Now is the time to terminate the California High Speed Rail Project (HSR) before more public funds are wasted on this gigantic boondoggle.
Voters foolishly approved a $9 billion bond in 2008 to start the project. The estimated construction cost has since grown to $45 billion. Keeping in mind that the bond principal and interest payments may be about 2.5 times the bonded amount, ultimate capital cost would likely be over $100 billion without even including inevitable cost overruns. The state will need the voters to approve additional bonding several times.
Like BART, operating and maintenance (O&M) and bond repayment costs will need to be supported by taxpayers for decades and the HSR may never become self supporting. This could suck up every dollar that now goes to roads and highways used by 95 percent of the population.
There have been two past economic analyses of the HSR project. The first was highly criticized as being “pie-in-the-sky” and forecast more riders than the entire population of California. The second was just as bad and failed to address the taxpayer subsidies that would be needed. Revenue estimates to date for the HSR have been vastly inflated.
Recent surveys indicate two thirds of the population would never use the HSR. Many of the rest would likely ride it only once for the thrill of the experience. Without net benefits in excess of costs, there is no justification to expend $100 billion for construction and billions more for O&M for a grandiose carnival ride benefiting only a few.
If this were a privately financed project, it would be immediately terminated as uneconomic. Public projects should be treated no differently.
The practical fastest way to go from the Bay Area to Southern California is to fly. Most destinations in between can be reached more quickly by automobile than by HSR. And, there is bus service to most cities along the route for those unable to drive or fly.
We don’t need high-speed trains in California just because they have them in Europe and China. Our transportation dollars would be better spent on much-needed highway and airport improvements.
Larry L. Harrison, P.E., Antioch