Tuesday, September 23, 2008

High-speed train boondoggle

This may be of interest mainly to California readers, but there are 11 propositions on the November ballot, only one of which has to do with gay marriage (#8). Here is the Register's take on Prop. 1A, which would authorize the sale of almost $10 billion (well, 9.95) in bonds as a down payment on a high-speed rail system between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It's a marvelous-sounding idea, but like most government-promoted rail plans (this one was put on the ballot by the legislature, not by gathering signatures, it doesn't begin to pencil out. As a Reason "due-diligence" report notes, the projected cost has risen from about $30 billion in 1999 to around $45 billion today for a scaled-back version, and you can be sure the cost would rise further if it were begun. Where would that money come from? The proposal is vague.

I suspect, with the state government having just band-aided a state budget that was $15 billion in the hole, that voters won't go for this kind of increase in bonded indebtedness. But the capacity to believe rosy if unrealistic projectioons is common.

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