Cost for California bullet train rises to 773 billion
The California bullet train project took a sharp jump in price Friday when the state rail authority announced the cost of connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco would total $77.3 billion, an increase of $13 billion from estimates two years ago.
The rail authority also said that the earliest trains could operate on a partial system between San Jose and the farming town of Wasco would be 2029, five years later than the previous projection. The disclosures are contained in a 114-page business plan that was issued in draft form by the rail authority and will be finalized this summer in a submission to the Legislature.
The rail authority has wrestled with a more than $40-billion funding gap, which would increase sharply under the new cost estimates.
The biggest immediate driver of the cost increase has been in the Central Valley, where the rail authority is building 119 miles of track between Wasco and Merced. The authority disclosed in early February that the cost of that work would jump to $10.6 billion from an original estimate of about $6 billion. Roy Hill, one of the senior consultants advising the state, told the rail authority board, "The worst-case scenario has happened."
In its 2014 business plan, the rail authority optimistically projected that it could begin carrying passengers in just seven years. But the warning signs of uncontrolled cost growth had already started mounting then, even though until this year the rail authority has vehemently denied that it was facing a problem.
The project began having trouble buying property for the route almost immediately after it issued its first construction contract in 2013.
Lawsuits were filed by counties, water agencies, farm bureaus and cities, alleging that the project had not fairly estimated the impacts to their communities. Although the litigation did not stop the project, it caused delays and sharply drove up costs. In 2010, the rail authority estimated it would cost $388 million to conduct environmental reviews along the route from San Francisco to Los Angeles. By last year, that cost had jumped to more than $1 billion.Read More...