LA Times: California High-speed rail is “a train wreck”

How bad is President Obama’s sole remaining high-speed project going? So bad that even the editorial board of The Los Angels Times is calling it a “monument” to poor planning. They write:

California’s much-vaunted high-speed rail project is, to put it bluntly, a train wreck. Intended to demonstrate the state’s commitment to sustainable, cutting-edge transportation systems, and to show that the U.S. can build rail networks as sophisticated as those in Europe and Asia, it is instead a monument to the ways poor planning, mismanagement and political interference can screw up major public works. For anti-government conservatives, it is also a powerful argument for scrapping President Obama’s national rail plans, rescinding federal funding and canceling the project before any more money is wasted on it.

So does the LAT advise cutting tax payer losses and scrapping the $47 billion boondoggle now? No, or course not. As Ronald Reagan explained in his 1964 “A Time for Choosing” speech, “the more the plans fail, the more the planners plan.” And that is exactly what the LAT wants to do:

For anti-government conservatives, it is also a powerful argument for scrapping President Obama’s national rail plans, rescinding federal funding and canceling the project before any more money is wasted on it. We couldn’t disagree more. … The benefits still outweigh the costs, and none of the $43-billion project’s troubles are insurmountable. Fortunately, a report last week from the state Legislative Analyst’s Office offers strong recommendations for getting the system back on track.

The train’s biggest problems can be laid at the feet of the High Speed Rail Authority, which is overseeing its construction. Inexperienced board members appointed by the governor and Legislature on the basis of political patronage rather than expertise have made a host of poor decisions. … The legislative analyst calls for slashing the authority’s proposed budget for next year by $185 million and eventually eliminating it, transferring the bullet train’s oversight to another agency. We heartily agree.

See, the problem isn’t that government expert planned and executed high-speed rail is completely unworkable, the problem is that the wrong government experts were put in charge of the project. If we just find the right government experts to spend billions of dollars of taxpayer money, everything will be great. The LAT concludes:

Obama’s inspiring vision of a nation crisscrossed by bullet trains, providing cleaner, safer and cheaper competition to airlines and reducing reliance on gas-guzzling automobiles, is in serious jeopardy as a new Republican majority in the House looks to slash his funding plans. In this environment, California is a test case for whether high-speed trains can succeed in the U.S. — and so far, the state is failing the test.

And when the next batch of government experts also fails, the LAT can always blame the Republicans.

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