California Legislative Analyst’s Office: high-speed rail alredy 57% over budget 

First President Obama’s high-speed rail plans for Ohio and Wisconsin failed. Then his HSR plans for Florida bit the dust. Now the last Obama stimulus funded HSR plan is heading toward disaster. A new California Legislative Analyst’s Office report identifies “a number of problems that pose threats” to the project, including “highly uncertain” additional funding, an “existing governance structre” that is “inadequate” for construction, and a lack of “good information” needed to make “critical multi-billion dollar decision.”

The Obama stimulus included $8 billion for HSR, including $3 billion for the California project. Voters approved an additional $9 billion in state bonds in 2008, bringing total funding so far to $12 billion. But even the lowest cost estimates to date peg the minimum needed to complete the project at $47 billion. So the project is already $35 billion short. And as the LAO report documents, it is already clear that that number is going to go up:

Based on our analysis, the high–speed rail project is likely to cost much more than the $43 billion originally estimated by HSRA for the first phase from San Francisco to Anaheim. That estimate was prepared in 2009 based on very preliminary information concerning which alignments would be selected for the track and what the design of the system would look like.

For example, based on the state’s agreement with FRA, the cost of the initial construction segment between Fresno and Bakersfield alone is now estimated to be $4.5 billion, which is 57 percent greater than was assumed in the original plan. … If the cost of building the entire Phase 1 system were to grow as much as the revised HSRA estimate for the 100–mile segment discussed above, construction would cost about $67 billion.

But even assuming the unrealistically low $47 billion number, the report says California can’t even fund that. The HSRA business plan assumes at least another $14 billion from the federal government, which the report points out is “uncertain” to materialize. The report also noted that the other $17 billion from private sector sources is unlikely to materialize. Finally, even if all goes according plan, the report estimates that California taxpayers will end up paying roughly $1 billion a year in debt service payments for the next 20 years.

This is the vision Obama wants to export to other states?

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Conn Carroll

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