Massive transportation bill has no $ for CA bullet train

bullet.trainCalifornia’s controversy-plagued bullet train project got a major boost from the Obama administration and Congress in 2009 when more than $3 billion in federal stimulus funding was sent to the state government to buttress the $9.9 billion in bond seed money that state voters had allocated to high-speed rail in 2008 by passing Proposition 1A.

Since then, the California High-Speed Rail Authority has been unable to attract outside investors and doesn’t have even 40 percent of the money it needs to complete the initial 300-mile, $31 billion segment — much less the $68 billion needed to build a rail line linking San Francisco and downtown Los Angeles. This has led bullet-train advocates, starting with Robert Cruickshank of the California High Speed Rail Blog, to repeatedly urge Congress and the Obama administration to provide more federal dollars. In planning documents from three years ago, state officials said they were hoping on $42 billion in federal help.

But Republicans took control of the House in the November 2010 election, and they have repeatedly denounced the state’s project, led by Rep. Jeff Denham of Turlock. And the office of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, has confirmed there’s not a dime for the state’s bullet train in the gigantic, five-year, $305 billion transportation bill that Congress approved last week in an overwhelming bipartisan vote.

CA Democrats fought for bullet train funds in 2012

In 2012, during negotiations on a similar omnibus transportation measure, California’s House Democrats were strongly critical of the bill for, among other things, blocking new federal funding for the Golden State high-speed rail project. But Nexis and Google News searches show no similar pointed criticism of the new transportation bill. This 2013 analysis by Governing magazine shows why enthusiasm has waned among federal lawmakers:

In California … if the feds were to pony up the rest of the $42 billion the state is expecting, it would be more than the federal government spends nationwide on grants for new subway, light-rail and bus rapid transit lines combined. … At a time when Congress has canceled White House tours in order to reduce spending, it’s hard to envision Washington lawmakers making that sort of long-term commitment anytime soon. …


In a budget deal struck with Republicans in April 2011, the administration lost funding for its [high-speed rail] program, and it hasn’t come back since. … Meanwhile, despite all his calls for high-speed rail spending, Obama hasn’t developed a concrete proposal on how to provide an ongoing, dedicated revenue stream for those projects, which advocates say is key. Even the nonpartisan GAO warns that counting on future federal funding for projects like the one in California is highly speculative. Joshua Schank, head of the Eno Center for Transportation, says it’s unlikely at this point that the administration will continue to throw its full weight behind high-speed rail because so far the program “hasn’t yielded much dividend politically. Nor,” he adds, “has it yielded much in terms of high-speed rail.”

Cruickshank, however, thinks there’s a maniacal quality to GOP opposition. “To Republicans, of course, the risk to the taxpayer isn’t based in fact but in ideology. They believe nobody rides passenger trains in America, so any such attempt to fund one is doomed from the start. They mention that government might have to subsidize its operating costs and even though the global experience suggests they don’t, they’re ignoring the fact that government massively subsidizes roads without any expectation that they’ll cover their costs,” he wrote in 2013.

Nevertheless, aides to President Obama say he will sign the transportation bill, perhaps this week.


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  1. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 8 December, 2015, 07:10

    Just wait for the Demac-RATS to lay on a Gasoline Tax to raise big funds for the Pork Rail Road beleive me liberal demacrats are always coming up with some dumb tax preposal(Soda Tax to pay for healthcare,Bullet Tax for Healthcare,Etc)tax and spend liberal demacrats are never satisfied

    Reply this comment
  2. Dude
    Dude 8 December, 2015, 08:45

    They screamed to get more of our money for dams that they never built and now they’re screaming for even more money for a train to nowhere that will never see the light of day. And yet, they still keep the money they take for these phantom projects. Tramps and thieves.

    Reply this comment
  3. David Wiltsee
    David Wiltsee 8 December, 2015, 10:15

    Turn out the lights. The party’s over.

