The California High-Speed Rail Authority, ridiculed for its secrecy, mismanagement, conflicts of interest and crazy overspending -- and for choosing as the California bullet train's first leg a "route to nowhere" between the dusty towns of Corcoran and Borden -- has just approved a new leg that extends the troubled project south to Bakersfield.
If you shut your eyes you can pretend Bakersfield is an L.A. suburb, and that the $43 billion train is coming to the edge of an actual city, Los Angeles. Nothing against pretty Bakersfield. But chances the train will make it to L.A. seem increasingly iffy:
The feds insisted Bakersfield be added to the route, or the Obama Administration would withhold $616 million in federal money scooped up from Ohio and Wisconsin -- states who rejected the federal cash and refused to build high-speed trains, citing uncontrollable costs that sap taxpayers' pocketbooks.
The rail authority's spokeswomen, Rachel Wall, told the Bakersfield Californian, "We cannot get to Los Angeles without going to Bakersfield."
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But will this fantastically costly project ever happen, even with the big-time federal help promised by President Barack Obama?
An EIR set to be publicly released in January will be replete with route problems cited by farmers in Kern County, and other parts of California, who say the land-gobbling rail project will claim too much critical crop land.
The biggest bullet train story in 2011 is going to be the numerous and disparate opponents to the routes that are being chosen amidst too much secrecy and in-fighting on the Rail Authority's board.
If the farmers ever get together with the furious residents of Bay Area towns like Burlington and Palo Alto, where hundreds of people even protested the bullet train in the rain (an interesting way to gauge ferocity of beliefs in California), the California high-speed rail project could be in serious trouble.