Tracking California’s High-Speed Rail

The high-speed rail debate in California. We’ll look at the cost and the payoff.

This image provided by the California High-Speed Rail Authority shows an artist's conception of a high-speed rail car in California. (AP/California High-Speed Rail Authority)

This image provided by the California High-Speed Rail Authority shows an artist's conception of a high-speed rail car in California. (AP/California High-Speed Rail Authority)

High-speed rail was at the center of Obama stimulus spending plans.  Visions of 21st century bullet trains whizzing here and there around the country.  One by one, states slated for the super trains have dropped out, afraid of getting left with white elephants.

But not California.

The Golden State is, so far, charging ahead.  Even as the price tag for its bullet train has soared from thirty four to $98 billion and completion dates have stretched out to 2033.  There’s a battle royal underway over the price tag and visions of the California future, the American future.

This hour, On Point:  high-speed rail and California.

-Tom Ashbrook


Rod Diridon, executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University

Lisa Schweitzer, associate professor at the University of Southern California’s School of Policy, Planning, and Development

Alain Enthoven, professor emeritus of political economy at Stanford University

Amy Standen, reporter for KQED

From Tom’s Reading List

NPR “The dream of high speed rail in California is running into tough realities. Cost estimates have more than doubled — to nearly $100 billion — since the project was approved by voters in 2008. The date of completion has been pushed back to 2030.”

The New York Times “Across the country, the era of ambitious public works projects seems to be over. Governments are shelving or rejecting plans for highways, railroads and big buildings under the weight of collapsing revenues and voters’ resistance.”

Chicago Tribune “The governor wants to start with a line not from Los Angeles to San Diego or San Francisco to Sacramento, but from Bakersfield to Chowchilla — which would be the equivalent of running a bullet train between Decatur and Galesburg. With that 140-mile segment in place, he imagines, private investors, state taxpayers or the federal government will be happy to provide the money to construct the rest of an 800-mile system.”

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