A much-hyped rail project is running into more trouble in California; is that a harbinger for light-rail here in North Carolina?
High-speed rail is turning out to be a slow-speed proposition.
The first segment of California’s first-in-the-nation bullet-train project, currently scheduled for completion in 2018, will not be done until the end of 2022, according to a contract revision the Obama administration quietly approved this morning. That initial 119-mile segment through the relatively flat and empty Central Valley was considered the easiest-to-build stretch of a planned $64 billion line, which is eventually supposed to zip passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles in under three hours. So the four-year delay is sure to spark new doubts about whether the state’s—and perhaps the nation’s—most controversial and expensive infrastructure project will ever reach its destination.
“Four years? It just shows that something deep inside this project has gone terribly wrong,” says state legislator Jim Patterson, a Fresno Republican who recently shepherded a bill to increase oversight of high-speed rail through the Democratic-controlled assembly. “The time is coming where we’re going to have to call a halt.”
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So what does that tell us about the plans to build light-rail from Chapel Hill to Durham? One lesson might be that rail projects are a 19th century technology ill-suited to the 21st century. Another might be that such projects are always more expensive and difficult than advertised.
The next issue of NC Capitol Connection will take a look at the scheme. If you’re a subscriber, keep an eye on your mailbox for the next issue and news about what’s going on in North Carolina.