With the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSR) announcing another four-year delay in building the first link of its system, the cost for California’s ultimate boondoggle may increase by another $15 billion, to $79 billion.
Despite the CHSR promising just four months ago that it would be able to lay the first 119 miles of track across the easiest-to-build Central Valley plain by 2018, completion of the initial stretch will now be delayed until 2222, marking the fifth delay in the last seven years.
The “Draft 2016 CHSR Business Plan” released on May 1 does not make any mention of further project construction delays. But the plan miraculously projects that costs will fall from $67.6 to $64.2 billion, despite adding $2.1 billion in spending to “enhance service levels in the vital Los Angeles to Anaheim segment.”
Politico reported that “State and federal officials downplayed the shift in the timetable, saying it partly reflected more ambitious plans for the Central Valley work, and in any case merely ratified construction realities on the ground.”
But real estate construction finance expert Bruce Lawrance told Breitbart News that conservative estimates for the compounded annual rise in construction costs are between 5.5 and 7.5 percent. Therefore, a four delay at the minimum construction inflation rate of 5.5 percent will drive the total cost of the project to $79.3 billion — over $15 billion more.
Although CHSR still claims it will soon offer “More relaxing and more productive trips between San Francisco and Los Angeles in less than three hours,” the authority in February announced that it had adopted a “blended implementation strategy in urban areas where appropriate and consistent with mandated performance goals.”
Although CHSR continues to promise 220 mile-per-hour speeds on its own tracks, the “blended strategy” means that CHSR trains will run from Silicon Valley to San Francisco on the 40-year-old aging BART commuter rail tracks. According to BART’s official website, performance speeds on its track is “80 mph maximum; 33 mph average.”
Blended tracks will add at least an hour to the not-so-bullet-train trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The slowdown will mean traveling on CHSR will take over twice the time as flying.
Despite the bad news about construction delays and longer trip times, Jeff Morales, CEO of CHSR, told Politico:
“Early on, there was a vision, but no clear sense of how to implement that vision.” Morales added that CHSR is picking up the pace after a “painfully slow start.” He mentioned that there are now half a dozen construction crews “building overpasses, relocating utilities, and demolishing structures from north of Fresno down to the Bakersfield area.”
But with the Authority having purchased less than half the Central Valley right-of-way land it needs before laying the first section of track, construction time and costs seem destined to escalate.