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California Bullet Train: Now 5 Years Later and $13 Billion More Expensive

In news that should come as no surprise to students of government infrastructure boondoggles, this week the California High Speed Rail Authority admits that California's long-planned bullet train system will cost $77.3 billion, which is $13 billion more than they thought it would a couple of years ago. Proving that with government work you can have it neither cheap nor fast, the earliest any major part of the system might be fully operational is now 2029, not 2024, with the major San Francisco to Anaheim line not on target til 2033.

CHSRACHSRA

This is far from the first time earlier rosy estimates of cost and completion on this project were proven grossly overoptimistic. You can't say Reason didn't warn you. And warn you. And warn you.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, "Roy Hill, one of the senior consultants advising the state, told the rail authority board, 'The worst-case scenario has happened'" in terms of costs to build through California's central valley. As those following all that past reporting at Reason already knew, "the warning signs of uncontrolled cost growth had already started mounting...even though until this year the rail authority has vehemently denied that it was facing a problem."

Turns out grabbing property and moving existing infrastructure to make way for the bullet train is really difficult and expensive. How it will be paid for is also a problem, as this latest "disclosure about the higher costs comes nearly a decade after voters approved a $9-billion bond to build a bullet train system. The original idea was that the federal government would pay about a third of what was then an estimated $33-billion project, with private investors covering another third."

As the San Jose Mercury News reports, "transportation planners assumed the project would be funded with a mix of federal, state and private dollars, each portion contributing roughly one-third. So far, the private funding hasn't materialized, but officials hope that investment will come once the first segment starts running and passengers begin riding the new train between the Central Valley and San Jose."

Even the federal money is iffy, as the bullet boondoggle "faces staunch opposition from California Republicans, who sent a letter last year asking the Trump administration to block funding for Caltrain electrification because it plans to share its tracks with the bullet train."

Photo Credit: CHSRA

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  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    California Bullet Train: Now 5 Years Later and $13 Billion More Expensive

    It's not a failure if you're the one pocketing the $13 Billion.

  • SQRLSY One||

    In Soviet California, the pubic transport turns YOU into pube steaks!

  • Glen Hilts||

    OMG. lol. just lol.

    Well, not really I guess since I don't live in California I should feel some sympathy for the poor folks that voted for this boondoggle.

  • Longtobefree||

    Why should you feel sympathy? They voted the damn bonds, not you.

  • CE||

    That's because California voters think the bond buyers are paying for them.

  • Libertarian||

    This is so true. I still remember newly elected Gov Schwarzenegger saying he wanted a new bond issue in order to pay off the debt.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Iss dis da same Schwartzenegger who did da commoicial for Atlas Shrugged?

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    True. OTOH, they voted the bond issue on the basis of a pack of lies. The project they were sold had unrealistic specs (it will actually reach top speed only for very short stretches, on newly built tracks), absurd ridership estimates, and general pie-in-the-sky assumptions. Yes, they SHOULD have known better, but tye cold facts are that most people do not derive the sour amusement I get by following politics, and so lack the background. The Press is dominated by poltroons and fools who never met an extravagant Progressive project they didn't like.

    That flushing sound you hear is California's economy going downthe khazi, amd the horrible rattling noise is the High Speed Train getting jammed in the pipes so the toilet will overflow.

  • Mr. Jwpvysig, Jr.||

    This will be a legitimate failure if there's not ultimately a trillion dollars of graft to pass around.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    So with bullet trains, cost is the shoulder thingy that goes up?

  • Raoul Duke||

    That's only on the full semi automatic trains.

  • creech||

    Well this whole bullet train project sure is an assault weapon against the taxpayers.

  • Aresen||

    I am wondering if my estimate of $200 billion is going to be low.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    If you have to wonder, the answer is yes.

  • NYC2AZ||

    $450 billion. Go big or go to a property taxed, eminent domained home.

