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High Speed Rail train, artists rendering. (Photo: CHSRA.ca.gov)

California’s Electric High Speed Rail: No Power, No Money, No ‘High Speed’

Many wonder if the high-speed trains will be powered by windmills, solar panels, cooking oil and algae

By Katy Grimes, July 22, 2022 2:50 am

“If it is built, California’s High-Speed Rail would be the largest public works project in state history. That fact alone appears be intoxicating to state officials, in a perpetual quest to have California be the first state to do anything,” I reported in 2011. That’s how long California’s High Speed Rail has served only as a jobs program and a really bad joke on California voters and taxpayers.

By 2011, it was apparent that the High Speed Rail Authority was violating important mandates in the 2008 initiative, passed by voters. Proposition 1A, $9 billion in bonds for high-speed rail, included numerous mandates, none of which can be legally bypassed on the way to building the massive train system.

Top on the list is that the rail system must be high-speed. “Electric trains that are capable of sustained maximum revenue operating speeds of no less than 200 miles per hour,” the law states. However, much of the first segment between Fresno and Bakersfield is not high-speed; nor will high-speed be attainable in dense cities.

“Despite the warnings of a nearly $100 billion ballooning price tag, no track laid, no trains running, decreasing legislative support and even opposition from diehard rail advocates, the High-Speed Rail Authority is steaming ahead full throttle with plans to build the most expensive high-speed rail system in history.” That is also from 2011 – 11 years ago. And nothing has changed except more spending on the train to nowhere.

A 2011 Field poll found that two thirds of Californians want a new referendum on the project. And by a two-to-one margin, they say they’d vote to derail it, only three years after passing Prop. 1A.

California Senate Republicans just issued a “Myths vs. Facts” report on California’s High Speed Rail debacle. They reported, “14 years later, this ‘efficient’ bullet train was supposed to be completed in the early 2020s, but it is nowhere near completion, while the cost has ballooned to $105 billion from $33 billion. In the 2022-2023 state budget, Legislative Democrats earmarked another $4.2 billion for the first phase of the project, which would run from Bakersfield to Merced.”

“Adding insult to California voters, the California High Speed Rail Authority (HSRA) has published a website peddling myths about the bullet train,” Senate Republicans said. “While they suggest they are trying to ‘dispel myths’ and separate ‘fact from fiction,’ their own website is rampant with more opinions than facts.”

Even in 2011, California’s High Speed Rail pushers were agitating for the $3.5 billion in matching federal funding for the rail plan. However, that federal money came with a requirement of use exclusively in the economically depressed Central Valley.

A 2011 report by the Legislative Analyst found that future High-Speed Rail funding sources were “highly speculative,” and the economic impact analysis included in the rail authority’s plan “may be incomplete and imbalanced, and therefore portrays the project more favorably than may be warranted.”

Ya think? It’s 2022 and High Speed Rail from San Francisco to Los Angeles is still just a pipe dream – especially the “high speed” part.

In February 2019, President Trump called for California to return all federal rail funding, following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s state of the state address where the Governor vowed to kill High Speed Rail saying, “there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to LA.”  However, Newsom flipped on his promise within the week, announcing he was allowing one odd segment of the rail project to be built in the Central Valley, nicknamed “the conjugal express,” going from prison to prison, Madera to Bakersfield.  The goal for the strange and unnecessary rail line was so California would not have to return $3.5 billion to the federal government.

California Senate Republicans take a deeper dive and break down the real myths vs facts:

Myth: High-Speed Rail will “establish a clean, efficient 220 MPH transportation system.”

Fact: “There has been nothing efficient about high-speed rail in California. The original cost of the project was projected to be $33 billion and is now expected to be at least $105 billion before it is completed. What is worse, the plan no longer even includes purchasing trains. So, the state doesn’t have a way to test if the system works, or if the trains can even go the promised 220mph.”

I reported in 2011, “Complicating matters, the first segment of the rail system won’t even run high-speed trains until the entire system is built. The initiative required the train to be only high-speed.”

Myth: High-Speed Rail will allow travel “from Los Angeles to San Francisco in about 2 ½ hours for about $50 a person.”

Fact: “Way back in 2015 the Los Angeles Times conducted a study and determined the cost to ride high-speed rail from Los Angeles to San Francisco under the best of circumstances would be between $83 and $105. With the cost rising from $33 billion to at least $105 billon and inflation at a 40-year high, the likely cost will be considerably more, if, (or when) the system is ever completed.”

Myth: High-Speed Rail will be completed as early as 2020.

Fact: That date has come and gone. The first leg of high-speed rail, from Merced to Bakersfield, now has an estimated completion of 2029.

Remember, the initiative was passed by voters in 2008.

