High Speed Rail

California High Speed Rail Faces 50 Percent Cost Overruns

It's costing the train to nowhere a lot to get there.

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California's ongoing "high-speed rail" project connecting Los Angeles with San Francisco continues to run up against the same, recurring problem since voters gave the plan initial bond funding in a 2008 statewide initiative. There's a growing chasm between the promises supporters made to the state's taxpayers—and reality.

In the latest bombshell, a confidential federal report points to cost overruns of at least 50 percent on the easiest, mountain-less leg of this complex infrastructure undertaking. The Federal Railroad Administration analysis, obtained by the Los Angeles Times last week, detailed a variety of other problems within the state's rail administration, as well.

For instance, the project already is at least seven years behind schedule in building the first segment, which connects Merced in the northern part of the San Joaquin Valley to Shafter, a small town just north of Bakersfield in the southern part of the valley. That section was supposed to be completed this year, but isn't slated for completion until 2024.

"The federal document outlines far-reaching management problems: significant delays in environmental planning, lags in processing invoices for federal grants and continuing failures to acquire needed property," according to the Times. Rail officials said the numbers are just projections, but the newspaper described the assessment as "a troubling critique by an agency that has been a stalwart supporter and longtime financier of the nation's largest infrastructure project."

There's a two-fold problem here. The project faces increasing cost overruns—and its supporters continue to rely on funding sources that are far from secure. "In its 2012 draft business plan, the Authority identifies the federal government as by far the largest potential funding source for the program, yet the plan provides few details indicating how the authority expects to secure this money," explained the California State Auditor in a 2012 follow-up report.

That was a problem during the rail-friendly Obama administration, but is uncertain during a Donald Trump administration. Trump has made favorable comments about bullet trains in general, but congressional Republicans generally have been opposed to California's high-speed-rail project. This recent report has caused some of them to step up their criticism—and promise oversight hearings and audits—of what they widely view as a boondoggle.

Rail backers seem to have based their plan on the expectation of federal funding that might never be forthcoming. But that's not the only area where their promises were unrealistic. Former judge and state Sen. Quentin Kopp, the one-time head of the California High-Speed Rail Authority and co-author of the Proposition 1A initiative that brought the project to life, came out against it. "I want to kill this iteration of it because it betrays the representations to the voters in November 2008," he told the Times' Patt Morrison, in a 2013 interview.

A series of lawsuits focused on the disparity between the rail authority's latest iteration of the project and the promises made to voters in 1A in an attempt to do what Kopp suggested and derail the project. To help make a $9.95 billion project palatable to voters, the rail system's backers offered guarantees within the wording of the initiative. The rail system would, for instance, go from L.A. to San Francisco in a nonstop trip taking 2 hours and 40 minutes. There would be no government subsidies for the operation of the system. The measure promised private investment, low fares and optimistic ridership projections. Yet the current plan is unlikely to live up to its core promises.

A Sacramento County Superior Court judge in 2013 blocked the sale of rail bonds because of those disparities, but the decision was later overruled by an appeals court. Last month, rail officials announced the sale of construction bonds to finance the project, while project opponents filed another lawsuit to stop it. That suit argued that a new rail-related law passed last year to allow bond dollars to be spent on track-electrification also violated the terms of Prop. 1A and amounts to unconstitutional initiative revision that requires another vote of the people. There are other legal fights, also.

Rail authorities have made one substantive change after another. In its draft business plan released last year, the rail agency announced the train would first be routed to the San Jose area before heading over the formidable Tehachapi Mountains and into the Los Angeles basin. "The High Speed Rail Authority is desperate and wants to lay as much track as possible so that it becomes more difficult to stop the project," said Board of Equalization Vice President George Runner, at the time.

Meanwhile, the agency's reaction to the Federal Railroad Administration document suggests it is going to keep forging ahead, regardless of costs, in the hopes that a funding source will materialize to complete a project estimated at $64 billion before the latest projected cost overruns. Supporters are counting on revenues from the state's cap-and-trade auctions and state funding to help keep the project moving ahead, but it remains far shy of full funding.

