CA to scale back $77b high-speed rail project

Source:Reuters Published: 2019/2/14 20:43:40

California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Tuesday the state will dramatically scale back a planned $77.3 billion high-speed rail project that has faced cost hikes, delays and management concerns, but will finish a smaller section of the line.

"Let's be real. The current project, as planned, would cost too much and respectfully take too long. There's been too little oversight and not enough transparency," Newsom said on Tuesday.

"Right now, there simply isn't a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to LA. I wish there were," he said.

Newsom said the state will complete a 119-mile (191-kilometer) high-speed rail link between Merced and Bakersfield in the state's Central Valley. In March 2018, the state forecast the costs had jumped by $13 billion to $77 billion and warned that the costs could be as much as $98.1 billion.

Newsom said he would not give up entirely on the effort and will continue to seek additional funding.

California planned to build a 520-mile system in the first phase that would allow trains to travel at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour in the traffic-choked state from Los Angeles to San Francisco and begin full operations by 2033.

"Abandoning high-speed rail entirely means we will have wasted billions and billions of dollars with nothing but broken promises, partially filled commitments and lawsuits to show for it," Newsom said. "And by the way, I am not interested in sending $3.5 billion in federal funding that was allocated to this project back to Donald Trump."

US House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Republicans cited a recent Democratic clean energy proposal in noting the project's demise, tweeting that "the plug gets pulled on the frequently delayed, over-budget San Francisco-LA (high-speed rail) project. Reality: 1, #GreenNewDeal: 0."

A state audit issued in November said California's High Speed Rail Authority's "flawed decision making and poor contract management have contributed to billions in cost overruns and delays."

The Obama administration awarded the state a total of $3.5 billion in 2010 and California voters in 2008 approved nearly $10 billion in bond proceeds. The US Transportation Department's inspector general's office noted in August 2018 that the state had only identified $30.7 billion in funding.



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