High Speed Rail

Throw Another $1.7 Billion in the California Bullet Train Money Pit

The first leg is already seeing massive cost overruns. Imagine its future.


bullet train

The very first, very incomplete section of track for the California high-speed rail boondoggle is running nearly $2 billion over budget and is now projected to cost $8 billion, 27 percent more than original estimates.

Ralph Vartabedian of the Los Angeles Times has been documenting the skyrocketing costs of the program, warning it's going to be wildly over its $64 billion budget. This comes as not surprise to the project's critics, who have been warning all along that costs were underestimated and benefits exaggerated. He reports:

Officials have disputed outside estimates that indicate the project's price tag is growing — including one in December by the Federal Railroad Administration that cited a cost of $9.5 billion to $10 billion. In 2015, the authority's main consultant, WSP, also had said in an internal assessment that costs were rising.

The overruns raise a serious possibility: If the reasons for the Central Valley increase also affect other parts of the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco project, then it could drive up the price for the entire $64-billion system by billions of dollars.

Critics long have forecast that the final tab could top $100 billion. But supporters of the bullet train — the nation's largest infrastructure project — reject those assertions, saying the rail line will become a cornerstone of the state's transportation system and that such cost increases should be taken in stride.

No, a high-speed train will not become a cornerstone of transportation in California unless it bans cars (heaven knows, Gov. Jerry Brown would eventually try if his term weren't ending in a year). It will instead require heavy state subsidies in order to operate, unless they massively jack up the price of tickets (currently estimated at $86 to travel the completed length, from San Francisco to Los Angeles).

The ballot initiative authorizing the building of the train does not permit subsidies, so that might be a bit of a challenge.

But nobody can say they were not warned. The man behind the initial ballot initiative to authorize the rail's construction, Quentin Kopp, realized the project had turned into a massive scam and financial boondoggle. He's been suing to try to halt its construction. Watch ReasonTV's recent interview with him below:

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  1. Well, it would have been nice to know this was a possibility before we started this project.

    1. What can you do? Nobody could have foreseen this.

      Who is Bob Poole.

  2. “…the price of tickets (currently estimated at $86 to travel the completed length, from San Francisco to Los Angeles).”

    By the time they actually finish the thing (if they ever do) $86 probably wouldn’t be enough to buy a pack of gum.

  3. I imagine they spent at least 1 billion on that sweet mock-image.

  4. “Bullet” train?

    Stop triggering me!

  5. Are there really that many people in LA pining to get to San Francisco or vice versa? It’s a 6 hour drive, but according to Google maps, the traffic seems pretty manageable until you deal with the urban traffic on both ends.

    1. Also, a quick check on Expedia shows me that a flight on JetBlue is 44 dollars from LA to SF.

      1. Ha! Half the cost! It’s literally impossible for me to understand how these people think.

        1. I have one data point, on a randomly selected day though. So I don’t know what the average is.

        2. If, IF, the train were in place, the speed were as promised, and the train terminals were somewhat convenient, double the price to avoid the hassle of air travel might be worth it. Especially in these days of “we don’t have to give a shit about you, you’re just the passangers” air service.

          But the train isn’t in place, the speed is going to be secerely limited by the use of existing track, and the terminals will doubtless be almost as overrun by TSA goons as air terminals.

          For pushing this idiocy, Jerry Brown should be jailed for fraud.

    2. It’s heavily traveled, but Southwest offers dozens of flights a day, if you count all the area airports. Currently $134 one way.

      1. And it’s a 7-hour drive.

    3. They could have spent a fraction of the money to add some goddamned passing lanes to Highway 5 through the Central Valley. But, oh no, that would not be progressive because it would benefit people who drive evil automobiles (i.e. virtually everybody who lives in California).

    4. Not many, 3 hours is too long for a commute, and there are fewer and fewer reasons to visit LA now that its simply turning into part of mexico. I’d rather fly to Disney world than visit Disney slumland these days. Everything about Hollywood is becoming distinctly second rate, there is no longer glamour, just politically opinionated hacks and molesters. The left have no idea how much damage they’ve done to themselves.

      So, basically its going to be a 60-100 billion dollar boondoggle so people who are afraid to fly can visit Disneyland, I hope it breaks California, because at this point, only a complete disaster will cause a correction in behavior.

  6. The problem is, now that so much money has been wasted on a pork project like this, it becomes increasingly difficult to pull back. The inertia of all that money becomes a blackhole pulling more money… Can’t stop now after all these billions…. It will be in the trillions by the time it is finished, mark my words. Just in time for the massive San Andreas earthquake to finish it off.

    1. Sunk costs, how do they work?

    2. There is zero possibility of the project finishing. To finish, track would have to be laid through several of the most NIMBYriffic, lawyered-up neighborhoods in the state.

      Never mind that the folks in those neighborhoods voted the measure in in the first place. They didn’t think the words of the ballot measure, which said clearly it must run through their neighborhoods, had to be taken literally.

    3. If a massive quake devastates your prestige infrastructure project, thus saving you from charges of corruption and fraud, you aren’t a redneck. You’re a California Democrat.

  7. The ballot initiative authorizing the building of the train does not permit subsidies, so that might be a bit of a challenge.

    I love that dry wit. “Might be a bit of a challenge” for government to do precisely what it’s forbidden to do.

    1. No, it’s a perfectly sensible phrasing.

      Remember that Nevada had a state constitutional amendment requiring a supermajority in the legislature in order to raise taxes. The state supreme court decided the rule didn’t apply if the governor and legislature refused to pass a budget that didn’t include a tax increase.

  8. Why not do suborbital flights? Would be cheaper.

    1. Hyperloop will be ready before this 90 mph “bullet” train.

  9. But the bondholders are paying for it! — California initiative voters

  10. This is one of the myriad reasons I’m leaving this state in the spring.

  11. This is my shocked face.

  12. It’s time to convert the work into sustainable C.H.U.D. housing.

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