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California high-speed rail could cost almost $100B

California has had its share of financial problems. The news yesterday probably didnt help ease the minds in Sacramento. A business plan for California...

Freddie Pierce
|Nov 1|magazine5 min read

California has had its share of financial problems. The news yesterday probably didn’t help ease the minds in Sacramento.

A business plan for California’s high-speed rail network could cost almost $100 billion in inflation-adjusted spending over its anticipated 20-year construction period, according to the Associated Press. Preliminary reports indicate the earliest service would begin in 2033.

The proposed rail line would connect Anaheim and San Francisco, and estimates pegged the cost at $98.5 billion. Voters approved $43 billion in funding back in 2008; in non-adjusted 2010 figures, that amount is now $65.4 billion as costs have risen significantly.

“The good news is they’re at least coming up with a real number; the bad news is that’s a pretty scary number,” Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, told the AP.

The business plan is expected to be released on Tuesday during a news conference at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. Among the controversial issues included in the proposal is that construction would begin in the sparsely populated Central Valley.

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Opponents of that plan want to start construction in more populated areas, in case funding should run out before the rail line is completed. That way, the state won’t have spent taxpayers’ money on a so-called “train to nowhere.”

Starting in the Central Valley may be the only feasible option, however, as the federal government will fund $3.5 billion of the project if it starts in the middle of the state by October of next year. Such a tight timeframe won’t allow engineering proposals or environmental reviews to be completed in time in any other location.