Tuesday, January 03, 2012

End of the Line for High Speed Rail in U.S.

You heard it here first: High speed rail in the United States is deader than Kim Jung Il.

Actually, these projects have been riding on rails of wishful, even magical, thinking for years. In California, the much-touted high-speed rail project between San Francisco and San Diego (with links to Inland cities) is sputtering to a close, years after voters approved $9 billion in bonds for it. (The current estimated cost is $98.5 billion, and the completion date is now estimated at 2030, assuming it gets much further in the planning stage. Which it won't)

Look for a state review panel to drive a final spike into the project later today.

The reality: In a country with no strong central government to drive such projects through regional politics, high speed rail cannot happen. If it were going to happen, it would have 20 years ago.

It is now too late.

Not that the diehards are admitting what is now obvious. See this from the California High Speed Rail Blog:

"Under the terms of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 – otherwise known as “the stimulus” – contracts for the $8 billion in high speed rail funding included in that package have to be signed by September 30, 2012. Back in the spring of 2009 when the stimulus bill was passed, that seemed like a fair distance in the future. But it’s now 2012, and the deadline is less than ten months away.

"California has already won about $4 billion of that stimulus money, and combined with the voter-approved Prop 1A money will be enough to get construction started on the Initial Construction Segment in the Central Valley, connecting Fresno and Bakersfield.

"That is, if the state legislature agrees to release the Prop 1A funds. That will be, by far, the top battle California high speed rail supporters will have to fight in 2012. A coalition of people who share an opposition to creating jobs and to doing anything that might move California away from its 20th century transportation model are working hard to ensure that the legislature overturns the will of the people and blocks this funding. Even some Democrats like State Senator Alan Lowenthal would have California follow the lead of right-wing extremists like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Ohio Governor John Kasich, and Florida Governor Rick Scott and reject billions in federal stimulus and the tens of thousands of jobs that go with it."

Sounds great, high-speed rail folks in California.

Ain't gonna happen, though.


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