Political Editors / Jun. 29, 2016

California’s High-Speed Derail

The growing boondoggle was predicted.

California approved its big High-Speed Rail project in 2008 as voters were promised a two-and-a-half hour $50 commute from LA to San Francisco — all without raising taxes, like magic. The state broke ground in January 2015. And now the boondoggle is at least 50% over budget and four years behind schedule. Nevertheless, the California High-Speed Rail Authority boasts, “High-Speed Rail In California Will Not Require Operating Subsidies.” But that’s not what Ferrovial, the Spanish construction company that won a bid for part of the construction, said. Its winning proposal included a clear and inconvenient warning: “More than likely, the California high speed rail will require large government subsidies for years to come.” That’s because the company reviewed 111 similar rail systems world wide and discovered that just three actually cover their own operating costs without subsidies.

But never mind all that. As the L.A. Times editorial board once pontificated, “Weaning travelers from gas-powered, road-choking cars is critical to the state’s health and competitiveness.” It’s for the planet!

So as the only thing going high speed right now is a busted budget, Bloomberg’s Virginia Postrel writes, “California’s high-speed rail project increasingly looks like an expensive social science experiment to test just how long interest groups can keep money flowing to a doomed endeavor before elected officials finally decide to cancel it.”

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