California, as most have heard, has been reeling as the economy has limped along over the past three years, and during that same time span, plans for a super-fast high speed bullet train that would travel from San Francisco through several other cities and eventually wind up in Los Angeles have been underway. Unfortunately, as reported in the L.A. Times, the project has met with some new estimates that suggest the price tag for the project could balloon to almost a hundred billion dollars. Clearly Californians are not amused, though, at least according to the paper, many are still supportive of the project due to the possibility of easing traffic congestion, an ever present problem in the state.
Most Americans have heard about the great advances that have been made in other countries regarding high-speed rail transport, most notably Japan and France. Both countries are well past the planning stages and have high speed trains whisking passengers between cities faster than they could were they to travel by car. Such passengers also find their commute to be cheaper as both systems are currently subsidized by their respective governments. Other countries have also become involved in high speed rail projects, particularly China and German. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the United States. While there has been talk about installing a high speed train system along the Easter Seaboard, little progress has been made. The only such system actually being planned in this country is this one in California, which should surprise no one, as California has a long history of introducing invitation solutions to problems. The BART system in San Francisco is just one example.
Now however, comes news that the high speed rail system planned for California is heading into troubled times. The current plan is to begin construction sometime this year, or early next, and to finish by 2020; which quite obviously is a longer time than necessary. The long time span is meant to defray the costs over many years to make the cost sting a little less. Now, some in the state government are suggesting that the build time be stretched even further, to 2033, which for those counting adds up to just about twenty one years, a veritable lifetime for an engineering project. High speed rail could advance over such a time to make what they’ve built obsolete before it’s even completed. Nonetheless, lawmakers are set to meet again soon to decide which direction to take and then to set before the public a bond issue to pay for it all. Whether that will pass, at this point, appears to be anyone’s guess.