Bloomberg News

California Rail Cost Soars to $98.5 Billion Under New Plan

November 07, 2011

Nov. 1 (Bloomberg) -- California’s planned high-speed rail line between San Francisco and the Los Angeles area will cost $98.5 billion, more than twice the previous estimate, and take an additional 13 years to complete, according to a revised business plan.

Construction will begin next year on a 130-mile “spine” through the Central Valley that will take five years to finish, according to the plan released today by the California High- Speed Rail Authority at a news conference in Sacramento, the state’s capital. The authority had estimated a cost of $43 billion and duration through 2020.

The plan “represents a departure from past efforts of the authority,” Dan Richard, an authority board member, said at the event. “In many ways, it responds to public criticisms of the high-speed rail program and we have taken those to heart and listened and reevaluated the program.”

California is the only state working to build tracks for 220 mile-per-hour trains, making the project central to President Barack Obama’s plan to speed up the U.S. rail system. The state has received $3.5 billion in U.S. funds for the project and had said it would need $17 billion to $19 billion. A U.S. Senate committee has approved a bill to cut 99 percent of high-speed rail funds Obama requested for 2012.

The high-speed train system would initially span 520 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles through California’s Central Valley, a trip that would take an estimated two hours and 40 minutes.

Bond Sales

In 2008, California voters approved a ballot measure allowing the state to issue $9.95 billion in bonds toward the project.

So far, the state has sold $501.3 million of general- obligation bonds, including $91.2 million from a sale completed Oct. 19, said Tom Dresslar, spokesman for state Treasurer Bill Lockyer. The state will continue to sell bonds at the request of Governor Jerry Brown’s administration, Dresslar said.

“Their decisions are based on project needs and the administration’s priorities,” he said in an e-mail.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has applied proceeds of bond sales so far to preliminary engineering and environmental review work along the line.

California has committed, but not yet sold, an additional $2.6 billion in bonds to match the $3.5 billion in U.S. funding for the project, said Rachel Wall, spokeswoman for the rail authority.

The state will need to start selling those bonds next year to pay for the first phase of construction, through the agricultural San Joaquin Valley, Wall said. U.S. Representative Dennis Cardoza, a Modesto Democrat, dubbed the route the “High Speed Train to Nowhere” because it does not serve major cities.

--Editors: Bernard Kohn, Andrea Snyder

-0- Nov/01/2011 19:36 GMT

To contact the reporters on this story: Alison Vekshin in San Francisco at avekshin@bloomberg.net; James Nash in Sacramento at jnash24@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net -0- Nov/01/2011 18:59 GMT


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