California’s “train to nowhere” shows the challenges ahead.
In 2008, voters in California passed Proposition 1A, giving the state the go-ahead to construct a high-speed rail line. In principle, it was a terrific concept. The train would whisk passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles in less than 3 hours. Eventually it would in addition link San Diego and Sacramento. It was guesstimated that it would take until 2020 to finish up.
But now it is 2022, and til now California’s high-speed rail line is just several concrete bridges and viaducts strewn across the rural Central Valley. Much of the plan had to be altered, reworked, or perhaps even deserted all together. Now the project is decades late and way over budget. And that is not just California’s problem. Because amidst the many factors that plagued the project, a few are baked into the power structure of the US itself.
Watch the video clip above to know just how tough the US makes it to construct infrastructure like California’s high-speed rail line.
California’s plan: 00:00
Local control: 1:48
Federal financing: 3:45
The experience gap: 6:37
Further perusing and sources:
You can find more of Ethan Elkind’s high-speed rail research and evaluation here:
And we very suggest perusing Ralph Vartabedian and Tim Sheehan’s reporting to study more about how this task has affected communities on the ground:
Older business plans, like this one from 2005, helped us comprehend which alternate routes were being considered before the 2008 vote:
This is the 2015 CEQA civil suit report we refer to in the video clip:
Overall infrastructure spending in the US is a vital part of this story, and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation had quite a bit of useful assets. The video clip makes use of data from this report in charts on state and federal spending: https://www.pgpf.org/blog/2020/06/state-and-local-infrastructure-spending-a-closer-look
Precisely how much the federal government ended up spending on this task and when can be difficult to pin down, but financing agreement written materials like the ones below are publicly available and really helpful:
We in addition discovered this financing timeline from the Eno Center for Transportation exceedingly useful in comprehending the financing and cost projections associated to CAHSR:
A key part of this story is comprehending how far behind its peers the US is in building high-speed rail. This fact sheet on international HSR from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute offers precious revelations on that:
And this 2013 report from the California Rail Foundation helped us comprehend some of the governmental compromises made in the planning of this task: http://calrailfoundation.org/HSR_files/crn713webcen2.pdf
Make sure you never miss behind the scenes content in the Vox Video publication, sign up here: http://vox.com/video-newsletter
Vox.com is a news web site that helps you cut through the noise and comprehend what is truly driving the events in the headlines. Check out http://www.vox.com
Support Vox’s reporting with a one-time or continual donation: http://vox.com/contribute-now
Shop the Vox merch store: http://vox.com/store