We must apply the brakes to CA HSR

derail the HSR

derail the HSR

Yesterdays high speed rail article by Manteca Bulletin editor Dennis Wyatt provides current insight by someone working in the central valley of our state that warrants consideration. I say that especially in light of the proposed central valley locations of the initial track of the high speed boondoggle.

Perhaps the beneficiaries of the estates of Leland Stanford, Collis P. Huntington, Charles Crocker or Mark Hopkins might come forward and show their Christmas spirit by providing the funding. These Central Pacific elite surely knew how to build and “control” all aspects of a railroad as they amassed their fortunes.

No, I do not ride a horse to our local Albertson’s or Ralph’s to grocery shop. Thinking about forms of transportation let me roll back time. Henry Ford’s 1908 Model T made it easy for thousands of Americans to commute by car saving residents and farmers many hours in their weekly activities. The difference is that Henry Ford created that popular car, available only in black for most motorists, solely with private funding.

While we did create the Federal Aid Road Act of 1916 to get farmers vehicles out of the mud, getting a few billion dollars from the Obama Administration to prime the pump and expecting the state of CA to fund the additional $60 to $75 billion dollars, with some yet TBD venture money thrown in, must not be overlooked. Projected cost source. Reason Foundation.

So too must be the debt service of the initial $9 billion Ballot Measure looking forward for 30 to 40 years. While we shall continue to struggle meeting future state budgets, that debt service, when added to our existing bonded indebtedness, will hang over our head like a huge black cloud. Unlike cities, we cannot declare bankruptcy.

Folks. Phase One’s 520 miles of track does not connect to San Diego yet that is what voters were told. “Trust, but verify,” surely applies with this CIP.

Let me remind readers that the CA HSR is to be self sufficient in terms of its operations. Point being that we are not to provide any subsidy. Can anyone point me to a high speed rail system in this country that is not subsidized?

Please, someone promoting this HSR boondoggle, when governor elect Jerry Brown finds himself in a massive $26 billion hole before being sworn in, show us where we are to get the money for this major CIP while our bridges and roads are crumbling?
Partnering with cities who find themselves in financial trouble. Who? Anaheim?

In their June 4th 2009 story the SF Chronicle quoted governor Arnold Schwarzenegger stating “our wallet is empty, our bank is closed, and our credit is dried up.” Isn’t Arnold the same governor who proposed cutting $2.5 billion from schools and community colleges to balance his budget?

Is this the same lame duck CA governor who now promotes this high speed rail?

No problem, let’s shift the credit card debt for HSR to our taxpayers grandkids after we are out of office. That’s defined as sound fiscal leadership.

Oh. Just a minute.  Did someone suggest extending the Feb 2008 “temporary” tax increase, the largest in our state’s history, to provide future necessary services? And yet proponents want us to simply close our eyes and open our wallets, and max out our credit cards so that the upper class can have a fast smooth ride to lobby in Sacramento or to spend a weekend vacationing in San Francisco or San Diego.

Following are the opening paragraphs of Editor Wyatt’s article. The full story link is provided below.

“High speed rail is permanent job killer for Southern San Joaquin Valley

There is something deliciously ironic about the first operable segment of high speed rail in California being between Fresno and Bakersfield.

Arguments – and they are certainly legitimate – about funding and viability in terms of actual ticket costs aside – you’ve got to admit the Southern San Joaquin Valley being at the forefront of high tech rail transportation in California is interesting to say the least.

It is 110 miles between the two cities or two hours assuming anyone goes as slow as the legal speed limit on Highway 99. High speed rail will cut the trip down to 37 minutes.

The $4.75 billion – mostly federal money and very little from the $10 billion bond approved by California voters for state rail – will go to build what will be an initial 120-mile segment of the 520-mile route being pursued between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Target completion of the first segment is 2017. It surely will spur Tonight Show style jokes about why people would want to travel as fast as possible between the two cities.

Financing and fiscal viability issues aside there is a real misnomer being spouted by leaders in the Southern San Joaquin Valley that high speed rail will somehow be a catalyst to help end poverty in the region.”


Folks. There are some heavy  hitters behind this high speed rail. Not targeting specific firms however Siemens is a major player. We have elected officials whose attitude to the stimulus is use it or lose it.

While we do not travel by horse and buggy, and have personally utilized subsidized high speed rail, our state cannot afford that major investment in this economic climate.

And keep your eyes on this 3 P; “public, private public,” partnership. Are we that naive and accept that a venture capitalist will best serve their investors without a guaranteed and profitable ROI?

About Larry Gilbert