The new draft business plan from California's high-speed rail authority says the first phase of the project will cost $98 billion.
If you read any further, you read an argument that this is a bargain -- since other transportation costs over the next two decades will cost nearly twice that.
Of course, that logic, we should ask what the state might get if it spent $100 billion -- let's round up -- on other things.
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What if the state were to make the same investment in restoring public support to the University of California and the California State University systems?
Giving $5 billion a year over the next 20 years -- the time it would take to build the high-speed rail first phase -- would be a game-changer, permitting tuition reductions and the expansion of the systems that would give us a better educated, more competitive population.
Or what if we invested that money in a combination of additional support for California's K-12 schools -- there'd be enough there to make us a national leader in this area?
One hundred billion dollars, by the way, is real money.
It's the combined profit of the big five oil companies.
One hundred billion dollars is the estimate of the total amount of American student loan debt. It's more than twice the estimated cost of a manned NASA mission to Mars.
High-speed rail is politically dead. But the debate is useful. Because it should remind us that the state has the resources to think big.
How would you spend that kind of money?
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