Sec. LaHood Invincibly Ignorant on CA High Speed Rail

Ignore the naysayers — full-speed ahead on high-speed rail, said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in Oakland Tuesday, opens a San Francisco Chronicle blog post. LaHood went on to say “We are not going to be dissuaded by a little background noise of criticism because there is loud, loud amount of support for high-speed rail in California.”

Can’t you just picture him with his hands over his ears, “la la la la la la la! I’m not listening!”?

There has been a stream of news over the past year showing growing concern and opposition to CA’s high-speed rail plan, including the Legislative Analysts Office questioning the plan. My recent favorite is folks in the Central Valley saying WHOA to being given 45 days to comment on a 30,206 page draft Environmental Impact Report. Seriously? That means they have to read 671 pages per day just to finish reading it by the deadline. To actually comment, more like 1000 pages a day. Does that seem reasonable? Does that invite public participation? Or does that make you think of “la la la la la la la! We’re not listening!”?

And while LaHood is ignoring those things, he is also ignoring basic math. Again from the Chronicle blog:

Asked whether Republican opposition means federal funding of high-speed rail is either dead or in hibernation, LaHood said: “No. . . . The president just put $4 billion for high-speed rail in the American Jobs Act.”

a. that law has not even been introduced, so it is hardly a credible answer.
b. The plan calls for the Feds providing a minimum of $10 billion, though that still leaves the project over $20 billion short. So how is $4 bn nationally, of which CA can at best hope to get, what? $1 billion? going to help close that gap?
Any rational reading of LaHood’s response is “don’t count of the Feds to fund as much of this project as you hoped.” Combine that with the reality that the private sector is not coughing up $20 bn for a project that won’t make money, and that local governments are laying off workers, not lining up to pay $5 billion for the project. So basically the financial plan is dead, dead, dead. Admit it. Stop spending money on it.