McCarthy: Time to Send California’s Sputtering High-Speed Rail Project to the Scrap Yard

Bullet train ‘a colossal waste’ of taxpayer dollars, still not ‘ready for primetime’

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy / Getty Images
September 26, 2017

After billions of dollars in cost overruns and missed deadlines, California’s top Republican in Congress is again training his fire on his state’s high-speed rail project, arguing that the mammoth $2.5 billion Obama-era stimulus boondoggle is still struggling to get off the ground and should be scrapped altogether.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) has long opposed the state’s plans for a bullet train linking San Francisco and Los Angeles even though the backbone of the rail system was supposed to run through his hometown of Bakersfield.

With construction of the main line of the project, straight through the state’s Central Valley, set to miss a Sept. 30 deadline, McCarthy says it’s past time to end the "colossal waste of precious taxpayer dollars."

"Turning a blind eye to the evidence showing that this project is not ready for primetime is not just irresponsible, it’s negligent," he told the Washington Free Beacon.

Supporters of California’s bullet train said it would cut their travel time from San Francisco to Los Angeles by car nearly in half and be far cheaper than a plane ride.

California Democrats teamed up with President Barack Obama in 2010 to pony up more the more than $2.5 billion in federal economic stimulus money for the train.

McCarthy has said that the real price tag to complete the massive train line will likely exceed $60 billion just to build, and would require heavy government subsidies to operate. More importantly, there are no realistic predictions that riders would utilize it enough to offset the annual costs, he has argued.

The original rail plan called for 14 million rider-trips a year originating in the state’s rural Central Valley, but the number of rail and plane rides there have never exceeded a million annually.

McCarthy pointed out that Congress has provided no new money for the rail line since Republicans took over the majority in the House, and he intends to keep it that way.

"I’ll continue to work to ensure this remains the case and no more federal taxpayer dollars are wasted on this project," he said.

As the Fresno Bee reported Monday, the money allocated for the project has been spent and construction is well underway in Fresno and Madera counties. Still, the planned construction for the largest segment of the rail line, which would run through Kings, Tulare, and Kern counties, is still in the planning stages.

Originally, the full rail service had an opening date of 2022 but that has shifted to 2025 at the earliest and that connection points switched from initial plans to build the rail between Merced and Los Angeles to a new route between Bakersfield and San Jose.

In addition to the lack of continued funding, the rail line has hit huge road blocks in the form of protracted environmental reviews and lawsuits, along with a plodding and complex process of buying up the necessary land.