By Paul Chung
Image credit: @Rick W.
If governor Jerry Brown gets his wish, the costly California high-speed railway may finally be rescued by a new investor: China.
The high-speed rail project, approved by voters in 2008, is already three times more expensive than initial estimates. Recent projections indicate that the project may exceed $118 billion, with a measly $3.5 billion in pocket change coming from Washington’s stimulus funding.
The rail-savvy California governor, Jerry Brown, who first proposed the statewide rail system in the 1980s during his first stint as governor, is tired of bureaucracy and financial woes.
If realized, the California project will have multiple segments, ultimately connecting San Francisco and Sacramento in the northern half of the state with San Diego and Los Angeles in the south. To date, not a single rail track has been laid. Brown has come to China in the hopes of changing that.
As part of his seven-day trip to bring Chinese investment to California, Brown will take a ride on the Jinghu high-speed railway that links Beijing and Shanghai. Afterwards, the plan is that a forlorn Brown will somehow convince Chinese investors to cough up tens of billions of dollars (either on the spot or sometime in the near future, but preferably on the spot) for the public infrastructure project in his financially challenged state.
China is home to the world’s largest high-speed rail system, with 5,800 miles of track. Despite some hiccups and scandals here and there, the system is well funded as it is subsidized by the state.
The United States currently has only one high-speed railway line, which links Boston with Washington, DC. Meanwhile, China will have the fastest and most technologically sophisticated high-speed rail system in the world by the end of the decade.
California, obviously, isn’t the only place vying for Chinese investment. In fact, it’s quite an unexpected candidate. Potential competitors at the Chinese teat include Tehran’s subway project, Ecuador’s destroy-the-Amazon initiative, and pretty much every Sub-Saharan African nation.