CA High Speed Rail Now a $68 Billion Boondoggle

Nothing epitomizes the abject failure of California governance more than the so-called High Speed Rail Project or, as it has been derisively labeled, High Speed Fail.

To recap, in 2008 voters narrowly approved a $10 billion down payment for the construction of a high speed rail network between the Bay Area and Los Angeles that promoters said would cost a total of $33.6 billion. A year later, the High Speed Rail Authority, the governing body overseeing the project, revealed that the train would actually cost $42.6 billion. Later, that estimate exploded to $98.5 billion, three times the original cost projection.

Even the project’s more ardent supporters have expressed dismay at the mismanagement and lack of transparency at the High Speed Rail Authority. Particularly galling has been the failure of the Authority to advance a credible business plan. Its efforts in this regard have been amateurish at best and, at worse, slick salesmanship with no substance.

It is truly sad — and unnecessary — that we’re at this point. Prior to the 2008 vote, the Reason Foundation and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation sponsored “A Due Diligence Study” of the HSR plan which found the high speed train would cost much more than promised, possibly as much as $100 billion or even more.

Corroborating the HJTF/Reason study, more recent reviews by the University of California and Legislative Analyst’s Office have cast further doubts on the feasibility of project.

If this project were wholly within the purview of the private sector, it would have been terminated long ago. When private capital is at stake, there is a time at which responsible business managers grasp the folly of pouring good money after bad. Not so in the public sector — particularly as it relates to so-called “mega-projects.” Indeed, the strategy of the Authority is transparent: No matter how little sense this project makes, if they break ground and invest millions (or billions), California will have no choice but to complete the project.

Californians may have had enough of this foolishness. All available polling on the issue of High Speed Rail reveals that, if the measure were on the ballot today, it would fail. In short, the citizens of California want a “do-over.” The cost is too high, the projections of ridership, speed and convenience were fantasy (and every knows it) and, in the current recession, there are so many more deserving places to send scarce taxpayer dollars.

Now, in a last ditch effort to save this boondoggle from an almost certain death, the authority announced at the end of last week that it has reduced the projected cost to about $68 billion. But they do this by changing the fundamental nature of the project which was sold to California voters as a standalone project with dedicated rails and stations. Although not entirely clear, it appears that the Authority is melding the HSR system with traditional rail.

Does this make sense from the perspective of rational transportation policy? Probably not. But the bigger problem for the Authority is that it is running out of options and there is very little time to study the latest iteration before the Authority asks for bond financing from the Legislature.

What is undeniable about the latest plan is that it is most certainly not the project that the voters approved three years ago. For that reason, everyone — including HSR proponents and detractors — should get behind the effort by Senator Doug LaMalfa to put the issue back before the public with a more realistic cost and performance projections.

In this era where both taxpayer dollars and Legislative credibility are in short supply, Californians are entitled to nothing less.

(Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association -– California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights. Originally posted on HJTA.)


  1. Wayne Stickles says

    The High Speed Rail project in CA is nothing but a scam to make crooks money. And never produce a worthwhile transportation system!

  2. But I thought California’s new Cap-and-Trade slush fund was going to take care of this. Sheesh… what was I thinking?

  3. Well it’s a good start trimming off $30 BILLION, now trim off another $68 BILLION and we’ll be done with the ridiculous scam. HSR is nothing but a vehicle to deliver cash into the hands of corrupt politicians, their cronies, and consultants. KILL IT NOW!

  4. Libsrlintlickers says

    A COMPLETE WASTE OF MONEY!! People in So Cal want nothing to do with the COMMUNISTS up north!!!! : (

  5. Not only is it a waste of money. The amount wasted will increase each year. One other thing. No one has addressed the negative effect this will have on the airlines regional servers.


  6. Watermellon Man says

    My labors (watermellon pickers) could build it for 20 billion and do a better job BUT the are not union so they don’t have brains.
    The point is it,s just ANOTHER WASTE of money we the people don’t have without going deeper into debt and besides who would really use it as a mode of transportation?

  7. Stuart Kesten says

    Is it any wonder California is in the toilet? Governor Brown… do everyone a favor. Just resign. You’re absolutely pathetic.

  8. Brown lost his mind last time he TRIED to run this state, then went to Oakland and screwed them up and the idiodic democrates think the third time would be a charm,, yeah right he is a charm alright, one that belongs around Obama’s neck then he won’t have to worry about kising his —- anymore! He needs to be impeached sooner than later,,

  9. librtyship says

    Just keep voting in the Democrats and you will keep getting this ration of crap! Keep voting the Democrats in until the state reaches total economic collapse! Want to see housing prices take another bi dump? Keep voting for the corrupt inept Democrats who have systematically been robbing the state blind for the past 20 years, in that time span we have gone from tops in everything down to dead bottom. Had enough? Give the rotten corrupt Democratic machine the boot in November! Texas is looking better with each passing day. Funny thing isn’t it that nearly all of the Blue states are in deep to impossible financial problems while most of the Red states are doing quite well, thank you. Wake up people! Get rid of the Democrat thugocracy!

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