- - Friday, March 7, 2014

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) says in a new report that the light-rail “Purple Line” expanding Washington, D.C.’s rail system further into the Maryland suburbs will cost $1 billion more than originally estimated.

Well, of course it will. Only suckers believe in initial estimates on any government project.

Remember the Big Dig? The Central Artery/Tunnel Project in Boston, on which construction began in 1991, was supposed to be completed in 1998 at a cost of $2.6 billion.

The price tag ballooned to a shocking $15 billion by 2007. But wait. That giant sucking sound is now projected to cost federal and state taxpayers more than $24 billion, including interest. Debt service alone is $100 million annually.

Over on the Left Coast, groundbreaking is slated this summer for the Japan-style, high-speed bullet train between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

In a statewide referendum in 2008, 53 percent of California voters approved the rail project. The state then issued $10 billion in bonds and received $3.5 billion in “stimulus” money from the Obama administration.

This is peanuts, though. A billion here and a billion there is not going to build this modern marvel.

“The project’s current cost estimate of $68 billion is already 51 percent above the initial estimate of $45 billion, made in 2008, before the public vote,” writes Richard M. Salsman in Forbes.

“Last fall, the California High-Speed Rail Authority, which oversees the boondoggle, said the final cost would more likely be $98.5 billion, and the completion date 2033 instead of the initial estimate of 2028. Only after a public outcry was $30 billion shaved off that higher estimate, bringing it down to $68 billion.”

Undaunted, Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration is plowing ahead, fortified by yet another study, which should reassure California’s beleaguered taxpayers, who will foot most of the bill.

According to The Los Angeles Times, “Despite the prospect of declining revenue and rising costs, researchers predicted that the 500-mile network — with construction paid for by a blend of state and federal money — will be self-sustaining and not require a government subsidy to help pay for operations.” Sure it won’t.

Please don’t get me wrong. As much as I prefer cars, I’m not suggesting we abandon mass transit. Still, we sorely need some budgeting reality. Can you name any self-sustaining passenger-rail system outside of, say, Disney World?

How about Amtrak? The national, taxpayer-subsidized railroad system has run deficits every year of operation since Richard Nixon signed the Rail Passenger Service Act on Oct. 30, 1970. During the same year, by the way, Mr. Nixon launched the Environmental Protection Agency.

Other than Mr. Nixon’s Watergate scandal and fighting communism early in his career, it’s hard to see why liberals still hate him. On Aug. 15, 1971, Mr. Nixon even announced, “I am today ordering a freeze on all prices and wages throughout the United States.” Again, for a true-believing liberal, what’s not to like?

Getting back to Amtrak, when it began operations in 1971, it was projected to “cut about one-half the present annual loss of $225 million” incurred by the nation’s passenger-rail systems.

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