So as the sun set in the West, the California high speed rail folks were going to build the initial segment of the proposed high speed rail route down the middle of the Central Valley, between Bakersfield and Fresno, in the middle of nowhere, along a route that in itself could not possibly support the effort and amortize its multi-billion dollar cost. The feds expressed their disinclination to give the near-insolvent state of California any more money, so that the California high speed rail authority was left to hope that the Lord would provide the funds necessary for doing the job as sold to the voters in 2008, since voter approval was necessary in order to issue that $9 billion in bonds that would fund this effort.
Now, following a familiar law of politics (like nature abhoring a vacuum, politcs abhors the presence of unspent money), the $9 billion pot of high speed rail money is attracting a swarm of governmental bees that want a piece of the action so they can spend it in their own back yards. You’d thing meeting their desire would be impossible, since a railroad, whether high speed or not, can only run on one route, so if you build it in the form of a dedicated high-speed rail corridor in the Central Valley, you won’t be able to build it elsewhere . Right? Wrong. If you think so, it only goes to show that you don’t understand how the government mind works.
According to a recent issue of the Los Angeles Times (Dan Weikel and Ralph Vartabedian, Bullet Train Focus Shifts to Local Rails, February 20, 2012, p. AA1), various local government bees are buzzing around that $9 billion pot of money. Instead of starting the proposed high speed rail in the middle of the proposed Central Valley route and building out to its termini, these folks are plumping for the “book ends” approach, which we frankly don’t understand because it does not mean, as you might suppose, that they want to build the termini and then lay the high speed tracks inward to meet in the middle.
No, what these folks want is a piece of the action in order to “upgrade local rail corridors that could become part of the proposed high speed network.” (Emphasis added). This proposal would require spending $4 billion now, “which would leave just a few billion in the state’s voter-approved finance package.” As the proponents of this new proposal would have it (quoting from the L.A. Times):
“Giving local rail improvements a higher priority . . .represents a retrenchment from the original vision that the bullet train would be a state-of-the-art system, running on dedicated track its entire length. The new proposal would blend the bullet train into existing rail corridors and make it share track with commuter trains and even freight railroads.”
We don’t know about you, but it will take ten strong men to get us, kicking and screaming, aboard a 200-mph train that shares its tracks with lumbering freight trains. But what do we know?
More importantly, our feelings aside, this is not what the poor, dumb, screwed California voters voted for when they approved the issuance of $9 billion in bonds for a state of the art, high speed, 240 mph “bullet” train. But hey man, what’s a little bait-and-switch between friends?
And that’s the way it goes. Stay tuned.