Free Markets, Free People
California: High speed rail boondoggle could make the “Big Dig” seem like a day at the park
Good old California, probably the most debt ridden state in the union, and it still can’t manage to break its big spending ways. It certainly seems intent on wasting buckets of money it can ill afford on a poorly conceived public project.
When the California legislature undertook the most expensive public-works project in American history, they also created an independent review board to ensure that the LA-to-San Francisco high-speed rail project would have solid financial footing. Perhaps they intended this panel to be a public-relations rubber stamp, but if so, it just proves that their miscalculations weren’t limited to cost projections. Yesterday, the California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group sent a “scathing” letter to the political leadership in Sacramento, calling the project’s finances and costs “fundamentally flaw[ed]”.
What did the letter say?
In a report Tuesday, a panel of experts created by state law to help safeguard the public’s interest raised serious doubts about almost every aspect of the project and concluded that the current plan “is not financially feasible.” As a result, the panel said, it “cannot at this time recommend that the Legislature approve the appropriation of bond proceeds for this project.”
The project’s newest “official cost” is $98.5 billion, three times the original “official estimate” of $33 billion. Of course the Rail Authority thinks the panel is full of beans. And Governor Jerry Brown?
Brown spokesman Gil Duran said in an e-mail that the Peer Review Group’s report “does not appear to add any arguments that are new or compelling enough to suggest a change in course.”
Of course he doesn’t. Because Moonbeam, elected to get the California financial house in order, sees nothing wrong with another hundred or so billion in debt for a debt strapped state.
The intent is obviously to go forward with this boondoggle regardless of its feasibility. Morrissey points out, the board was intended to be a device to appease critics and to rubber stamp the project. The fact that it hasn’t worked out that way is inconvenient, but is not going to stop something that they really want. The fact that the voters voted to do a project with a $33 billion dollar price tag in 2008 and has now seen that estimate triple should provide more than enough of an argument whether “new” or not, to stop the California equivalent of the “Big Dig”.
Sounds like California’s political class has learned nothing from their financial travails of the last several years.
What sounded “feasible” in 2008 is obviously anything but feasible, financially, in 2012, especially when the projected cost has tripled since its voter approval. That alone makes it infeasible. It completely changes the game. It is a classic “bait and switch” – a lowball estimate to gain approval and a commission which no one obviously planned on listening too empaneled to give the project of veneer of accountability.
But as usual, politicians have again decided to ignore reality and go ahead with an unnecessary and hugely expensive boondoggle despite mounting evidence, and cost, that it should be abandoned.
You just read about things like this and shake your head. What in the world is wrong with those people? What part of “we can’t afford this sort of nonsense anymore” do you suppose they don’t understand? Or is it they just don’t care? Politics and an agenda, coupled with crony capitalism, overrule common sense once again.