Friday, June 23, 2017

Why the First 118 Miles for the Los Angeles to SF Bullet Train Started in Fresno(?) and Could Cost $3.6 Billion More Than Expected

By K. Lloyd Billingsley

California’s vaunted bullet train has yet to carry a single passenger but it has managed to make the news. As it turns out, the state’s High-Speed Rail Authority offered a contract extension of $3 million on a noncompetitive basis. In other words, it was a no-bid sweetheart deal. That emerged in a new report from California’s state auditor Elaine Howle, who finds that the state’s General Services and Technology departments “did not provide adequate oversight of the billions of dollars state agencies awarded through noncompetitive contracts from fiscal years 2011–12 through 2015–16.” The 27 noncompetitive deals the auditor reviewed “could have been avoided if the agencies had engaged in sufficient planning.” Likewise, “both General Services and Technology have enforcement mechanisms, they rarely employed them, allowing agencies to continue inappropriately using noncompetitive requests.” Taxpayers should not be surprised that the vaunted “bullet-train” is on this track.

As we noted, it was pitched as a swift route from Los Angeles to the Bay Area, but construction began way out by Fresno, not exactly on the route. The land the rail project needs remains in the hands of the rightful owners, and the first 118 miles could cost $3.6 billion more than expected. The Federal Railroad Administration has already forked over grants of $3.5 billion for that very segment, supposedly the easiest. Other parts would require the most elaborate tunneling project in U.S. history, certain to incur massive cost overruns.

Few Californians are panting for an essentially 19th century form of transportation that was slower and more expensive than air travel. California’s high-speed rail project is best viewed as a bait-and-switch ploy to get state voters to finance local transit projects they otherwise would not support. The state’s High Speed Rail Authority has no experience building anything, but has managed to establish, count ‘em, four offices, a Sacramento headquarters and three regional offices. Commuters can’t ride those, but the Authority works well as a comfy sinecure for ruling-class retreads like board member Lynn Schenk, a former congresswoman and chief of staff for governor Gray Davis. As we noted, a convicted embezzler also found work with the rail authority, so criminals are also all aboard.

Taxpayers should not be surprised that this bloated, useless outfit should hand out $3 million in a no-bid deal to favored insiders. And according to High-Speed Rail’s new business plan, the total cost for the project will now be $98 billion.

The above originally appeared at the Independent Institute.


  1. I think it says "millions" in a couple of places where it should say "billions"?

  2. Wasted railroad money.... a great 19th century boondoggle that's alive and well today!

  3. Instead of a train what is needed is half a dozen airports that are exempt from the all the time wasting security theatre. To fly from Oakland to LA you spend more time in line than in the air. The train is stupid. If there were a cheap, sensible route, Southern Pacific would have found it a long time ago. Progressives like trains because they feel vaguely European. That's it.