  • Sevo||

    "...The original idea was that the federal government would pay about a third of what was then an estimated $33-billion project, with private investors covering another third."

    Pretty sure these were the guys offering that bridge sometime back. Private investors are lined up, oh, zero deep to get in on this deal!

  • Longtobefree||

    Let's see - - -
    33 million; the feds put up a third, the investors put up a third, the bonds are for 9 billion, right?
    11 + 11 + 9 = 31. Wait a minute!
    I guess we needed a 100% tax on the first 2 billion Hollywood earned that year?

    On a related note; how can ANY politician in California possible support a BULLET train after what happened in that school??!!

    Secede already, and take Hawaii with you.

  • CE||

    9 billion is now 11.6 percent of the 77.3 billion projected total.

    Which isn't the "worst case scenario" -- it's just the updated projection. It's going to cost a lot more by 2033.

  • Longtobefree||

    Worst case scenario is when they find out there isn't going to be any water on the train - - - - - -

  • I'm Not Sure||

    Or straws.

  • CE||

    ...investment will come once the first segment starts running and passengers begin riding the new train between the Central Valley and San Jose.

    Can't you just get fresh tomatoes at Costco instead?

  • Rockabilly||

    Another Comrade Moonbeam success !!!

    Alert Central Committee for a $1B Celebration.

    Bring out the dancing girls

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rba9Z0CcWwQ

  • Eidde||

    Any excuse will do.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Take off and nuke it from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

  • Jerryskids||

    "Roy Hill, one of the senior consultants advising the state, told the rail authority board, 'The worst-case scenario has happened'" in terms of costs to build through California's central valley.

    Hill is the head of the consultancy firm overseeing this boondoggle - IOW, one of the pigs with his snout deepest in the trough - so I'm not so sure his remark wasn't meant to be something more like "well, at least we've gotten the worst of this behind us". The guy is either an idiot or a liar if he thinks a few billion more wasted dollars is "the worst-case scenario".

  • Eidde||

    OT - important if true

    "A Republican U.S. senator says that Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote who has decided many pivotal cases on the Supreme Court, will retire this summer.

    "Audio of Nevada's Dean Heller speaking at a recent event in Las Vegas obtained by Politicoshowed his view that the departure of the justice would be a boost for his reelection campaign this fall....

    "Kennedy, who has written historic decisions such as the one that allowed gay marriage nationwide, has not commented publicly about the report."

  • ||

    Even if it were built on time, and on budget (hahahaha) it would still serve no purpose at all. Airlines have it covered faster and cheaper.

  • dinkster||

    Even publicly funded projects like hyper loop are better than this. It's not DOA just because of the . gov aspect,. It also because of the dated tech. Try harder or give up.

  • Mark22||

    Love the color scheme: to anybody who knows biology, it screams "danger! poison! will kill you!"

  • Chumby||

    Why not a bullet train chunnel? It would cost more and take even longer.

  • Hugo S. Cunningham||

    San Francisco to Honolulu?

  • cc2||

    Another article on this site documented that a guy in san fran can't get permits to build a house on his own lot for several years now. Cali is the state where NIMBY was invented, or at least perfected. A train must cross the land of many people who will not be happy about it and will sue. It will never be built but the money will be spent.

  • Sevo||

    "It will never be built but the money will be spent."
    This is a moonbeam project; he and the unions support it, and no one else does.
    You have to understand that moonbeam sees himself as the savior of the planet; Gore is not nearly as dedicated to that end as is moonbeam.
    And then we have to remember moonbeam is a failed Jesuit; he tried and failed at becoming a priest and ever since has had a closet full of hair shirts which all mankind should wear as we all sin......
    Plus the son of a bitch signed the Dills Act which guaranteed CA would be awash in un-funded retirement benefits until will after he gets his ass removed from office.
    One more point: The asshole has been in or around the office of political power since the mid '70s, when CA had a drought quite similar to what we had recently. Since that time, the population of CA has doubled, and that pathetic piece of shit has waved his hair shirt regarding how we should deal with it, and has done not one thing to increase CA's water storage capability.
    Fuck him with Tony's dick.

