Is the Central Valley The Vietnam For CA High Speed Rail?

It's been called a white elephant and a boondoggle, but Stanford rail historian Richard White went further in his interview in the NYT by comparing it with escalating involvement in an unwinnable war.

California appears to be the anomaly in the high-speed rail public works projects in America - that's how NYT reporter Adam Nagourney begins his report on the state's struggling rail project that is far from beaten after the updated business plan released on Nov. 1. left many questioning the merits of going forward with the costly project.

"The pro-train constituency has not been derailed by a state report this month that found the cost of the bullet train tripling to $98 billion for a project that would not be finished until 2033, by news that Republicans in Congress are close to eliminating federal high-speed rail financing this year....."

"Look, it's really difficult when you talk about something of this scale," said John A. Pérez, the speaker of the State Assembly. "There never is a right time to do it. The reality is the longer you wait, the more it costs you."

The first phase is now fully funded, but that doesn't deter Stanford's White.

"What (the rail authority) is hoping is that this will be to high-speed rail what Vietnam was to foreign policy: that once you're in there, you have to get in deeper. The most logical outcome to me is we are going to have a white elephant in the San Joaquin Valley." Cornell's Richard Geddes adds his skeptism: "Based on historical experience, I tend to be skeptical of the rider projections that I see."

With Gov. Brown on board, the next step lies with the legislature to release $2.7 billion in state bond funds for the 130-mile Central Valley construction.

"We don't want to give this up," said Alan Lowenthal, the chairman of the State Senate Select Committee on High-Speed Rail. "We're a state that wants to build it. We want the responsibility. We just want to make sure that what we do is successful."

Thanks to Loren Spiekerman

Full Story: California Bullet Train Project Advances Amid Cries of Boondoggle


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