High Speed Rail Pie in the Sky

Bob Blumenfield, the Assembly Democrat who is a champion of the state's high-speed rail project, needs a new talking point.

Blumenfield was quoted in the New York Times this weekend as saying of "It's not putting someone on the moon, but it's a state version of making a giant leap forward."

He's right, of course. Building a high-speed rail project in California isn't the equivalent of putting someone into space.

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It's more expensive.

The most recent projections for phase 1 of high-speed rail -- getting you from LA to San Francisco in two-and-a-half hours, or only 90 minutes slower than in an airplane -- range from $99 billion to $118 billion, according to a new report this week from the non-partisan Legislative Analyst's Office.

The LAO report also noted that the ballot initiative authorizing bonding requires a plan for funding everything, and questions the claims in a new high-speed rail business plan about savings and economic boost from building the project.

Estimate of another manned mission to the Moon also range widely, but most fall around $20 billion. A manned trip to Mars, including return, has been estimated at $40 billion. Assuming additional costs, the high-speed rail project is two manned missions to Mars.

I don't think the space exploration comparison makes the case for the project.

In fact, it highlights the problem. And that problem is not merely one of cost. It's the combination of an extraordinary cost and an ordinary project -- a project that doesn't get us from north to south any faster than we can get now, a project that doesn't connect what needs connecting (the east and west parts of California), a project that skips Sacramento and San Diego.

Here's betting that a Californian returns to the moon before a Calfornian rides a high-speed train from LA to San Francisco.

The moon trip is cheaper, after all.

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