Slow Minds Run Over at High Speed

Well, well, look at what we have here: the New York Times has finally caught up with what every sensible person knew at least ten years ago—California’s high-speed rail project is a joke. “America’s first experiment with high-speed rail has become a multi-billion-dollar nightmare,” the Times says in a long feature today. Fun bits:

The dogleg [route] through the desert was only one of several times over the years when the project fell victim to political forces that have added billions of dollars in costs and called into question whether the project can ever be finished.

Actually there really isn’t much question: it isn’t going to be finished. And in any case, since Californians will all be driving electric cars in little more than a decade (heh), why bother finishing it, since it will not do anything to save the climate.

The tortured effort to build the country’s first high-speed rail system is a case study in how ambitious public works projects can become perilously encumbered by political compromise, unrealistic cost estimates, flawed engineering and a determination to persist on projects that have become, like the crippled financial institutions of 2008, too big to fail. . . [A]ccording to projections widely used by engineers and project managers, the train could not be completed in this century.

But this passage is the best part of the whole story:

The state was warned repeatedly that its plans were too complex. SNCF, the French national railroad, was among bullet train operators from Europe and Japan that came to California in the early 2000s with hopes of getting a contract to help develop the system.

The company’s recommendations for a direct route out of Los Angeles and a focus on moving people between Los Angeles and San Francisco were cast aside, said Dan McNamara, a career project manager for SNCF.‌

The company‌ ‌pulled out in 2011. “There were so many things that went wrong,” Mr. McNamara said. “SNCF was very angry. They told the state they were leaving for North Africa, which was less politically dysfunctional. They went to Morocco and helped them build a rail system.”

Morocco’s bullet train started service in 2018.

There you have it. As far as good governance is concerned, California now ranks below North Africa.

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