The latest turd in former Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle’s punchbowl landed last week with the release of Reason Foundation‘s newest study on California High-Speed Rail: An Updated Due Diligence Report. We covered the Press Release in an earlier post.
Reason’s been following the correctly tagged “Browndoggle“ for years, covering in detail the lies, fabrications, illegalities and just plain fantastic projections for ridership, pricing and even profit that this politically-contrived union-job generator has deceitfully been reporting to us since Proposition 1A was passed in 2008.
Five years later, there’s (thankfully) still no tracks, no trains, no non-stop 220mph, 160 minute, sub-$100 rides to San Francisco — but there is a bloated CHSRA organization that’s just recently asked for even more money to combat the growing legal challenges that endeavor to stop it.
The Reason Report concludes:
The California high-speed rail project cannot be delivered at the cost promised to taxpayers, is based upon a business plan incapable of delivering on its legal requirements, and is justified by proponents based upon unachievable benefits,” Wendell Cox, Joseph Vranich and Adrian Moore, the study’s authors, write.
“The CHSRA’s financing assertions are virtual fantasy and represent additional evidence that its April 2012 Business Plan sorely fails the test of what constitutes a credible business plan. The taxpayers and the state would be best served by its immediate cancellation.
Here’s a link to a great interview from last Thursday’s John and Ken Show (KFI 640 AM) done with Wendell Cox, who co-authored the study with the OC’s Joe Vranich. Also discussed is the Bullet Train’s still private sister Victorville<>Vegas boondoggle, XpressWest.
Pringle’s legacy in this is the bejeweled, over-designed and completely unnecessary $174 million ARTIC train station planned for an Anaheim city lot between Angel Stadium and Honda Center. ARTIC was conceived to be the Anaheim termination for the Browndoggle (and also continue to host Metrolink and Amtrak — but it’s only the third busiest train station in the OC now) as Pringle just knew the train would be coming to his edifice that would be built by his vendor pals, consulting clients and co-conspirator Lucy Dunn’s membership at the OC Business Council.
Like the Browndoggle, Pringle and Dunn figured that their private sector friends would be showering the Barn with high-yield investment and retail kiosks selling sunglasses, cell phone cases and Angels bobblehead dolls. So far not dime one of private money has been announced for it. A major chunk of funds coming out of the OCTA and the Measure M tax skim that every OC taxpayers have been burdened with for years keeps the project alive and waiting for the Browndoggle that’s now laughingly projected for completion in another ten years.
Pringle, Dunn and her sycophant ex-OCBC staffer Kris Murray had to have gone to DefCon One last year
when one of the Browndoggle’s frequent redesigns wiped Anaheim completely OFF its plans and reverted to only an LA<>San Francisco connection (remember too that their Bullet Train was originally a Sacramento<>San Diego project).
The LA Times said “the change, designed to trim $6 billion off the previous $98.5-billion price tag, caught many in California’s third largest county off guard“, but the girls mobilized quickly and got Anaheim back on the plan (Anaheim back on high-speed rail route) even though there was no mention of ALSO putting the $6 billion back to dig a trench for (or elevate? or bury?) the train from ARTIC to LA’s Union Station through some of the most densely populated, heavily trafficked, low-rent suburbs in southern California.
The GRANDER question — the elephant in the room that we asked about last year — is why ARTIC has had even a dime spent on it when it’s increasingly obvious to anyone NOT suffering with a cranial rectal inversion that the Bullet Train will never be built in California, and therefore never make it to Anaheim and Pringle’s Barn. As the case builds and builds against the Browndoggle, and its price to build and operating cost estimates proportionally increase, no one in Anaheim, or the OCTA, seems willing to take a step back and ask why this turkey’s being built and not demoted to back-burner status. It’s not smart to commit any more money or staff time to it until the taxpaying public has some assurance that it makes any sense to continue its planning and contracting for construction.
Reason’s latest analysis will be built upon, and the ongoing law suits that challenge the original promises of 1A should be successful against the LIE that the Browndoggle, and ARTIC, have become. Even the Bullet Train’s “founder” is now in opposition, and grassroots opposition is growing as the initial 28-mile Fresno-Madera segment begins eyeballing land acquisitions via Eminent Domain action. The Browndoggle appears to have not a hope in hell of seeing any Federal funding either (see our Update below), so once the current bonds run out, there’s nothing left.
Irresponsible politicians like Pringle and Murray and a fake Chamber of Commerce like Dunn’s badly disguised collection of greedy lobbyists and pocket pickers will always want monuments to their “leadership and vision” — because it’s only years afterward that some someone looks at the overruns and dishonest usage projections as to their actual and justifiable need. By then they’ve moved on, retired or settled into prison, and only the bonds remain to be paid by the rest of us.
