If approved in November, the high speed rail bond would free the state to borrow almost $10 billion dollars to begin building the first phase of a bullet train network. But this is not like a bond-financed highway, for example, with bond holders are paid back with tax dollars. High speed rail is a business proposition, and a highly speculative one.
Ten billion dollars is not enough to build the first phase of the project. Proponents believe state bond money combined with an unknown and uncertain amount of federal and local funding will attract enough private investors to finance the $33 billion dollars it will actually cost to build high speed rail between Los Angeles and San Francisco. They also assume some private entity that builds and runs the service will generate enough revenue to cover its cost and make a profit.
I don’t buy it.
Don’t get me wrong. I love trains. But I think the state needs to invest in upgrading the train system it has now. Give me more trains between Auburn and the Bay Area today - not high speed rail ten years from now - maybe.
Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.