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Rep. Denham wants reports on high-speed rail cost overruns, delays


U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) yesterday requested access to a series of reports detailing expected delays and cost overruns for California's high-speed rail project.

Prepared by the project's main management contractor Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB), the reports were referenced in a Los Angeles Times article last month and previously were not made available to the public, according to a news release from Denham's office.

The newspaper's article noted that the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) had been briefed on a new cost estimate for the project by PB in October 2013, but had "used a lower cost estimate when it issued its 2014 business plan four months later."

In a letter to PB's Chief Executive Officer Gregory Kelly, Denham asked for the 2013 report cited in the L.A. Times piece, along with a list of individuals who were briefed on that report.

Denham also asked for a 2012 report that PB presented to the authority on the "complexities and seismic realities of tunneling through the Tehachapi Mountains."

"We have long warned that the authority is not being honest with the public about the true costs of constructing high-speed rail in California," Denham wrote in the letter. "It is alarming that the authority’s lead consultant would raise warnings with the authority that would subsequently be hidden from the public."

Following Denham's request, the CHSRA has since released a copy of the 2013 report showing the cost increases, according to the L.A. Times.

Last week, CHSRA Chief Executive Officer Jeff Morales penned a response to the L.A. Times' reporting and noted that the paper's story "gave readers a dramatic but false impression of where our program stands in terms of costs and technical hurdles."

In a letter appearing in the Sacramento Bee, Morales said that the authority's first construction contracts came in hundreds of millions of dollars below estimates. Regarding the complex tunneling work, Morales said that the authority had brought in "some of the world's leading tunneling experts."

"Any infrastructure investment of this size will face risks associated with cost and schedules," Morales wrote. "There will be bumps along the way, for sure, and we will be forthright about the difficulties, but the article stands in stark contrast to the progress we’re making."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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