The Agenda

California High Speed Rail Takes a Hit

Stephen Smith of The Next City reports on a blockbuster court decision that threatens the future of the widely-maligned California High Speed Rail Authority:

A Sacramento judge issued two rulings on Monday that blew a major hole in California’s plans for a high-speed rail line, telling the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) to go back to the drawing board on their $68 billion funding plan. While Judge Michael Kenny didn’t put a stop to construction on the project, he also dashed the authority’s plan to sell more than $8.6 billion of the $10 billion in bonds approved by California voters in 2008 to build the first segment of the line in the Central Valley. …

“The court said, look, you’ve only got 28 miles with completed environmental clearances. I order that you have to have 300 miles of environmental clearances,” said Michael Brady, an attorney for the project’s opponents, to the Associated Press on Monday. “It’s taken them 5 years to do 28 miles, so how long will it take them to do 300 miles?”

One hopes that this decision will buy CHSRA opponents enough time persuade voters and lawmakers that rather than invest in a high-speed rail project designed to serve a relatively narrow niche of affluent intercity business travelers, Californians should upgrade their state’s surface transportation infrastructure to accommodate the rise of autonomous vehicles and devote their efforts to improving intracity mobility in California’s major metropolitan areas by encouraging increased density and mass transit.

Elsewhere, Smith recounts how Japan’s turn away from nuclear power has (predictably) led to a surge in demand for coal and other fossil fuels.

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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