California’s Bullet Train Gets Yet Another Price Hike

California High-Speed Rail Authority

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Buckle your seat belts for yet another big surprise. This one is for Californians:

The estimated cost of building 119 miles of bullet train track in the Central Valley has jumped to $10.6 billion, an increase of $2.8 billion from the current budget….The new estimate was presented Tuesday by Roy Hill, who leads the main consulting firm on the project, WSP (formerly Parson Brinckerhoff). Hill said the cost increases were mainly driven by problems including higher costs for land acquisition, issues in relocated utility systems, the need for safety barriers where the bullet trains would operate near freight lines and demands by stakeholders for mitigation of myriad issues.

“The worst case scenario has happened,” Hill said bluntly.

Uh huh. The “worst case” scenario. Except that pretty much everyone who’s ever looked at this project figured this would happen. My guess is that this is nothing close to worst case.

I also wouldn’t assume that this is the last cost increase we’ll see on the bullet train. Still, it’s a 36 percent hike, which is plenty. And keep in mind that the Central Valley segment is by far the easiest segment to build. The current cost estimate for all of Phase 1 is about $65 billion, and this will go up by $23 billion if we see a 36 percent increase across the board. We’ll be at $100 billion before you know it.

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Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

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