A confidential Federal Railroad Administration risk analysis, obtained by The Times, projects that building bridges, viaducts, trenches and track from Merced to Shafter, just north of Bakersfield, could cost $9.5 billion to $10 billion, compared with the original budget of $6.4 billion.
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.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority originally anticipated completing the Central Valley track by this year, but the federal risk analysis estimates that that won’t happen until 2024, placing the project seven years behind schedule.
The effort to get through environmental reviews also has taken much longer than expected and is getting worse, according to the federal review.
The rail authority has said for at least two years that it would have all of its environmental statements and decisions completed by this year. But the federal review projects that all of the environmental work will not be completed until 2020. Morales attributes some of the delays to other government agencies that must review the rail authority’s plans, but he expects the environmental statements will be completed earlier than the federal risk analysis shows.
Possible delays do not surprise community activists in the San Fernando Valley. David DePinto, an opposition leader in Shadow Hills, has noted that the rail authority is still conducting geological soil investigations in the San Gabriel Mountains to determine the routes for lengthy tunnels that will pass through the range.
The environmental reviews have grown ever more costly, based on an analysis of the rail authority’s documents. The original cost projection, made in a September 2010 grant agreement with the Federal Railroad Administration, put the cost at $388 million. By last August, the authority’s official “funding contribution plan” showed that cost had jumped to $1.03 billion.
The cost increase amounted to 171%.
California's deluded masses voted for this boondoggle back in 2008, despite being warned repeatedly that the cost estimates were flawed, the estimated construction costs were being deliberately understated and the estimated ridership totally bogus.
Even more amusing, the voters believed that the train would operate without further subsidies from taxpayers: the $55 fare from LA to San Francisco would cover the costs, proponents promised. They'll end up, if they're lucky, with a 118 miles of track between Bakersfield to Fresno, where progress will stop: San Francisco residents will never permit a rail line to bisect their expensive neighbors, especially with the required safety measure of a "fifteen-foot wall, topped with barbed wire". Oh, and that $55 fare? It's already up to an estimated $110, years before the train goes operational; if it ever does. Which, add a few zeros, is the same number as the construction cost increase: $55 billion to $110 billion.
So with this track record, how do Californians expect to build the infrastructure necessary to supply the energy currently being supplied by the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which citizens have successfully forced to shut down in 2025? This time is different, proponents claim, without specifying how..
Environmentalists and aggrieved property owners, especially rich ones with power, will never let transmission lines despoil the landscape, so the happy campers in California will soon be in the dark. And that's fine with me, so long as they're all required to stay put, and learn the folly of wishful thinking and feel-good non-solutions.