California's Bullet Train Cost Down to $64B

Construction began last year on the first 29-mile leg in the Central Valley, more than two years behind schedule.

📅   Fri February 19, 2016 - West Edition


The 2014 business plan said the first 520-mile phase linking the San Francisco Bay Area to greater Los Angeles would be finished in 2028.
The 2014 business plan said the first 520-mile phase linking the San Francisco Bay Area to greater Los Angeles would be finished in 2028.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - Officials overseeing California's high-speed rail project are lowering the projected cost to $64 billion, from the previous $68 billion estimate, and will opt to build the first 250 miles of track between San Jose and the Bakersfield area rather than south to Burbank, according to a newspaper report.

A preliminary copy of the California High-Speed Rail Authority's 2016 business plan also said the service could be operating in less than a decade, marking a win for the San Francisco Bay Area, the San Jose Mercury News reported Wednesday (http://bayareane.ws/1OhiYaM).

Lisa Marie Alley, a spokeswoman for the rail agency, declined to comment Wednesday evening.

The cost reduction and rerouting were forecast earlier this month by rail board Chairman Dan Richard, who told a legislative hearing that the cost projection would likely decline but the timeline for completing the project would likely be extended when the authority released its updated business plan, required every two years.

The newspaper's report did not indicate an overall timeline for the project completion.

The 2014 business plan said the first 520-mile phase linking the San Francisco Bay Area to greater Los Angeles would be finished in 2028, but construction has been beset by delays in acquiring land needed for the first segment in the Central Valley and by slow-going environmental approvals.

Voters authorized selling nearly $10 billion in bonds for the rail project in 2008. Construction began last year on the first 29-mile leg in the Central Valley, more than two years behind schedule.

An independent review group tasked with overseeing the rail agency's planning has said no one really knows how much the bullet train will end up costing.

The Legislature approved the first long-term funding source for high-speed rail in the 2014-15 budget, giving it a quarter of funds from fees charged to polluters. The deal reached with Gov. Jerry Brown, who supports the project, also called for officials to speed up construction in Southern California to appease lawmakers from the Los Angeles area.