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Railroaded

November 2, 2011

When I used to travel to Europe a lot, I’d opt to take the train when possible.  Assuming I had some down time, the train made for a reasonably relaxing trip that was easier on security, and allowed me to get some work time.  Yes, I had to switch trains a couple times, and getting lost was a potential disaster, but what the heck.  Of course, it always amused me that the governments had to subsidize the trains, since even a full train couldn’t break even given the infrastructure challenges.

So, this one’s not a shock at all:

The California High Speed Rail Authority released a blunt business plan Tuesday that boosts the estimated cost of building the nation’s first high-speed train system, connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles, to $98.1 billion, delays the planned opening by nine years and relies on sharing tracks with commuter trains.

The original bill was in the $20B range, and the full line was suppoesd to open by the middle of this decade.  Now the first real progress won’t be seen until 2021.  Um, you don’t think the rest of the transportation inudstry is just going to sit still through all that time, do you?

“This plan represents a new day, a new train, a new beginning for the California High Speed Rail Authority and for our system,” said Tom Umberg, chairman of the authority board.

High-speed rail officials released the plan in front of a 1908 steam locomotive at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, saying they were determined to build a new chapter in the state’s rail history.

I’m sure the optics of standing in front of ancient technology and talking about the future were completely lost on them.  It’d be like me pitching a new era of computing while standing near an ENIAC.  Let’s pre-suppose that the new chapter won’t be verse-for-verse the old one… nice idea, lost to people who could move faster and be more nimble about it.

I did notice a comment that the rail line would also likely be shared with commercial (i.e. non-high-speed) trains.  Yea, that’ll make it easier to get from SF to LA, which is already only one pat-down and a lousy drink for the flight.  If Amtrak can’t figure out how to do this without involving a bus, we think a new group will come up with something better?

I don’t think I’ll be buying tickets, but hey, I’m also assuming that California won’t be a viable state entity by 2021 anyway.  It’ll have wasted taxpayer money on stuff like this and what’s left of BOA will have foreclosed.

Updated 11/17: The House just defunded the Federal portion of the money.  Surprisingly the Senate may soon follow.

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