    Reply this comment
  4. Ronald
    Ronald 8 December, 2015, 10:56

    Since state law says that the system MUST OPERATE WITHOUT A TAXPAYER SUBSIDY, the end results may necessitate higher fares per mile, compared with other similar rail systems worldwide, this will adversely affect ridership projections. Thus, it’s understandable that an investment in the bullet train provides significant ROI risks to that invested capital.

    The bullet train will be competing against the multitude of airports in CA as well as the constantly developing technologies that are affecting the way we do business. Just like the land phones that have become obsolete as a result of cell phone technologies, future travel needs may be impacted in the coming decades as a result of the ever growing virtual world.

    Driving or flying from a multitude of airports can be done at virtually any time of day, but the inflexibility of how many train departure times would be available from a limited number of trains would impact the convenience factor offered by cars and planes and thus also adversely affect train ridership. The snowballing effect of lower ridership would be higher fares for those that do use the train as there would be no state subsidies available. Lower ridership would further impact the ROI risks for invested capital.

    Reply this comment
    • Rex the Wonder Dog!
      Rex the Wonder Dog! 8 December, 2015, 11:10

      Since state law says that the system MUST OPERATE WITHOUT A TAXPAYER SUBSIDY

      It doesn’t matter what state law says, the state judges will simply not follow the law if it conflicts with their special interest puppet masters, public unions. Look at what the DCA did to Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny’s trial court ruling that the BB Gun Train currently being developed was NOT the development plan the voters HAD APPROVED. Gutted Kenny, and his spot on ruling. $pecial interests rule CA.

      Our local gov, our courts, our entire state are being run by special interest $$$$$$.

      Reply this comment
  5. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 8 December, 2015, 11:00

    “California’s controversy-plagued bullet train project got a major boost from the Obama administration and Congress in 2009 when more than $3 billion in federal stimulus funding was sent to the state government to buttress the $9.9 billion in bond seed money that state voters had allocated …”
    The $13 billion “seed money” is a laughable joke. It will cost close to half a trillion when this quagmire gets finished, and then that “seed money” will be just JOKE 3% OF OVERALL COSTS!!

    Current price tag $70 BILLION.
    True price tag = $70 billion guesstimate, plus real costs, x6 = $420 billion true cost.

    $13 billion x 100, x / $420 Billion = 3%

    Reply this comment
  6. Julie
    Julie 8 December, 2015, 11:06

    Two things: First, the voters passed a ballot proposition that has not been remotely met by proponents of high-speed-rail. It should require a new ballot proposition to move this project forward. In the private sector, when you can’t raise the private capital you promise, the project and/or company will fold or refocus. Second, with four or more years of drought and systemic water shortages in California, the place that needs major capital investment is in water. With a Governor committed to addressing climate change, one wonders why he can’t make the shift to this far more important project.

    Reply this comment
  7. Rob Anderson
    Rob Anderson 8 December, 2015, 14:15

    Even the special interests—including of course the unions—can’t keep this dumb project alive, though they would like to. Looks like the Democrats and President Obama have at last given up on this boondoggle, and I say that as a Democrat.

    Reply this comment
    • Rex the Wonder Dog!
      Rex the Wonder Dog! 9 December, 2015, 08:48

      You are correct Rob, the dam has broken….;

      California Democrat withdraws support for the high-speed rail project

      Assemblywoman Patty Lopez (D-San Fernando) says she is withdrawing her support for the project, and she says five other Democrats in the Legislature are reviewing their positions.”I don’t see any benefit…The money we are going to spend on it is crazy,” she said. Public opinion polls have found that support for the project has eroded as costs have risen.

      Reply this comment
  8. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 9 December, 2015, 08:55

    During Christmas it is sacrilege to not love choo choo’s….

    Poo Pie is the Grinch!

    Reply this comment
  9. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 13 December, 2015, 07:00


    Reply this comment

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Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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