January 20, 2017

Huge cost overruns in California high speed rail

Learning from the inefficiencies, lack of adequate service and cost of the DC Metro, the Review has been a long time supporter of more rational transit approaches such as dedicated bus lanes and regularly rather than high speed rail. Here's more evidence:

Reason -  Clifornia's ongoing "high-speed rail" project connecting Los Angeles with San Francisco continues to run up against the same, recurring problem since voters gave the plan initial bond funding in a 2008 statewide initiative. There's a growing chasm between the promises supporters made to the state's taxpayers—and reality.

In the latest bombshell, a confidential federal report points to cost overruns of at least 50 percent on the easiest, mountain-less leg of this complex infrastructure undertaking. The Federal Railroad Administration analysis, obtained by the Los Angeles Times last week, detailed a variety of other problems within the state's rail administration, as well.

For instance, the project already is at least seven years behind schedule in building the first segment, which connects Merced in the northern part of the San Joaquin Valley to Shafter, a small town just north of Bakersfield in the southern part of the valley. That section was supposed to be completed this year, but isn't slated for completion until 2024.

"The federal document outlines far-reaching management problems: significant delays in environmental planning, lags in processing invoices for federal grants and continuing failures to acquire needed property," according to the Times. Rail officials said the numbers are just projections, but the newspaper described the assessment as "a troubling critique by an agency that has been a stalwart supporter and longtime financier of the nation's largest infrastructure project."

There's a two-fold problem here. The project faces increasing cost overruns—and its supporters continue to rely on funding sources that are far from secure. "In its 2012 draft business plan, the Authority identifies the federal government as by far the largest potential funding source for the program, yet the plan provides few details indicating how the authority expects to secure this money," explained the California State Auditor in a 2012 follow-up report.

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