In defiance of all sense and reason, California is actually pushing forward with its absurd bullet train plan. Today is the groundbreaking for the first stretch of the estimated (completely underestimated, probably) $68 billion train. It's supposed to travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles someday, far in the future. For now, though, they're just building the start of a stretch from Fresno to Madera, in the middle of nowhere where nobody needs it, nor will anybody probably ever need it.
And that may well be it unless more money appears somehow. The state only has $12 billion on hand for the project and is planning for another $8 billion. The rest is absolutely nowhere to be found. California got $3 billion from the Obama administration as part of the stimulus package, but it's pretty safe to say they're not going to see another cent from the federal government for at least the next two years. There is no sign of any private investment coming. The California High Speed Rail Authority is taking the "If you build it, they will come" mantra as a permanent motto. Its chairman, Dan Richard, is hoping they can raise money from selling advertisement and real estate development rights along the route or that the feds will chip in again later.
By the way, they actually still don't even have all the land they need yet for just this first stretch. Here's how screwed up this whole project is, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times;
The two-year delay in the start of construction has been caused in large part by the slow pace of land acquisitions. Even as construction gets underway, the state has only acquired 101 of the needed 526 parcels for the first 29 miles. Critics say few of those parcels are contiguous, though the rail authority has so far not disclosed those details.
Experts in the construction industry say the project's delayed start means it will need to proceed at an exceptional pace to comply with a federal funding requirement that $2 billion in grants from Washington and $2 billion in state matching funds be spent by Oct. 1, 2017.
Some of that money has already been used, but the requirement means that over the next 1,000 days the state will have to spend at a rate of $3 million to $4 million every calendar day — as high or higher than any transportation project in history.
Well, I will say that I am pretty confident in California's ability to break new records in spending money very quickly.
Reason has been treating this awful project as a whipping boy for years. Check out our archive of high-speed rail-related pipe-dream-puncturing here.
And here's some Reason TV videos to help explain the awfulness of the project. First up, Reason Foundation VP of Research Adrian Moore sits down with transportation expert Wendell Cox to discuss the problems with the project:
Second, I sat down with Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction to discuss his group's attempt to battle the union cronyism of the train project: