That high-priced high-speed rail


Even Democrats in the state Legislature are starting to get nervous about continuing the high-speed rail program. After all, the price has gone up to close to $100 billion. That's such a vast sum of money; the state can't possibly afford that, right?

Well, let's think about that and put it in a little historical perspective.

The Golden Gate Bridge was constructed during the worst years of the Great Depression. Cost in today's dollars: $1.2 billion. That's for one bridge.

BART was built in the 1960s. Cost in today's dollars: $6.4 billion. For a transit system serving (at the time) three counties.

The California Aqueduct was also built in the 1960s. Cost in today's dollars: $31 billion.

I can't find good figures on the historical cost of building the California freeway system, but in 2006 dollars, highway construction runs between $3 million and $19.5 million per lane-mile. That is, a four-line highway costs between $12 million and almost $80 million a mile. If you take just the ten biggest highways in the state (a total of 3,547 miles) and figure a middle-of-the-road average of $40 million a mile, building the backbone of the state's freeway system would cost $141 billion today.

High-speed rail, of course, gets cars off the road, reduces pollution and fossil-fuel dependence, and offers a much better transportation experience for people moving around California.

Sounds like a bargain to me.