Last Updated:November 30 @ 11:48 am

Aronoff: CNN Exposes Obama's High-Speed Rail Boondoggle

By Roger Aronoff

The Obama Administration has put high-speed rail at the forefront of its infrastructure policies, but in reality it’s a slow-moving target for criticism. “Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire: a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and Internet; high-tech schools and self-healing power grids,” said the President in his February State of the Union speech. Ostensibly, high speed rail projects have gone forward in the U.S. even though they have shown little-to-no progress to date. It is telling that when the sequester went into effect the Obama Administration canceled White House tours and let go thousands of illegal immigrants instead of revisiting waste such as this.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Drew Griffin should be commended on their reporting of the $12 billion high-speed rail boondoggle. According to Griffin, who interviewed Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood, “so much of the money has been spent really making the old trains go a little bit faster.” How much faster? About 10 minutes faster for an $800 million investment. “I think people like the investments we're making,” responded Secretary Lahood during the interview. “There is so much enthusiasm in America for high speed rail.”

Not so in California, where cost overruns loom large. Griffin said that “There is only one true high speed rail line actually envisioned in the entire United States. It's the California plan to bring a 200 mile-an-hour train from San Francisco to Los Angeles.” This is the same state where the public opposes additional spending on high-speed rail. “The Public Policy Institute of California released a poll Wednesday showing that likely voters are opposed to spending $68 billion on high-speed rail by a margin of 54 to 43 percent,” reports Melissa Griffin for The San Francisco Examiner. “Ten years ago,” she writes, “the authors of ‘Megaprojects and Risk: An Anatomy of Ambition’ examined more than 200 projects and concluded that the costs for large-scale public transit projects usually result in cost overruns of 50 percent and that revenue routinely falls short by 20 percent to 70 percent.”

“The forces behind such wild projections are the contractors, builders and consultants who stand to gain from the construction and are unchecked by policymakers with no real means to verify overly optimistic ridership models or stop construction once it has begun.”

It is not surprising, then, that the Heritage Foundation’s Emily Goff writes that “High-speed rail and intercity rail projects waste taxpayer money, divert limited transportation funds to vastly more expensive forms of transportation, and force taxpayers to subsidize the operating costs.”

“If it worked, the commercial financial sector wouldn’t have steered clear of it before costly federal subsidies came along,” comments Goff.

Lahood, in his CNN interview with Drew Griffin, seemed disconnected from reality, claiming that more investments are needed than the $12 billion already spent. “In some parts of the country, we are going to have trains going 200 miles an hour,” said Secretary Lahood. “When?” asked Griffin. “As soon as we can get the kind of work that needs to be done started,” replied Lahood (emphasis added).

“It's been in the planning stages for nearly ten years and not a single piece of rail has been laid,” said Griffin. “Back in Seattle, one day they do hope to reach speeds of perhaps 110 miles an hour in some sections of the track, but at what price?” If California is any indication, the price is probably too high.

Cooper and Griffin made the point that the waste of money and lack of results is bad enough, but even worse is the dishonesty with which the Obama administration is selling this to the American public:

COOPER: “It's one thing, I mean, if you just set out and said you know what, we wanted to make, you know, a 60 mile-an-hour train go 70 miles an hour, we want to cut 10 minutes off this time, and then people could judge whether that's, you know, worth it for the $800 million. But if you're selling it as high speed rail, that seems almost misleading. I mean, people are still riding trains. People still like trains, as the guy said, Amtrak use is up.”

GRIFFIN: “True, but is it wise and getting to your point, Anderson, this was sold as high speed rail. People thought they were getting high speed rail. The bullet trains. That's what they're selling. That's what they're showing to us. But if you look at what was happening in Washington State, you know, right now after $800 million, it's still cheaper and many times faster to take the Greyhound Bus from Seattle to Portland. So what was that investment all about? It wasn't about high speed rail. It was just about fixing up Amtrak, fixing up the low speed rail and really making freight trains move a little better, but not high speed rail.”

Cooper said this is the third piece on this subject that Griffin has done for CNN. It’s about time that the rest of the media got on board exposing this reckless, dishonest boondoggle.


Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and can be contacted at

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  1. Pingback: Aronoff: CNN Exposes Obama’s High-Speed Rail Boondoggle | Clackamas Point of View

  2. bna42Comment by bna42
    March 27, 2013 @ 2:07 pm

    “CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Drew Griffin should be commended on their reporting of the $12 billion high-speed rail boondoggle”.

    When the ultra-liberal CNN makes a derogatory comment about any of this administration’s idiotic policies, you hope that maybe, just maybe, some of the liberals are beginning to see what they have turned loose on this nation.

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  3. hkazComment by hkaz
    March 27, 2013 @ 2:46 pm

    The Good News:

    Some liberals are seeing The Government’s waste of taxpayer’s money.

    The Bad News:

    The Government’s waste of taxpayer’s money has become so absurd that even the hard core liberals are seeing it.

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  4. sumitchComment by sumitch
    March 27, 2013 @ 3:18 pm

    “It was just about fixing up Amtrak”. My memory is getting a little shaky,but didn’t Amtrak file for bankruptcy several years ago? And wasn’t the tax write off given to a large “friend of the family” company in Cincinatti?

    Sounds like another “we’ve got to spend more money than what we’ve already flushed away to make this thing work”.

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    • hkazComment by hkaz
      March 28, 2013 @ 1:16 pm

      Amtrak is “room termperature IQ” Joe Biden’s favorite charity (with other people’s money, of course).

      This is the outfit that charges $20.00 for a burger and loses money.

      It’s time to get the government out of all of the businesses they have no right to be in: Education, Transportation, Medication, Energy, and employment. If they were successfully removed from these departments, I think the cost of government would be cut by 75% and the economy would roar.

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  5. thomasjeffersonComment by thomasjefferson
    March 27, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

    If this train is needed then the business people who need it should pay for it.

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    • nhpollackComment by nhpollack
      March 27, 2013 @ 6:54 pm

      If the train were needed then the business people who needed it would have paid for it already and those who invested in it would have made a decent profit that, hopefully, they would have reinvested to expand the system as demand dictated.

      I like trains and took a bullet train when I was in Japan in ’68 on My wife and I are taking a train on a trip tomorrow. We both vastly prefer the comfort and privacy of a compartment with our own washroom, complete with shower, and a leisurely stroll to the dining car for meals which are significantly better than anything I’ve ever had on a plane. By the time all is said and done, it’s about the same price as flying and when you factor in getting to the airport, parking, dealing with TSA, late flights, missed connections, lost baggage and being stuffed cheek to jowl in cramped seats, breathing the same air as 2-300 other people, many with ill-mannered whiny children, there’s really no comparison. As an old, confirmed romantic, I think of it as our equivalent to the Orient Express.

      None of that is meant to imply that I’m in favor of Obama’s high speed rail vaporware fantasy though.

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  6. ksr1Comment by ksr1
    March 27, 2013 @ 5:03 pm

    This is another fine example of “The Great One” to finance his adjenda to wipe out the fortune we have. Projects like this do not make a good business case for the USA. Europe & Japan is a different story. Many people in a small area, where car ownership is very expensive. Having High Speed Rail going a relatively short distance Vs over vast expanses like we have here in the USA is a workable solution. (this might be the case in California – SF to LA) that is like going from Paris to Berlin. But when you multiply that distance by 10 or 15 fold, the whole thing falls flat. But try to tell the DOT and “The Great One” that. No pun intended but I think this train has already left the station a long time ago. Save our money and save our country! I really hate to say this but my hat is off to CNN, maybe, just maybe they are starting to fall off the bandwagon called BHO.

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