California courts derail Bullet Train.
California’s bullet train boondoggle was sucker punched yesterday, as a Sacramento Superior Court judge blocked $68 billion in bond funding. The same case saw a separate ruling allowing the state to spend $3.4 billion in federal cash for the project, while a second case (same judge) rejected the rail authority’s request to issue $8 billion in bonds that voters approved in 2008. The judge ruled the project would need to meet various mandates, compliances and environmental clearances before the funding stream can be allowed to flow.The convoluted rulings are yet another sign that California’s toxic regulatory and legal environment makes any public works project slow, expensive and Pyrrhic:“They’re stymied,” said Michael J. Brady, a Redwood City lawyer for the plaintiffs. Brady interpreted the ruling to mean that the project can’t move forward until the state identifies where its funding will come from and obtains environmental clearances on its proposed 290-mile “usable segment” from Merced to the San Fernando Valley.…Rod Diridon, a former Santa Clara County supervisor and one-time high-speed rail board chairman, said the ruling will likely make the project more expensive and take longer to finish. But he insisted it won’t stop the project.We’ve long argued that the train is an awful idea, but it looks like it’s starting to fail for all the wrong reasons. It would be good to see some common sense shape a consensus that the project’s exorbitant costs and marginal utility make it not worth the while. But no, the train is being derailed by red tape.Opponents of the plan won’t find much to cheer in the rulings; they’ll just extend deadlines, complicate the process and drive costs up even higher. One of the reasons America can’t build much these days is that our legal and regulatory systems have gradually morphed into insane Rube Goldberg contraptions. It takes years and even decades, not to mention millions and billions in legal costs and project delay costs, to get anything significant done.