Nobody quite knows who built Stonehenge some 5,000 years ago in southern England. The mysterious ring of huge stone monoliths stands mute.
Californians may leave behind similarly enigmatic monuments for puzzled future generations. Along a 119-mile pathway in central California, from Bakersfield to Madera, there are now huge, quarter-finished concrete overpasses. These are the totems of the initial segment of a planned high-speed-rail corridor.
Californians thought high-speed rail was a great idea when they voted for it in 2008. The state is overwhelmingly progressive. Silicon Valley reflects California’s confidence in new-age technology. Californians are among the highest-taxed citizens in the nation. They apparently are not opposed to borrowing and spending for ambitious government projects — especially to alleviate crowded freeways.
Planners assured voters that the cost for the first 520 miles was going to be an “affordable” $33 billion. The rail line seemed a good way to connect the state’s economically depressed interior with the affluent coastal corridor.
The segment from Madera to Bakersfield was thought to be the easiest to build. Rural land was cheaper to acquire in the interior of California. The route was flat, without the need to bore tunnels. The valley is considered seismically stable. Economically depressed counties welcomed the state and federal investment dollars.
But projected costs have soared even before one foot of track has been laid. The entire project’s estimated price, according to various projections, may have nearly doubled. The current cost for the easiest first segment alone has spiraled from a promised $7.8 billion in 2016 to an estimated $10.6 billion. There is no assurance that enough Central Valley riders will wish to use the line.
The real problem is that this environmentally friendly mass-transportation project is being undertaken in a state known for high taxes, litigiousness, chronic budget crises, Byzantine regulations, a dysfunctional one-party political system, and challenging geography.
those numbers are pretty crazy… i mean, damn.
welcome to california, right?