Opinion: Newsom’s decisions confusing

February 16, 2019

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to stop building the High-Speed Rail project once it has joined Bakersfield and Merced reminds me of the kid who decided to dump all of the candy out of the jar, throw away the candy and keep the jar, should a use for it ever arise.

 

Personally, I don’t think it would be a bad idea to cut the state’s losses on the HSR, but what will we do with the system once it is completed in its newly diminished version?

 

Perhaps the train ride will be so spectacular and fast that people will take the ride just for the thrill of it. An interesting thought, but American train riders are used to slower trains, trains that are not on schedule, etc. What in the world makes us think a new train between Merced and Bakersfield will be any faster or better scheduled than the trains that already run between those two cities? From Merced, bound for Sacramento, we would have to take the same, not-high-speed Amtrak trains that we ride now. From Bakersfield to Los Angeles, we would have to take the same not-high-speed buses we do now. And so forth. The new high-speed trains would cut a little time off the trips, but not all that much to make it worth the extra cost of the tickets — and there would be extra costs. 

 

The actual amount of money — state and federal — that has gone into the bullet train so far is about $11 billion. And the 165 miles between Bakersfield and Merced isn’t close to being completed.

Not only are the tracks and superstructure still under construction, no trains have been built, no terminals have been built, and so forth.

 

Newsom believes the Merced-to-Bakersfield run would provide links to not-yet-built exurban communities that would house Bay Area workers for whom there are likely to be no affordable homes in the Bay Area if dot.com businesses continue to grow.

 

 That idea is not a bad one, but building it out would — or will — take another decade or more, not to mention at least twice to three times the money that already has been spent.

 

Widening the highways between Merced and Bakersfield would cost less than finishing the HSR and more likely would be welcomed by motorists.

 

• • •

 

Newsom’s initiatives on water are more welcome than his high-speed rail ideas. Improving the municipal and agricultural water systems would be welcomed by farmers and cities, especially given the reality that we are becoming legally bound to be more sparing in our use of water, and more creative in our conservation of what the weather sends to us.

 

How wonderful it is that we are getting such good rains. It is too bad we don’t have more storage prepared, because the time will come when we will need it.

 

The Temperance Flat Reservoir Project would do more to capture and save water for all the state’s uses than any other undertaking would.

 

Perhaps Gov. Newsom and President Trump can see the wisdom of that truth, and at least get the project started before the rains slow down or stop, and our ability to capture water is much less.

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