High-speed rail crashes into high costs

by Kathy Hamilton | May 22, 2014 11:23 am


High-speed rail front pageFunding for the high-speed rail project keeps chugging along in Gov. Jerry Brown’s May Revision[1] to his budget proposal for fiscal 2014-15, which begins on July 1. He maintained the same funding request [2]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[3].”

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[4]:

“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[5]. 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[6] 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[7], 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[8], “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:

Kathy Hamilton is the Ralph Nader [9]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[10]; 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.













  1. May Revision: http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/
  2. maintained the same funding request : http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/2014-15/Revised/StateAgencyBudgets/2500/agency.htmlhttp:/www.ebudget.ca.gov/2014-15/Revised/StateAgencyBudgets/2500/agency.html
  3. Experts question legality of cap-and-trade for high-speed rail: http://calwatchdog.com/2014/04/24/experts-question-legality-of-cap-and-trade-for-high-speed-rail/
  4. Los Angeles Times story: http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-bullet-train-costs-20140508-story.html
  5. subsidence issues: http://www.capradio.org/articles/2013/11/20/central-valley-land-sink-issue-for-high-speed-rail,-flood-control,-water-deliveries/
  6. January Progress Report: http://www.calhsr.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/FB-URS-MPR-JAN-2014.pdf
  7. whole report: http://www.calhsr.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/FB-URS-MPR-JAN-2014.pdf
  8. the CHSRA flyer: http://hsr.ca.gov/docs/events/2014_Flyer_Palmdale_LA_Community_Meeting_FINAL_2.pdf
  9. Ralph Nader : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unsafe_at_Any_Speed
  10. Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail: http://www.cc-hsr.org/

Source URL: https://calwatchdog.com/2014/05/22/high-speed-rail-crashes-into-high-costs/