California Governor Gavin Newsom has apparently decided to ditch the light rail, high-speed bullet train that was supposed to cover the 800 miles between San Francisco and Los Angeles and was heralded by former Gov. Jerry Brown as an answer to climate change because, as Newsom said in his state of the state address Tuesday, the project “would cost too much and take too long.”
Ironically, California GOP and conservative taxpayers in the state have been saying the same for nearly all of the 10 years since the project was approved by voters. However, even before Newsom was elected, there were enough problems with the project that media outlets such as The New York Times that would normally reach to support a “green” initiative like the bullet train were noticing cracks in the infrastructure, so to speak:
The entire 800-mile line is scheduled for completion by 2033. There is no shortage of obstacles to what even the project’s biggest boosters call an ambitious timetable, including the engineering challenge of tunneling through the Tehachapi Mountains, a barrier between the Central Valley and Los Angeles.
The cost was originally supposed to be split among the state, the federal government and private business. But that arrangement faltered, as hopes for federal dollars faded with Republicans in power in Washington and businesses shied away from such an uncertain venture. As of now, the rail authority has come up with less than $30 billion of the necessary $100 billion, and the project’s costs are expected to continue to rise.
The project initially used $10 billion in state bonds to get started in 2015 and was additionally funded with nearly $3.5 billion in federal funds. It has stalled after cost projections and completion dates continued to grow.
Additionally, private funding for the project has been scarce yet taxpayers were still on the hook helping fund the organization that would be running the train via a carbon tax.
High-Speed Rail Authority hasn’t found a source of financing, even though the system gets 25 percent of the state’s revenues from auctioning off carbon emission allowances through the “cap-and-trade” system.
The governor is still planning on finishing the 119 miles stretch currently under construction through the Central Valley region, leaving many to wonder if that’s simply so he doesn’t have to pay back the $3.5 billion to the federal government.
Newsom acknowledged [in his State of the State address that there are] critics who want the state to abandon the project entirely, but said he doesn’t want to waste the billions already spent on the project, nor does he want to return $3.5 billion the state has received in federal funding.
Newsom, who has been a very vocal critic of the Trump administration — even pulling national guard troops from the border recently reportedly in defiance of Trump — apparently has no intention of turning around and handing back billions the state secured through a now-failed transportation project. Even if the only way to “ethically” keep it is to build a literal train to nowhere.