The California High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors announced on Wednesday that they approved the continued construction of the network into both Merced and Bakersfield.
Originally estimated to cost $33 billion in 2008, costs of the high speed rail system have ballooned to $98 billion, then were cut to $68 billion, and now are back at $113 billion. Completion dates have also been continuously delayed, with the original goal of having the system go from San Francisco to Los Angeles by 2028 to well into the 2030’s for a partial completion. Despite numerous setbacks, and more Californians calling the plans into question, construction on the Bakersfield to Merced leg have continued on for the last several years, with overall support for the program still just above 50% in the state.
That, along with recent infusions of federal funding, led to the announcements of continued construction on Wednesday. This includes the $41 million, 33.9 mile section of the Merced to Madera extension design contract and the $44.9 million, 18.5 miles Shafter to Bakersfield leg design contract.
“Taken together, these contracts bolster the Authority’s effort to have high-speed trains operating in the heart of California by the end of the decade,” said Authority Chairman Tom Richards. “These contracts demonstrate our ability to leverage lessons learned from past contracts, increase project readiness and prepare for continued progress on this transformative project.”
In addition, environmental work finalization for the San Francisco to San Jose leg is expected to wrap up on Thursday, potentially leading to continued construction further North in the future.
“It’s good that California is really starting to get a leg up on construction, but compared to other programs, California is just taking too long and costing too much for many,” noted German passenger railroad consultant Horst Bauer to the Globe on Wednesday. “The High Speed rail team there really needs to set a hard budget celling and a hard end date. They have delayed too much and kept moving the budget line too high. And that’s if they want to keep it at the current support level. And that’s not even going into if people will actually ride it and even more infrastructure connecting airports to rail and public transit terminals.”
“The feeling in the industry is that they still won’t be able to do this or give everything they promised. And right now we don’t even have any train testing or a completed viable stretch. After 14 years. You can see why so many people in the state don’t want this. Do you know how long it took to build the transcontinental railroad, from first construction? Six years. And it was much longer and first started when the American Civil War was still happening. German electrical upgrading? Only a matter of years. Same with France and Japan. But in California they are so far behind every other major project. These approvals today are encouraging for supporters, but there is still just so much more to do. And you can be sure costs will go up again, as well as the completion date being moved again.”
More announcements from the California High-Speed Rail Authority are expected later this year.
- San Francisco Begins Issuing More Concealed Carry Permits Following 2022 Supreme Court Ruling - February 1, 2023
- New Bill To Repeal Prop. 47, Lower Felony Theft Threshold of $950 to $400 - January 31, 2023
- Bill To Increase Media and State Official Access To Prisons Introduced - January 31, 2023