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Nate Jackson / Feb. 13, 2019

California's High-Speed Derail

The governor scraps the project just as the Green New Deal pushes it nationwide.

Green New Deal proponents have some big dreams. One of them is “investing in … clean, affordable, and accessible transportation; and high-speed rail.” The FAQ section says the plan aims to “build out high-speed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary.” Fortunately, we have a real-world example of high-speed rail in America to see how well it will work. Let’s go to the tape.

“The project, as currently planned, would cost too much and take too long,” declared Democrat California Gov. Gavin Newsom in his State of the State Address this week.

Oh.

So, after current construction on one leg is done, Newsom laid the track for abandoning the boondoggle, though state Democrats rushed to insist he’s not killing the statewide plan.

Reason’s Scott Shackford writes of the California train, “Voters approved a ballot initiative in 2008 that set aside a $10 billion bond to begin the project of building a high-speed rail line from Los Angeles to San Francisco with the promise that more funding would come through from the feds or from private sources, that the train would not require subsidies to operate, and that it would help fight climate change.” Indeed, Barack Obama’s infamous “stimulus” redistributed $3.5 billion to California for the train. Gavin’s not entirely giving up primarily because he’s “not interested in sending” that money “back to Donald Trump.”

Not to be completed until at least 2033, the latest estimate for the train’s price tag was $77 billion after initial estimates pegged it at $33 billion. In reality, it would probably end up costing well over $100 billion.

Newsom’s lack of enthusiasm for his predecessor Jerry Brown’s beloved project isn’t new, but the timing of his comments couldn’t have been worse for Green New Deal proponents. Doubly so as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared (with a smirk) that the chamber will actually vote on the resolution to “give everybody an opportunity to go on record and see how they feel about the Green New Deal.”

Dan McLaughlin quips, “If something is too expensive to build once, why not build it everywhere in the country instead?” He’s obviously joking, but don’t be surprised if that’s exactly the argument trotted out by GND chief engineer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

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