The federal government’s most recent $900 million grant to the California High-Speed Rail Authority came with a string attached: most of the money had to be spent, not in Los Angeles or San Francisco where most potential rail patrons are located, but in the central valley. Handed out just before the election, the grant was a blatant attempt to help the re-election effort of U.S. Representative Jim Costa. It might have made a difference, for despite the fact that Costa’s district leans heavily Democrat, he won over an unknown Republican candidate by a mere 3,000 votes.
But now California has to deal with the fact that it only has enough funds to build a high-speed train to nowhere. The authority expects to vote tomorrow on whether to start construction from Borden to Corcoran. To be fair, the route would go through Fresno, but it wouldn’t take anyone in Fresno to anywhere they might want to go at a high speed: Borden is barely a dot on the map, while Corcoran is the home of Charles Manson and his fellow prisoners.
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Fiscal conservatives hope to derail this project before so much money is spent that Congress will feel obligated to come up with another $20 or $30 billion just to finish the project. Surprisingly, one of the critics is Democratic Congressman Dennis Cardoza, who represents Merced. In a letter to Secretary of Immobility Ray LaHood, Cardoza called the plan a “gross misuse” of taxpayer funds.
Of course, rail advocates think that anyone who questions this project is a right-wing ideologue. What does that make them?