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Bullet train madness

Bullet train madness

It’s an article of faith in the collectivist/environmentalist world that privately owned personal mobility vehicles (a.k.a. cars) and the freeways they drive on produce pollution, waste energy, generate urban sprawl, and are ruining the planet.

The utopian answer is to force people into government owned, union built and operated 19th Century technology (a.k.a. trains) to save the planet.

The freedom and convenience of the car is winning the battle.

In an example of a national reality, after decades of investing more than half of all transportation funds in buses, trains, and trolleys, San Diego commuters still drive 96 percent of all miles traveled in their cars, just four percent in public transportation.

Notwithstanding this reality, utopianism rules the politics of California, which is the only state to accept Obama stimulus money to build a 500 mile “bullet” train between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The train, its proponents say, will reduce vehicle emissions and global warming.

While no scientific study supports this claim, the irony is that this train cuts a straight line through a complex variety of environments and habitats with adverse effects on the planet that is being “saved”.

Environmental studies document that California’s “bullet” train, would chew up precious Central Valley farmland, disrupt natural drainage patterns, divide and disrupt the habitat of endangered species, and worsen air quality.

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District regulates air quality in the Central Valley which would be crossed by this train.

This District is already paying a $29 million yearly fine for violating the federal Clean Air Act, a fine which is paid by motorists in higher annual vehicle fees.

The District is concerned that the construction and operation of the train would make the air pollution problem worse.

In an area where one in seven K-12 students has been diagnosed with asthma, this is no small concern.

The train would also need a reliable source of massive amounts of electricity which is not currently available. Generating that electricity also carries an environmental cost.

Federal biologists have already documented that eleven endangered species, including the California kit fox, would be adversely affected.

The final environmental report on the train project is months behind schedule.

Both the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council have denounced Governor Jerry Brown’s scheme to exempt the $68.4 billion train project from judicial review of these environmental studies.

Acting like any developer eager to get started and dismissive of any adverse environmental effects of his project, Brown says the exemption is necessary to get construction underway in the Central Valley on the initial 130 miles, $6.1 billion phase to meet a deadline for federal funds.

The June 5 Sierra Club letter to Brown stated in part:

“This (exemption) proposal sets a dangerous precedent that, if applied here and to other large scale public works projects, will throw the state back to an era when bulldozers and engineers trumped clean air, clean water, wetlands and natural habitat, and the public interest with abandon.”

Merced County and the Farm Bureaus in Merced and Madera Counties have already filed lawsuits based on these adverse environmental effects.

The train project faces other hurdles common to all large projects in overregulated California.

The High Speed Rail Authority estimates that their “bullet” train project will require 120 permits from various federal, state, and local authorities, and will also have to buy over 1100 parcels of land.

This summer, the state Legislature, already tied in knots trying to figure out how to close an estimated $15.7 billion budget shortfall in their “balanced” budget, must appropriate $2.8 billion for the state share of the initial phase.

Making things tougher for train proponents, public opinion has changed.

In 2008, by a 53 percent majority, California voters approved a $10 billion bond issue to provide state matching funds for what was then a $38 billion train project, with the balance of the costs coming from the federal government stimulus money.

Faced with rising costs of the train project, an enormous state budget deficit, and Brown’s tax increase November ballot measure to close the gap, a L.A. Times poll found 59 percent of California voters now oppose the train project.

Jerry Brown’s “bullet” train is a bullet to the heart of any economic recovery in California and must be stopped by the Legislature before our economy and our environment bleed to death.

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