High costs plague embattled high-speed rail

Despite a major shift in its construction strategy, newly anticipated budget overruns hit California’s beleaguered high-speed rail project, as citizens and lawmakers mounted fresh challenges to the scheme.

“California High-Speed Rail Authority employees are warning of possible cost overruns on the first segment of the bullet train, not long after construction began,” according to the Associated Press. “Finance officials told rail board members Tuesday that the project could need another $150 million for the first 29-mile segment near Fresno. In all, that could push contingency costs $260 million higher than the board already has approved for the entire first section.”

The news marked another frustration and potential embarrassment for rail officials, who had recently upended their years-long plan to begin construction in Southern California. Belatedly discovering that tunneling the train’s way into and out of Los Angeles could grind progress to a virtual halt, they quickly pivoted to a plan that would start laying the train’s path in and around Silicon Valley.

Shifting gears

“The Caltrain commute line between Gilroy and San Francisco is poised to get an early infusion of cash to help pay for its $1.7 billion conversion to electric power,” the San Francisco Chronicle noted. “That conversion is essential for high-speed rail. Plus, the South Bay, Peninsula and San Francisco constitute a huge potential market for bullet trains. A promise of early Bay Area service could build political support for the overall system and attract private investment that is badly needed to build out the $68 billion rail line.”

Yet state officials announced that the Silicon Valley starting point would enable them to connect travelers with the Central Valley for less than the original $68 billion. “In an updated draft plan for the rail line that will whisk passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in under three hours by 2029, the California High-Speed Rail Authority revised downward the cost of the entire line, to $64.1 billion from nearly $68 billion,” Reuters observed. The new budget anticipates nearly $3 billion “in additional funding from the federal government,” with San Jose linking up to Kern County “by 2025.”

Legal challenges

Even the altered scheme has returned the rail authority to familiar territory: court. On the heels of “more than a dozen” lawsuits, the Los Angeles Times reported, officials found themselves once again under legal attack: “The California bullet train project violates state law because it is not financially viable, will operate slower than promised and has compromised its design by using existing shared tracks in the Bay Area, attorneys for Kings County and two Central Valley farmers argued. The lawsuit asserts that the state’s plans for the Los Angeles to San Francisco high-speed rail link violate restrictions placed on the project under the $9-billion bond act that voters approved in 2008.”

“The suit asks to halt funding for construction and land acquisition, allowing spending only to develop an alternative plan. A ruling is supposed to be issued within 90 days. Judge Michael Kenny had asked the attorneys to focus on five technical questions revolving around the state’s compliance with the bond act.”

The lawsuit echoed doubts raised recently by Assemblyman David Hadley, R-South Bay. Hadley “told local radio station KFI 640 AM that the new route potentially goes against a provision in the high-speed rail legislation that says the train must first connect to Los Angeles,” according to Reason. “He stated the language was added to ensure Southern Californians didn’t foot the bill for a train that could very well end up becoming a regional transportation project. Hadley is introducing legislation next week that would take a portion of funds away from the high-speed rail project based on the new plans to build north,” the magazine added.

17 comments

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  1. Dude
    Dude 20 February, 2016, 07:27

    This boondoggle should never have been started in the first place. It was always just a pot of gold that Moonbeam was offering up to the unions that are determined to suck us dry. Setting the union feeding trough aside, why would anyone want a train that travels north/east when the vast number of Californians do an east / west commute to work? Moonbeam wants to waste $70,000,000,000 ++ of our money to pay for his ego trip and bolster his credentials for his run for president.

    Reply this comment
  2. Dawn Urbanek
    Dawn Urbanek 20 February, 2016, 07:30

    The California Constitution states that “from all state revenues there shall FIRST be set apart the monies to be applied by the State for support of the public school system…” Cal. Const. art. XVI, §8. (Emphasis added)

    So how does the Governor have the right to deny sufficient funding for my child to receive a basic education so that he can build a train?

    The State’s new funding law limits K-12 Public funding to 2007-08 levels + inflation. In 2007-08 STate Tax revenues were $103 billion – today they are $123 billion.

    I think if voters were asked if they wanted to change the State’s spending priorities from Education to A train- the overwhelming majority would say no. TO add insult to injury the train is now going to be a regional commuter train serving only the bay area. Why should I as a tax payer have to pay for a regional commuter rail when I have to fundraise for art, music, science and I have to float a new bond to fix aging facilities! This is so unfair to our students. No wonder California is now in the bottom 10% of the nation. See SLide presentation: FUndraising for COre Educational Programs :http://www.slideshare.net/DawnUrbanek/fundraising-for-core-educational-programs

    Reply this comment
    • Mark
      Mark 20 February, 2016, 11:11

      Umm…because this was funded by a dedicated state bonds, not general funds? Do your homework.

      Reply this comment
      • Dawn Urbanek
        Dawn Urbanek 20 February, 2016, 14:01

        That is not true- facilities were funded by bonds- Per pupil funding comes out of the General Fund and our district has had flat funding of $7,500 per year for what will be 14 years by 2021. The State Average per pupil funding is $9,500 and the National Average is $11,500. Because we are a “wealthy” district we are being intentionally underfunded because the State knows we will make up the difference with fundraisers, donations and bonds – Don’t believe me- you should read the following- Federal Complaint Count 7 http://www.peopleforstudentrights.com/index.php/complaint/count-7

        Reply this comment
  3. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 20 February, 2016, 09:30

    Pleeding.

