Price of California bullet train continues to spike


Calling it the "worst-case scenario," a representative from the consulting firm overseeing California's massive bullet train project is reporting that costs have surged by $2.8 billion. This news is causing massive political and economic headaches all over the Golden State.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority, which oversees the work, presented a proposition to voters in 2008 that was approved to fund the ambitious railway. Proposition 1A, as it was then called, featured a $9 billion bond to finance the work.

Given the scope of the high-speed train concept, some observers expected the price tag to increase. However, the huge surge in expenses this early caught many by surprise.

The primary purpose of the bullet train has been to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco by rail in well under three hours. The intent of the first phase is to initially connect Bakersfield to San Jose in 2025 with five additional stops between the two cities within the Central Valley. Then, in 2029, a stretch in southern California would open that would include stations in Los Angeles and Anaheim, while a northern stretch would reach San Francisco.

The second phase, to be completed in the future, would include additional stretches to connect Sacramento and San Diego to the main line. There are also side projects in the works to link the bullet train to Las Vegas.

In terms of maximum speed, these trains could reach 220 miles per hour along some parts of the network.

However, much of the optimism associated with the California bullet train has for the moment mostly vanished. The preliminary work within the Central Valley has been plagued with unforeseen costs associated with acquiring the necessary land, moving utility systems in the way to other locations, and constructing safety barriers.

It is possible that the rail authority will need to request additional funds through the California state legislature. This is probably not welcome news to Golden State politicians who have advocated for and supported the project up to this point.

Any problems related to the high-speed rail construction could be weaponized from a political perspective. There are statewide and legislative elections this year, including for the governor's seat.

Given that there have been watchdog groups and outside regulatory agencies warning voters and politicians alike that the project could get out of control, supporters of the bullet train could get labeled as incompetent for not seeing the cost spike coming.



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