Feb 12, 2019

Axios PM

Situational awareness: The national debt has passed a new milestone, topping $22 trillion for the first time. (AP)

1 big thing: $77 billion derailment

Photo: California High-Speed Rail Authority via Getty Images

The most ambitious infrastructure project in America looks dead, at least for now, after its estimated costs had swelled to $77 billion.

  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom has called for dramatically dialing back the formidable high-speed rail project.
  • In a speech today, he said "there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A. I wish there were.”
  • The project will be confined to California’s Central Valley, running from Merced to Bakersfield, Newsom said.

The big picture: It is incredibly expensive to build infrastructure in the U.S., whether that's rail or highway or anything else.

Why it matters: High-speed rail infrastructure is important to climate change plans like the Green New Deal.

  • Axios Ben Geman emails: It’s part of decarbonizing transport along with other mass transit options — such as electric buses, other kinds of trains, better pedestrian options and bikes — and EVs.
  • The Green New Deal resolution, according to the FAQ that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's office released and then retracted, called for building out so much high-speed rail that air travel becomes unnecessary.

Between the lines: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Green New Deal resolution will get a vote (he thinks it will hurt Senate Democrats.)

  • Axios' Amy Harder emails: California just passed an incredibly aggressive clean energy law, so it’s not all bad from climate advocates’ perspective. 

The bottom line: If the richest and most progressive state in the U.S. can't follow through on an ambitious rail plan (similar to how Washington state couldn't pass a carbon tax), it signals nothing but trouble for people concerned about climate change.

P.S. "China plans 6,800 km of new rail track in 2019 amid infrastructure push." (Reuters)

Bonus: Relevant chart du jour
Expand chart
Reproduced from IEA, "The Future of Rail"; Chart: Axios Visuals

Go deeper: High-speed rail and the Green New Deal

Pics du jour
Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Above: The casket of former Rep. John Dingell rests at the Church of the Divine Child during his funeral today in Dearborn, Michigan.

Below: Rep. Debbie Dingell, his widow, arrives with former Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden.

Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
2. What you missed
  1. Jurors have convicted Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman in a decision that could send the Mexican drug trafficking kingpin to a high-security prison for the rest of his life. Go deeper.
  2. President Trump is "not happy" about the deal reached in a bipartisan conference Monday night to keep the government open past Friday. Go deeper.
  3. The U.S. has released rapper 21 Savage on bond and granted him an "expedited" deportation hearing. Go deeper.
  4. The National Enquirer is sparking a media crossover, with activists pushing to persuade stores to stop carrying tabloids in light of recent scandals around the publication. Go deeper.
3. 1 film thing

"From 'A Quiet Place' to 'A Star is Born,' studios backed more films with female leads in 2018, according to new research," Variety reports.

  • "Out of the top 100-grossing movies, 40 films had women in central roles as either the main character or the co-lead ... an increase of eight films from the previous year and 20 movies from 2007. It is the highest percentage of female-driven films in 12 years."