Bullet train: Jerry can’t bully Simitian, Lowenthal — or escape the facts

Jerry Brown can bully and bluster and name-call all he wants to revive the deranged assault on sanity that is the bullet-train project, but there are Senate Democrats who just disregard his propaganda and point to the basics. In a polarized Capitol full of partisan hacks, these people are — I’m going there, people, yes I am — taxpayer heroes. What a comment on modern politics that being honest is all you need to rise to hero status.

“There’s an inadequate business plan,” state Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, said at a Friday luncheon of the Democratic Foundation of Orange County. “A UC Berkeley study found the ridership projections were too high. We have $10 billion in state funds and $3 billion in federal funds for a $98 billion project. To start in the middle (of the state) when you have no (financial) commitment is too risky.”

For starters, Lowenthal said, the first leg of the line should serve higher population areas than the Central Valley, where groundbreaking is planned.

That’s from the Orange County Register. This is from AP:

“I don’t want the state of California chasing $3.5 billion in federal funds at a cost of $98.5 billion. That’s not my idea of a bargain,” said state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, a one-time supporter. “If future funding is uncertain, then whatever we’re going to build and pay for today has to have real value in and of itself.”

He calls himself a “supporter of high-speed rail done right,” but said he’d yet to see such a project.

Simitian questions whether the initial phase, a 130-mile section of track linking Fresno to Bakersfield, would have any value if the rest of the line is never built.

Lowenthal and Simitian aren’t going to go along with Jerry’s Kool-Aid on this. They want something that makes sense. Good luck with that, guys!

The AP story, by Judy Lin, also included this passage:

“Spain can build it. China can build it. France can build it. Germany can build it. England can build it. Japan can build it. But oh, we can’t build it,” Brown said, mocking critics in a speech a week ago to the California Democratic Party convention. “No, we can build more airport runways, more freeways over the next 50 years. That’s twice as expensive. So I’m not saying it’s cheap; I’m just saying it’s cheaper than the alternative, and it’s a hell of a lot better.”

Brown was addressing the convention in San Diego, one of the major California cities left off the first phase of the high-speed rail line, which has led to local criticism.

Bunk. Judy Lin shows zero familiarity with San Diego. The bullet train has faced derision for years in the city where I live because so many people here think the whole thing is a lie – not because of the fact that the San Diego link is way down the list if the project is ever to be built. The latest evidence came just Sunday in this UT San Diego editorial, which is consistent with everything my paper has opined about the bullet train for years.

The editorial also points out the big bullet train development that Judy Lin seems to have missed:

Some state lawmakers and rail insiders expect the new proposal to essentially give up on building new tracks in the metropolitan Bay Area and in Los Angeles and Orange counties in favor of a system that links the southern tip of the former region with the northern tip of the latter region, then relies on upgraded existing tracks to get folks where they want to go, albeit at much slower speeds.

This would certainly bring down the cost immensely by wiping out the need to build the most costly bullet-train tracks, in suburbs where activists and their lawyers would demand underground train lines or other extremely expensive ameliorative measures.

A recent S.F. Chronicle article pointed to this.

But I’ll admit up-front to bias here; I may be picking on AP. Why? Because I’ve never gotten over how AP’s California staff has accepted stupid union talking points without context for years and years, dating back to the 2005 special election.

Here’s how AP covered a June 15, 2005, rally in which Arnold was heckled for seeking reduced pensions, spending limits, teacher tenure reform and limits on the power of public employee unions:

Schwarzenegger has been feuding for months with groups he calls “special interests” — teachers, nurses and other public employee unions who accuse him of selling out to big business while shortchanging education, health care and other programs.

Even seven years later, AP should still be ashamed. Fighting against the California status quo is “selling out to big business,” say the non-”special interests.” Sheesh.

Bottom line: AP should be seen as a full partner in California’s dysfunction.

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