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By Tim Hunt

High-speed rail finally may be wrecked

Uploaded: Nov 26, 2013

State Senator Mark DeSaulnier brought experts together earlier this fall to discuss ways to avoid repeating the fiscal and approval fiasco of the Bay Bridge. The replacement eastern span opened in September nearly 24 years after a section of the bridge fell in the Loma Prieta earthquake.

The bridge took nearly 10 years longer to complete and cost $6.4 billion, more than five times original estimates.

DeSaulnier is rightfully concerned with the state moving ahead with the absurd high-speed rail project that supposedly will connect San Francisco with Los Angeles. The first phase was planned to go from nowhere to nowhere in the San Joaquin Valley. Gov. Brown scaled the project back once costs were soaring from the original $40 billion to nearly $100 billion. The current plan is $68 billion.

Fortunately, this week, a Sacramento judge ruled that the authority could not spend any additional money of the $8 billion in bonds that voters approved with significant conditions until those requirements were met. Most important was to demonstrate that funding was in place for the huge costs to complete the first segment (tens of billions). The wise decision should stall the train wreck project and put it in the pile of absurd ideas that were sold to voters with little basis in reality.

For the next examples of political sales speech just remember "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan."

Looking at past practice—the Big Dig tunnel in Boston cost $15 billion after an original estimate at $2.5 billion—a true high-speed rail could be hundreds of billions.

Then, there's the dual conveyances planned under the Delta to reliably deliver water to the Livermore Valley (it's 80 percent of our supply), the South Bay, San Joaquin Valley farms and Southern California.

The experts told DeSaulnier that megaprojects routinely exceed plans because proponents are biased toward doing the project and often misrepresent challenges and miss on how long they will take.

DeSaulnier is hoping to use the information he gathers to design legislation to greatly improve oversight and management of the huge projects. Here is wishing him good luck.

And, if he really wants to focus on a real problem, it's the movement of goods—not people—that needs solutions. Trucks jam freeways from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach moving containers to sorting warehouses in San Bernadino. Take those trucks off the road and move them instead on traditional rail, let alone high-speed rail, then you will have accomplished something for the environment and the economy.

In the Bay Area, what would it look like if there was viable rail or barges up the Delta that would shift containers off of Interstate 580. The afternoon commute would be tough, but nowhere near as ugly as it is today.

Focusing on moving goods efficiently—from both a transportation and an economic standpoint—will benefit the East Bay and California. Wake up Jerry.