Right about rail
August 18, 2011
It’s impolite to say we told you so, but in today’s political environment it seems constantly necessary.
So next time someone says Governor Walker was unintelligent to reject federal money for high-speed rail, clue them in about how wrong they are.
There’s proof in last Tuesday’s San Jose Mercury News.
California is planning a high-speed rail project that differs from the rejected Milwaukee-Madison line chiefly in that it would traverse a total of about 800 miles. Three years ago California voters authorized $9 billion in bonding for the project and the federal government has ponied up about $3 billion of your money to help out.
One small problem: Overall costs are estimated at $43 billion and the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office says there’s no certainty where the bulk of it will come from.
This is especially troublesome in light of anticipated massive cost overruns. Even though nobody has yet turned a shovel, estimates are ballooning north of $60 billion and heading higher.
It’s especially revealing that the California High Speed Rail Authority acknowledges higher cost figures, because it just recently figured out how many bridges it will need to build—years after producing the cost estimates it used to sell the project.
If this sounds hauntingly familiar—like the city of Milwaukee feigning surprise over multimillion-dollar expenses for digging up and relocating electric transmission lines to accommodate Mayor Tom Barrett’s streetcar project—it’s because that’s the way these things invariably turn out.
Walker smelled boondoggle and made the right call. But for some people, spending big money on big projects directed by big government is an objective in itself. Whether the projects are useful or perform as advertised is irrelevant; for Liberals, they’re almost a biological imperative.