[guest post by JVW]
Under the cover of night (i.e., the dark corridors of federal bureaucracies), the Biden administration handed California $6 billion for two high-speed-rail projects. The Golden State’s high-speed-rail hubris has been a big, black, cash sinkhole since the Obama administration.
Earlier this month, the office of California governor Gavin Newsom gleefully announced that California High-Speed Rail Authority “will receive nearly $3.1 billion for construction in the Central Valley, supporting the overall end goal of connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles,” while the rail project, Brightline, “will receive $3 billion to connect Los Angeles to Las Vegas with 80% of the project’s construction in California benefiting the state’s economy and labor market.”
Governor Newsom declared, “California is delivering on the first 220-mph, electric high-speed rail project in the nation. This show of support from the Biden-Harris Administration is a vote of confidence in today’s vision and comes at a critical turning point, providing the project new momentum.” The $3.1 billion grant from President Biden’s historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is the single largest grant received by California’s High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA).
It’s such beautiful weaselly language that the governor’s office uses: “supporting the overall end goal of connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles.” I’ve said this countless times: there will never in my lifetime, or likely anybody else’s lifetime, be a high-speed rail between San Francisco and Los Angeles. As we have discussed year after year, the California High-Speed Rail Authority has a close to zero chance of ever acquiring the land rights to build that line, let alone figuring out a compromise with environmentalists to tunnel through the Diablo Mountain Range or have a bullet train hurtling up the densely-packed San Francisco Peninsula.
So we are where we have always been with the initial project: a desperate scramble to finish up the Bakersfield to Merced line and then call it a day, lest the Republicans come back into power in Washington DC and start demanding accountability for (and a potential repayment of) the over $10 billion of federal funds which have already been wasted by this ridiculous white elephant. And now of course they are dangling out that perennially-promised Los Angeles to Las Vegas line which will almost certainly end up being scaled back to a Victorville to Primm line, and will end up costing an order of magnitude more than the $3 billion gifted by the Biden Administration by the time all of the pigs leave the trough. If this line were financially feasible, the multi-billion dollar gaming industry would almost certainly be ponying up money to ensure that it is built. The fact that they haven’t done so after all of these years speaks volumes as to what the sharpies think about its potential.
The HSRA is set to release their annual report sometime towards the end of next month, so I’ll provide a fuller update on this epic cathedral of failure.
Happy New Year.