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State to Nowhere

July 18, 2012

The state of California continues to suffer near-term and long-term budget woes, leading the entire country that appears to be headed in the same direction.  But as I’ve said before, the state government and the cities within are still very focused on spending to pull themselves out.  I have to admire both the strategic intent and the stubbornness with which they pursue it.  Witness, a subway in a city that probably last needs one.

Noisy, dusty, traffic-tangling construction is under way on the Central Subway, yet uncertainties and challenges continue to dog the $1.6 billion project.

Construction crews are building the staging area on Fourth Street beneath the Interstate 80 skyway, where two tunnel-boring machines will start the excavation of the 1.7-mile subway to Chinatown and debris will be hauled out.

But the Municipal Transportation Agency is still awaiting word on whether – and when – it will get a $942 million federal funding guarantee it’s been awaiting for months, and the House of Representatives‘ transportation bill includes an amendment by Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove (Sacramento County), that could take away future funding for the project.

So we’re still living in a land where hope springs eternal.  I’m sure the eventual transportation bill will strip out little things like stopping spending money once it goes to committee (that’s a prediction, by the way).  And so the city of San Francisco will then potentially get a fine place for all of its spare homeless to sleep at night (that’s a prediction, too).  But let me ask: what the heck does San Francisco want with a subway?

First, I find it hard to believe that anyone could possibly be happy that this particular city could have worse traffic problems than it does now, even if construction is temporary.  Second, the bus and rail system that exists is already pretty good (but not great), so I wonder what another new feature will really do for the city.  I’m sure there are plenty of propaganda items on this, I’m just not feeling frisky enough to look up the twisted reasoning.  Third… oh, heck, I could wonder all day…

“The Central Subway will not only improve transportation within San Francisco, but it will also enhance connections to the regional and statewide transit network,” said Ed Reiskin, director of transportation for the agency. “The project has been vetted by every level of government and given high marks every step of the way.”

But really, this is about supporting the “high-speed” rail project that the state is doing.  And of course the government is going to give it great marks.  It’s not their money, it’s the taxpayers’ money.  It’s easy to spend someone else’s money on your pet projects if they can’t complain in any meaningful way.

So I’ll be interested to see how much more of this the state can take.  It’s clear that the politics of the state prevent anything other than a Democratically-led, high-spending government to be in place.  So for now we just get to watch the experiment.

Ann Coulter once referred to California as the petri dish for liberal policies.  Let’s see what cultures out of this one.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 18, 2012 8:43 am

    It’s hard to see why SF needs it. on Muni you can get anywhere in the city having to transfer just once.
    they are also building Bart to Oakland airport underground rout, which would be nice to have, considering that to get to the airport from BART one has to pass some strange people. But considering the state fiscal problems… I don’t think so.

    • July 18, 2012 1:17 pm

      From my experience, to live in California requires having to pass some strange people…

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