More Proposed Stimulus Spending On Infrastructure [Reader Post]

By 54 Comments 1,263 views

When Barack Hussein Obama took office in January, 2009, he identified 10 corridors appropriate for high-speed rail in the US. His stimulus bill earmarked $8 billion to jump-start the project. High speed rail is Obama’s “Holy Grail” of public infrastructure projects. Proponents originally said the LA-to-SF bullet train project would create more than 1 million jobs, but recently revised that downward to several thousand jobs. (That’s quite a revision!) Almost every state originally identified dropped out of the running because they couldn’t afford their share of the cost. Only California is still seeking money for its “high speed rail” project that is to go between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Since the project was first unveiled in 2008, officials have tripled its projected cost, delayed its start of service for 13 years, downsized ridership projections and increased ticket prices. Almost two-thirds of Californians now say they’d vote against issuing bonds to pay for a project they narrowly approved just three years ago.

Original cost estimates (2008) were $33 billion for the entire project, with California, the federal government (that’s us taxpayers), and private enterprise sharing costs equally. Recent cost estimates (2011) are $98.5 billion. Recently revised ridership figures show that a one-way ticket price could require a government subsidy of $100 per passenger per ticket. Estimated travel time between the cities is 2 hours, 40 minutes. Flying takes about 1 hour, 5 minutes. The original cost of $55 for a one-way ticket was revised in 2009 to be 83% of the cost of a similar airline flight, or about $105. So the question is, “Why would anyone pay 83% of a flight cost to make the trip in over twice the time?”

When the California legislature undertook the most expensive public-works project in American history, they also created an independent review board to ensure that the LA-to-SF high-speed rail project would have solid financial footing. The name of the review board is “The California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group.” But in a report Tuesday, January 3, 2012, the review board, a panel of experts created by state law to help safeguard the public’s interest, raised serious doubts about almost every aspect of the project, concluding that the current plan “is not financially feasible.” As a result, the panel said, it “cannot at this time recommend that the Legislature approve the appropriation of bond proceeds for this project.”  Tom Umberg, chairman of the authority board, said in a letter to California lawmakers that the report is “deeply flawed, in some areas misleading and its conclusions are unfounded.” “As the report presents a narrow, inaccurate and superficial assessment of the HSR program, it does a disservice to policy-makers who must confront these decisions.”

California Governor Jerry Brown last week reiterated his commitment to the project, and the Rail Authority today blasted the Peer Review Group’s report. Brown spokesman Gil Duran said in an e-mail that the Peer Review Group’s report “does not appear to add any arguments that are new or compelling enough to suggest a change in course.” So if Governor Brown thinks that a project whose costs have tripled from original estimates, the estimates on which voters relied when approving the project in 2008, presents no fiscal problems, then why should he worry when the state-mandated review board tells him that the project can’t work?

But that’s just my opinion.

54 Responses to “More Proposed Stimulus Spending On Infrastructure [Reader Post]”

  1. 51

    Common Sense

    @MataHarley: Portland, been there many times on business and have a good friend in Vancouver. I guess you have both Voodoo Economics and Voodoo Donuts. I have twins who attend UC Santa Cruz and locals remind me a lot of Portland. I always say Santa Cruz is where old Volkswagen busses go to die. Thankfully my daughters are much smarter and clear of the wachoism that abounds there. Such a beautiful location. 4.0 and majoring in Business Economics. Yep, proud dad.

  2. 52

    Hi Mata/Common Sense,

    With respect to Iraq, I was saying that blaming anything about Iraq on “liberals” isn’t fair, for two reasons. First, “liberals” went along with the invasion (stood by like sheep is what I said; you say that they actively supported it — O.K., for the most part, save for a few exceptions, e.g. the current POTUS. If Bill Clinton wanted regime change in Iraq, I’m quite certain that he never contemplated sending in the US Army to invade Baghdad and overthrow Saddam with our own boots on the ground. It took the threat of yellowcake and mobile biological warfare labs to accomplish that).

    But Bush didn’t lie about those things. It’s what he believed. However, as he himself acknowledged, several times, this was the result of “bad intelligence.” So I’m not going to go blaming conservatives for getting us into Iraq, but I believe it’s equally unfair to go blaming liberals for the fact that things there never seemed to go as smoothly as was initially hoped. That’s been a fact since the beginning, and it continues to the present day.

    It is, however, also a fact that I was personally and publicly against the invasion right up until it happened and I predicted in advance that no WMD would be found and I was a proponent of an early declaration of victory and expeditious withdrawal. But that’s not what happened. So I am by no means representative of liberals with regard to Iraq, any more than Ron Paul (my national defense soul mate) is representative of the average conservative.