  • Sevo||

    BTW, I just want to make sure it's clear that I don't like the guy.

  • Hamster of Doom||

    We already knew that.

    How you doing, Sevo? I can't see an avocado or almond without thinking of your plight in occupied territory.

  • Sevo||

    "How you doing, Sevo?"
    Staying under the the tax collector's radar, and the state/city gov'ts have yet to ruin the visuals (or the food).
    Thanks for asking HoD; how's by you?

  • hurts_donut||

    He should just do what people in the central valley do. Build it and keep his mouth shut.

  • hurts_donut||

    I can throw a rock and hit 5 structures the local mafia doesn't have papers on.

  • Robespierre Josef Stalin Pot||

    Eh, even at that price tag the total cost is 1/11th What we spend per year on the defense budget. Plus, people who work on building railroads somehow don't need someone else to validate their job like members of the military do. What is with that, anyway?

    I say we build it. You know, because it'll be yet another thing libertarians point to when it's completed for which they'll say, well, of course,government should have built that!

    You guys do that a lot.

  • Hamster of Doom||

    Eh, even at that price tag the total cost is 1/11th What we spend per year on the defense budget.

    An infinitesimal portion of commuter transport from one city to another very close city cost almost one-tenth of the defense of the entire 3000-mile wide nation?

    I implore you to not make me prove that this is unreasonable. With pretty pleases and many battings of eyes. Because it won't end well for anyone. Math is not that hard. If nothing else, it must be recognizable that the monies spent could have gone to better purposes.

    If Russia were blowing huge monies without taking care of their poors, we'd be incensed and rightly so. I mean, hey, Cali has a massive poverty and homelessness crisis, but at least Elon Musk found funding to shoot a Tesla to Mars. Or the asteroid belt. Whatever. Close enough for government funding without helping a single poor person! Funny, how often these deals work out like that.

    If Moscow were cutting corners to the poor in order to fund a high-speed rail to Sochi, we would be on the same side, AmSoc. Ergo, I expect us to be on the same side here as well. Principles, not principals. Do you know how many poor people we could help with almost 80 Billion dollars? Twelve, at minimum!*

  • Hamster of Doom||

    * Regulations. Our poors can have only the best, which means they can generally have nothing at all. Funny, how often that works out. So funny. It's as if things that give more power to the status quo decrease power from social undesirables. I bet that's unintentional. A pure happy accident.

    I mean, c'mon. Let's assume that at some point you must have something in common with the (rest of) the readers here, else you wouldn't be posting here, because we have no common grounds. BUT, if we DO have some common grounds, then we can find a way to work toward our common goals. The first obstacle would be recognizing that we have common goals.

    Or we can just bitch at each other incessantly That's an option too, I'm merely doubting that it's an efficient option.

    Possibly fun, and somewhat over-sexualized, but I am game for a laugh if you want to tussle about this. *rowr*

  • Sevo||

    "Eh, even at that price tag the total cost is 1/11th What we spend per year on the defense budget."

    Commie dimwit:
    "Hey, look over THERE!"
    Go pay your mortgage, asshole.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    "Go pay your mortgage, asshole."

    Why would he have a mortgage on his mother's basement?

  • Elias Fakaname||

    AmSoc, you desperately need to commit suicide. No Marxist has a right to exist.

  • Heddin_South||

    CHSR wouldn't nearly be in this pickle if they hadn't insisted on their east valley alignment going through every podunk town, family farm, and old nests of infrastructure from Los Banos to Bakersfield. To get to L.A. fast and cheap, go along I-5. Use I-5 right-of-way, even. I won't even get into the mess they created by insisting on San Jose/peninsula instead of Altamont Pass, or the whole foolish plan to build up to Tehachapi before figuring out how to get to the other side of the mountain, but it all illustrates that they've chosen the dumbest leadership government money can buy.

