The cost of California's bullet train continues to grow beyond initial estimates. According to a new study from a consulting firm that manages the project, the first phase of the 119-mile segment for California's high speed rail line increased by 35 percent to nearly $11 billion dollars. That brings the total cost of the route from San Francisco to Los Angeles to around $67 billion.
That's a cost-overrun of $2.8 billion just for the first 119 miles of track. Officials say they want the high speed train running between Los Angeles and San Francisco by 2029.
Roy Hill, who leads the consulting firm WSP, says costs increases can be blamed on higher than expected costs for land acquisition, issues relocating utility systems and building new safety barriers where the bullet train would operate. At a monthly rail authority meeting held regularly, Hill warned the board about the potential for the increased costs.
“The worst-case scenario has happened,” Hill told the group.
The increase in costs means the California Rail Authority will likely need to go back to the legislature to ask for more money from bonds approved by the voters in 2008. That would keep things on track for now, but it would deplete funds needed for construction for the next phase.
Experts say officials with the California Rail Authority have ignored warnings over increased costs for years. Many say the group is unprepared and have vastly underestimated the problems inherent in purchasing land for the rail, obtaining permits and environmental approvals.
Meanwhile, the High-Speed Rail Authority announced they have named former secretary of the California Transportation Agency Brian Kelly as its new chief executive.
“Brian Kelly is a proven problem-solver and the leading expert on California’s transportation sector. He has been a dynamic Transportation Secretary, leading strategic approaches to modernize the state’s passenger and freight rail systems, and effectively dealing with natural disaster impacts on roads, bridges and highways,” said Chairman Dan Richard. “Brian has been a keen advocate for the development of high-speed rail as a core component of California’s future transportation networks. As a respected leader and skilled manager he will provide the right leadership as the project moves into the delivery and commercialization phase.”