05.16.2012 0

California’s high-speed rail speeds past fiscal sanity, responsibility

High Speed RailBy Rebekah Rast — $3.5 million a day.

That just happens to be the amount of money California is looking to spend each day until 2017 for 130 miles of its high-speed rail system.

It seems ironic for a state facing a $117,747,412,000 debt and a recently announced deficit of $16 billion, to be so earnest about spending another $6 billion on only a segment of a rail system, or $3.5 million a day for the next five years.

However, thinking big picture, the total price tag of the rail system, about 500-800 miles of track, is looking closer to $98.5 billion.  The federal government has sent some money to aid California in this massive transportation project, about $4 billion from taxpayers so far, but the state and its taxpayers are expected to undertake a large portion of the cost as well.

Meanwhile, California Gov. Jerry Brown continues to call for more cuts due to the state’s revenue shortfalls.  Funny how right in front of the noses of these California lawmakers is a way to save the state somewhere around $98 billion, but why do that when you can have a fancy, fast, government-run train?

This first segment of track will go through California’s Central Valley to eventually connect Los Angeles to San Francisco.  When complete, a trip from one end to the other will take approximately two hours and 40 minutes at speeds of up to 220 mph on the bullet trains. The total train track network will extend about 800 miles and connect Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, Central Valley, Los Angeles, Orange County, the Inland Empire and San Diego.

The High Speed Rail Authority claims many economical, environmental and community benefits will be gained by this train.  However, to accomplish all these “benefits,” rail authorities still need “as many as 120 permits, mostly from a tangle of government regulatory agencies not known to rush their business. It would need to acquire about 1,100 parcels of land, many from powerful agriculture interests that have already threatened to sue. And it would need to assemble five teams of contractors with giant workforces positioned from Fresno to Bakersfield, moving millions of tons of gravel, steel rail and heavy equipment across the valley,” as reported by the LA Times, for even just this 130-mile segment of track.

It seems the High Speed Rail Authority has quite a mountain to climb before this segment of track through the middle of the California is complete.  However, once California’s high-speed rail is totally complete the hope is the state will reduce its carbon footprint as more people will opt for the train instead of cars or planes.  But depending on the cost to ride, who knows if this will be the case.

The problem with this concept is not only that California is completely out of money so spending $98 billion on anything should be completely out the question for the state, but it also further extends the heavy hand of government.

California Gov. Jerry Brown and others in the state are projecting an increase in population over the next few decades, mainly to the Central Valley.  Therefore this train gives the government the upper hand in not only telling people where to live, but also land use and future infrastructure projects.

“The federal government is already expecting taxpayers to risk $4 billion for a project California does not even need,” says Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government (ALG).  “At the end of the day, when California runs out of money, don’t be surprised if the federal government expects all taxpayers to foot the entire $98.5 billion bill for this train.”

A failed progressive leadership has gotten California where it is today — in a fiscal disaster — and yet these elected officials are still willing to spend more, even if the bill for their big ideas falls on the backs of all federal taxpayers.

There is a lot a state like California could do with $3.5 million a day.  At the top of the list should be telling the federal government no to an expensive and unnecessary train and instead getting its fiscal house in order.

You would think Californians would want off this train before it’s even built and further derails its economy.

Rebekah Rast is a contributing editor to Americans for Limited Government (ALG) and NetRightDaily.com.  You can follow her on twitter at @RebekahRast.

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