Monday, May 9, 2011

Boondoggle Alert: California Given $367 Million to Blow on Trains

As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, the federal Department of Transportation has decided to give California a $367 million grant for its grand vision of a high-speed rail network connecting the Bay Area and greater Los Angeles. So, what does $367 million get you these days? Well, given the government's notorious penchant for driving a hard bargain, it gets you 20 miles of track and a few brand-new rail cars. No, that's not a joke. But apparently 20 miles of track is enough to provoke the following delusion of grandeur out of Nancy Pelosi's heavily-botoxed mouth:
"While other states may ignore the benefits of high-speed rail, California is ready to put investments to work immediately...By investing in our state's infrastructure, we increase mobility options and lower our dependence on foreign oil at a time of rising gas prices, while reducing road congestion and preserving the air...high speed rail holds the promise of smart urban planning, speed and safety, with passengers able to board in downtown San Francisco at the Transbay Transit Center, the 'Grand Central of the West,' and in a mere two hours and forty minutes disembark in downtown Los Angeles, as established by the voters in state law with Proposition 1A."

We know you all love our predictions, so here's another one: we predict that the money will be spent before something less than 20 miles of the new line is constructed, and that the project will largely sit idle before people like Pelosi shriek loudly enough to get more money thrown at it. At that point, tax dollars will be diverted away from things like education and public safety to fulfill California's dream of running empty trains through the Central Valley. And, of course, new taxes will be needed to pay for it.


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