Celebrated Los Angeles
Times columnist Steve
Lopez loses his bullet-train enthusiasm in a new column:
California bite the bullet on high-speed rail?"
It's not clear whether "biting the bullet" here means going
ahead with the project or abandoning it. This may be the column
that refutes an old journalismism
about how if the headline ends in a question mark, the answer is
Lopez knows his readers well enough to start out by grokking the
awesomeness of the wow factor that is being imagineered in the
high-speed rail concept. Then the big but:
In 2008, California voters supported — bravely, naively or
perhaps both — construction of a gargantuan, 520-mile bullet train
route and authorized $9 billion in state bonds to get things going.
The total projected cost to lay rail for electric cars, whizzing
from San Diego to San Francisco at almost 200 mph, was originally
estimated at $33 billion.
Since then, the high-speed dream has become a slow-motion
nightmare, and we might be better off running a zip line from Mt.
Shasta to Mt. Baldy.
The projected completion date has gone from 2020 to 2033. The
anticipated cost has ballooned to as high as $117 billion, and no
one seems to have a clue where the bulk of the money would come
from. The state auditor and the state Legislative Analyst's Office
have raised serious concerns, and the rail authority's own peer
review group said the project represents "an immense financial
risk" to the state. And two weeks ago, the railroad authority's top
The columnist journeys to Union Station (railroads and buses)
and what Lopez, in a gratuitous swipe at the late Bob Hope, calls
simply "the Burbank airport." He lets regular Californians pipe up
about the high-speed rail project until he gets quotes for, against
and in the middle.
I generally take Lopez’ real-life quotes from just plain folks
with a fistful of salt (Morton’s or superstore equivalent salt like
an average Joe, not fancypants sea salt like some fancypants), but
he does identify people by full name and location. I appreciate
Lopez’ deft juxtaposition of some pinwheel-eyed economics from a
"semi-pro soccer player, actor, model and musician" with
Not Joe Bogenschutz, though. As the Burbank resident was about
to board a plane Tuesday morning in Burbank, he said: "If they're
saying $100 billion, that means it'll be $200 billion."
Lopez has the good fortune to answer to the newsroom rather the
opinion section, where
bullet-train belief still reigns as supremely as it does in
Gov. Jerry Brown’s rumpus room. The important thing is that one
more prominent Golden State blowhard is sealing the case against
the vacant and bankrupt high-speed rail project.