Costs balloon for California's high-speed rail Nov 2011
Paula Wallis, TunnelTalk
- A revised business plan puts the cost of building California's high-speed rail line from San Francisco to Los Angeles at about $98.5 billion, almost three times the initial $34 billion estimate of 2008.
California's high-speed rail route
- The California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) released the plan Tuesday, November 1, 2011. During a news conference, members of the Authority described the plan as "reasonable", "transparent" and "honest".
- The plan also noted that the project could cost $19 billion more depending on the route selected and construction features adopted.
- Along with the new price tag comes a new plan that would build the system in stages, pushing the completion date of Phase 1 out to 2033.
- Thomas Umberg, Chairman of the Authority, defended the plan as the best option for moving the state's population, which is expected to grow from 38 million to 60 million by mid-century.
- "We do not have many choices," said Umber. "We can do nothing and bury our heads in the sand, we can build more freeways and airports, or we can do something visionary that transforms California's transportation infrastructure."
- An extension of the timeline for Phase 1 completion from 2020 to 2033, and using an estimated 3% annual inflation rate to calculate costs over time, are cited as the source of some of the cost increases.
- Political reaction to the new plan was mixed. State Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg (Democrat) of Sacramento said: "The revised business plan may be a shock, but it is a tough and honest assessment of the challenges ahead if we are to build a functioning high speed rail system in California. While we have to assess the plan carefully, I remain supportive of a project that could be the single biggest job creator California has seen in decades, with some 100,000 jobs in the immediate future."
Vision of a high-speed rail station
- Governor Jerry Brown and Senator Nancy Pelosi issued statements of support, but Senate Republican Leader Bob Dutton called the new plan a "boondoggle that needs to be derailed".
- In 2008 California voters approved $9 billion for the project but critics say this is no longer the $34 billion project that voters approved. State Senator Doug LaMalfa (Republican) said he would introduce legislation to give voters a chance to withdraw previously approved funding.
- Meanwhile, at its meeting yesterday (Thursday, November 3), the CHSRA formally requested a multi-billion dollar appropriation to start construction next year.
- It adopted a funding plan that includes $3.3 billion in federal grants and $2.7 billion in state bonds, to begin building the initial 130-mile segment from Chowchilla to Bakersfield in the rural Central Valley. According to the CHSRA if the federal funds are not used by 2017, the State will lose the money. To meet the deadline construction has to start by October 2012. The federal funds also mandate that construction begins in the Central Valley, far from major urban centers.
- Approval of the appropriation request now goes to the Governor and then to the Legislature, where it will face intense scrutiny.
- California calls for high-speed rail collaborators - TunnelTalk, Feb 2011
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