Officials of the California High-speed Rail System seem to have a cavalier attitude about acquiring land for their project. They tell the Los Angeles Times they will have no trouble buying the property they need so they can start work in July.
It makes you wonder what the HSR folks are smoking.
There are a few things they don’t seem to have considered.
- Many owners of land the high-speed tracks and other structures would occupy don’t want to sell. In fact, they are among those suing to stop the project.
- Part of the reason they don’t want to sell their land is that so doing would split farms and make the two remaining pieces of property harder to farm by creating an impossible-to-cross barrier with the HSR track and beam-way structure. While it is true some crossings would be provided, they would be inconvenient and would add costs to the farming of that land forever. Also, the value of the split-up land would drop in relation to contiguous lands, making future sales of those lands more difficult and less profitable.
- The high-speed rail experts may think that in the end money will talk. In their opinion, even the best farmland is cheaper by a mile than even the worst urban land. And it is easier to work on because of the lack of urban development. And, they have eminent domain on their side. As a creature of the state, they can force owners of property to sell — but they must pay fair market value.
That value is likely to be higher than they think, which could do damage to their already stretched budget. That could give them pause. Maybe they will wait until agricultural land prices drop. If they have to wait too long, they might turn and walk away, which would make quite a few people happy.