The California Bullet Train Project

■ Calvin Porter / Staff Writer

Much has been spoken and written for and against the multi-billion dollar mega project ($77 billion at last count) that when concluded should bring the railroad industry in the United States somewhat closer in this endeavor to other developed countries such as Japan, France, Germany, etc. that have been using high speed rail travel now for many years.

For and against arguments from all aspects beginning with where all the money needed to complete the job is coming from, impact on the environment and on communities affected by the train’s transit through their towns and the need to legislate locally for this contingency, projections as to the actual feasibility of use by future passengers is what needs to be considered. It is important to determine whether it is a real desire to travel by rail as a permanent option to commuting by automobile or only as a passing fad which could turn this huge investment into a white elephant. Questionable potential economic development touted by railroad proponents along the route, degree of difficulty of construction necessitating modification of start to finish points, pushing back the opening date to 2033, cost overruns and many others are equally significant to consider.
Agreed, business plans never go as originally conceived and need modifications along the way when perceived by all interested and affected parties to retain its feasible characteristics. So are we then at the juncture that we need to ask ourselves, is this project really a feasible business proposal?
Granted, the people of California have spoken when they voted in favor of this enterprise back in November of 2008 when they approved a $10 billion bond for high-speed rail, but in view of the real obstacles to completion of this project as planned, unknown to the electorate at the time, do we need to rethink it? Should we dedicate the money to more immediate needs such as more and better schools?
According to an annual report card California has been rated below mediocre in education – a solid C-minus, 10th from the bottom among the 50 states and Washington, D. C. Almost across the spectrum in various categories graded by the magazine Education Week, California scored below the national average earning 69.9 out of 100 points. The state ranked 41st in conditions that help children succeed, 39th in school finance, and 30th in achievement.
In academic performance – as measured by the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress test and by poverty figures – California earned a D-plus, scoring in equity a relatively high B-minus but still 41st in the nation and below the national average of a B.
If indeed the state of California is to reach and maintain a competitive educational ranking in the nation and the world for that matter, we must use all needed resources for the immediate improvement of our institutions of learning at all levels. Projects such as the California Bullet Train can wait for more appropriate times.

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