What do high school dropouts, convicted felons and union apprentices have in common?

They’re all “disadvantaged” workers who — alongside veterans, former foster children and single parents — must account for at least 10 percent of the labor force behind California’s $68 billion high-speed rail project. By 2029, the state’s High-Speed Rail Authority hopes to send commuters hurtling at 200 mph between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The 800-mile system with up to 24 stations will eventually extend to Sacramento and San Diego, but some critics — and even former proponents of the megaproject — are now questioning its viability.

Randal O’Toole, a senior fellow at Cato Institute, a Washington-based think tank, said his biggest concern is not the unconventional workforce demand, but that the electrically-powered train system is really a “political project” aimed at fattening the wallets of well-connected unions, contractors, engineers and associated firms.

Continue reading →