Is there ever any positive news about the bullet train?

April 4, 2013

By Chris Reed

train_wreck_num_2Is there ever any hard, legit good news about the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s plan to build a state bullet-train network?

The stories last week about the U.S. Government Accountability Office depicting CHSRA’s ridership estimates as reasonable were only positive if you ignored all the GAO commentary about the unlikelihood of the full bullet-train network being built.

Now comes the San Jose Mercury-News with yet another batch of bullet-train bad news:

“While much of the squabbling over California’s high-speed rail project has focused on its huge construction price tag, the cost to taxpayers just to plan the bullet train is also soaring.

“California rail leaders said Tuesday it will cost an extra $97 million in office and field work to design the rail line, which has famously seen its construction cost double to $69 billion since voters approved it five years ago. The extra state and federal funds set aside for planning will wind up in the pockets of private consulting firms, including some that earn billions of dollars in annual revenue.

“Rail officials say much of the latest increase is because of delays to the project’s aggressive timeline and the need to study alternative plans aimed at appeasing concerns of communities along the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles rail corridor.

“For instance, the California High-Speed Rail Authority board Thursday is set to approve an extra $38 million for mega-firm URS to work on clearing state and federal bureaucratic hurdles required before construction can begin in the Central Valley this summer. That $158 million effort dates back six years and was supposed to be done by now, but has been delayed because residents between Fresno and Bakersfield have asked the state to study different locations to lay tracks, a time-consuming and costly endeavor.

“Rail officials say the new pre-construction planning budget of $878 million, while an increase of 12 percent, is still within the limit approved by voters in 2008.”

So here’s the challenge to the Robert Cruickshanks of California: Where are the stories that will make the voters who backed Prop 1A in 2008 think they did the right thing? Where are the stories that will make those voters think that California providing $9.95 billion in bond seed money made any sense?

Bob? Bob? Bob?


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