California’s $77 billion high-speed rail project is in trouble


According to state officials, the high-speed rail project has already created more than 1,500 construction jobs in the Central Valley, from building elevated track structures and performing rail trenching to adding bridge crossings. The labor group estimates there will be thousands of additional jobs created due to the project in future years.

But critics argue that the costs will outweigh the benefits.

“You can imagine a new governor with new priorities will just look at the trade-offs being too high,” said Adrian Moore, a policy expert at the Reason Foundation, a Los Angeles-based free-market think tank. “How much are we not investing in the transportation system that people are actually using … because we’re shoveling all this money into high-speed rail. And that’s just going to get worse in the coming years. Someone has to be willing to go with public opinion, instead of prevailing wisdom in Sacramento, and kill this thing.”

A June 5 primary will decide which two gubernatorial candidates, regardless of party, advance to the general election Nov. 6.

Among the gubernatorial candidates, longtime front-runner Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom was an early supporter of the 2008 rail bond issue to help finance construction, but the Democrat has since expressed real concerns on the proposed rail plan. A spokesperson for Newsom didn’t respond when asked about the new rail authority’s business plan.

However, Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat and former Los Angeles mayor who as of January was in a virtual tie in the race with Newsom, said in a statement he supports the rail project and claims “unlike others,” his position has been consistent.

California Assemblyman Travis Allen and businessman John H. Cox, the two leading Republican candidates for governor, vowed in tweets last week to block the project if elected.

According to the high-speed rail authority, once the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco bullet train is completed it will allow people to travel in just under three hours on the route and at speeds reaching more than 200 miles per hour. Moreover, it said the plan is to eventually extend the system to Sacramento and San Diego, which will result in the high-speed rail system having a total of some 800 miles and as many as two dozen stations.

In the meantime, several executives have exited the California High-Speed Rail Authority in the past year. Jeff Morales, the authority’s CEO, left in June, and others soon followed. Morales held the job for about five years.

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