California High-Speed Rail
The California High-Speed Rail (HSR) project carried a $40 billion price tag when first approved by voters in 2008. Eight years later, the government authority running the project estimated it will cost $64 billion. A revised business plan issued in March 2018 upped the cost to $77 billion and pushed the project back five years to 2033.
As outlined in the “Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century,” the HSR project will build approximately 800 miles of track up and down the state, connecting together most of the state’s large cities with up to 24 different stations.
Phase 1 promises a 2-hour and 40-minute ride between San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal and Los Angeles’ Union Station.
The project is expected to open in legs. The first, connecting San Jose to the Central Valley, is scheduled to begin passenger service in 2025. The second leg – expected to open in 2029 – will build out tracks from San Jose to San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal, including a Peninsula stop in Millbrae; and south from Bakersfield to Anaheim, with stops in Palmdale, Downtown Los Angeles, and at Burbank Airport.
The proposed timeline on the later extensions of the project aren’t as definite, but the state plans to add a 110-mile Sacramento extension, connecting to Modesto and Stockton on its way, and a 167-mile segment that snakes east from Los Angeles through the San Gabriel Valley to the Inland Empire, and eventually down south to San Diego.
The High-Speed Rail Authority officially broke ground on the project in Fresno in 2015. Since then, construction crews have been working on a 119-mile segment of track in the Central Valley. Recently the rail authority reported $1.7 billion in cost overruns on the Central Valley segment.
As a measure to reduce project costs, the rail authority says it may abandon plans to build multi-million-dollar safety barriers near freight train tracks to prevent crashes and reduce the train’s speed in urban areas instead.
The California Legislature’s Audit Committee recently voted unanimously to audit the HSR Authority’s budget and expenditures.
Angelica Obioha, Infrastructure-Info Staff
Los Angeles Times » Buried beneath Fresno were some costly surprises for the California bullet train authority, which disclosed Tuesday that the price of utility relocations along a 29-mile section of railway has surged from a 2013 estimate of $69 million to $396 million. The California High-Speed Rail Authority board on Friday took up the problem, hearing from its staff that the original estimate contained a number of miscalculations.
The Associated Press / Santa Cruz Sentinel » The Federal Railroad Administration has awarded $3.5 billion in grants for a high-speed rail line in California, and the US Department of Transportation plans to audit the project. Costs have increased since the project was first announced, and the California authority behind the rail line says it will cooperate with the audit.
Progressive Railroading » The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General has agreed to an audit of California’s high-speed rail project, U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) announced yesterday. The office agreed to action after Denham requested in December 2017 that it look into the project’s “continued cost overruns” and a timeline that has grown over the years.
Houston Chronicle » High-speed rail executives asked skeptical lawmakers Monday to provide more stable, long-term funding for the bullet train in the face of ballooning costs. It’s supposed to be up and running between San Francisco and Los Angeles by 2033. Lawmakers and analysts questioned whether the project can realistically be finished.
Curbed SF » California’s high-speed rail project is facing years of delays and tens of billions of dollars in cost overruns, with the worst case scenarios approaching $100 billion, however, support for the project remains virtually unchanged since voters approved it ten years ago, according to a poll released last week by the non-profit research group the Public Policy Institute of California.