Last month, after the governor-elects of Ohio and Wisconsin (John Kasich and Scott Walker respectively) each declined to waste any more taxpayer money on high-speed rail boondoggles, the Obama administration quickly announced they would take federal transportation dollars away from those states and give them to California’s high-speed rail project. As we noted at the time, even Californian Democratic lawmakers have dubbed the California project a Super Train to Nowhere. Finally, The Washington Post is also taking notice:
Given that California’s system has attracted zero private capital and has been unable to guarantee any source – governmental or private – for almost half the cost of completion, the obvious risk is that the federal taxpayer will be on the hook for billions of dollars worth of railroad track that may never serve its intended high-speed purpose. But the Obama administration sought the funds, as part of the 2009 stimulus package, and Congress approved them – and so they must be spent. … At the very least, California should have to fill in its project’s economic and logistical blanks before any more money – from state taxpayers or the rest of us – is spent. Unfortunately, the rule right now seems to be spend first, answer questions later.
The Heritage Foundation’s Ron Utt details the scope of Obama’s impending high-speed fiscal disaster:
As the preceding analysis reveals, the potential for serious financial problems with an HSR program include:
* Perpetual massive government subsidies and larger budget deficits;
* Wasted money because few passengers will use the system even with the high per-passenger subsidies for operating and capital costs;
* Service provided to only a small fraction of the traveling public in a handful of communities;
* Additional burdens imposed on hard-pressed state governments, which will be required to match the perpetual federal subsidies to build the system;
* Little or no difference in passenger mobility or environmental quality; and
* The creation of high-paying, low-productivity union jobs for political supporters.
While these deficiencies make the HSR program a winner for some of the President’s supporters and some Members of Congress, it will be a major loser for the taxpayers who will be forced to fund this new system.