According to to Proposition 1A, The California High-Speed Rail Authority must have all of the the funding ahead of time, before any construction starts on a new segment.

Pacific Gas &Electric and Southern California Edison will be providing the electricity for high-speed rail, with estimates of additional demands for electricity already coming in at 1 percent to 5 percent of the state’s total energy usage. “Even Cal ISO doesn’t have any estimates for the cost,” a Capitol staffer told me in 2012. “High-speed rail has got to consume a great deal of power. Where will the power come from?”

That question was never answered. And with California’s deficient electricity grid, electric car owners are told not to charge their cars on hot summer afternoons. It’s clear the state can’t handle the energy requirement for the high speed train, or electric cars. they are trying to convince everyone to purchase.

Here’s what lawmakers and the High Speed Rail Authority knew in 2011:

According to a July 2011 energy usage analysis prepared for the California High-Speed Rail Program Management Team, total electricity usage for the proposed rail system would be “8.32 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) per day,” and more than 3 billion kWh per year.

The average three-person household in California is about 6,000 kWh per year, or a little more than 2,000 KWh per person.

According to the California Public Utilities Commission, electricity customers in the state paid an average rate of about 15.2 cents per kWh.

At 15.2 cents per kWh, the total utility bill for high-speed rail would be nearly $1.26 million per day, and more than $460 million per year. And that’s probably a very conservative estimate.

With California’s climate-change mantra of “no dirty coal,” “no natural gas,” no hydroelectricity” and “no nuclear power,” many wonder if the high-speed trains will be powered by windmills, solar panels, cooking oil and algae.

Try not to seethe when you read California Senate Republicans’ Myth vs. Fact on High Speed Rail. The California Legislature has had 14 years to put a fork in this flagrant debacle, but punts every time because it is a bottomless pit of taxpayer funds, and a plethora of union jobs. It doesn’t matter to the majority party if anything is ever built.

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42 thoughts on “California’s Electric High Speed Rail: No Power, No Money, No ‘High Speed’

  1. Let’s see – California has the worst roads, highest fuel prices, the most homeless/drug addicts, most per-capita poverty, highest taxes, worst business climate and worst public schools. But by God, we have a $105+ billion bullet train that will never materialize.

  2. This was always a pay off to unions – a “retirement project” in union parlance – as a payoff for standing down when the San Francisco bay bridge segments were built by China. High Speed Rail was never about transportation.
    Thanks to the corrupt media supporting a one party town, the tax payers never had a chance.

  3. “The World’s Biggest Train Robbery” should be the real title to the article! I don’t believe the Democrats ever planned to build the train, ever cared about trying to make California a better place nor had any positive intentions whatsoever. The only plan was to steal money from tax payers. I don’t know who’s worse the Democratic mafia politicians or the pathetic California voters!

  4. What could better illustrate what a joke and a debacle the Train to Nowhere has been than an article Katy Grimes wrote ELEVEN YEARS AGO, which sounds as fresh and relevant and new as if it were written yesterday? This has been nothing but a slush fund and a jobs program and a scam since Day One. Was there ever an intent to actually build a high-speed rail in the first place? Uh, kinda looks like the answer is NO. And how many calls have there been in the meantime for this disaster to be dropped in order to PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE stop throwing good money after bad? But this is how money is made by the government and how politicians are kept in power in California. No wonder we’re a laughingstock and a joke and the rest of the country has contempt for us. And this is just ONE EXAMPLE!

  5. 100billion. seems like it all went into suit pockets. they knew it would never be realized. new it would stall.

  6. If this contraption is ever built the daily cost to run the trains, maintain the aging structure, adhering to mountains of state regulatory balderdash, no one will be able to afford to ride. So who will cover the cost over runs……ah we’ll just print money from the tax payer.

    1. How many reservoirs, settling ponds, aquifers, retention basins, even reclamation/filtration plants….

      California is run by a bunch of IGNORANT CLOWNS, but they ain’t funny… they’re PATHETIC…..

      And unfortunately, they go to D.C. and somehow claw their way to the top of the heap there, and further inflict their special brand of STUPID on the entire Nation.. yeah, I’m looking at YOU, Becerra, Pelosi, Padilla and Harris…

      Our “Four Stooges” of the (Governmental) Apocalypse…

  7. Oh, the stories my wife could tell from working with HSR while she worked at CalTrans. They were clueless.

    We had an opportunity to ride a BNSF Show Train from Bakersfield to Tehachapi and back a number of years ago. There was a HSR employee who I spoke with as we were traversing the Tehachapi Loop and she started to try to tell me that the California HSR would be a bigger and more important achievement than when the Loop was built. She finished talking and I just walked away because I didn’t want to have to deal with idiots like her.

