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California high-speed rail project costs soar to $77 billion

Key cost drivers include increased contingency funding for future risks and "escalation" tied to schedule adjustments.
Photo – California High-Speed Rail Authority


The cost to build California's planned high-speed rail system has soared from $64 billion to $77.3 billion, according to the California High-Speed Rail Authority's (CHRSA) 2018 business plan.

Key cost drivers include increased contingency funding for future risks and "escalation" tied to schedule adjustments, CHSRA officials said in the plan.

The plan also takes into account higher projected costs for building the system's Central Valley segment, which would include complicated tunneling through mountains.

While the Silicon Valley to Central Valley segment is slated for completion in 2029, the entire route from San Francisco to Los Angeles wouldn't be finished until 2033, four years behind schedule, The Mercury News reported.

"This draft plan provides a candid discussion about the challenges we have already faced and challenges we may face — and it outlines a clear strategy to confront and manage them as we work to deliver this transformative project," CHSRA Chief Executive Officer Bryan Kelly wrote in the plan's introduction.

The project's delays and cost increases are "frustrating but inevitable," said Teamsters Rail Conference President Dennis Pierce in a statement after the plan was released.

"To those who complain the project costs too much, that the challenges of building it too great, the question must be asked, 'What is the alternative to addressing the state's growing population and our transportation needs?'" Pierce said.

Officials at Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and Caltrain issued statements in support of CHSRA's business plan, but didn't comment on the cost increases.

The plan includes new strategies to expand electrification of Caltrain's corridor south of San Jose to Gilory, California. Those proposals reflect CHSRA's "longstanding commitment to eventually connecting the state with high-speed rail service in a way that also offers immediate improvements to existing regional rail services, including Caltrain," Caltrain officials said in a press release.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/12/2018