The price for the project to build a bullet train system in California spiked on Friday when the rail authority in the state announced the cost for connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco is expected to be over $77.3 billion and could be as much as $98.1 billion, which is an increase of more than $13 billion from an estimate released in 2016.
The state’s rail authority said as well that the earliest trains would be able to operate with a partial system between Bakersfield and San Francisco was 2029 or four years later than previously projected. The complete system is not scheduled to start operations until 2033.
These disclosures were part of a business plan of 114 pages that on Friday had a draft form issued by officials prior to a public hearing as well as formal submission in approximately 60 days to the Legislature.
These new estimates force the leaders of California to work more on the financial and political commitments if they want the system completed, knowing there are rising costs, delays lasting years, strident litigation as well as backlashes from communities where businesses, farms, homes and environmental preserves must give up land to the right-of-way of the rail.
The previous business plan of the rail authority showed that it had only enough money on hand to construct the initial operating system which could carry rail passengers as well as generate revenues, which potentially would attract some private investors as a way to finance the completion of the system.
The new plan makes it implicitly clear that the higher costs as well as uncertain funding leave it far short of the critical goal.
The new plan is based upon several uncertainties amongst those that are the most challenging is the cost for tunnels through the mountains in Southern California for about 36 miles, which could cost between $26 billion and $45 billion.
The costs as well as risks could be reduced by the rail authority said one official if there was a greater certainty related to future funding. In a scenario considered best case, the plan projects costs of only $63.2 billion. Officials have repeatedly said that a project of such enormous size and cost cannot be carried out with an approach of pay as you go.
The reaction initially to the new business plan was far from enthusiastic, even from the Democrats who support it as a new way of revolutionizing the transportation in the state while lowering emissions.