High Speed Rail

Surprise! California's High Speed Rail Breaks Major Promise in New Plan

New route ditches Los Angeles for the Bay Area and potentially violates state law.

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Leaked documents show that the California high speed rail is reversing course—quite literally—and changing construction plans on the first 250-mile stretch of track. The new plan will now connect the Central Valley to the Bay Area—not Los Angeles as originally planned. 

The San Jose Mercury News got their hands on a draft report detailing the route change: 

"In the draft report obtained Wednesday by this newspaper, the authority says it had to change course to keep costs down, in large part because the southern segment will entail expensive tunneling costs through the Tehachapi and San Gabriel mountains. 

Getting even a significant portion of the project built early—by 2025—would help its political survival. And, as the report notes, the Silicon Valley-to-Central Valley line will better position the state to attract private investors, whom Gov. Jerry Brown and supporters of the project hope will pay for part of the cost…"

News of the route change comes in the same week consultants projected a $260 million increase in additional costs for the first 22-mile leg of construction—which amounts to a five percent increase in price for a project that has yet to lay a single foot of track. 

The proposed change may also violate state law. 

California Assemblyman David Hadley (R-South Bay) told local radio station KFI 640 AM that the new route potentially goes against a provision in the high speed rail legislation that says the train must first connect to Los Angeles. He stated the language was added to ensure Southern Californians didn't foot the bill for a train that could very well end up becoming a regional transportation project. 

Hadley is introducing legislation next week that would take a portion of funds away from the high speed rail project based on the new plans to build north. 

The route change is only the latest in a line of broken promises made by the California rail authority. Voters approved the project with a $33 billion price tag—that has since doubled to $68 billion and could go even higher. Construction is already over two years behind schedule and the state has still not disclosed how they plan to raise the $53 billion in additional funds to complete the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco track. 

The sad part is that the problems with the high speed rail project were entirely predictable. As Reason's Scott Shackford wrote last October:

"Don't blame us for this eminently predictable disaster in the making. The Reason Foundation warned all the way back in 2008 that, among other things: cost overruns were likely, state and federal funding would not be sufficient to cover the costs of the project, the state would have to spend more money, and private investors would not be making up the difference. And that's exactly what is happening. Read more of those predictions here."

And while the boondoggle continues to move forward, residents in the Central Valley are getting screwed out of their property for a project that may never be completed. Reason TV recently visited with those who are being affected by the project. You can hear their stories in the video below: