Bullet Train is Facing Massive Overruns in Costs
The California High Speed Rail Authority unveiled an ambitious plan two years ago to begin operating a segment of bullet train service between San Jose and the Central Valley by 2025. The rail authority assured the public the project would work within its budget. The reality is that the cost of building just 119 miles of rail between Madera and Wasco has increased from about $6 billion to $10.6 billion. In order to build this segment of rail, the rail authority had to siphoning off money that it had planned to allocate to the ultimate goal of connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco. Martin Wachs, a UCLA transportation expert and a member of a peer review panel that oversees the project, stated,
The financial demand for this is so enormous. We should have been more ready for this. The costs always rise and the schedule always slips, but that doesn’t mean the project isn’t justified.
The rail authority named a new chief, longtime government executive and political insider Brian Kelly, who began working this month and faces the task of fixing the rail authority, while restoring the confidence of skeptical officials. The rail authority never publicly discussed the magnitude of its financial problems until WSP, the state’s leading consultant, disclosed the higher costs. The rail authority seems to have bet on too many things to go right during the project that it over estimated the actual cost and timeline it would take to complete the project. Political experts, passenger rail advocates and officials close to the project presume it will eventually be built as separate segments in the north, center and south that could remain separated indefinitely. Governor Jerry Brown, the Legislature, and the next governor will have to decide whether to create new revenue sources, dramatically delay the train’s construction, or scale it back from a complete 550-mile system. We might have to wait and see how the bullet train project progresses over the next year or so to actually grasp the severity of its setbacks.