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Thursday, March 28, 2013

High-Speed Rail: Not So Fast

The federal government has spent billions on high-speed rail. CNN reports that the money has not had the 
intended effects:


California's troubled project confirms Tocqueville's observation:  "There is hardly a political question in the United States which does not sooner or later turn into a judicial one."  The San Jose Mercury News reports:
The state of California has filed a civil case against everyone -- literally, the whole world -- seeking to validate $8.6 billion in voter-approved bonds for its $69 billion high-speed rail project.
The lawsuit, titled "High-Speed Rail Authority v. All Persons Interested," is meant as a pre-emptive strike so the state can confirm that it's definitely legal to issue some of the bonds needed to begin bullet train construction this summer. By citing a somewhat obscure California civil code, the state can use the "sue now or forever hold your peace" strategy to prevent a string of future lawsuits and, instead, deal with the legal issues in one fell swoop.
The Los Angeles Times reports:
Among those raising objections is a Bay Area high-speed rail trailblazer who for decades played a pivotal role in building public and political support for the system. Quentin Kopp chaired the state Senate transportation committee for years and co-wrote legislation that launched the bullet-train project. He later served as board chairman of the state agency overseeing construction of the system.

But in a recent legal declaration, filed in a civil suit seeking to halt the project, Kopp, a retired judge, said the project as now planned violates the law underpinning $9.95 billion in state financing approved by voters in 2008. The declaration puts Kopp in the improbable position of supporting a suit by key rail antagonists: officials in Kings County and two farmers supported by powerful agriculture interests.

"They have just mangled this project," Kopp said. "They distorted it. We don't get a high-speed rail system. It is the great train robbery."

Lynn Schenk, a former congresswoman from San Diego and current board member of the state rail authority, is another leading high-speed rail advocate. She stunned a room full of bullet-train supporters this month when she opposed a critical deal with a Northern California transit agency. Without the agreement, the political coalition supporting the project could unravel.