Reroute this ‘train to nowhere’

$4.15 billion Central Valley stub makes no sense

If the California High Speed Rail Authority and the federal government want to convince people of the value of the high-speed rail line proposed for the state, they’re going about it all wrong.

On paper, the idea of a high-speed line from the Bay Area to Los Angeles is a good one. That’s why, in 2008, California voters approved a $9.95 billion bond measure to pay for about one-fourth of it.

Official analyses of the project suggest, however, that its business plan is poorly defined and its ridership estimates are unreliable. Worse, though, is the notion to begin construction by building a 54-mile section of line from Corcoran to Madera, in the Central Valley. Cost: $4.15 billion, and that’s just for the railway. It doesn’t pay for trains or the electrical infrastructure to power them.

The original project, from San Francisco to Anaheim, was estimated to cost $43 billion, but that cost is quickly going up. The eventual addition of lines to Sacramento and San Diego, as proposed, could bring it to $80 billion or more.

Congress is in a penny-pinching mood these days. Spending $4.15 billion on what Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters has called a “train to nowhere” is no way to win support. Back to the drawing board.