Only hope for further state bullet train $$ is gone

May 1, 2013

By Chris Reed

BrowndoggleLogoWe’ve seen some very good reporting about the bullet-train fiasco from around the state. The two best recent examples are stories outlining the chicanery in the bidding process for the contractor for the first segment and describing how the California High-Speed Rail Authority has lost support from key early advocates of the project.

But what’s needed is for someone to focus like a laser on the funding prospects for the second segment of the bullet train before we spend billions on the first. A U.S. Government Accountability Office report in December said that $39 billion more in federal funding would be needed for the project to complete its San Francisco to Los Angeles route, with $20 billion specifically to complete the first segment.

However, as I noted in today’s U-T San Diego editorial, hopes for such federal largesse are now pretty much dead:

“The congressional directive to the FAA to end air traffic controller furloughs strongly suggests the demise of the president’s contention that the March 1 budget sequestration requires proportional cuts across a vast range of departments instead of smart, focused cuts that establish and reflect national priorities. …

“This in turn suggests that we have just begun an era of relative frugality in Washington, D.C., after years of the federal government spending 40 percent more than it took in.

“And what does that mean specifically for California? That the state bullet-train project looks more futile than ever. Discretionary domestic spending is going to pretty much disappear in the post-sequester era. What does a December Government Accountability Office report on the bullet train say will be needed to build the second segment of California’s project after the $13.4 billion in committed state and federal funding is used up? Billions of dollars in federal funding –- i.e., discretionary domestic spending.”

Media ignore link between sequester fight, bullet train

Yet nobody in the California media besides the U-T has made the link between last month’s federal budget showdown and the state bullet train project. If they did, then this would be the conclusion that everyone but rail cultists would come to:

“The California High-Speed Rail Authority has attracted no private investors because such investors want revenue guarantees the state cannot legally offer. The federal government -– or some unlikely foreign benefactor –- is the authority’s only hope for funding to build its grand project. If the federal option is gone, should we really spend billions on an instant white elephant in the Central Valley?

“The answer is, no, of course not. But as long as Gov. Jerry Brown is in denial on bullet-train realities –- starting with but not limited to the death of the federal funding option -– here comes a boondoggle for the ages.”

John and Ken’s preferred shorthand for the project — the Browndoggle — should be what we call the white elephant that’s soon to rise in the Central Valley. Our alleged savant governor is the opposite of a genius on this topic. We’ll soon see a multibillion-dollar monument to his obliviousness.

Related Articles

Certainty Shmertainty

Just to recap a bit for those following at home: the state is currently running a $20 billion or so

Oakland Unified whipsawed by pension costs, declining enrollment

It’s been a tumultuous era in Oakland. The Police Department has been enmeshed in an ugly scandal surrounding officers’ involvement

Pat Wiggins' latest outburst

Senator Pat Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, is becoming a very sad story. For at least the last year or so, she’s