California High Speed Rail Greatest Infrastructure Failure in US History: Hoover Institution Economist

In “California’s High-Speed Rail Was A Fantasy From Its Inception,” economist Lee Ohanion says that: “California’s HSR is perhaps the greatest infrastructure failure in the history of the country. And the reason it failed is because of a gross failure of state governance, one on such a grand scale that it is nothing short of a betrayal of Californians.”

Ohanion notes that the cost of the present Bakersfield to Merced line, for which the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) does not even have the money, is already more costly that the original projections for the 800-mile system, which was to connect San Diego, Los Angeles, the Bay Area and Sacramento. This 170-mile stub is on the flat land in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley, by far the easiest portion of the system to build. CHSRA hasn’t turned the first shovel on the Pacheco Pass tunnel, the Tehachapi or the San Gabriel Mountains tunnel that would be required just to complete the San Francisco to Los Angeles segment. The San Diego and Sacramento extensions have barely been mentioned for years.

Ohanion concludes:

“There is no path to completion for the fantasy rail system that was falsely sold to voters 15 years ago. Finishing the Bakersfield-Merced route, which will cost in excess of $35 billion, and which won’t be operative for ten years, doesn’t come close to penciling out. The only reasonable decision is to end a project that should never have begun.”

My former colleague on the Amtrak Reform Council, Joseph Vranich and I authored reports on the California High Speed Rail Line, including The California High Speed Rail Proposal: A Due Diligence Report, California High Speed Rail: An Updated Due Diligence Report, and with Adrian Moore California High Speed Rail Project Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions: A Dynamic Impact and Cost Analysis.

Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy firm located in the St. Louis metropolitan area. He is a founding senior fellow at the Urban Reform Institute, Houston, a Senior Fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy in Winnipeg and a member of the Advisory Board of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University in Orange, California. He has served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers in Paris. His principal interests are economics, poverty alleviation, demographics, urban policy and transport. He is co-author of the annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey and author of Demographia World Urban Areas.

Mayor Tom Bradley appointed him to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (1977-1985) and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich appointed him to the Amtrak Reform Council, to complete the unexpired term of New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman (1999-2002). He is author of War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life and Toward More Prosperous Cities: A Framing Essay on Urban Areas, Transport, Planning and the Dimensions of Sustainability.