  • Libertarian||

    "Use I-5 right-of-way,"

    Absolutely. But even the dummies here in Florida realized their plan for a train route along the I-4 and turnpike corridors STILL wasn't feasible.

  • Libertarian||

    "Use I-5 right-of-way,"

    Absolutely. But even the dummies here in Florida realized their plan for a train route along the I-4 and turnpike corridors STILL wasn't feasible.

  • Libertarian||

    It just can't be said often enough.

  • Libertarian||

    " . . .private funding hasn't materialized, but officials hope that investment will come once the first segment starts running and passengers begin riding the new train between the Central Valley and San Jose."

    They don't believe this at all. They're just planning that they'll be retired and forgotten by the time the ridership numbers are about 15% of what they are projecting.

    By the way, my quick and dirty math shows that if there are 25,000 riders per day, seven days per week, and they've purchased tickets at $280 each, they'll be able to pay off the $77.3 billion in only 30 years. That assumes of course, that maintenance and labor ferries show up every night and take care of operating expenses.

  • creech||

    Only $280? Wow, and to think I can get ---according to Orbitz --- a mid-day flight between San Francisco and L.A. for only $53 on Monday.

  • Hank Phillips||

    That is ballpark the rate they were trying to charge passengers on a Berlin-Munich bullet train that took only slightly longer than wood-burning locomotive to make the run. Oh! The Econazi German outfit that named a train Martin Luther tried to name one after Anne Frank...

  • Hank Phillips||

    That is ballpark the rate they were trying to charge passengers on a Berlin-Munich bullet train that took only slightly longer than wood-burning locomotive to make the run. Oh! The Econazi German outfit that named a train Martin Luther tried to name one after Anne Frank...

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    I can get an Acela ticket from NYC to Boston for $117 each way.

    With Orbitz, I can get that trip by air for $67 with a 30 day advance ticket each way.

  • chemjeff||

    Hey all, I found some test footage of the California bullet train!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBhQhKWOZmk

  • Elias Fakaname||

    My first guess was footage from the Simoson's Classic monorail episode. This works too.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Picky, picky, picky... First you wanted to privatize the means of production, now you wanna privatize the means of transportation?

  • damikesc||

    I'm shocked it's only that much more expensive. I expected multiples of that.

    Oh, that's right. It's that much more AND IT HAS NOT REALLY EVEN STARTED BEING BUILT YET.

    God willing, this will drive the state into utter poverty.

    "Roy Hill, one of the senior consultants advising the state, told the rail authority board, 'The worst-case scenario has happened'"

    If he truly believes this, Roy Hill might be the dumbest consultant in history. Or one who just REALLY likes padding his bank account and will lie to gullible idiots.

  • Jayburd||

    For that kind of money we could build each resident a flying car.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    That current regulations would prevent them from ever using. How many of those people do you think could qualify for pilot's licenses?

  • Jayburd||

    It takes an expert economist to project graft and corruption out that far. They must be borrowing climate models.

  • Stevecsd||

    Fifteen years ago I & other members of the San Diego Libertarian party said this boondoggle would cost $100 billion. They are getting close. I expect by the time it is all built it will be over the $100 billion mark.

    Just think of the Big Dig in Boston.

  • Sevo||

    Moonbeam's other 'legacy' project, but on the grand opening, he found he had to 'spend time with the family':
    "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/2009-12
    /unparalleled-bridge-unprecedented-cost

  • libertynugget||

    If and when it ever gets done, it will give people an $80 Billion dollar opportunity to post selfies of them taking the train on facebook for about a month or two to fulfill the ever growing need to virtue signal how awesome they are. Then they'll go back to their cars (but they're hybrids!?!?!?) and the homeless will have a place to sleep and piss.
    See Atlanta Street Car.
    I hate being so cynical.

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