California's high-speed train line years behind, billions over budget

high-speed train

On March 9, California transportation officials admitted that the long-awaited high-speed train line between San Francisco and Los Angeles was four years behind schedule and around $13 billion over budget.

According to the latest business plan by the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the project is now expected to cost at least $77.3 billion. Its completion date has also been pushed back to 2033.

The first 119-mile segment of the 800-mile track is being built between Madera and a station just north of Bakersfield. The estimated cost for that section has ballooned from around $6 billion to at least $10.6 billion, but it is still on schedule to be completed by 2022. Officials said the cost increase was caused by construction delays and unexpectedly high land acquisition costs.

While the Madera to Bakersfield segment will be built on time, its opening date has been pushed back to 2029. It was originally scheduled to begin service by 2024.

The report states that the segment "has stronger ridership potential and higher commercial value" than other portions of the line. It will also be used to generate revenue to expand the southern half of the system.

The update is the first issued by new CHSRA CEO Brian Kelly, who said the project had faced some difficulties. However, he also said the authority was learning from its mistakes.

“The plan reflects our commitment to apply lessons learned and make organizational improvements necessary to deliver this project to initiate high-speed rail service between the Silicon Valley and the Central Valley as soon as possible," he said.

In 2008, California voters approved a $10 billion bond for the high-speed train line. When the system is finally finished, its trains will travel at more than 200 miles per hour, moving passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles in just three hours.

The train is considered Gov. Jerry Brown's legacy project. In his January State of the State address, he touted the project's commitment to renewable energy and claimed it will remain operational for at least a century.