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Commentary: Obama High Speed Rail Plan Officially DOA

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Congress resoundingly refuses to allocate funds to boondoggle project

One of President Obama’s key infrastructure initiatives is dead in the water, reports Michael Barone in National Review. Despite being allocated $8 billion from the 2009 Stimulus bill and another $2.5 billion from the Democrat-controlled Congress, the President’s $53 billion vision for a nation-wide high speed rail network has flatlined.

The majority-Republican House has declined to furnish this proposal with any further money, while the Democrat-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee voted to allocate it a meager $100 million. As Barone notes, coming from Democrats, this is a blatant vote of no confidence in the high speed rail initiative. Following this rejection, it is nearly impossible to see a revival of the President’s high speed plans in his remaining tenure.  

Allegedly, this sophisticated rail network was going to employ millions of Americans in construction, engineering, and railway jobs, while upgrading transportation access.  State governments, however, never warmed up to this proposition, because the costs vastly outweighed the benefits. Once the initial government subsidies end, states would be left to pay for the mammoth costs of a higher-speed version of the failing Amtrak model.  In fact, none of the lines would actually meet the technical definition of “high speed.”

The textbook example of high speed rail’s failure is the California High Speed Rail Authority’s gross mismanagement of taxpayer funds to build a veritable train to nowhere. Facing an upcoming Congressional  election, Democratic incumbent Jim Costa received a $900 million grant to build a high speed line connecting two barely inhabited communities. This train to nowhere now sits incomplete despite having nearly $5 billion allocated to it.

As this case illustrates, the idea of high-speed rail is a transparent ploy at “progress” by putting America back to work- except that it is wholly unnecessary and any temporary construction jobs will be cancelled out by the extraneous government spending and taxes needed to maintain it. That both parties seemingly recognize this speaks volumes about how utterly this idea is a dead-end one.

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  • ..

    In our sad world of economic disaster, why would anyone with an ounce of intelligence want to bankrupt our country even more with the HSR??  It is not economically nor geographically feasible for either the ridership nor for the established land they will abuse.

  • Anonymous

    California  Treasurer
    Bill Lockyer, the California politician responsible for selling these CAHSR bonds,
    said on March 14, 2011 to an LA news reporter that no one is interested in
    buying CA HSR bonds because the CAHSR is more interested in issuing bad PR,
    rather than coming up with a sound business plan. Until there is a sound
    business plan, or even a half-baked one, then no one will invest in this
    stinker of a project. Interviewer asks: “so are investors saying we’re
    interested, but it doesn’t look like you guys [CAHSR Authority] know what
    you’re doing” & Lockyer responds: “that’s what they’re saying”; Interviewer:
    “what do you think?” & Lockyer responds: “well, I think the same thing.”
    High faluting ideas are one thing, wasting your nest egg investing in a stinker
    is quite another.  Call California
    Governor Jerry Brown at (916) 445-2841 to demand that he end the boondoggle
    now. – see interview here:


    Roelef Van
    Ark            Chief

  • Anonymous

    Want to know who is the main, driving force behind
    this California “Train to Nowhere” boondoggle?  The entities that are driving Democratic politicians to keep supporting a project that will not pencil out, will require hundreds of billions to construct (due to mega project cost overruns) and require billions in yearly operating subsidies because no one but business travelers will be able to afford the high ticket prices – who are these entities behind HSR?  Well, watch this video and public comment from the CA Sentate
    Transportation Committee hearing on May 3, 2011 (where State Senator LaMalfa’s state Senate Bill 22 to defund the CAHSRA and project was being
    discussed).  In the OPPOSITION public comment to this bill you can see who speaks against LaMalfa: 1. California Labor Federation (union); 2. State Operating Engineers (union); 3. State Buildings and Construction Trades Council (union); 4. California State Federation of Laborers (union); 5. State Laborer’s Council (union); 6. Contractors/Vendors standing to make money off the project (i.e. Siemens/Parson’s Brinkerhoff, etc.)  The Unions support Democratic politicos, from Governor Brown, to Galgliani, etc.  There is also a revolving door between former public sector Democratic politicos then going
    “in house” with fat “non-public” employment contracts that aren’t subject to a California Public Records Act Request (under Cal. Govt. Code)  for review of those contract – so they need to make sure the boondoggle and BILLION DOLLAR CONTRACTS are still being awarded when they leave office – it’s about the money, money, money – that’s it: http://www.youtube.com/user/de