Recent storms knocked out the power in Sacramento, home to California’s High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA). People across the state—already told not to charge their electric cars on high-demand days—had to wonder what would have happened if the vaunted “bullet train” had been in operation.

That was supposed to be the case by 2020, with the train speeding passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco at more than 200 miles per hour. Four years later, passengers have yet to board, but taxpayer dollars have not been in short supply.

Last December, federal Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg gave the CHSRA a grant of more than $3 billion “for continued progress on the country’s first electrified 220-mph high-speed rail system.” CHSRA CEO Brian Kelley called the money “just a great leap forward,” and “Speaker Emerita” Nancy Pelosi, issued a “thank you to President Biden and Secretary Buttigieg for their recognition of the importance of high-speed rail to California and to our nation.”

Pelosi’s one-time nephew Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed, “this show of support from the Biden-Harris Administration is a vote of confidence in today’s vision and comes at a critical turning point, providing the project new momentum.” Taxpayers across the nation have a right to wonder about the status of the project at this “critical turning point.”

The original $10 billion bond issue from 2008 is long gone, with little progress on the rail side. In 2021, Secretary Buttigieg went on record that the project could be funded through the pending $2.3 trillion infrastructure program. At the time, the CHSRA had yet to acquire more than 500 pieces of property from the rightful owners.

UCLA economics professor Lee Ohanian could see where it wasn’t going: “There is no path to completion for the fantasy rail system that was falsely sold to voters 15 years ago. The only reasonable decision is to end a project that should never have begun.”

Yet Biden and Buttigieg want to keep the boondoggle rolling. Both men have their issues with rail, which is not trouble-free.

On February 16, Biden is slated to visit East Palestine, Ohio, site of a train derailment that spilled toxic chemicals and forced evacuations. Biden’s visit comes more than a year after the February 3, 2023 incident.

Transportation Secretary Buttigieg took three weeks to make the scene and said he was “proud” of what the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) had done. On his own performance the Secretary was rather vague, telling one reporter he was “taking some personal time.”

Biden boasts of riding Amtrak but Secretary Buttigieg prefers private jets funded by taxpayers. By early January, 2023, the Secretary had taken at least 18 trips on private jets, including a trip to Montreal to receive an award.

The Secretary has no problem sending $3 billion to a train project better described as bureaucracy. No path to completion and no passengers, but the CHSRA boasts a Sacramento headquarters and three regional offices. That works for ruling-class types such as board member Lynn Schenk, a former member of congress and chief of staff for California Gov. Gray Davis.

Meanwhile, Californians are not panting for transportation that is slower and more expensive than air travel, and still doesn’t get people where they need to go. The state would do better to build more lanes on Interstate 5 through the central valley and beyond.