    I love the Choo Choo.

    Love your visionary rulers….accept tech realities.

    The masses must be dispersed to barren lands, for cheap land and labor are our last hopes in a competitive world.

    Reply this comment
    • ricky65
      ricky65 20 February, 2016, 15:42

      Just as even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while, Uly has possibly stumbled unto the truth by accident.
      Interesting that the emphasis of building the Brown Streak has now shifted to building the SJ- Bakersfield leg first.
      I’m wondering if the Green Gentry and Tech oligarchs that control the Dem party in the Bay area now realize the problem they have created. Could it be possible they might have directed their sock puppet, Jerry Brown to change course.
      Their restrictive anti growth, deconstructionist policies these people have advocated over the decades has driven the cost of housing through the roof. As a result, the oligarchs have a pressing for gardeners, pool cleaners, nannies and assorted low paid serfs to tend their mansions and run their factories. Unfortunately, these poor folks can longer afford to live in the area.
      The BS train would provide a perfect way to run these rif-raf (in their view) into Silicon Valley during the day to work and then get them back out of sight and home quickly to their ghettos and hovels in the poverty stricken southern San Joaquin valley by night.
      It’s perfect fix for perpetuating the state with highest poverty rates in the nation without the oligarchs having to put up with these scum walking about their tony neighborhoods.
      And after all, the richy South Coast has their Surfliner train into San Diego.
      Now Northern California would have their own ‘Serf’liner also!

      Reply this comment
      • Dawn Urbanek
        Dawn Urbanek 20 February, 2016, 15:53

        My child should not be denied a basic education to pay for that.And that is exactly what is going on. Let them pay for their own regional mass transit.

        Reply this comment
      • DavidfromLosGatos
        DavidfromLosGatos 21 February, 2016, 08:21

        “Serf’liner” – Well done. A perfect name for the train …

        Reply this comment
  4. David Wiltsee
    David Wiltsee 20 February, 2016, 10:32

    It’s the old game of sunk cost at this point. HSRA just wants to get something built before Brown leaves office, in hopes of the next Governor’s support for the two remaing segments (north from San Jose to San Francisco, south from Bakersfield to LA). Unless those two segments can be built in fairly rapid succession, the system will not have any origin-destination pairings capable of sustaining operations, much less producing revenues to construct remaining stretches. At that point, if not before, the whole program will collapse.

    Reply this comment
  5. StopYerBellyaching
    StopYerBellyaching 20 February, 2016, 12:35

    Of course important public infrastructure that should have been built in the 70s at the latest will cost a King’s ransom in our new century. But we gotta do it. Now is as good time as any. Stop the benefits to illegal aliens and we’ll build it plus save money. Not a PC concept is it? No, but it actually makes sense.

    Reply this comment
    • Dawn Urbanek
      Dawn Urbanek 20 February, 2016, 14:07

      I agree- stope new programs and entitlements for people who entered this country illegally and stop the high speed rail – that is an unnecessary infrastructure project and keep your promise to our kids.

      Reply this comment
  6. JPR11
    JPR11 20 February, 2016, 16:48

    Where is the justification for what will be a $100B project. Just look at the Bay Bridge project. It was originally estimated at $2B and 3 years to complete. when finally finished it came in at $10B and 10 years. It was also stated it would be self supporting. Just another lie. Come on! Just use an airplane for quicker and cheaper travel.

    Reply this comment
  7. desmond
    desmond 21 February, 2016, 02:02

    1st, the new Bay Bridge is a structural disaster. It should be called the Willie and Jerry Brown bridge, so they can be linked in this disaster.
    2-nd Shouldn t the front of the HSR car in the lead be shaped like Phallus like cranium of Jerry Brown? Another way to memorialize a man who is a really big Dick. It would also be a nice way to honor the gay population. There must be a tunnel for HSR to be built that could be designed to look like an asshole, ” Scott Weiner Lane”.

    Reply this comment
  8. DavidfromLosGatos
    DavidfromLosGatos 21 February, 2016, 08:26

    “Scott Weiner Lane” …

    Reminds me of the “I’d bottom for Hilary” campaign …

    http://bottomforhillary.com/

    Reply this comment
  9. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 21 February, 2016, 08:38

    Uly has been telling truths about the beloved choo choo for many many moons. Civilization will devovle to Calcutta level without diverse transporation uses and population /labor dispersion to cheap accessible lands…..

    Yes….the tech slavers and plutocrats will exploit labor, but throw the working poor some future or YOU best hope Mother Thersea’s nuns set up shop fast in choking urban areas….

    Reply this comment
  10. desmond
    desmond 21 February, 2016, 09:11

    Perhaps it would be better to put a glass enclosure in the front of HSR and place the carcass (when he goes off to Hades) of the Governor Dick in it, like Lenin’s tomb. Brown has embraced totalitarian rule to fight changing weather. A common sense tribute to
    pompous phallic headed ruler.

    Reply this comment

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