A new, confidential federal report shows that the initial segment of California’s partially federally-funded high speed rail (HSR) project will come in massively over budget and far behind schedule, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The Times obtained the Federal Railroad Administration risk analysis report, which shows projected costs for just the first 118-mile Central Valley section of the “bullet train” will soar to 150 percent — $3.6 billion more, over a previous estimate. It’s the “bridges, viaducts, trenches and track from Merced to Shafter” that could now cost between $9.5 and $10 billion dollars. This section of the project won’t even yet serve the promised dream of a San Francisco to Los Angeles line.
Not only are costs projected to soar, but the segment that was supposed to be complete this year has been projected in the federal report to lag seven years behind schedule with a new projected completion set for 2024.
The Federal Railroad Administration provided California with $3.5 billion between two federal grants for the project. President Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus granted funds to the project; however, if the state fails to meet a September 30 deadline that requires paperwork to be submitted by June 20, the rail authority could lose up to $220 million of those funds.
The federal report that the Times exposed included a host of reasons for the delays, among them, “far-reaching management problems: significant delays in environmental planning, lags in processing invoices for federal grants and continuing failures to acquire needed property.”
The federal report further found that billing invoices took an unacceptable three months to process, and that environmental reviews have been far too slow and getting worse. The rail authority has pushed back on many of the report findings according to the Times report.
Despite past issues with funding this boondoggle, we were repeatedly assured in an August field hearing that construction costs were under control. They continue to reaffirm my belief that this is a huge waste of taxpayer dollars. I will continue to fight against any further federal funding of this project. They can expect an audit and oversight hearing in the near future.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) also released a statement:
This report makes one thing clear: California high-speed rail must be stopped immediately. There have been repeated concerns that this project was a designed failure since day one, and what’s worse, this report underscores a pattern of falsehoods that has misled taxpayers on what this project might actually cost and how much more taxpayers might be on the hook for. The California High-Speed Rail Authority was briefed about this estimate in December, yet decided to keep this report under wraps from California taxpayers and the public. My colleagues and I have been clear-eyed from the start. The train was sold on rosy predictions not grounded in reality, has disrupted the lives and communities of Californians, and remains a money-pit publicity project that we cannot afford. This needs to end now. I urge Governor Brown and his Administration to recognize that the only solution left is to pull the plug on this boondoggle.
Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana