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Thursday, July 7, 2022

$5.3 billion: San Jose to San Francisco high-speed rail costs more than 200%

Plagued by years of lack of funding and rising costs, California’s beleaguered high-speed rail project suffered another unexpected blow this month in a new report that more than tripled cost estimates for the San Francisco-to-San Jose section. A staggering $5.3 billion.

The new price tag is part of a report that completes a year-long environmental clearance process for a 48-mile corridor that will carry bullet trains down the peninsula on electrified Caltrain tracks at 110 mph and eventually south. Will take you to California. It outlines three stops, a controversial rail yard in Brisbane, and funds allocated for everything from protecting monarch butterflies to restoring benth-flowering fiddlec habitat.

But the environmental document released last week also includes a new price tag for the recommended route through the peninsula that is more than three times the figure entered in the High-Speed ​​Rail Authority’s 2022 business plan.

These eye-opening budget revisions are partly due to inflation, real estate costs and supply chain woes affecting megaprojects across the country. But they also underscore the shaky grip that the High-Speed ​​Rail Authority has on cost estimates for the embattled rail project, an approach that has already morphed into one of California’s most expensive and controversial undertakings. .

Brian Kelly, CEO of the High-Speed ​​Rail Authority, said the agency is bound by cost estimates because without funding they are unable to prepare budgets on an accurate schedule.

Kelly said, “I don’t think it’s fair to ask us ‘Gee, what’s your estimate of the cost of getting somewhere’ when no one is providing us with the money to get there.” “It puts us in a position to guess forever.”

Even with dramatically higher cost figures, the San Jose-to-San Francisco link is relatively cheaper and less disruptive than other areas of the project because it relies on existing Caltrain tracks and stations. Unlike the line connecting the Central Valley to Silicon Valley, it does not involve any major tunnel boring operations.

Louis Thompson, head of a state-mandated peer review group, said some of the projections in the budget blueprint are out of date, like the ones lawmakers are bargaining with the government. Gavin Newsom is at odds over whether or not to commit to ending the remaining $4.2 billion in voter-approved funding for the construction of the Central Valley segment of the rail line from Bakersfield to Merced, often referred to as the “Train to Nowhere”.

“It has no official update [budget] The numbers are due by 2023,” Thompson said. “So what is the legislature buying?”

When voters flagged off the project in 2008, they were promised a two-hour and 40-minute ride from Los Angeles to San Francisco with connections to Sacramento and San Diego at a cost of $45 billion. The estimated price tag has more than doubled since then.

The 2022 business plan — approved in April for San Jose without increased costs for San Francisco — is already tackling an additional $13 billion, bringing high-end costs for the entire project up to $113 billion. In an interview, HSR’s CEO Kelly said it could go up to $120 billion.

The Bay Area segment will include stops at three expanded CalTrain stations – Diridon, Millbray, and Fourth in San Jose and King in San Francisco. Eventually railroad officials expect the line to continue to the Salesforce Transit Center. The project will straighten tracks, improve safety at road crossings and modify at least eight Caltrain stations to make way for bullet trains along the Caltrain corridor.

Still, high-speed rail in the Bay Area must overcome opposition from peninsula cities that are already threatening litigation. They say a bullet train shuns critically needed new housing development in favor of a rail project that may never come.

“It is like a two-year-old with a train set. Just build your train set from point A to point B,” said Brisbane city manager Clayton Holstein, who is looking to build housing on land desired by the High-Speed ​​Rail Authority. “From my point of view, they are in a silo. “

A train through the Bay Area is unlikely to begin operations in the next decade. The authority only has the funds to build the 119-mile Central Valley Link at a cost of $23.9 billion. Even that section, championed by Governor Gavin Newsom as an important testing ground for high-speed rail, is likely to need a new source of money.

“They potentially have money to do Merced to Bakersfield,” said Helen Kerstein, a high-speed rail expert in the nonpartisan legislative analyst’s office. “There’s certainly a risk that additional funding may be needed to do that piece.”

The biggest source of high-speed rail funding is currently revenue from California’s cap and trade program, which forces companies to buy greenhouse gas credits based on how much they pollute.

Now the rail authority is turning to Washington in the hope that President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill will give new financial momentum to the struggling rail project. But unlike some East Coast train plans, there is no dedicated funding for transit projects across the country as well, leaving California’s mega-rail blueprint for high-speed rail to compete for dollars.

“If you were trying to get the same mobility benefits with freeway and airport expansion, it’s still a lot less expensive,” said HSR chief Kelly. “So it’s still a deal and still worth doing.”

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Deskhttps://worldnationnews.com/
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