    She wasn’t at HSR much past that trip.

  8. So…………….., why isn’t there or hasn’t there been, a big push for want a new referendum on the project??
    Why haven’t there been appeals of that ridiculous judge’s decision that the “California High-Speed Rail Authority must have all of the the funding ahead of time” didn’t really mean that it “really” had to (wink, wink)??
    Something’s fishy, i.e., rotten.

  9. CA voters who fell for this ripoff by unions thru political corruption deserve what they got. Stop voting for stupid government shit and libtards, you dumb asses.

  10. I’m excited for the HSR to be complete even if I must wait a decade or more. The effects will be well worth it to the state and the ripples will help bring the rest of the country onboard.

    $100B for the states largest infrastructure project ever over a 25 year period really isn’t much when you consider California’s annual budget is over $300B. 33B was optimistic but unrealistic. Of course there are cost overruns, this country sadly can’t operate without years of bureaurocratic turmoil causing cost and time overruns.

    This will happen though, I’m confident of that. Despite all you naysayers doing your best to derail this project, it will be completed.

    1. Ok, I get where you are coming from but I can ensure you that your new 10 year wait, will be closer to between 15 and 20 years. I’m 60 now and I don’t think it will ever be 100% complete whenever I pass in the future.

      Why do I say 15 to 20 years..?? Well, based upon the three proposed alignments (I don’t know if they have picked a final alignment in the LA area yet), the amount of time required to just bore all of the SoCal tunnels will take at least seven years, if not more. Check out the boring estimates in the linked LA Times from 2015 which states that a boring machine could expect 100 to 200′ a day in good rock strata but with the fractured rock strata through the San Gabriel mountains, it could drop to 20′ a day.


      I wouldn’t be surprised if the full route isn’t active until 2038 to 2040 and then what would be the final cost to ride it all of the way.?

      Thanks but no thanks.

    1. They can’t avoid the seismic zones and when they start boring through the San Gabriel Mountains, who knows what the impact will be on the boring machines.

  11. Also known as the “conjugal express.” Good name as it looks like we all got “fooked”!
    Time to put this in the waste bin! It will not being going anywhere. While we are at it can we put Newsom in the waste bin as well? This state is in such disrepair, it is very sad.

  12. Until now, I did not know this was to be all electric. Interesting facts regarding energy usage. I remember many many years ago reading an article describing California State finance and budget director announce the results of her audit regarding the train to nowhere. As I recall, she stated vast quantity of states monies have just, disappeared with no accountability whatsoever. She described the estimates, but land procurement/s amounted into the billions, many landowners, unpaid. As public domain was heavily implemented, even managed, misused. I know of many neighborhoods in Bakersfield that were affected.

    Another big issue at the time. The Rail Authority could not get qualified personnel to work as state site managers making sure contractors handed over all receipts to materials, equipment, fuel and labor. As a result, none were ever collected, nor required. What occurred, according to the States Auditor Director at the time, amounted to the biggest misuse—fraudulent corrupt practices to California public monies! I watched it on YouTube live as state assembly was in session. Few if any was honestly listening, as most assembly people were farting around, talking to others, leaving the chambers, lolly gagging not paying attention. I will never forget the overall lack of concern.

    Yet, as a former Jr. College speech student, I had to wonder how she herself took to her audience not giving her any curtesy even acting like they cared what she was sharing that terrible day. I have since stopped watching fed or state sessions, as it upsets me. As a regular guy, a taxpayer, our elected managers seem to only function for themselves.

    Guess thats the end of my story.

  13. California is on fire and has been for years and it needs state of the art firefighting equipment, not fast trains.

    1. Now @Snacks, there is no room in California for common sense strategies and being responsible with taxpayer dollars.

      I agree with you 100%.

  14. California is on fire and has been for years and it needs state of the art firefighting equipment, not fast trains that only help those living near it.

  15. This article is filled with falsehoods, inaccuracies and lies. I can’t believe I wasted 5 minutes reading this biased drivel.

  16. You should dive more into the power of local governments to hold up regionally-important infrastructure projects, and how a shifting political makeup of congress can derail a long term project. This country will never be able to complete something like this because everyone on every level has to be 100% bought in…I mean look at the route it takes to appease all these small localities. That said, assuming it gets done, history says people will quickly forget how crazy the process was.

  17. It’s nothing more than fraud in the inducement. What voters approved 10,000 years ago doesn’t even remotely resemble the current state of affairs. It needs to go to a vote again. If voters approve knowing all the facts as they exist today (including the “fact” they probably are not “facts” – e.g. more cost increases are coming from current estimates, then move forward with this debacle.

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