Eber: The Bullet Train should not be grounded

How do Democrats and unions (sorry to be redundant) get folks to vote yes on a $10 billion bond?  They lie.  Prop. 1A, the High Speed Rail bond is a great example.  Arnold the Dems doubled the potential riders, by ¾ lowered the cost of the project—and used fiction to tell us the route of the train—making sure the environmental impact and the thousands of homes and businesses government would have to forcibly take to make it happen.

“Flawed Decision Making and Poor Contract Management Have Contributed to Billions in Cost Overruns and Delays in the System’s Construction.”  It went on to say “Although the Authority has secured and identified funding of over $28 billion that it expects will be sufficient to complete initial segments, that funding will not be enough to connect those segments, or finish the rest of the system—estimated to cost over $77 billion.”

The end result is that with present sources of funding exhausted, the State is going to finish the Bakersfield to Madera segment and cease operations for the system unless additional funding can be found.”

We have a homeless and affordable housing crisis, an opioid crisis, high taxes are forcing people and jobs to leave the State—yet the unions and crony capitalists are continuing with a project that will bankrupt the State to be built—and when built, NO money to operate the train to nowhere.  Texas is building a high speed rail from Houston to Dallas—with private funds—it is a needed project.  California is stealing from taxpayers—obviously an unneeded project.

The Bullet Train should not be grounded By Richard Eber

Richard Eber, Exclusive to the California Political News and Views,  12/16/19  

The demise of California’s High Speed Rail Project is well known.  To discuss how this lost dream of offering Bullet Train service of 245 miles an hour from San Diego to the Bay Area, is beating a dead horse.  California’s Auditor General described the process as:

“Flawed Decision Making and Poor Contract Management Have Contributed to Billions in Cost Overruns and Delays in the System’s Construction.”  It went on to say “Although the Authority has secured and identified funding of over $28 billion that it expects will be sufficient to complete initial segments, that funding will not be enough to connect those segments, or finish the rest of the system—estimated to cost over $77 billion.”

The end result is that with present sources of funding exhausted, the State is going to finish the Bakersfield to Madera segment and cease operations for the system unless additional funding can be found

When Proposition 1A was placed on the ballot  in 2008 The Golden State was showing  an aggressive approach to tackling the transportation needs of tomorrow with the 28 billion dollars in bonds they allocated to complete the system. The State was following the lead of Japan, China, and Europe in alleviating congestion and costly air travel by providing economical, comfortable and environmentally friendly high speed rail.

 As is well documented cost overruns caused by bureaucracy, court challenges and poor management brought us where we are today.  In effect California turned over their future to an agency that might as well have been operated by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or a rent a cop agency.  In a dozen short years our State went from being a pioneer to a laughing stock.

With this being said, what is to be the future of the beleaguered High Speed Rail Project?

There are many people want to scrap the whole boondoggle and write off what has been previously spent.  This model has future transportation dollars being allocated for regional transit needs. On one level this thinking makes sense as the frustration of commuters navigating congested highways grows each year. On the other hand, should past failures caused by government incompetence be the driving force in formulating future policy?

The need for a Bullet Train still exists.  If other countries can successfully complete similar transit systems, why can’t California do the same?

To find a path forward for the stymied project, why not as governmental entities at every level often do,  bring  in a consultant to figure things out.  Jia Hao Wu Ph.D. President of Pleasanton based W & S Solutions, offers advice on transportation issues to a diverse list of clients including China, The Asian Development Bank, Cambridge Scientific, and the California Department of Transportation.

With his vast experience of over a quarter century in this field, Jia believes the technology of the California Bullet Train is still good enough and the system should proceed to completion.  He says “In China their high speed rail moves quickly forward because there are no land disputes or private property to worry about.  Environmental issues don’t exist as it is believed the rail is better than the alternative of polluting congestion” It helps he says “that once a decision is made by the Chinese government to build, no one stands in the way.”

Jia said that after the first trains lines were constructed in China, the quality of the construction materials has gone up to the level of most U.S. Standards. He thinks that much can be learned by California’s High Speed Rail Authority from their Chinese counterparts.    Jia concludes “California should move forward with finishing their Bullet Train with a combination of Government and private investment.”

If this dream is to come to fruition there will have to be some major changes.  In the current Sacramento political environment power emanates from an entrenched bureaucracy, a litigation crazy judicial system, powerful labor unions, crony capitalism, and Progressive office holders. For this group to be “screwing their courage to the sticking place” will not be an easy task.  This includes:

  1. Do not throw out work that has already been done with costly new studies that delay progress. Different agencies duplicating each other’s work has to end
  • The State should take complete control of all environmental decision making on the trains path and where stations are to be constructed. Local governments should be consulted but no be allowed to stall progress.
  • Limit litigation in the courts by the legislature passing laws that make it difficult for private and public agencies to get judges to issue injunctions causing delays.   Heavy fines should be imposed on losing parties in often frivolous lawsuits to discourage unnecessary legal actions.
  • Land disputes between the High Speed Rail and private parties should be determined by compulsory arbitration rather than costly legal wrangling in the courts that goes on for years.
  • Contracts to vendors need to guarantee prevailing wages are paid to workers but not require that they be members of labor unions.  Such a policy guarantees meaningful competition and will lower overall costs.
  • To prevent rampant cost overruns the abuses found on other public works projects such as building the Bay Bridge and most Caltrans contracts, Crony Capitalism needs to be avoided.
  •  California should work with the Federal government to secure funding instead of filing frivolous lawsuits against the Trump Administration.  A major product of this confrontational policy carried out by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is the Trump Administration asking for their 10 billion dollars back given to High Speed Rail because the money wasn’t used by the State as promised.
  • Both the Federal and State need to dedicate themselves to doing important infrastructure work including the Bullet Train.  For starters The Feds might also consider working on a similar program constructing a route from Miami to New York with an adjoining line to Chicago.  Getting this done should be performed with the intensity of building the interstate highway system in the 1950’s or completing the Transcontinental Railway in the 1800s.
  • Work on a combination of public and private financing and development. A .25 per gallon excise gas tax in areas where the new bullet train tracks are to be laid is a good start.  This needs to be a team effort with everyone contributing.
  1. Tell the environmentalists to take a hike and stand aside as massive public works projects get going.  They are going to have understood that the public good is more important than the concerns of their attorneys and activists who attempt to block progress at every opportunity. Building high speed rail should considered to be a building block  of the Green New Deal

Most important, much like China, Japan, and parts of Europe, California must possess   a strong will to build and complete new train routes as previously planned.  If the Progressive Sacramento crowd has to make sacrifices to move funds from their social welfare programs to expedite finishing the system, then they will have to consider this to be acceptable collateral damage

Building needed transportation services should not be stopped because of the previous failings of government.  It is simply too important a priority for the naysayers to get their way.

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.