BULLET TRAIN ON TRACK TO FAIL
We hate to say, “We told you so,” but HJTA predicted back in 2008 that the bullet train would end up where it is today — over budget, behind schedule and going nowhere fast.
Talks between the governor and legislative leaders derailed in September over how to spend $4.2 billion remaining from the 2008 bond act that authorized a total of nearly $10 billion to plan and construct a high-speed rail line between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority was seeking to have all the remaining bond funds appropriated for the unfinished segment of the bullet train in the San Joaquin Valley. Gov. Gavin Newsom supported that request, but lawmakers in the Assembly were hoping to divert some of the funding to rail projects in Southern California and the Bay Area.
No agreement was reached, setting the stage for the two sides to fight about it again in January.
A 2008 study sponsored by the Reason Foundation and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation predicted that the promised total cost of $45 billion would quickly turn into $100 billion or more. “There are no genuine financial projections that indicate there will be sufficient funds,” the authors wrote.
That’s exactly what happened. After voters approved the project, the cost estimate was revised upward to $95 billion. Voters were told that private investors would pick up a share of the cost, but in reality there were no private investors interested in sinking their money into the bullet train.
Then-Governor Jerry Brown responded to public outrage by pressuring the High-Speed Rail Authority to cut back its plans and change to a “blended” approach, meaning part of the system would be high speed, and part would be conventional rail. That brought the estimated cost “down” to $65 billion.
Gov. Newsom came into office in 2019 and seemed to acknowledge that the bullet train couldn’t be built as promised. However, he doubled down on it anyway, and now taxpayers are funding the construction of a high-speed rail line between Merced and Bakersfield. Current plans call for passengers to take conventional rail from the Bay Area to Merced, and a bus from Bakersfield to Southern California. That, the High-Speed Rail Authority insists, meets the definition of a high-speed rail line from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
Of course it does. It’s not their money.