High-speed rail: A debacle in California
“The dream of a high-speed train from Los Angeles to San Francisco” appears to be dead, said Ben Boychuk in The Sacramento Bee. Newly elected Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom washed his hands of the “boondoggle” last week, saying plans to transport people between the Bay Area and Southern California in 2 hours and 40 minutes “would cost too much and take too long.” Californians “voted for a fantasy” in 2008, hoping to finish the job by 2022 at a cost of $33 billion. Construction raced forward despite half-baked plans and legal roadblocks, as the expected cost ballooned to about $77 billion. Newsom is trying to “save face” by continuing to build a 119-mile stretch of track across the state’s sparsely populated Central Valley—which critics immediately called a “train to nowhere.” Blame incompetent planning and execution, said Henry Grabar in Slate.com. High-speed rail is flourishing all over the world, zipping passengers from city to city in China, Japan, France, and Italy. French and Chinese engineers offered to build California’s bullet train, but state planners arrogantly turned away their expertise. “What a train wreck.”
Who would have guessed? asked The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. “President Trump’s promise to make Mexico pay for a border wall was more believable” than California’s claim that private investors and federal subsidies would pay for this pipe dream. After endless legal fights, engineering snafus, and political squabbles over which cities get stations, “taxpayers have lost patience.” These days, said Philip Klein in WashingtonExaminer.com, “California is where liberal dreams go to die.” With its massive tax base and Democratic supermajorities in the legislature, the state offers the perfect testing ground for sweeping progressive ideas. California’s plans for a single-payer health-care system proved untenable in 2017, and its botched bullet train offers yet another “cautionary tale.” If big-ticket liberalism isn’t practical there, then it’s hopeless at the national level.
That’s why California’s failure is a “gift” to Republicans, said Michael Grunwald in Politico.com. Newsom’s announcement came just days after Democrats in Congress unveiled the Green New Deal, which features a high-speed rail network throughout the country. Now the next time liberals propose a massive spending project, conservative critics will remind them what the governor of “America’s greenest state” said in killing off the bullet train: “Let’s get real.”