But as the Times' Ralph Vartabedian explained, "(The state) Legislature already has balked at giving the rail authority the ability to borrow against future state revenues, saying it would have to make do with existing allocations. And that was before Gov. Jerry Brown (D) warned… that California's projected 2017-18 budget shows a $1.6-billion deficit."

It's already clear based on the rail authority's own promises that the final project will not resemble the one promised to voters, especially given that the latest plan features a blended route by which bullet trains share tracks with commuter trains in the Los Angeles and San Francisco regions. The courts thus far have approved this disparity between promises and reality, but the increasingly obvious financial disparities might be the hardest ones for rail backers to overcome.

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  1. Is there ever a point where they admit this is a failure? If we get to the point where we just email ourselves somewhere or travel in futurama tubes and this thing still isn’t done, will they admit it’s a fail. And who would they blame? Democrats run California, so what Republican obstruction would they blame?

    1. Legal scholar Cass Sunstein, in his 2009 book Worst-Case Scenarios, coined the term “Goldstein Effect”, described as “the ability to intensify public concern by giving a definite face to the adversary, specifying a human source of the underlying threat.”

      Goldstein will be at fault. He always will be. He’s just too damn useful. If there isn’t a Goldstein, we’ll just have to make one up.

    2. It was never really about building a train; it was about jobs, patronage, and other big govt shenanigans.

      1. This. It’s working exactly as intended.

        1. Progressives have told us over and over and over that the profit motive is evil and what really matters is people. So here they have a “company” with zero incentive for profit and they’re doing exactly what they’ve always said they’d do: shower the money around without any concern about a viable product.

          1. …and everyone is better off. What do you have against all those workmen feeding their families? Would you rather have them on welfare?

      2. Otherwise they would have built one someplace useful like the NE.

  2. The Progressive Left’s ongoing fascination with rail projects – especially rail projects that make little to no goddamned sense – never fails to mystify me.

    1. They don’t give a shit about trains, they care about massive boondoggles with ample opportunities for corruption.

      -jcr

      1. Wait now, you can’t ship anyone to the camps if you don’t have trains.

        They are interested in a working product.

      2. They actually do. The Rick Steves comment below explains it pretty well.

    2. It’s pretty simple. In their view you have millions of Gaia-killing cars crammed bumper to bumper cutting each other off, fueling road rage and gridlock. So after pumping the break pedal, they go home and watch Rick Steve’s videos that show him riding a clean, quiet, roomy train.

    3. With government-run collective transport, they’ll break people of that annoying habit of going where they want to when they want to. How dare people decide for themselves, rather than obeying their betters!

      1. Not too far from the truth. Worst thing to ever happen to the progressive movement in the US was the invention of the automobile which in turn created the Suburb. When the common man escaped the cesspools of corruption they started going against progressive policies. If you look at almost every progressive policy when it comes to transportation, energy and housing heck even healthcare it is to put us back in heavy urban environments. There the political machines they control will allow their little progressive utopias to take shape.

    4. The 1900’s progressives were anti-rail if anything. They fought against the power of the rail companies and created ‘good road” societies to push for more and better roads.

      But todays “progressives” have progressed so far that they are now regressive.

      1. Ah, but those RR companies were evil, profit-making companies which stole land, displaced indians, etc. CHSR is a virtuous government-run outfit. Intentions matter!

    5. All the cool countries have high speed rail. If we don’t have it, we won’t be cool. All the cool countries have universal health care too. You don’t want to be uncool do you?

  3. ” The rail system would, for instance, go from L.A. to San Francisco in a nonstop trip taking 2 hours and 40 minutes. ”

    Flying is already faster and similarly priced, requires very little footprint and is privately funded and run. Why would anyone take a train?

    1. Because proggies love that 200-year-old technology.

    2. Except it will NOT be a non-stop trip. Every podunk town is going to say “why train no stop here?” And they will then play the race card – “train no stop here because blacks/latinos/indians.” And then the so-called HSR will stop every 10-15 miles killing any advantages of speed and time. Also, added costs for additional stations. More energy and wear-and-tear on the trains and rails since slowing down and speeding up wastes energy and causes more stress…

      1. sush you silly don’t let the cat out of the bag.

