What to Expect in the New High-Speed Rail Business Plan

Courtesy of the California High-Speed Rail Authority

Before the business plan for California's bullet train could be unveiled Tuesday morning, major newspapers managed to obtain leaks showing high-speed rail costs are expected to be soar over initial projections and be late coming into the station.

The cost of the state's high-speed rail project in now estimated to nearly $100 billion, and a full system serving Southern California-to-Bay Area not be operating until least 2033, reported the Sacramento Bee.

If the price tag doesn't isn't enough for rail opponents, the fact the train is now expected to arrive 13 years after the first estimated completion date will.

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Accounting for inflation, the new business plan carries a price tag of $98.5 billion; double the estimate of $42.6 billion from two years ago, just less than three times the estimated $33.6 billion voters were told when they approved the project. The state will still be burdened with the remaining 90 percent of the funds needed to complete the system.

The high price tag is considerably lower than the estimated $170 billion that will be needed for new infrastructure, like freeways and airport runways, needed to handle the state's blossoming population, according to the Associated Press. "And that $170 billion cost is just for construction," explained Robert Cruickshank at the California High Speed Rail Blog, which follows progress and critically looks at coverage of the project. "We know that freeways do not generate a profit. They are massively subsidized, and the cost to use them is soaring."

The altered figures come from the final business plan to be unveiled Tuesday morning by the California High-Speed Rail Authority, which hopes to begin construction next year, plus gain approval from the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown for appropriations from a bond issue that would build a $6.3-billion segment from Fresno to Bakersfield, reported the Los Angeles Times.

"Everyone knew (the cost) was going to be higher because they're in this process now of actually designing the project," said Rod Diridon to the Mercury News. The former board member for the authority told the outlet "It's just a matter of time" for them to find the money.

Gov. Brown has is expected to endorse the long-awaited plan, beating the federal deadline to begin construction in 2012.

"This is us telling it like it is to the public -- no sugar-coating, no baloney," said Dan Richard to the Sacramento Bee. Richard is one of two appointees Gov. Jerry Brown made to the California High-Speed Rail Authority this year.

Cost cutting measures, alternate routes through the Grapevine, and costs soaring from the Central Valley route are some of the topics heavily debated in the time leading up to today's reveal. The business plan will be presented to the public during a news conference at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento.

About the Author

Ed Fuentes is an arts journalist, photographer, graphic designer, and digital muralist who covers a variety of topics and geographies in Southern California for KCET.
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