High-speed train to bankruptcy

High-speed train to bankruptcy

August 1st, 2011 in Opinion Free Press

It is almost impossible to believe in a time of back-breaking federal debt, but Democrats in Congress and President Barack Obama will not give up on plans to funnel tens of billions of tax dollars into unaffordable high-speed rail projects.

California is hoping for $19 billion from Washington to fund a big part of its plan to have "bullet trains" linking various regions of the state. And the president wants total federal spending of $53 billion over the next six years for high-speed rail. But, as the San Francisco Chronicle noted recently, the president does not say where he hopes to find that money.

Still, California and some other states keep pushing for what they see as their share of federal funds for costly trains.

"It's not something we can do alone," a spokesman for California Gov. Jerry Brown told the San Francisco newspaper.

But why should taxpayers in other parts of the country have to pay for California's trains -- particularly when there's little guarantee that the trains would be a financial success? Federally funded Amtrak has lost money hand over fist for decades, after all.

The multibillion-dollar project in California is "a huge risk and probably will lose a lot of money," said Alain Enthoven, a professor emeritus of public and private management at Stanford University. "In our current fiscal straits, both federal and state, we just don't have the money to spend on that ... ."

We certainly don't, but many in Washington haven't figured that out yet.