  4. This might be a stupid question, but why would a report by the federal government about a state public works project paid for with tax dollars be confidential?

    1. Bureaucrats protect their own.

    2. And who decided it should be confidential?

    3. It shouldn’t be. Any intellectual property produced by federal tax dollars and not officially classified as secret is in the public domain.

    4. It’s a team sport.

      You don’t want the other team to get your playbook.

  5. http://www.newsbusters.org/blo…..cred-event

    Fabulous rundown of the slobbering the media did over the 2009 Inauguration.

    1. I don’t like Trump but now I want to retroactively vote for him because of the media and the Democrats.

  6. I will be surprised if this idiotic things cost overrun inst over 100% and never delivers a viable product. After all, it was a project which had as its primary aim the giving of a veneer of legitimacy to the usual wealth redistribution schemes (from the tax payers to the well connected and politician’s campaign coffers) these people are so famous for.

    1. The SF Bay Bridge cost overrun was about 4x or 5x.

    2. To clarify: IIRC, it was a billion or so originally and it is 6 or 7 billion so far.

      1. “Although today’s price tag stands at $6.3 billion, the figure accounts for only salaries and hard materials?things like concrete and steel and cranes. When all is said and done, the new Bay Bridge will wind up costing tax- and toll-payers more than $12 billion?a figure that leaves even the officials in charge “staggered.””
        http://sfpublicpress.org/news/…..ented-cost

        1. Thanks for bringing me down, Sevo.
          *barfs*

    3. I would laugh if I didn’t know that good old Uncle Sugar Daddy is gonna make the rest of the country bail this stupid thing it. Just like how CALPERS is now showing what everyone and their freakin brother knew that their pension funds were underfunded(how California balanced it’s budget). Everyone said their investment projections were insane to the level you did it in the private sector you would go to jail. But Sacramento didn’t listen or didn’t care. Now they are cutting pension benefits and you know as well as I do even the Grand Coward Party will not stand up to the Dems when they trot out some 70 year old retired teacher whose now can’t pay her bills. So they will bail the system out.

  7. It will be done in time to be 10 years late for automated cars.

  8. Damn! Got the Shafter again!

  9. Passing the bond issue made lottery winners of the rail authority. The trailer park is suddenly full of new cars and long lost relatives, and all the money will be spent well ahead of schedule.

  10. Supporters are counting on revenues from the state’s cap-and-trade auctions and state funding to help keep the project moving ahead, but it remains far shy of full funding.

    Oh my God is that delightful. You’re going to beggar your industrial base and hope to pilfer enough money to get your choo-choo project underway. Not built, not even close, just get it moving and hope that funding materializes even as you encourage manufacturers to move out of state. JFC you couldn’t make this shit up.

  11. Back when this was still more in the planning stage, Tim Cavanaugh wrote something here to the effect of, “The Bullet Train is like my 14 year-old son, it’s behind schedule, it’s expensive, and it hasn’t laid a single inch of rail”.

    1. I found the quote:

      “Like many 14-year-olds, the California High-Speed Rail project has cost a lot of money and not laid one inch of rail.”

      https://reason.com/blog/2010/07…..ng-off-the

      I didn’t get the quote exactly right, but, gimmie a break, it was seven years ago.

      1. Wow, a short, pithy comment and a working link. There’s hope for you yet, Shultz.

        1. Up yours!

  12. And the fucking dipshits here in Tampa think Rick Scott killing high speed rail between Tampa and Orlando was a bad thing.

    1. Isn’t it horrifying? An old friend used to spam Facebook with crap like “WE NEED HIGH SPEED REAL NOW!!!11!1”

      1. I more often hear complaints about how reality is too fast as it is. Is your friend a roller-coaster fanatic, by chance?

    2. and a high Speed rail between Tampa and Orlando makes infinitely more sense than one from LA to SF.

