Western View: High Speed Rail?

Taylor Hillman Features, General, Western View

High Speed Rail
High Speed Rail?

Len Wilcox discusses Governor Brown’s high speed rail project.

High Speed Rail

Last week, Governor Brown went to Fresno and held an invitation-only groundbreaking ceremony for the high speed rail project. The governor was all sunshine and roses for the TV cameras, successfully ignoring the 4 different protest groups locked out of the event. The groups were held back far enough that their chanting didn’t interrupt the governor’s happy sound bites.

It’s hard to imagine the cost of this debacle – 68 billion dollars. It’s equally hard to imagine that a governor who used to be so notoriously cheap would be the champion of this project. The cost is financed far into the future, and the price is in more than dollars.

The high speed rail will cost at least 1500 acres of farmland. It’s destroying Fresno’s Chinatown, which is a unique historic district with its own hidden network of underground tunnels and old buildings.

And some call it the train to nowhere. The first segment is Madera to Fresno. Next they’ll complete the route between Fresno and Bakersfield. Where it’s going after that just isn’t clear. It might go through Pacheco Pass then up to the Bay area. Somehow it’s supposed to get to Los Angeles – but no train could possibly climb the grapevine, it’s just too steep. No amount of political hot air will fix that – too steep is just too steep.

And here’s the odd thing. Do we really need it? Is there a market for riding a train between Fresno and Bakersfield? We can make the drive in less than 2 hours now, will we want to take an hour-long train ride instead? And, right now, we can get on the train at 7:30 in the morning in Fresno, ride to Martinez, get switched to a bus that takes us to Fisherman’s wharf in time for lunch. Is there any real advantage to reducing that trip to 2 hours? Not $68 billion dollar’s worth of advantage, I’m sorry. I just don’t see it. This train has left the station.

I’m Len Wilcox, and that’s the Western View from AgNet West.