California High-Speed Train Derailed. Willie Brown Explains Why It Will Succeed.

California’s high speed train project has been plagued by delays and political opposition. Friday it ran into a big speed bump when a judge ruled that the project failed to comply with the terms of the ballot initiative which authorized the project.

A Sacramento Superior Court judge delivered a major rebuke to the California bullet train project Friday, ruling that the state failed to comply with requirements on funding and environmental reviews imposed by voters.

In a closely watched case, Judge Michael P. Kenny stopped short of immediately shutting down the project or ruling that the Legislature made illegal appropriations. But he scheduled a future hearing on how the violations of state law can be remedied.

The ruling threatens to further delay the $68-billion project that has lagged behind schedule before ground has been broken. The decision could ultimately force the state to devise a new plan that conforms to strict financial and environmental protections included in a $9-billion ballot measure approved in 2008.

Do you think this spells the end of this particular boondoggle? I offer you the wisdom of Willie Brown, one of the most accomplished government spenders in this nation’s history, as evidence that this is just an annoyance.

Now that he never has to run for office again, Willie Brown can afford to be candid. From his column in this morning’s Chronicle:
News that the Transbay Terminal is something like $300 million over budget should not come as a shock to anyone. We always knew the initial estimate was way under the real cost. Just like we never had a real cost for the Central Subway or the Bay Bridge or any other massive construction project. So get off it. In the world of civic projects, the first budget is really just a down payment. If people knew the real cost from the start, nothing would ever be approved. The idea is to get going. Start digging a hole and make it so big, there’s no alternative to coming up with the money to fill it in.
I suppose it’s possible that the high-speed rail project hasn’t dug a deep enough hole yet and thus the judge’s ruling hits it too soon to validate Brown’s prescription, but I wouldn’t bet money on it.

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