      In FLA you are talking about a basically flat 80 mile stretch of sparsely populated stretch of farmland. A relatively small train that only carried a couple hundred people could do 120 mph could make that trip in 40 minutes allowing you to make a round trip in 2 hours allowing travelers to Tampa to easily daytrip up to Disney therefore making Tampa a more desirable vacation destination

      In California you are talking about more than 400 miles of rail stretched across mountains and several urban areas with several other nearby urban areas you probably need to detour to hit which means even more distance and with the added stops resulting in your high speed rail still being significantly slower than just driving.

      There was NEVER an economic case where a high speed rail up the west coast made sense. For the same cost as the rail you could have developed a commercial ground effect lift transport to “fly” up the coastline

      1. My thing on that is let Disney,Universal and the various hotels etc in Orlando and Tampa pay for it. That was a case of Disney trying to get the taxpayers to finance visitors to their parks.

  13. Just put the inauguration on in the background.

    After flipping back and forth, I highly recommend the Fox News feed. Gratuitous close ups of Hillary Clintons facial expressions.

    1. GW Bush has a look on his face like he just crop-dusted Hillary.

    2. Hillary Clinton’s FACE!?
      *barfs*

      1. Is there another part of her body you would prefer?

        1. (starts imagining other parts of her body…passes out)

  14. We see a lot of derp on here but don’t ever think Derp began with the internet. No, Derp is as old as man himself. Let me post what might be the biggest piece of Derp in recorded history. In 1953 Paul Robeson wrote a salute to the recently dead Stalin called “To You Beloved Comrade”. The left has tried hard to put it down the memory hole and pretend Robeson was a civil right hero rather than the fanatical Stalinist he was. It must be read to be believed.

    In all spheres of modern life the influence of Stalin reaches wide and deep. From his last simply written but vastly discerning and comprehensive document, back through the years, his contributions to the science of our world society remain invaluable. One reverently speaks of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin?the shapers of humanity’s richest present and future.

    Yes, through his deep humanity, by his wise understanding, he leaves us a rich and monumental heritage. Most importantly?he has charted the direction of our present and future struggles. He has pointed the way to peace?to friendly co-existence?to the exchange of mutual scientific and cultural contributions?to the end of war and destruction. How consistently, how patiently, he labored for peace and ever increasing abundance, with what deep kindliness and wisdom. He leaves tens of millions all over the earth bowed in heart-aching grief.

    1. But, as he well knew, the struggle continues. So, inspired by his noble example, let us lift our heads slowly but proudly high and march forward in the fight for peace?for a rich and rewarding life for all.

      http://www.marxists.org/refere…..04/x01.htm

      That is just the finish. There is more.

      But in the Soviet Union, Yakuts, Nenetses, Kirgiz, Tadzhiks?had respect and were helped to advance with unbelievable rapidity in this socialist land. No empty promises, such as colored folk continuously hear in the United States, but deeds. For example, the transforming of the desert in Uzbekistan into blooming acres of cotton. And an old friend of mine, Mr. Golden, trained under Carver at Tuskegee, played a prominent role in cotton production. In 1949, I saw his daughter, now grown and in the university?a proud Soviet citizen.

      Today in Korea?in Southeast Asia?in Latin America and the West Indies, in the Middle East?in Africa, one sees tens of millions of long oppressed colonial peoples surging toward freedom. What courage?what sacrifice?what determination never to rest until victory!

    2. And arrayed against them, the combined powers of the so-called Free West, headed by the greedy, profit-hungry, war-minded industrialists and financial barons of our America. The illusion of an “American Century” blinds them for the immediate present to the clear fact that civilization has passed them by?that we now live in a people’s century?that the star shines brightly in the East of Europe and of the world. Colonial peoples today look to the Soviet Socialist Republics. They see how under the great Stalin millions like themselves have found a new life. They see that aided and guided by the example of the Soviet Union, led by their Mao Tse-tung, a new China adds its mighty power to the true and expanding socialist way of life. They see formerly semi-colonial Eastern European nations building new People’s Democracies, based upon the people’s power with the people shaping their own destinies. So much of this progress stems from the magnificent leadership, theoretical and practical, given by their friend Joseph Stalin.

