“They’re stymied,” said Michael J. Brady, a Redwood City lawyer for the plaintiffs. Brady interpreted the ruling to mean that the project can’t move forward until the state identifies where its funding will come from and obtains environmental clearances on its proposed 290-mile “usable segment” from Merced to the San Fernando Valley.…Rod Diridon, a former Santa Clara County supervisor and one-time high-speed rail board chairman, said the ruling will likely make the project more expensive and take longer to finish. But he insisted it won’t stop the project.
We’ve long argued that the train is an awful idea, but it looks like it’s starting to fail for all the wrong reasons. It would be good to see some common sense shape a consensus that the project’s exorbitant costs and marginal utility make it not worth the while. But no, the train is being derailed by red tape.Opponents of the plan won’t find much to cheer in the rulings; they’ll just extend deadlines, complicate the process and drive costs up even higher. One of the reasons America can’t build much these days is that our legal and regulatory systems have gradually morphed into insane Rube Goldberg contraptions. It takes years and even decades, not to mention millions and billions in legal costs and project delay costs, to get anything significant done.Our legal systems are increasingly so cumbersome, so slow and so expensive that they are a serious drag on productivity and growth. Just as teachers unions oppose reforming public schools that cost too much and do too little, professors and administrators fight to preserve a dysfunctional university system, and a multitude of vested interests drive up costs in the health system, the “legal system lobby” is more interested in the financial health and social power of its members than in the public good.The next generation of Americans will have to take on the difficult but necessary task of overhauling some of the nation’s basic systems. They were good enough for the 20th century, but they aren’t working well enough now.[Image of Rube Goldberg machine courtesy of Wikimedia]