyrocketed From $35.7 Billion To $98.5 Billion And The Completion Date Has Been Pushed Back 13 Years To 2033. “Things just went from bad to worse for high-speed passenger rail in California. After the Golden State’s voters approved a $9 billion bullet-train bond issue in 2008, officials said they could build an 800-mile system by 2020, for $35.7 billion. The cost projection now, as issued by the state Nov. 1: $98.5 billion, with a completion date of 2033.” (Editorial, “California’s High-Speed Rail System Is Going Nowhere Fast,” The Washington Post, 11/13/11)

Delay Further Evidence “Project Is Spiraling Downward.” “Still, critics took the news as further evidence that the project is spiraling downward. Support has waned since the cost tripled and the opening of full service between San Francisco and Anaheim was pushed to 2034. Major concerns remain about the source of the rest of the funding, expected rider counts and the tracks' effects on communities along the route.” (Mike Rosenberg, “High-Speed Rail Construction Delayed,” Mercury News, 2/29/12)

Because Of The Mandated Schedule For Groundbreaking, The Rail Line Will Connect Two Sparsely Populated Towns:

Because Of The Deadline, California Could Only Begin Work On A 130-Mile Section Of High-Speed Rail Between Two Sparsely Populated Towns. “Alas, there is only one place where the state could finish the necessary environmental impact statements and other bureaucratic requirements before the use-it-or-lose-it date: a thinly populated 130-mile stretch of flatland that starts just north of Fresno and ends just north of Bakersfield.” (Editorial, “California’s High-Speed Rail System Is Going Nowhere Fast,” The Washington Post, 11/13/11)

  • Pressure From Federal Officials To Quickly Spend The $4.3 Billion In Funds Resulted In The Selection Of The Route. “Federal officials said last month they wanted the $4.3 billion to go toward a project that can be completed and operational by 2017. Some officials say that goal can most likely be achieved in California's agricultural core, where costs are lower, community opposition is weaker, and fewer delays are anticipated.” (Daisy Nguyen, “Critics Pan Proposed High-Speed Rail Segment,” The Associated Press, 12/1/10)

California’s Legislative Analysis Office Says That “The State Will Be Left With A Rail Segment Unconnected To Major Urban Areas That Has Little If Any Chance Of Generating Ridership.” “More realistically, Sacramento’s Legislative Analysis Office calls the Central Valley starting point a ‘big gamble.’ In the all-too-likely event that funding for the rest of the system never materializes, the report adds, ‘the state will be left with a rail segment unconnected to major urban areas that has little if any chance of generating the ridership to operate without a significant state subsidy.’ It would be a train to nowhere, but at least it would go nowhere fast.” (Editorial, “California’s High-Speed Rail System Is Going Nowhere Fast,” The Washington Post, 11/13/11)

Many Are “Baffled” By The Cities The Rail Line Covers. “The idea was that land would be cheapest and construction easiest there, allowing the state to meet deadlines for spending the federal stimulus money and to build more miles of track for the dollar. In addition, the miles of relatively straight track would be an excellent proving ground for the high-speed rail technology. Still, many were baffled by the idea of sinking $6 billion into a rail line that runs from just south of Merced to just north of Bakersfield.” (Michael Fletcher, “Plans For High-Speed Rail Are Slowing Down,” The Washington Post, 1/15/12)

  • Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) Said The Proposed Route “Defies Logic And Common Sense.” “‘It defies logic and common sense to have the train start and stop in remote areas that have no hope of attaining the ridership needed to justify the cost of the project,’ Cardoza wrote in a letter Tuesday to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.” (Daisy Nguyen, “Critics Pan Proposed High-Speed Rail Segment,” The Associated Press, 12/1/10)

Delay “Hardly A Surprise For An Agency With A Humongous Workload And A Reputation For Missing Deadlines.” “The desire for a delay is hardly a surprise for an agency with a humongous workload and a reputation for missing deadlines. The biggest question was whether the U.S. government would allow it, because the stimulus program had set deadlines to create jobs quickly.” (Mike Rosenberg, “High-Speed Rail Construction Delayed,” Mercury News, 2/29/12)

White House Economic Team Opposed Stimulus Spending On High Speed Rail:

The White House Economic Team Was “Nearly Unanimous In Opposing” Stimulus Funding For High Speed Rail. “When Emanuel insisted that the stimulus include billions of dollars for high-speed rail, the economic team was nearly unanimous in opposing the idea, whose economic benefits were unlikely to exceed the cost. But Summers was reluctant to pan Emanuel’s pet project, not wanting to alienate his powerful patron. ‘Larry wanted to be Rahm’s best friend, that’s where the power came from,’ said a White House colleague.” (Noam Schreiber, The Escape Artists,  2012, p. 45)


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