If California high-speed rail is the boondoggle that detractors say it is, it sure has a lot of people fooled. Officials behind the state's bullet train endeavor say the project could create 100,000 jobs -- some 24,000 of them in the San Joaquin Valley -- and contractors are already lining up to get a piece of it. Last month, the California High-Speed Rail Authority invited businesses both large and small to express their interest in working on some facet of the rail project, and 1,100 companies submitted the requisite paperwork.
Now, despite the lack of support from three San Joaquin Valley congressmen, Bakersfield's Kevin McCarthy among them, authority officials remain hopeful that the federal government will award an additional $2.43 billion in high-speed rail funds to California. That represents enough money to turn the first stage -- a route once dismissed as "a train to nowhere" -- into what is most definitely "a train to somewhere." Such an expansion of stage one would link downtown Bakersfield to Fresno (the state's fifth- and ninth-largest cities) and continue north to Merced.
The additional $2.43 billion is available because Florida's governor, to the consternation of many in that state, chose not to accept it. That's potentially good news for California, which already has $5.5 billion in federal funds and matching dollars from the 2008 Proposition 1A bond measure, at the ready. Construction would start in late 2012 or early 2013.
That's right: Just two years ago, California voters agreed to finance high-speed rail, many of them undoubtedly swayed by the promise of jobs in this recession-wracked state. Yet some leaders refuse to get on board.
"The more time we spend on this fairy tale, the longer people will be out of work," Visalia's Devin Nunes said last week. Actually, Congressman, we suspect the opposite is true.