We are indulging in the possibly unjustified presumption that if you are reading this post, you have an interest in the adventures and misadventures of the proposed high speed railroad in California, that as proposed would run from Los Angeles to San Francisco. It is even possible that you have been checking out our posts on that subject from time to time.
It hasn’t been beer and skittles for the railroad planners, and the proposed high speed railroad’s projected cost (that snookered the voters into approving it in 2008 with a grossly unrealistic estimate of $9 billion) has ballooned up to, first, $98 billion, and now, after the state recoiled from that lofty number, has settled down somewhere over $60 billion. But whatever that figure is or will turn out to be, construction has to get going or California will lose some $3 billion in federal money, a prospect that, if you are a local politico, is a fate worse than death. After all, if you can’t get your hands on federal money wherewith to fund nifty local stuff like garlic festivals and railroads, what’s the point of having a federal government? So construction has to get going to placate the feds, and Governor Jerry Brown wants the legislature to appropriate $6 billion right now, to get things started.
But as you may recall, construction plans call for acquiring the right of way and beginning construction in the Central Valley from Bakersfield to Fresno (or is it Modesto?). Anyway, the idea is that this right-of-way segment will become the backbone of the new rail line, and will require the state to complete it at a later time, or failing that, to die of ridicule.
But now, here comes a zinger from out in left field. Though passage of this appropriation is said to be a shoo-in in the California Legislature, things don’t look so rosy in the state Senate. It seems that some Senators don’t like the governor’s if-you-build-it-in-the-Central-Valley-they’ll-come approach, and are thinking along the line of bulding the initial segments of that railroad in their own populous districts where — they argue, not without merit — the people are, and where one can count on some utility and some revenue-generating ridership as soon as trains start running, as opposed to the Central Valley where . . . Have you ever been there? Great place for growing veggies and stuff, but who would actually want to go there?
Anyway, whether Governor Brown will be able to muster enough Democratic votes in the State Senate to fund his plan his way is now in some doubt. Republican votes don’t count because California is for all practical purposes a one-party state. So once again, stay tuned and see how it all turns out.
To get the Los Angeles Times story about all this, check out Ralph Vartabedian and Chris Megerian, Bullet Train Faces “A Tight Vote,” Los Angeles Times, June 24, 2012, at p, A27. For another, detailed discussion of the latest, go to http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/some-senators-want-dramatic-shift-bullet-train-plan-16794