Neither does the OC Register support it, and they have referenced questions raised by OC Supervisors and OCTA Directors Nelson and Moorlach about it. That Board has been funding the debacle (very little has been spent by the city of Anaheim itself, and nothing by Disney as a private entity which could benefit from it), but unlike the nonsensical Anaheim $319 million streetcar project, no formal inquiry of ARTIC’s real need and consumption of Measure M funding appears underway (the Measure M Oversight Committee seems not to have heard of it). That needs to happen NOW that this additional research from Reason Foundation has been released and the legal pressure builds upstate on the Browndoggle.
At the very least, the ARTIC project needs to be placed on hold, have its funding stopped and then cancelled until it can be proven that it will actually be receiving a Bullet Train with Moonbeam Brown on board instead of the shafting we Measure M victims have taken so far. $174 million (and $319 for the damn streetcar to ARTIC) is easily better spent elsewhere — or maybe we didn’t need Measure M after all?
UPDATE (4/15): Our friend Steve Frank at California Political News and Views (one of the best news aggregators and editorialists in the State — it’s well worth being on his mailing list) posted this overnight (emphasis ours):
by Stephen Frank on 04/14/2013
The cost of the Christmas present for Arnold and Jerry is around $200 billion—money that just does not exist. Yet Guv Brown is spending money, borrowing money for lawyers and meeting with the Chinese to get them to finance this boondoggle. California does not have the money, have about Washington? The Feds have not given any money for High Speed Rail since 2010.
This is from California Congressman Kevin McCarthy [R-Bakersfield], “And this past week,
high-speed rail received another blow when GAO released its new report, confirming the future of California high-speed rail relies entirely on $40 billion in unlikely federal funding. Called “one of the biggest challenges to completing the project” in the report, CHSRA’s reliance on additional dollars from a cash-strapped federal government nearly $17 trillion in debt is naive and misguided at best. As GAO correctly concluded, “HSIPR grant program has not received funding since 2010 and that the future funding proposals will likely be met with continued concern about the general level of federal spending, the largest block of expected money for the California project is uncertain.”
Rep. McCarthy’s UT-San Diego article is linked in Steve’s piece and here: Bullet train: Counting on federal funding is naive and misguided. Like ARTIC and Der Pringle‘s (recall that the Mayor-for-Hire, under Schwarzenegger, was once briefly Chairman of the CHSRA Board) pipe dream that private investment is just over the horizon, McCarthy also touches on the subject:
And that’s not even the whole story. The plan still depends on $13 billion from private investment – not a single dollar of which has been committed. This is assuming the $68.4 billion price tag remains unchanged, which is questionable since GAO found that CHSRA’s project plan lacked detail about risk assessment and post-construction costs of running the rail, noting the omissions could lead to “increased risk of such things as cost overruns, missed deadlines, and unmet performance targets.”
UPDATE (4/15): Wayne Lusvardi at CalWatchdog also offers an excellent piece today on the Browndoggle’s consequences: How bullet-train fiasco maintains support, momentum. In part,
The findings of a new study by the independent Reason Foundation could hardly be more damning. It details how the California High-Speed Rail Authority overestimated ridership by up to 77 percent and that San Francisco-to-Los Angeles train trips would take a slow four hours. But the research is likely to fall on deaf ears among many constituencies, starting with the influential unions and trade groups who love the prospect of construction jobs and the wealthy energy industrialists and entrepreneurs who benefit from green power subsidies.
UPDATE (4/16): The OC Register editorialized about Moonbeam Brown’s recent trip to China today. They were very correct in realizing how fruitless his efforts were:
Gov. Brown also tried to interest the Chinese in investing in the California High-Speed Rail Authority, which oversees the bullet-train system projected to cost $68 billion, but for which only about $13.5 billion of government funds has been allocated so far. However, it’s not likely the savvy Chinese will invest in a project that has attracted no private investment so far from American sources.
The writer offered some interesting math as well, comparing usage and costs with real Chinese ridership and population numbers, compared to our very different HSR landscape in southern California. They concluded, and inserted a warning on how China’s rail officials were just as corrupt as our own:
California just doesn’t have anywhere near enough people to profitably support a bullet train. Airplanes, highways and conventional trains do fine moving people efficiently and affordably around our state and country. Moreover, China’s top rail ministers resigned in 2011 amid allegations that they siphoned $2.8 billion from the project. The Wall Street Journal reported, “Experts have questioned the safety of China’s high-speed railways. An executive at a non-Chinese high-speed train manufacturer said running trains above speeds of [205 mph] poses safety concerns and higher costs.” The CHRSA is supposed to run at a maximum 220 mph.