That would be the pet project of Governor Jerry Brown, projected to cost at least $60 billion and likely to cost much more, to which the Obama administration has shoveled $7.5 billion in federal funds.
Last night on the debut of Late Night with Seth Meyers, Biden, a well-known booster of federal funding for railroads, boasted that, “We’re trying to get a high-speed train going from California into Las Vegas, where Jerry Brown is leading the country in having high-speed rail. I mean by high-speed rail, rail that can go 230, 240 miles an hour.”
“It’s environmentally more sound. It is economically more sound. It makes sense in every way, and it’s about time we get up and do it,” the vice president said.
The last few propositions are debatable, but two of the first three are not: The California high-speed rail project will, if it’s ever built, travel from between Sacramento/San Francisco and San Diego. It won’t go to Las Vegas (there is a defunct private project that tried to do that; they’re not even supposed to connect). And it won’t go 240 miles an hour — at most, the equipment that’s being bought for the system should be able to run safely up to 220 miles an hour, but even that speed may never be reached. (Biden’s right about one of his claims: Jerry Brown is leading the effort. That is not generally considered a good thing.)
Of course, it’s not clear if the project will ever be built, period, as construction costs keep exploding and legal challenges have been raised regarding the bond issues California needs to pay for the project. The first phase, if an inch of track ever gets laid, is going to be laid in the middle of the state, far from any glamorous destination, where land costs are low enough to make construction feasible:
To be fair to Biden, “We’re trying to get a sorta-high-speed train going from the San Fernando Valley to Merced by 2022” may not have elicited the same cheers his fable did from the Late Night audience.