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California governor abandons high speed rail boondoggle

Reality strikes? Gavin Newsom, California’s new Democratic governor, announced during his state of the state speech today that he wants to abandon the very-overbudget-and-behind-schedule high speed rail project that the previous Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, had been pushing for years.

“Let’s level about the high-speed rail,” Newsom said. “Let’s be real, the current project as planned would cost too much and, respectfully, take too long. Right now, there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A. I wish there were.”

Recent estimates assessed former Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan would be cost about $77 billion and be completed in 2033. Newsom then pivoted to his alternate proposal, to instead connect the two Central Valley cities, 160 miles apart.

Newsom wasn’t really arguing for common sense, since he proposed replacing this big project with a smaller rail project connecting two smaller cities in the middle of the state. Like the bigger project, the logic of this escapes me. It is very unlikely enough Californians will be want to use the new route to make it profitable, or even practical.

In addition, he also said he didn’t want to return the federal dollars provided for the big project, essentially saying he wants to steal that money from the federal government to use in ways it was not intended.

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  • wayne

    They should be required to return all the money they’ve already wasted.

  • Edward

    Gee, doesn’t one of those cities have a prison and the other a tavern? If so, then there could be quite a bit of rail traffic. That’s right, it’s Chowchilla, just south of Merced, that has the prison.

    Bakersfield, population just under 400,000, is highly noted around the world for its, um, … adopt a pet program.

    Merced, population just under 90,000, is the sweet potato capital of California. Obviously, these two cities are in great need of high speed transport of their populations, so that, um, …

    From the article: ““Critics are going to say that’s a train to nowhere, but I think that’s wrong and that’s offensive,” said the governor.

    Are going to say? We Californians have been calling it The Train To Nowhere since it was first proposed! Newsom is out of touch with the populace.

    The real problem is the risk that their respective airports may have to go out of business, because everyone who flies between these two cities will now take rail instead of suffer through the TSA lines at the airports.

    Oh, wait. Merced only has the one airline, and it has to be subsidized due to lack of passenger traffic. And that airline does not even go to Bakersfield. Thus the dozen people who do travel by air between them now have to take private planes, because there aren’t any airlines that serve both cities.

    So much for the need for high speed transport between the two cities.

    We Californians are ruled by a pack of idiots who think that they rule morons. The truth is that they keep getting elected by the illegal aliens who continue to vote for them, so we get the government that the illegals deserve. But, that comes from being a sanctuary state.

    The government’s requirement was that California build high speed rail. The destinations were not important for California to qualify for this boondoggle program. The way to have avoided the waste of money was to not have that stupid Obama–funded program in the first place.

  • wayne

    Victor Davis Hansen- Keynote Address:
    “California at the Crossroads”
    Kern County Economic Summit 2018

  • Ryan Lawson

    The time to put in high speed rail is when the cities are fairly young and there isn’t an enormous amount of property that has to be demolished to build all the rail infrastructure. The cost for buying out homes and businesses from an eminent domain standpoint has to be gigantic.

    This reminds me of a crazy idea I had ages ago and completely forgot about. People are so attached to their cars that few seldom travel by rail, but there may be a way to permute these forms of transport. Why not start a car carrier service with trains (and maybe even semi trucks) whereby you drive your car up onto a specialized railcar and then you + car get hauled to wherever you are going. You disembark at your destination and drive around doing your thing. It would add some time getting where you are going, but you could just sleep in your car the whole way.

    I’m not sure how it would work out in costs though. If you were going to drive from Dallas to Atlanta taking 12 hours and $200 in gas could a rail company get you there in 16 hours for $150?

  • Col Beausabre

    Ryan Lawson, it’s called Auto-Train and it runs between Lorton, VA and Sanford, FL since 1971, first as a company and when that went belly up by its own mismanagement, by Amtrack. It takes about 17 hours to do about 850 miles, so average speed is about 50 mph. You depart at 4PM and arrive around 9AM the next day. This is the key point, you drive to the terminal (drawing from the entire Northeast and all of Florida) , park your car and your hotel/restaurant moves, so you’ cut out over a days drive. And that’s also the drawback, finding terminal pairs that are the right distance apart with an adequate passenger base. Kentucky-Florida failed and Chicago-Denver never got off the ground.

    As you probably guessed, I’m a rail enthusiast – but I don’t support government subsidized passenger trains. And I’ve practically had to hand in my NRHS and R&LHS cards because of it. In response to the cry of “look what they do in Europe and Japan!” my response is we’re talking about entirely different population densities and inter-city distances with populations used to public transport. I ask the question, if passenger trains – particularly high speed rail – make so much sense, why isn’t Wall Street rushing in to make fortunes by building and running them? Because it thinks the idea is not economically viable. And if it’s not economically viable, all you are doing is building a giant Lionel set to play with. As for the idea a line between San Francisco and San Diego being such a boon for the working class and poor, I doubt many of them feel a need to get from one to the other in eight hours. It’s a perk for the rich and business class, like the Acela on the Northeast Corridor.
    Read the following (passenger train fans are burning copies like the Nazis burned “Jewish” books in the Thirties)
    Romance of the Rails: Why the Passenger Trains We Love Are Not the Transportation We Need

  • Col Beausabre:

    My oldest sister works for Amtrak (likes her job; not so much the company), and says Amtrak is trying hard to eliminate long-distance passenger trains. They would like to keep the Northeast Corridor and a few select medium-distance trains, but long-distance rail travel in this country is out as fast as Amtrak can make it so.

    I like train travel. If you have the time, it’s a nice, comfortable way to travel, and no TSA. Amtrak food does leave much to the imagination (I *imagine* it’s food).

    Possibly of interest to you:

  • Edward:

    ” . . . from being a sanctuary state.”

    I realized this week how many people I know who either moved from California, or whose parent’s moved from California 20 years ago. The *real* sanctuary state is apparently Oregon.

  • pzatchok

    I do wish the US did have a viable cross country passenger train system.

    I took a day trip from Cleveland to Pittsburg and back once on a steam locomotive and it was great. It was basically a day of dining and drinking on a train.

  • wayne

    you’re definitely on to something.
    Har– have friends who escaped Michigan for PDX (well, the upscale suburb of Tigard) in the mid 90’s. But that was purely an “…and weed is legal in Oregon…” thing for them. Interestingly, they are seriously contemplating retiring back to Michigan now.. (where weed is now legal)

    Col Beausabre–
    Good stuff.
    I’m probably atypical, but I have taken Amtrak from (southwest) Michigan to Chicago. ( I promptly rent a car to drive within Chicago.) And I’ve taken the Empire Builder route from Milwaukee to PDX. But I took it precisely because it was “the train,” not because it was less expensive or quicker than car/plane, and I wanted to see that part of the USA without having to drive.
    In Michigan, we used to have (electric) “trolley’s” that served the intra-urban areas, and a slew of (electric) inter-urban trolley’s/trains that connected small cities. Most of those right-of-ways have been abandoned and/or turned into “linear parks.”
    The only real passenger rail we have left– Amtrak from Detroit to Chicago.


  • Edward

    Blair Ivey,
    You wrote: “The *real* sanctuary state is apparently Oregon.

    Yes. It seems that Californians need a sanctuary from their own government.

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