Funding for the California High Speed Rail Project has been a mess since the project was first proposed in 1996.Last month, around $8 billion in bond money for the high-speed rail corridor was blocked by a court order until the project fixes its funding structure. But there are far more problems with California’s high-speed rail project than just a lack of funding.
$8 billion is a massive amount of funding to be knocked offline. Now the California High Speed Rail Project will push on but the project will have to depend on on federal funds; read tax dollars, read “bridge to nowhere”, read angry voters and scared politicians. Overall, the future of the project does not look bright unless that $8 billion in bonds can get back online, though this is just the latest roadblock in the long and tragic saga of California’s high-speed rail ambitions. This whole project has come to define the term “boondoggle.”
For the California High Speed Rail Project private funding is not an option either. Proposition 1A prohibits the project from receiving operating sponsorships from private interests. Anyone looking to make money on the California High Speed Rail Project probably wouldn’t invest anyhow. The current high speed rail route established by political pressure and self-interest has been deemed unprofitable by most corporations and business owners, with highly-inflated ridership estimates and costs that are spiraling out of control. Still, some mega rich progressive would still swoop in and donate the funds – but they can’t under Prop 1A.
Right now, the goal is to get a major section of the high-speed rail line up and running in any capacity. Once that happens, once the section has been built with bonds and tax money, then Prop 1A is over and private capital can come in to continue to push the project forward. But in order to free the $8 billion in bond money, the California High-Speed Rail Project must show that they have enough money to complete the first segment 260-mile segment from Merced to the San Fernando Valley – an estimated cost of $31 billion.
As it stands, the project simply doesn’t have the funding to complete even this first, with only an estimated $6 billion on hand. Furthermore, this section of line is still more than an hour outside of San Francisco, and ignores the most popular destinations along the heavily-traveled Interstate I-5.
In order to save the California High Speed Rail Project it has been suggested that there be a redesign of the whole route. Even the profitable French national railway made a pitch to redesign the L.A. to San Francisco corridor, but the authority flat-out rejected the proposal. It’s a major task and time is running out. Gov. Jerry Brown of California is heading into an election year, and opponents are already hitting him on his support for what they deem as a failed High Speed Rail Project.
Public support for the project is wavering as well, making it an easy target in an election year. While Gov. Brown will not pull up the tracks on his support of the project, he might be forced to punt the continuation of the project back to the voters where polls suggest the project would now fail to pass. Maybe it’s best to just scrap high-speed rail altogether, and pursue Elon Musk’s Hyperloop instead.
Source: L.A. Times