Skip to Content
Streetsblog San Francisco home
Streetsblog San Francisco home
Log In
Streetsblog USA

The New California HSR Plan: Forecast of Doom or Blueprint for the Future?

Earlier this week, the California High-Speed Rail Authority released its new business plan [PDF]. The transportation establishment, the government, and the media issued a collective gasp: $98.5 billion? Thirteen years’ delay?

It’s true – the price tag has more than doubled. “The good news is the numbers are more realistic; the bad news is they may well be beyond reach,” said Democratic state senator Joe Simitian.

The new estimate for California conservatively includes $16 billion for contingencies and miscellaneous cost increases. Acquiring real estate in California is another big expense — though the authority has cut costs where it could by sharing tracks with commuter rail systems, another move bound to be attacked for its reduced efficiency.

Petra Todorovich of the Regional Plan Association says that much of the cost of building any megaproject in the U.S. is spent mitigating its impact on local communities. “Some of the rises of this project have been costs for tunneling or viaducts,” she said. “Those are expensive measures to reduce the noise and visual impact on local neighborhoods. Are they worth it? They’re certainly worth it to those communities. And they may be the price of building this project.”

Indeed, appeasing residents has been one of the many hurdles the California High-Speed Rail Authority has had to overcome. Another has been criticism of the proposed first segment from Bakersfield to Fresno – “a fast train to nowhere,” as it’s been called. They’re sticking with that plan, but the CHSRA takes pains to say that “each segment of the construction project will have its own value and independent utility.” They predicate each additional segment on the availability of funding but assert that the Central Valley line, in and of itself, would be useful.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter