High-speed rail crashes into high costs

High-speed rail crashes into high costs


High-speed rail front pageFunding for the high-speed rail project keeps chugging along in Gov. Jerry Brown’s May Revision to his budget proposal for fiscal 2014-15, which begins on July 1. He maintained the same funding request from his January budget, $279,316. That’s still just a fraction of the $10.5 billion in state funding for transportation, up 2.34 percent in the May proposal over the January number.

He continues to expect to use cap-and-trade money to fund the project, something CalWatchdog.com analyzed in an article last month, “Experts question legality of cap-and-trade for high-speed rail.”

Moreover, recent events further have called into question the proposed $68 billion project. 

Another billion

“A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money,” is a saying attributed to Sen. Everett Dirksen, R-Ill., the longtime minority leader in the U.S. Senate.

Well, high-speed rail just cost another billion, according to an May 7 Los Angeles Times story:

“The estimated cost of building a key Central Valley segment of the California bullet train has increased by nearly $1 billion from the original estimate, based on figures in an environmental impact statement approved by the rail agency Wednesday.

“The estimate, prepared for the state by a team led by San Francisco-based engineering firm URS Corp., includes higher costs for tracks, structures, land purchases, signals and electrical systems in a segment that would run from Fresno to Bakersfield.”

That coincides with a Capital Public Radio report last year that the Central Valley has land subsidence issues. That means the land is dropping due to a reduction in the water table.

The change could mean higher construction costs.

Report uncovered

The problems with project are not just about a billion here and there, but how the California High-Speed Rail Authority has been able to obscure the actual cost numbers.

For example, a January Progress Report from the project’s Regional Consultant to the CHSRA surfaced only in April after a public records request by Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design. The report revealed that sub-contractor URS, called a regional consultant (RC), disclosed information on the Fresno-to-Bakersfield Route. On Jan. 22, a teleconference took place between the consultant and the CHSRA’s Project Management Team (PMT). It discussed the consultant’s comments on the final Fresno-to-Bakersfield cost estimate prepared by the CHSRA project management team.

The CHSRA personnel explained that the capital cost estimates developed for the 2012 Business Plan were the costs agreed to by the CHSRA; and that this Business Plan established the budget for the overall high-speed rail program.

URS thought differently, that the 2012 costs have evolved over the past two years and the capital cost estimate should be “re-base-lined.”  The CHSRA’s project management team told URS that no adjustments could be made without formal review to obtain CHSRA acceptance.

URS said its “professional opinion” was that cost increases since the 2012 Business Plan should not be put in a contingency fund. Plus it found additional costs for roadway improvements that it thought should be added to cost estimates.

See the whole report, which Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design obtained through a public records request.

Town halls

Finally, the CHSRA is holding town halls across the state to push citizen support for the project. According to the CHSRA flyer, “This is an opportunity to ask questions and provide comments about alignment alternatives that will be studied as part of the Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS).”

The Town Halls last from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., with a CHSRA presentation at 6:30 p.m.

Coming dates include:

  • Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at the Burbank Holiday Inn at 150 E Angeleno Ave., Burbank, CA 91502
  • Thursday, May 29, 2014 at the Chimbole Cultural Center at 38350 Sierra Highway, Palmdale, CA 93550
  • Thursday, June 5, 2014 at William S. Hart Regional Park at 24151 Newhall Ave., Newhall, CA 91321

Kathy Hamilton is the Ralph Nader of high-speed rail, continually uncovering hidden aspects of the project and revealing them to the public. She especially is concerned about telling local communities how the project affects them. She has written more than 225 articles on high-speed rail and attended hundreds of state and local meetings. She is a board member of the Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail; has testified at government hearings; has provided public testimony and court declarations on public records act requests; has given public testimony; and has provided transcripts for the validation of court cases.














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  1. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 22 May, 2014, 13:04

    The Slow Speed BB-Gun Train (“SS-BB-GT”) is going to exceed $300 billion if it is ever constructed, which I doubt, thankfully.

    Reply this comment
  2. Robert S. Allen
    Robert S. Allen 22 May, 2014, 13:25

    Don’t squander HSR money on Caltrain. Stop HSR instead at San Jose, with easy transfers there to Caltrain, Capitol Corridor, and the planned Silicon Valley BART. Better, safer, more reliable, and far cheaper.

    Later upgrade Amtrak from San Jose to Sacramento, with a transfer station in Oakland at the BART overpass. 6 minutes from Embarcadero with a train every 4 minutes.

    “Safe, Reliable” HSR (per Title to 2008 Prop 1A) must have a totally grade separated, secure trackway. Caltrain has dozens of grade crossings and points of public access.

    Reply this comment
  3. Tesla_x
    Tesla_x 22 May, 2014, 13:33

    How much of the bills being run up are by feinstein’s hubby?


    They’re trying to use AB32 money to pay for it too…

    Do I smell the stink of a Blum/Feinstein *BAILOUT* festering behind her and Brownrot’s support for this illegal boondoggle?

    Reply this comment
    • Bill Gore
      Bill Gore 23 May, 2014, 07:22

      A master stroke by Jeff Morales!

      How better to lock in federal megabucks than by dealing in Difi’s hubby?

      As a ward of the federal state the bullet train will now have true immortality-though of course it will never actually get built.

      Another ‘undead’ federal megaproject: not dead, not alive……

      Reply this comment
    • bob
      bob 24 May, 2014, 21:15

      Yup, Dianne Crimestein and her husband are nothing but criminals.

      Of course, since they write the laws their crimes are perfectly legal and the idiotic sheeple who vote for Crimestein would have it no other way.

      Reply this comment
  4. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 22 May, 2014, 18:58

    It is painful reading the same old same old same old!

    Reply this comment
  5. bob
    bob 24 May, 2014, 21:12

    The idiotic Colliefornia (as Ahnode sez) voters voted for this and for Brownie (and the Brown one will win re-election in a landslide) so now let the Colliefornia voters lie in their own Brown doo-doo.

    Reply this comment
  6. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 26 May, 2014, 00:38

    The train left the station…you betcha….a visionary runs California….short term train blocks are not a concern…the train is for the greater good!

    Reply this comment
  7. Hondo
    Hondo 26 May, 2014, 02:15

    The voters didn’t vote for ‘this’. No one thinks this will ever be finished. The Dems are just squeezing all the tax money they can out of the project before it folds.

    Reply this comment
  8. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 27 May, 2014, 08:00

    Someone told me that Poodles are pretty smart…Like GED grade mentality

    Reply this comment
  9. Tesla_x
    Tesla_x 12 June, 2014, 21:50

    Is the carbon tax really going to bail out feinstein/Blum?
    They sure are pulling out all the stops…even the religious ones? Seriously?
    A moral imperative to bail out DIFI?

    Here it comes!

    Wealth transfer from carbon taxed businesses to DiFi and cronies!

    Reply this comment

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