Feds to California: Spend That Money You Don't Have on High-Speed Rail

The L.A. Times reports that U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood came to Sacramento today to convince California leaders to include funding for the $68 billion high-speed rail plan in the upcoming budget:

"What I have said to them is, 'We need a strong signal that you are committed to the money for the match, sooner rather than later. We can’t wait until the end of summer,'" LaHood recounted at a news  conference following his meeting with state Senate leaders.

LaHood said he was "reassured" by Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles) and Senate President Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) "that they are committed to high-speed rail and they are committed to making sure that California is able to provide the match that is needed."

When last we left California's budget, Jerry Brown was admitting he needed to make significant cuts to it, the state's budget deficit was $9.2 billion, and this year has already seen a $3.1 billion shortfall in projected revenue.

As for the train project, experts worried that the rail authority had vastly underestimated the operational costs for the project, necessitating annual subsidies should the thing ever actually get built. The CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) quit in January. Polls say voters would like a revote on the $9 billion in bonds that authorized the train construction in 2008, and if such a vote were to happen, the authorization would be reversed. According to a Reason-Rupe poll, 55 percent of Americans prefer private enterprise build and operate high-speed rail, not the government

And this demand from the federal government comes after promising a measly $3.3 billion in matching funds. (Not that we're actually endorsing throwing federal money at this too, but that's not a lot of weight to be throwing around relative to the total cost of the project.)

Fortunately some Democrats are starting to see a little sense – or at least discretion – about throwing money at the project:

The meeting was also attended by Sens. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) and Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) who have balked at quick action to approve the state’s $2.7-billion share of the first $6 billion construction segment in the Central Valley.

Simitian, who chairs a budget subcommittee on rail,  said after the meeting that he remains convinced the Legislature should continue to hold holding hearings and conduct more study toward a decision on funding in August. The budget will include operating funds for the rail authority, but he said it is "unlikely'' he would support approving $2.7 billion in bond funding for the construction in the budget scheduled for action by June 15.

"That's not the kind of thing you ought to do on a hurry-up basis,'' Simitian said. "I continue to believe that this is a decision that requires thoughtful deliberation.''

The above quote is probably code for “I need to determine whether I will get my ass kicked black-and-blue by the voters over this.”

LaHood continued: "I wanted to be sure that I personally deliver the message that President Obama’s administration is committed to high-speed rail in California. We have made a commitment of over $3 billion. We want to make sure that our partners here realize what is at stake."

Again, trying to throw that $3 billion around is hysterical. That is all of 4.5 percent of the projected train cost, assuming the costs are even accurate after the CHSRA cut it down from $100 billion.

Oh well, maybe we're all just wimps for not supporting this mess.

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  • Ted S.||

    (0!)th

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Makes sense.

  • Schu||

    Right out of the Robert Moses playbook: Purposely underestimate the cost of a project by a wide margin. Rush the start of the project before people can ask too many questions. When you invariably run out of money you then go to the politicians that initially funded you and let them know that it will embarrass them greatly if the project is never finished. Voila! Unlimited budget.

  • Brutus||

    It's almost impossible to be too cynical when it comes to these projects anymore.

  • AlmightyJB||

    It's almost impossible to be too cynical. Period.

  • DJF||

    They don't know the exact route of this train
    They don't know how much will be at grade level, elevated or below ground
    They don't know how much land they will need to buy
    They don't know what type of equipment they will use or who they will buy it from
    They don't know how long it will take to build
    They don't know the interest rate they will have to pay on the bonds

    Yet they came up with an estimate on how much it will cost.

  • ChrisO||

    Those are merely small details. It's the thought that counts.

  • SIV||

    No offense Mr Shackford, but I'm not reading any damn California railroad posts unless they're by Tim.

  • Scott S.||

    He read it before it was posted. Does that count?

  • ||

    Is Tim hopping around the office to verify this claim?

    (I keed! I keed!)

    But now that you mention it, the alt-text has that Cavanaugh unique flair. Perhaps Tim wrote the alt-text?

  • Scott S.||

    No, the alt text is mine. I did very nearly scream out loud when I read LaHood's first quote.

  • SIV||

    Transportation planners are the worst.

  • ||

    The above quote is probably code for "I need to determine whether I will get my ass kicked black-and-blue by the voters over this."

    Your cynicism serves you well, Scott.

    Also, excellent use of alt-text.

  • Hyperion||

    ... off the rails on a crazy train

  • ||

    Is Cincinnati LaHood's next Petticoat Junction Whistle Stop? City clouncil here is ready, willing, able and broke.

  • Sevo||

    Ignoring claims of 'it's the FUTURE!' or some such bullshit, there is not one single reason to continue the boondoggle.
    The claims of ridership, costs, speed, etc; IOW's every supposed gain based on an actual metric have been shown (by the government's own agencies!) to be outright lies.
    Moonbeam, however, has his shoulder to the wheel. I'm guessing it has something to do with the fact that the man has never had an actual job.

