California Governor Gavin Newsom is abandoning plans to build a high-speed railroad between Los Angeles and San Francisco, saying the ambitious project that was approved by voters and championed by his predecessor is too costly.
Instead, the state will finish roughly 120 miles of track already under construction in the Central Valley, a mostly rural agricultural region that runs down the spine of the state, Newsom said.
California was one of the first U.S. states to champion a government-owned high-speed rail system like those that are ubiquitous in parts of Europe and Asia. Former Governor Jerry Brown defended the project as part of the state’s nation-leading effort against climate change, an issue that Newsom has made a centerpiece of his administration.
The Central Valley segment was expected to cost $10.6 billion, according to the latest business plan. [That’s about $66 million per mile in what would seem like some of the world’s simplest terrain.]
Newsom said workers will continue building a stretch of the line between Merced and Bakersfield.
What could have changed? The project has grown a bit in price, but not dramatically more than anything else government does. I wonder if the difference is the new tax law. With direct federal cash plus California state taxes being deductible, taxpayers in Indiana, Ohio, New York, et al. were previously going to pay for 75 percent of this fun project? Now that non-Californians would be stuck with only 50 percent of the bill, it isn’t fun to do anymore? So it would be fair to say that California ran out of other people’s money?
[Regarding the new mini-line: Google Maps shows that it is practical to drive between Merced and Bakersfield in roughly 2.5 hours. Why spend $10.6 billion on a short train line in a thinly populated area and then $1 billion/year (?) to run it? The answer can’t be energy efficiency, I don’t think, because even when tracks already exist an ordinary inter-city bus uses less energy per passenger than today’s trains. If Californians wanted to save energy, wouldn’t they just run more buses on their existing roads?]
- https://philip.greenspun.com/blog/2014/01/06/high-speed-rail-in-california-versus-china/ (2014)
- Qinghai–Tibet railway, the highest in the world (16,640′) and built partly on permafrost, seems to have cost $3.68 billion for a 710-mile segment ($5.1 million per mile, less than 1/10th what California will spend to build track on flat ground)