    Commander in Chief Bush enjoyed congressional support for absolutely everything he wanted to do, regarding Iraq. Again, don’t blame liberals if things don’t turn out as desired, and I won’t blame conservatives for getting us involved there, in the first place.

    I just hope that all of us learned a lesson and that perhaps we could benefit from paying more attention to Ron Paul’s foreign policy views. He’s a very smart man.

    With regard to mass transit in San Diego, well, I go to San Diego pretty often and I never have much trouble getting around and even less trouble finding a place to park. Los Angeles is a different story. As the LA Times story pointed out, there was a lot of opposition to the LA light rail system and funding was even cut off at one point, because of construction problems and cost overruns, only to be restored as almost everyone acknowledged that the light rail system was working and that it should be expanded. The thing I will say about San Diego is this: they were wise to get an early start on a light rail system, before it was really needed. Those things become more expensive and very disruptive when you wait to start until commuting conditions have already deteriorated.

    Did you ever consider that maybe one reason auto commuting in San Diego is tolerable is because of the existence of the public transportation? It only takes getting a few cars off the road to make a very big difference in traffic congestion. So you may be benefiting in ways that you don’t appreciate.

    California is a dynamic state, with three major centers of innovation and commerce — SF/Silicon Valley (home of the most important VC firms in America), greater LA, and the San Diego biotech corridor. Tie those centers together with a bullet train route and we’ll have an innovation megalopolis which can compete with the Chinese.

    UC Santa Cruz is a great school (go Slugs — I say this as a proud Anteater — gotta love the mascots). The UC higher education system is still the finest collection of public research universities in the world. It’s a jewel which should be supported and protected. It’s very sad that it’s becoming so unaffordable for so many students, but this doesn’t have anything to do with undocumented workers. I think that the UC schools should take the best and brightest Californians, whether they are undocumented or not. If a kid graduates from a California HS and has the academic performance to get into UC and can somehow manage the expense, then it’s in the best interests of the state to admit and educate that student. In my opinion.

    – Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA

  3. 53



    Larry W: So I’m not going to go blaming conservatives for getting us into Iraq, but I believe it’s equally unfair to go blaming liberals for the fact that things there never seemed to go as smoothly as was initially hoped.

    ???? You skimmin’ instead of readin’ again, Larry? Who in the world did that.

    The liberals went along with the policy of regime change (you don’t “contemplate” or lay out military strategy in a bill, Larry… duh).

    The liberals went along with the Iraq and the Afghanistan AUMFs

    The liberals then tried to hold up the funding with the Kerry I-voted-for-it-before-I-voted-against-it bill, delaying needed supplies to the troops.

    The liberals then declared defeat and fought the surge

    And then a liberal finally followed the Bush SOFA withdrawal schedule – even tho he didn’t want to – and then proclaims on the campaign trail that he ended the war.

    No blame for the liberals. The military did it’s job despite them.

    No credit for them either.

    However no one was blaming liberals for the fact that war wasn’t running smoothly (do they ever?). They been in the way of progress a lot, but that’s about all you can say with liberals and Iraq.

    Tie those centers together with a bullet train route and we’ll have an innovation megalopolis which can compete with the Chinese.

    Ever heard of Skype and Go To Meeting, Larry? Considering that most of California’s bay to basin commuters are peddling “information” and “knowledge” products, it’s not like you have to haul up the latest sweeper brand for an in house meeting very often these days. Welcome to the 21st century. And that’s more eco friendly than what you want.

  4. 54

    Common Sense Larry, yes we do have a lot in common. Lived in Laguna Niguel for 10 years, twins born at Saddleback Hosptial, wife and I both worked there and I am so very impressed with UC Santa Cruz. Never thought I would be as satisfied as I am with the school. I understand your pride.

    I still maintain though that rewarding illegals by provisions for health care and education sends the wrong message to Mexico. Please come to our country illegally so you can get educattion, health care, and income assistance. No penalty if you make it and our tax dollars will assist you. The argument that illegals pay taxes and somehow pay their own way is bogus. The incurred cost to our educational system, healthcare facilities, and law enforcement by far outweigh the input. I admit we need to fix our immigration process but to say the problem is too large to manage is not acceptable to me.

    I still believe it’s a matter of political will that limits our abilities to fix the problem. The reward of citizenship for illegal entry into our country is an unjust reward.

    As Mata has rightfully pointed out there is also the security issues involved. Believe me, it’s not poor Mexicans just trying to find work that come to the US.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *