[guest post by JVW]
In his State of the State address earlier today, California Governor Gavin Newsom sounded the death knell for the woefully planned and horribly administered high-speed rail system that had been favored by his two immediate predecessors.
“Let’s be real,” Newsom said in his first State of the State address. “The current project, as planned [from Anaheim to San Francisco], would cost too much and respectfully take too long. There’s been too little oversight and not enough transparency.”
The idea championed by Newsom’s predecessor, Jerry Brown, is years behind schedule. The latest estimate for completion is 2033.
Newsom, though, said he wants to finish construction that’s already under way on a segment of the high-speed train from Bakersfield to Merced, through California’s Central Valley, arguing it will revitalize the economically depressed region.
He’s also replacing Brown’s head of the state board that oversees the project and pledged more accountability for contractors that run over on costs.
The Bakersfield to Merced line will be of almost no practical use, unless you want easy travel to see the UC Merced Bobcats play the CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners in men’s basketball. But perhaps now Gov. Newsom and his administration can prevail upon the zillionaires of Silicon Valley and the Bay Area to pony up and bring the line into San Jose. I hope the good people of the city of Anaheim don’t have buyer’s remorse over shelling out $185 million to reconfigure the tracks and build a beautiful new terminal only to now find out that they will just have the same old Amtrak and Metrolink trains chugging through, with daily ridership only about one-quarter of what had been expected.
Gov. Newsom made other news during his address today. In a further break from his predecessor, he announced that he does not support the “Twin Tunnels” idea for delivering water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the southern part of the state, opting instead for a single tunnel which would be more cost-effective but also less reliable than the two-tunnel system that the Brown Administration had reluctantly supported. He also announced that he would be replacing Gov. Brown’s appointments for both the High Speed Rail Authority and the State Water Resources Control Board, indicating a desire for a clean break from the previous Sacramento regime. (By the way, Brown is notoriously thin-skinned about having his policies countermanded, so expect to hear some sniping from him and his allies in coming days.)
I’ll give credit where credit is due. Gavin Newsom had the guts to pull the plug on a ridiculous vanity project beloved by environmentalists, statists, unions, and everyone who generally benefits from big government. There is certainly a lot to dislike about his administration — his address earlier today also called for new taxes and a host of other stupid spending initiatives alongside a paean to the stringent and unforgiving diktats of social justice — but on high speed rail the new governor has made the right call.