Former Weekling Tracks Potential High-Speed Rail Boondoggle

Former OC Weekling Anthony Pignataro is now doing the Lord's work at the independent, non-profit journalism outfit CalWatchdog that is overseen by former Orange County Register editorial writer Steven Greenhut (who Moxley just wrote about here).

What is it with the Pig and un-built, controversial, multi-billion-dollar transportation projects? He cut his teeth here digging up dirt on the proposed commercial airport at the old El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. Now he's doing the same with California's high-speed rail project.

Former Weekling Tracks Potential High-Speed Rail Boondoggle

Pignataro's latest piece attempts to count the number of people working on the system that would cost at least $45 billion and include 800 miles of bullet train rails running up and down California (including a proposed station in Anaheim).

It seems like an easy enough task in these days of supposed government transparency. But the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) could only provide an estimated range of contractor employees: between 4,051 and 5,545 statewide. That does not count myriad sub-contractors.

A more precise number might be supplied by contractors. But, in a previous story, Pignataro revealed the state forbids them from talking with the media.

What was that government transparency B.S. again?

The CHSRA answers it is trying to keep costs down, since contractors might bill the state for the time they spend responding to the media, something the agency already pays spokespeople to do.

So, live with non-specifics on how many people are working on this sucker, California.

"There is a very good reason our state is upside down financially--there is little information upon which to make decisions on High Speed Rail or any other state project," Assemblywoman and project critic Diane Harkey (R-Dana Point) wrote in an e-mail to Pignataro. ". . . As you can tell by the information you have received no one really knows what is going on, but we are spending a lot of borrowed money and hiring staff."

That may represent our former colleague's greatest reporting feat of all: making Diane Harkey sound reasonable.


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