      They have sung?sing now and will sing his praise?in song and story. Slava – slava – slava – Stalin, Glory to Stalin. Forever will his name be honored and beloved in all lands.

    3. the science of our world society

      *bangs head on desk*

    4. He leaves tens of millions all over the earth bowed in heart-aching grief.

      Well, yes, I’d say that’s a proper synopsis of Stalin’s legacy.

    5. A website you might enjoy

      https://usefulstooges.com/

  15. That was a problem during the rail-friendly Obama administration, but is uncertain during a Donald Trump administration.

    Paint it gold, re-name it the Trump Train, give him 10% of gross revenue for the naming rights. Boom, done.

    The looming bankruptcy that sticks everybody else with the bill while you waltz off scot-free is why the mot is juste.

  16. If money is the metric, then this just got 50% more successful. At least according to Elizabeth Warren.

  17. True Detective Season 2 summed this up nicely.

  18. you know it’s terrible if the person who came up with the bad idea in the first place thinks it needs to die. I assume he already got his cut and that’s why, but still, it’s astonishing.

    It’s such an incredibly stupid idea. They probably could’ve built a hi-speed top deck all along the existing Coaster line and still come out ahead of this one segment in nowheresville. Not that I want that either, but jfc, what a joke this is.

  19. “In its 2012 draft business plan, the Authority identifies the federal government as by far the largest potential funding source for the program, yet the plan provides few details indicating how the authority expects to secure this money,”

    I think we all know how they plan on getting that money. Specifically, by hook or crook in backroom deals in Washington. Duh, McFly! They would be stupid to put that down on paper, but it’s obviously the intent.

  20. RE: California High Speed Rail Faces 50 Percent Cost Overruns
    It’s costing the train to nowhere a lot to get there.

    What does Obamacare and California’s high speed rail have in common?
    Both are train wrecks.

  21. Kalifornia – puttin’ the “boo, Dog!” in boondoggle.

  22. We must build this train. Hundreds of people, mostly Europeans will ride it each summer and marvel how anything like this could have ever been built.

  23. Sounds like business as usual for “public” works. Why is anyone surprised or upset over this?

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  25. Cost overruns are frequently the result of politicians feeding at the trough. When this kind of money is being spent, pols at every level get in line to be paid. That is our system.

  26. The left, and all the big government types, hang on to the obsolete as long as they can. It gives meaning to their lives. Just as socialism’s been shown not to work in country after country (think USSR, Cuba, and now Venezuela), so too has high speed rail been a boondoggle throughout the world. So … on we go … because it’s so much fun to spend other people’s money while claiming it for their own good.

  27. Europe has trains. Why can’t we have trains like Europe? I wanna traaaaaaaaiiiiiinnnn!!! And I want it now! Everybody else has trains. I can’t believe we don’t have trains. If I had a train I wouldn’t drive my car, I promise.

  28. Cost overruns on high speed rail? You must be kidding. Seriously, why would anyone be surprised. The stupid idea is being pushed by the bully governor, the worst governor in the US, as a monument to himself. I’m not a Trump fan, but I sure hope he cuts off all federal funding for this stupid debacle. It is a travesty that the democrats in CA haven’t stopped this maniac Gov. Brown from wasting money to cater to the elite rather than spending for real transit improvements that benefit the poor. The idea that Cali-dems care about the poor is a myth.

  29. “The federal document outlines far-reaching management problems: significant delays in environmental planning, lags in processing invoices for federal grants and continuing failures to acquire needed property,” according to the Times. Rail officials said the numbers are just projections, but the newspaper described the assessment as “a troubling critique by an agency that has been a stalwart supporter and longtime financier of the nation’s largest infrastructure project.”

    ????? ???? ????
    ????? ???
    There’s a two-fold problem here. The project faces increasing cost overruns?and its supporters continue to rely on funding sources that are far from secure. “In its 2012 draft business plan, the Authority identifies the federal government as by far the largest potential funding source for the program, yet the plan provides few details indicating how the authority expects to secure this

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