13.5-mile tunnel could exhaust bullet train budget


Credit: CA High Speed Rail Authority

(Credit: CA High Speed Rail Authority)

The bullet train to nowhere continues to be a major money suck, and is not at all what is was when voters fell for it.

Analysis from the L.A. Times found that the cost to construct a 13.5-mile tunnel could exhaust the $5.5 billion budget for the entire 54-mile segment from Gilroy to Chowchilla.

The cost of the tunnel could be anywhere from $5.6 billion to $14.4 billion because of the high cost of boring through tricky geology and areas that are seismically active.

Trains would run through the tunnels at top speed via a long and straight route beneath the Diablo mountain range.

William Ibbs, a UC Berkeley civil engineer, told the Times:

“This is not good news for taxpayers of California. Tunnels are expensive.”

Of course the engineers at the California High-Speed Rail Authority aren't too worried. Chief Engineer Scott Jarvis said:

“We don’t see any problem."

The authority says that it's too early to have its own cost estimate because it hasn't done enough engineering analysis and geological investigation. But they are in the ballpark range, and it's one big ballpark.

If costs continue to grow out of control, it could ruin plans to build the initial operating segment from San Jose to the Central Valley.

And unless the state can demonstrate a financially successful starter system, the private sector will not invest the money to complete the rest of the line to Los Angeles.

This project is one big fat joke.

Money is stretched thin, and the rail authority has $21 billion to build the starter system. The funds include the following:

  • $6.8 billion from a 2008 bond
  • $3.2 billion in federal grants
  • $5.3 billion from California’s greenhouse gas fees through 2024
  • $5.2 billion from bonds issued against greenhouse gas fees after 2024

Ralph Vartabedian has been doing a great job covering the Browndoggle for the L.A. Times. Click here to read his latest article on this massive money pit.


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