The Brown administration has lowered the projected cost to build California's high-speed rail line by $30 billion -- to $68 billion -- as it braces for crucial hearings in the Legislature, according to sources familiar with the plan.
The lower estimate is tied to a series of changes to the project, primarily by relying on existing rail lines in and around Los Angeles and the Bay Area.The changes are expected to be announced Monday in Fresno, just five months after the California High-Speed Rail Authority estimated the project could cost $98.5 billion. The business plan underpinning that estimate was widely criticized as inadequate, including by lawmakers and by the rail authority's own peer review group.
Elements of the revised plan were suggested by rail officials weeks ago, including the "blended approach," in which existing tracks in urban areas would be upgraded and eventually used by high-speed rail.
The plan now will rely on a high-speed line down the spine of the state -- from Merced to the San Fernando Valley -- with tie-ins to improved tracks in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.
The lower estimate for California's high-speed rail project is tied to a series of changes to the project, primarily by relying on existing rail lines in and around Los Angeles and the Bay Area.
The approach could result in the authority spending more than $1.5 billion to improve commuter rail service in and around Los Angeles and the Bay Area, pleasing lawmakers in those areas.
The new plan also will abandon the idea of the so-called "train to nowhere," the much criticized initiative to begin the project with a line from near Chowchilla to Corcoran, sources said.
The federal government, which is contributing some $3.3 billion to the project, conditioned funding on starting in the Central Valley.
Now construction is planned to begin in Merced and move south to Lancaster and the San Fernando Valley.Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to ask the Legislature to appropriate some $2.3 billion in rail bond funds within weeks. This week, he told reporters he spent "several hours" on the project changes.
The Revised Business Plan will also be released at 10am Monday, April 2nd.
With the initial reporting at least, it does look like at least some of the lowered cost might be due to slight of hand. On the other hand, much of the costs were due to the patently ridiculous number of trains that they planned on running. A more realistic approach with many elements ditched for "upgrades as warranted by future traffic" might also be the reason for the cost reduction. It'll remain to be seen on Monday.
It does look like my January prediction that the ICS would be abandoned in favor of going straight to IOS was on the money however.