  • Old Mexican||

    The L.A. Times reports that U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood came to Sacramento today to convince California leaders to include funding for the $68 billion high-speed rail plan in the upcoming budget[.]


    He also came to see the powerful wizard that had the power to grant him other equally preposterous wishes. Oh, and give a scarecrow a brain... If only one could be found in Sacramento.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Sheesh

    Everyone knows that wizard's in DC.

  • Old Mexican||

    As for the train project, experts worried that the rail authority had vastly underestimated the operational costs for the project, necessitating annual subsidies should the thing ever actually get built.


    Must have been some very sage and wise experts, considering that the crazed wino who wipes the windshields of cars in front of my house could see the exact same thing a mile away...

  • Old Mexican||

    LaHood continued: "I wanted to be sure that I personally deliver the message that President Obama's administration is committed to high-speed rail in California.["]


    I just want to tell you both good luck. We're all counting on you ..."

  • widget||

    My 4yo boy is just nuts about choo-choo trains. We have the Thomas sets, the magnet trains, and the light-guided trains. We'll probably get around to building a model railroad when he's a bit older. N-Gauge or O-Gauge?, I'm not sure yet. He loves the train museum in Burbank, the Adventure City theme park in Anaheim, and the model railroad hobby stores we visit. He was tepid about the Disneyland monorail. Not sure why.

    Anyways, we could just fund the construction of a theme park or upgrade an existing one so that it has a train set with engines that circle the lot at a 160 mph to scratch this itch.

  • Aresen||

    Build it in a vertical loop and you'd have a hell of a theme park ride.

  • widget||

    That would be Six Flags' Magic Mountain. They'd just need to redecorate some of the rides with an Amtrak motif.

  • Tonio||

    It really comes down to two things - space and money. With smaller-scale trains (Z, N) you can fit more track and more complex layouts into a smaller space. The more popular gauges (HO, O) are cheaper and more readily available.

    Other considerations: Bachmann has a whole line of "Thomas" rolling stock in HO gauge, but its pricey. Also consider how much hands-on your kid will do with this - bigger trains more better for small hands and generally stand up better to rough handling. Also, don't underestimate the time it will require to build the layout - construct and paint train table, lay track and track bedding (Snap Track(tm) has integrated bedding but you pay a premium for that and it can limit your flexibility if you're planning anything other than a simple layout). Scenery and terrain are real time-sucks.

  • Terrance||

    Again, trying to throw that $3 billion around is hysterical. That is all of 4.5 Riemen Ed hardy percent of the projected train cost, assuming the costs are even accurate after the CHSRA cut it down from $100 billion.

  • Brutus||

    Let's recap:

    * Deep in debt
    * Budget deficits ballooning
    * Unfunded liabilities increasing annually
    * Pension plan going down quick

    Solution: Spend tens of billions on a fiscal black hole like HSR.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Why are you a heartless racist who hates progress?

  • AlmightyJB||

    Why are you a heartless racist who hates progress?

  • AlmightyJB||

    Why are you a heartless racist who hates progress?

  • Brutus||

    I'm just getting a jump on the inevitable. You can denounce me now.

  • widget||

    * airplanes.

  • AlmightyJB||

    That is so fucking true

  • AlmightyJB||

    Don't makemesay this shit three times again.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Don't makee me say this shit three times again.

  • ||

    Well, looks like a Literal Genie granted your wish, AJB. :-)

  • ||

    This Luis Fortuno guy was sounding pretty good on Stossel. Quick, somebody jump in and make me cynical.

  • ||

    Stossel sucks?

  • ||

    Besides being wrong that doesn't make me cynical of Fortuno.

  • widget||

    Stossel preaches to the choir. He's boring. He doesn't suck, he blows.

  • H. Protagonist||

    Dear Secretary Lahood,

    Go fuck yourself.

    Sincerely,
    The Taxpayers of California

  • widget||

    MWH, CH2MHill, Parsons, Dillingham, Bechtel, Siemens, Schneider, GE, Rockwell, Honeywell, Yogawawa, and a cast of thousands of sub-contractors want this work.

    All honest and able. Let's put them to task of building a train set.

  • Coeus||

    Three 12 year olds in Mexico busted for making a porno in a classroom at recess.

    In other news, several eyewitnesses swear they saw what looked like a cartoon bear in an ice cream truck blowing through a U.S. border checkpoint into Mexico...

    (joke stolen from a commenter on another site, but so damn funny I had to re-post it.)

  • ||

    How many US Senators were there in the ice cream truck?

  • squarooticus||

    That image is awesome. Heh.

  • lafe.long||

    Where's Lyle Lanley when they need him?

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