A confidential report obtained by The Times shows that California’s bullet train is seven years behind schedule and may cost taxpayers 50% more than estimated. The report projects that the first 118-mile segment through Central Valley, which was supposed to be the easiest part of the route between L.A. and San Francisco, could cost $9.5 billion to $10 billion, instead of the original $6.4 billion estimate.
The report, produced by the Federal Railroad Administration for “internal use only”, outlines problems with the project: a continued failure to acquire the needed property, significant delays, lags in process invoices for federal grants, and poor environmental planning.
The Federal Railroad Administration tracks the project because it has extended $3.5 billion in two grants. The construction costs in the Central Valley will cost less than the report indicates, claims Jeff Morales, CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. “The point of doing the analysis is to identify the challenges and work through them,” he said, as quoted in The Times. “They are not conclusions and not findings.”
Opponents of the rail project, such as Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), are calling for an oversight hearing in the near future to discuss any further federal funding. “We were repeatedly assured in an August field hearing that construction costs were under control,” he said to The Times. “They continue to reaffirm my belief that this is a huge waste of taxpayer dollars.”
It’s not just the recent Federal Railroad Administration’s risk report. Other recent documents paint a dark picture of California’s rail project. For example, audit reports last year found the rail authority lacks consistent management processes and takes on unnecessary contract risks. Another internal report shows that employees complain about morale and that the turnover is consistently high.
Other reports have shown that the rail authority is having a hard time securing the estimated $64-billion needed to complete the project. The past few greenhouse gas permit auctions have come in lower than expected and the project has received little private funding. If costs end up being higher than estimates, the rail project will find itself in serious trouble.
The rail authority has had a difficult time acquiring the needed land. Last February, the rail authority expected to hand over 100% of the parcels in the Fresno construction segment by June 2018. Now, it’s not expected until 2019.
After five years of trying to buy property and acquire it through eminent domain, the authority only has 75% of the parcels for the 29-mile segment from Madera to Fresno. In the 118-mile Central Valley segment, they have only acquired a little over half.
We will continue to represent property and business owners affected by the high speed rail project, as well as to follow this project as plans evolve. If you think your property or business may be taken for the high speed rail project, you can learn more about your options by giving us a call at (866) EM-DOMAIN.